May 8, 2013 – Keeping you updated
On February 8th 2013, the Canadian Justice Minister introduced legislation that proposes changes to the Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder (NCRMD) provisions of the Criminal Code. The bill was introduced to address concerns brought forward by victims of crimes committed by individuals deemed NCRMD. While the Schizophrenia Society of Canada has full compassion for families affected by crimes of both the victim and offender, new laws CANNOT be based on inaccurate information about mental illness.
Mental illness will never be appropriately addressed in Canada if new policies and legislation are not supported by evidence. In fact, it will increase stigma. Many aspects of Bill C-54 are based on myth vs. fact. As part of our role as mental health advocates, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada has been working with its provincial counterparts and several other mental health organizations to ensure this new bill will not negatively impact people with a mental illness, as it is currently written AND communicated. The bill, affecting people with a mental illness, was created without the input of the mental health community.
This new coalition has been working persistently with the federal government to have the voice of the mental health community heard. Since issuing our letter to the Justice Minister , we have been meeting with MPs from all political stripes, Ministers, Senators and staff. We have also been working with media and sharing our message which has opened up the debate in areas where the tough issues need to be discussed.
We are educating Canadians. We are educating politicians. But this all takes time and resources and we hope you can add strength to our campaign by donating today.
We are preparing for Second Reading and to present to the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights. We want to share the stories of the many family members who are caring for individuals with a mental illness who have committed a crime. We have much to do and hope you will join us in our campaign.
To read our Press Release, click here.
Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), can be found here: www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&billId=5964767.
Help Share Our Messages!
One in five people will experience a mental illness. Seventy percent of mental illnesses have their origin in childhood and adolescents. Three percent of the population will experience psychosis. One percent will be diagnosed with schizophrenia or Bi-Polar Disorder. Violent crimes committed by people with a mental illness tend to be the most frightening because many people do not understand the illness.
As a society we can do a better job in educating those who work with children and youth in identifying the early signs of mental illness. With identification and early intervention, people can receive the proper medical assistance to avoid the unnecessary suffering and deterioration that often precedes that person coming in conflict with the law.
Yet, people with a mental illness constitute a very small minority of those committing crimes. While public safety is an important issue to all Canadians, there is much confusion, misinformation and lack of clarity concerning NCRMD, Review Boards, and the process to ensure public safety.
The leading tool the government has to protect the public from offenders, who have committed a violent crime due to a mental illness, is education and awareness. Educating Canadians on the true facts and information about people with mental health illnesses, who commit violent crimes, will minimize unnecessary fear and reduce negative stigma around mental illness, necessary to properly address this issue.
Canadians who commit a violent crime and have been found “Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder” (NCRMD), represents only .001% of individuals charged with Criminal Code violations. The recidivism rates for these .001% NCRMD individuals range from 2.5 to 7.5%. These numbers are far lower than that for federal offenders in the regular justice system, at a rate of 41 to 44%.
Ensuring these percentages decrease requires applying the right support mechanisms when NCRMD individuals are reintegrated into society, including on-going counseling, medical assessments, social living guidance, and community resources. Preventing patients from reintegrating back into society at the right time or without the right tools can result in unintended consequences that will actually cause greater harm than good.
Tightening provisions around NCRMD releases for people with mental illnesses who commit violent crimes conveys to the general public that there are reasons to be afraid. Providing the right tools to NCRMD patients instead instills a sense of comfort to the public that these people are properly being cared to minimize possibilities of reoffending.
Protecting victim rights and the rights of people with mental health illnesses is not a circumstance of give or take but rather how appropriately addressing the needs of people with mental health illnesses will have a direct impact on optimally protecting the rights of victims and public safety when it comes to this small group of individuals.
Canadians want a working mental health system. The old-fashioned mentality of “lock’em up and throw away the key” clearly does not work when it comes to people with a mental health illness. It’s time to effectively address the problem.
Chris Summerville, D.Min., CPRP
Schizophrenia Society of Canada