Evidence of meeting #77 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was responsible.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Stacy Galt  As an Individual
Louise Bradley  President and Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Patrick Baillie  Member, Advisory Council, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Giuseppe Battista  Lawyer and President, Committee on Criminal Law, Barreau du Québec
Alexander Simpson  Chief of Forensic Psychiatry, Head, Division of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Lucie Joncas  Lawyer and Member, Barreau du Québec
Dave Teixeira  President, Dave.ca Communications, As an Individual
André Samson  As an Individual
Nathalie Des Rosiers  General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Isabelle Malo  As an Individual
Ben Bedarf  As an Individual
Peter Coleridge  National Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association
Michel Surprenant  President, Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared
Doris Provencher  General Director, Association des groupes d'intervention en défense de droits en santé mentale du Québec
Chloé Serradori  Analytical and Liaison Officer, Association des groupes d'intervention en défense de droits en santé mentale du Québec
Marc Ferdinand  National Director, Public Policy, Canadian Mental Health Association

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

I call this meeting to order.

Thank you, witnesses. We were voting, so we're a little late in starting. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, meeting number 77. The orders of the day are, pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, May 28, Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder).

We have three panels today.

My goal is to make sure that all the witnesses have an opportunity to get their 10 minutes to put their thoughts on the record, and then we'll go to as many questions as possible.

There are likely going to be more votes this afternoon, so we may have to interrupt this meeting. To get started, I'll call your organization and you can introduce yourself. That will save time in our having to do it twice.

As individuals we have Ms. Stacy Galt and Dave Teixeira.

You're sharing the first five minutes, and the floor is yours, Ms. Galt.

3:50 p.m.

Stacy Galt As an Individual

I'm sorry but I really must apologize. I'm so nervous being here, but I'm so thankful to be here and to be heard. Thank you very much.

I've prepared something. I'm really being drawn to tell you the story. The actual story is very hard to put on paper. This is why I'm here to tell you why you should pass Bill C-54.

As most of you know, the Allan Schoenborn case happened in Merritt about four years ago. Allan Schoenborn followed my cousin to Merritt.

My cousin Darcie Clarke and her three children—10-year-old Kaitlynne, 8-year-old Max, and 5-year-old Cordon—went to Merritt happily. They had a good school to go to and a wonderful home. Darcie provided for them. She called me for a reference so she could actually start work and get her feet underneath her and get her life back and move on and move forward for her children, to make sure they had a healthy environment to grow up in.

She was there. About two months went by. As I said, she phoned me and asked me for a reference so she could get a job because they were doing great in school. We thought the worst was over. Allan was leaving her alone.

I can't remember if it was the Thursday or the Friday he showed up in town. My cousin Darcie was scared. She wouldn't let him in the house, but the kids wanted to see their father. So as a good parent would, she took them to the park and let them see their father. He kept saying he wanted to stay, he wanted to stay. My cousin Darcie was scared and she said, “No, you can't stay.”

The kids wanted to see their father, so being a good parent, she wasn't going to begrudge her children the right to see their father. This is what's sticking with her. She didn't want her kids to resent her, and she let them see their father. She never in her wildest dreams thought he would do this to his own children. These were his children. She thought he was going to kill her. He'd always focused on her.

Anyway, I remember my mom calling me and telling me that Allan was back in town and that my cousin Darcie left him alone with the children. She went to stay at her mother's house for the night so he could spend time with his kids.

I can't remember if he phoned or she phoned, but he kept telling her to come home. She kept saying, “No, this is your time with the kids. Enjoy yourself with the children. All we do is argue and fight, and we don't want to keep arguing and fighting in front of the children.” He wouldn't let her get off the phone. He kept begging her to come home. It was maybe about two hours, she said, and she wanted to say goodnight to the kids and he wouldn't let her. He said, “No, they're sleeping already. They're fine. Don't worry. They're sleeping.” She said, “Okay.”

She had to deal with this. This is what separated people do. She phoned in the morning, and there was no answer. She said, “Okay, phone again.” No answer. As soon as that happened, she just ran out the door, ran home, which was a long way. When she got there, it was every human being's nightmare.

What happened was while 10-year-old Kaitlynne, who was the spitting image of her mother—blonde hair, blue eyes, just beautiful—was sleeping, he took a machete and slashed her face open. I was there when the testimony was read. Allan even said that Kaitlynne started saying, “Daddy, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. What did I do?” He just kept hitting her with a machete.

Then, of course, with this going on, Max, who was eight years old, and Cordon, who was five years old, walked in to witness their father murdering their sister and they were not able to help. Of course, they were next. They had to watch each other brutally die at the hands of their own father.

Eight-year-old Max was next. Allan Schoenborn grabbed a pillow and suffocated him, because the machete was too bloody. It didn't work fast enough and Kaitlynne could scream. For Max, he put a pillow over his head and suffocated him, and five-year-old Cordon had to watch. Then it was Cordon's turn.

Max didn't die easily. He couldn't be suffocated quickly enough. It was too messy. So while five-year-old Cordon waited, he found a plastic bag to put over his head to suffocate him.

Darcie wouldn't go home. He wanted her there because he wanted to kill her, too. She has always known that. He thought that if he killed everybody, they'd all be together in heaven.

So what does he do? He leaves Kaitlynne in the bed, grabs Max and Cordon, props them on the couch to make it look like they're sleeping so that Darcie would have to get really close before she realized they were dead. He wrote “forever young”, which we thought was in blood but it was in soy sauce, above the kids' bodies. “Forever young” was Disney movies and stuff like that.

Darcie explained to me how she felt when she walked in. “Oh, my gosh, the kids are there, but wait a minute. They're not moving.” She got close. She saw their little faces. Then she ran into the bedroom to see Kaitlynne, her face slashed open by a machete.

Where did he get the machete? He brought it with him. She was up there for two months. He drove for hours. He had waited for days. He wanted to get her in the house. He premeditated it. He thought about it. It's unbelievably terrifying. If he gets out, I know she'll be dead. I'm helping Darcie. He's not going to let me go. He wanted to kill her children in front of her so she would suffer.

After the court hearing, we thought for sure that it would be seen as being premeditated. That was going to happen, we thought, but there was a past history in his family of mental illness, and he was deemed to be not criminally responsible.

My cousin Darcie can't live in Merritt any more. My heart goes out to her. I said, “Come live with me.” I wanted her to move in with me a long time ago. I wanted her to come and stay with me, but my mom was scared for my safety and told me I wasn't allowed. She went to Merritt to stay with her mother, and rightly so. But it was my turn to finally help her, to finally help my cousin. We grew up together. We were so close.

She came to live with me. Just looking at her, I see what she is going through, not wanting to come out of her room. She's just a wisp of a person. It was a lot of hard work on my part to get her to the point where she would eat, where she would come out of her room, where she would leave the house, and then she has to do the yearly review.

She comes home from going out. She got a pool pass. This is what kills me. He knows her so well. She got a pool pass. I was so proud of her, especially her wanting to be around children. How could she want to be around children so soon after hers have gone? She loves kids. She loves to be around children. I am feeling so proud of her, proud of her progress. She comes home with a newspaper article with Allan's face on it, saying that he is up early and wants to go to the pool, that he wants to go to Starbucks for coffee.

He's in my area. Colony Farm is right down the street. What if he were to get out on a pass? I could walk into him. My cousin could walk into him, could see him. I shouldn't have to live like that, and neither should she.

I thought I had called whoever I could call. I e-mailed whoever I could e-mail. The response was, “This is the way the law is laid out. There's nothing we can do. You'd have to change the law.” I said, “How do I do that? Help me. All I want is help.”

Barry Penner, who was our attorney general at the time, said, “Stacy, what do you really want? Think reasonably. You're dealing with somebody who's mentally ill and needs care. You're dealing with a victim who has to go through a yearly review and can never heal. What would you like to see happen here?”

My cousin and I talked. We knew that no matter what we did, even if we did change the law, it would never pertain to Allan. It would never pertain to me. It wasn't going to help us, but it would help someone else. It would help another family. It would help another mother or father not to have to go through the pain. We thought that was good enough. If we could help somebody else, it would be worth it.

I've fought long and hard. I've been on TV and radio shows talking about this. It's mind-boggling how my being here right now, speaking in front of you, has happened.

Obviously the good people at the right time and in the right place and in the right situation are the reasons I am here. I'm really thankful for that because I get to speak and have my say, and not only that, but maybe pave the way for someone else to find some peace.

My cousin Darcie cannot go to the yearly reviews. She can't stand up for herself. I'm the one who has to go. I'm the one who has to sit there and look into the eyes of the devil knowing what he did. I want him to get care and I need him to get care, but I also need my cousin to have time to heal.

If Allan is in there for the next 30 years, I'll have to go to a review board hearing 30 times. How am I supposed to heal? Every time my cousin seems to get a little better, a yearly review comes up. She has three birthdays to deal with, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day. Not only that, the review is held the same month the murders occurred. The pain....

I'm sorry, I'm talking too much.

The worst part about it, though, is that Allan was controlling and he still has control. He can stay a review. He doesn't have to show up for a review. He can ask for a transfer. My cousin doesn't want him moved. She wants to know where he is so I can take care of things for her, be there to speak for her.

You may say that she doesn't have to speak, that it's common sense, and she doesn't have to write out this victim impact statement every year, that it's not necessary. But when you're a victim, it is necessary, it is very necessary.

I'm sorry.

Thank you very much.

4 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you, Ms. Galt, for that very difficult presentation.

That is the 10 minutes. Is that okay? There may be questions today that you might be able to answer.

Next, with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, are Louise Bradley and Patrick Baillie. You have 10 minutes.

4 p.m.

Louise Bradley President and Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Thank you very much.

I am Louise Bradley, the president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. I want to thank you for the opportunity to listen today to such a wide diversity of stakeholders, including yourselves.

The commission has been asked by this government to develop Canada's first mental health strategy, which we developed and released last year.

We were also asked to play a leading role in tackling stigma associated with mental illness, and for which we are targeting youth, health care professionals, the media, and the workplace. We were also given funding to undertake the largest study in North America looking at the issue of homelessness and the mentally ill. Last, we were asked to improve the capacity for sharing evidence, knowledge, and information about mental health in Canada.

It is in this capacity that we are here today as a trusted adviser to government and stakeholders. Our role is to ensure that factual and pertinent information is provided to you as you deliberate on this very serious and important issue. There's the fact, for instance, that the vast majority of people with mental health problems and illnesses are not dangerous and violent. Indeed, they are more likely to be victims themselves.

While unintended, there is a concern that these discussions may reverse some of the progress we've made thus far.

The mental health strategy also states that assessment and treatment services are the way by which to prevent tragedies, like the one we've heard about here today, from ever happening, thereby ensuring public safety. This is an important component of discussions regarding mental illness and public safety and it cannot be ignored.

The strategy also states that services are needed for all, and in the context of why we're here today, the mental health needs of victims and families are equally important. We want to ensure that the right kind and the right amount of support and services will be provided to victims.

When it comes to specific issues like this one before you, we facilitate access to leading experts with the goal of giving Canadians the best evidence on which to make these important policy decisions. As such, the commission cannot take a position on the legislation per se, but we do rely on a very large network of experts and stakeholders to guide our three main areas of work.

The focal point of this advice is currently through our advisory council. Dr. Patrick Baillie, who will take up the remaining portion of our time allocation, led one of our expert groups of individuals with expertise in mental health and the law. This included family members, persons living with mental health problems, professionals, and researchers.

Dr. Baillie will present some facts and evidence based on his unique expertise as both a psychologist and a lawyer in Calgary. He contributes much to the commission. He is here today, however, to provide testimony as an individual expert.

Dr. Baillie.

June 10th, 2013 / 4:05 p.m.

Dr. Patrick Baillie Member, Advisory Council, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Thank you to the members of the committee for the invitation to be here.

I want to emphasize that I am speaking as an individual, and in that capacity, I wear various hats. I'm a psychologist working in an outpatient forensic program in Calgary. I'm a member of the advisory council for the Mental Health Commission. I'm also a consulting psychologist with the Calgary Police Service. However, the views I'm expressing should not be taken as representative of any of those organizations, but only as being reflective of the experience I've had in these roles, the work I've done with my colleagues, and the patients I've seen over the years.

I want to start by addressing the comments Ms. Galt made, first by expressing my condolences for her exceptional loss, and by agreeing with her that there are clear breaks in the existing system that need to be repaired. To be clear, to me this is a piece of legislation that comes in response to the kind of tragedy that Ms. Galt has described. There should be a response to it, but I do not think this is the forum in which that response should take place.

The Mental Health Commission, funded by the health research foundation of Quebec, supervised a project looking at what happens to individuals who are found not criminally responsible. The survey looked at individuals in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Because of the tremendous data that was drawn from that project, we were contracted by the Department of Justice to provide some background information for this legislation.

When we looked at individuals who had committed offences of homicide, attempted homicide, and designated sexual offences, they were found to comprise approximately 10% of all individuals who were found not criminally responsible. Certainly the proportions varied from province to province, but across those three areas the 10% figure was made up of those who had been engaged in these serious violent offences. That's out of a category of individuals who are very unlikely to be found not criminally responsible in the first place. By that I mean Canada experiences approximately 400,000 criminal charges per year, of which 1.8 per 1,000 or approximately 720 cases are resolved by way of a not criminally responsible verdict. Of those, 10% or about 72 cases a year are the cases involving serious violent offending.

The nature of the offence tells us very little about the likelihood that the individual who's found NCR will benefit from treatment and will be successfully reintegrated into the community. By that I mean there are many variables that go into predicting recidivism. Those variables are addressed by review boards, which are given expert evidence and which make the decision about whether or not to grant release or to keep the individual detained.

The recidivism rate for individuals granted an absolute discharge after a finding of not criminally responsible, over a three-year period, sits at 11%. Of those, 7% are for a new violent offence and 4% are for a new non-violent offence. If you do the math, 400,000 cases, 1.8 per 1,000 that result in an NCR outcome, 10% of those that involve serious violent offending and 7% of those that recidivate in a violent way, you end up with a piece of legislation that potentially affects four or five people per year. That is still a critically important number because of the information that Ms. Galt has presented to you today.

I don't mean to dismiss that, but let's be clear. What the legislation intends to do is to change the parameters around NCR. If this is legislation that is intended to target Allan Schoenborn, Vincent Li, Guy Turcotte, and Richard Kachkar, none of those individuals had previously been found NCR, and each had been involved in his respective provincial mental health care system.

When Louise talks about the need to support victims, I fervently advocate that in my own work. I see victims of crime, as well as the perpetrators. That gives me a unique perspective on what these people have experienced. This is legislation that does not affect the rate of recidivism, but in essence ends up being punitive towards individuals based on the nature of the offence.

I encourage the committee to look at the information that has been provided in the research to the Department of Justice and to look at the supports that can be given to ensuring adequate services in the provinces so that individuals with mental health problems do not deteriorate to the point of committing serious violent offences and victims are given adequate supports so they can move on with their lives in a productive and meaningful way.

Thank you.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you for that presentation.

Our next presenters, from the Barreau du Québec, are Monsieur Battista and Madame Joncas.

The floors is yours, for 10 minutes.

4:10 p.m.

Giuseppe Battista Lawyer and President, Committee on Criminal Law, Barreau du Québec

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for having us. I am here on behalf of the Barreau du Québec. I am joined by Lucie Joncas.

The Barreau du Québec is a professional body that represents almost 24,000 lawyers in Quebec. Its positions are taken by elected bodies, following the studies and recommendations of its advisory committees.

To fulfill its mission of protecting the public, the Barreau du Québec seeks to forge bonds of trust between lawyers, governments and the public. In the pursuit of that goal, the Barreau du Québec oversees professional legal practice, supports member practitioners, fosters a sense of belonging within the membership, and promotes the rule of law.

The Barreau du Québec feels that this bill amends the mental disorder regime in the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act to specify that the paramount consideration in the decision-making process is the safety of the public. It creates a mechanism for ensuring that certain persons who have been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder can be designated as high-risk accused. It also enhances the involvement of victims in the regime and makes procedural and technical amendments.

The Barreau du Québec feels that, when a court finds an individual not criminally responsible, but the individual poses a significant threat to the safety of the public, it is appropriate to take action to protect public safety.

However, we think that it is important to refer to the principles identified by the courts. In Winko v. British Columbia (Forensic Psychiatric Institute), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of public safety in situations involving individuals found not criminally responsible. The court stated the following:

Part XX.1 protects society. If society is to be protected on a long-term basis, it must address the cause of the offending behaviour—the mental illness. It cannot content itself with locking the ill offender up for a term of imprisonment and then releasing him or her into society, without having provided any opportunities for psychiatric or other treatment. Public safety will only be ensured by stabilizing the mental condition of dangerous NCR accused.

Part XX.1 also protects the NCR offender. The assessment-treatment model introduced by Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code is fairer to the NCR offender than the traditional common law model. The NCR offender is not criminally responsible, but ill. Providing opportunities to receive treatment, not imposing punishment, is the just and appropriate response.

The teachings of the Supreme Court indicate that providing treatment to mentally ill individuals is the most just and equitable approach to protecting the public. In addition, the court cites another ruling as follows:

[T]he treatment of one unable to judge right from wrong is intended to cure the defect. It is not penal in purpose or effect. Where custody is imposed on such a person, the purpose is prevention of antisocial acts, not retribution.

Section 672.54 of the Criminal Code is subject to a major amendment. The section currently states:

672.54 Where a court or Review Board makes a disposition under subsection 672.45(2) or section 672.47 or 672.83, it shall, taking into consideration the need to protect the public from dangerous persons, the mental condition of the accused, the reintegration of the accused into society and the other needs of the accused, make one of the following dispositions that is the least onerous and least restrictive to the accused: ...

That is how public safety and the needs of the mentally ill person are taken into consideration. This is an important balance, a balance that we need to strike and strive for in a free and democratic society.

The proposed amendment creates the concept of high-risk individual. The wording of section 672.54, instead of talking about the “least onerous” disposition, places the “safety of the public” above any other criteria connected to the individual situation of the accused. In so doing, the amendments diminish the importance of the recognized objective of ensuring that the condition of the ill NCR person has improved as being the most just and equitable way to protect society.

In addition, the proposed amendments amend the current assessment and treatment system set out in Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, to be more similar to a punishment system than a system that provides treatment to someone suffering from an illness. To use the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin's words, we believe that “the regime established in Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code”, meaning the part currently in force, “appropriately balances the need to protect the public from those mentally ill persons who are dangerous and the liberty, autonomy and dignity interests of mentally ill persons”, and we are afraid that some aspects of Bill C-54 will open up debate on the constitutionality of the new wording set out in the bill.

Bill C-54 also sets out that a court martial may find the accused person to be a high-risk accused if:

(a) the court martial is satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused person will use violence that could endanger the life or safety of another person; or

(b) the court martial is of the opinion that the acts that constitute the offence were of such a brutal nature as to indicate a risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person.

This second criterion is concerning, since it does not take into account the person's condition. In our view, the second criterion presents constitutional weaknesses. The brutality of the acts that constitute the offence refers to the violent nature of the offence for which the accused was found not criminally responsible, not to the accused's mental health or how dangerous the individual may be.

A basic principle of criminal law states that criminal responsibility requires an operating mind. We understand that victims of violent and brutal acts actually need active physical and emotional support from the government and society. Those issues need to be addressed.

The Barreau du Québec has always promoted victim support and assistance services at every level. Their participation, their presence and their voices are important, but a democratic society also has a responsibility to create a fair balance. Punitive measures must be avoided, because the emphasis has to be on healing to protect society.

My colleague Ms. Joncas and I are here to answer your questions, and we would be happy to do so.

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you very much.

Our next presenter is from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Mr. Simpson, you have 10 minutes, sir.

4:20 p.m.

Dr. Alexander Simpson Chief of Forensic Psychiatry, Head, Division of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and my fellow witnesses, most especially Ms. Galt. Her account to us this afternoon reminds us of the nature, the severity, and the magnitude of the issues we're talking about.

I am Dr. Alexander Simpson. I'm a psychiatrist. I'm the chief of forensic psychiatry at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, and I'm head of the division of forensic psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health and addictions academic health sciences centre. Our forensic program provides care to and supports individuals designated as NCR, or unfit to stand trial. We care for over 30% of Ontario’s NCR accused persons and accordingly have a keen interest in the amendments to the NCR legislation that will affect our patients and our ability to provide them the best possible mental health care.

I would like to address three specific aspects of Bill C-54.

The NCR regime has been in existence in its current form for 21 years. NCR is a rare disposition, though it has been more commonly applied in the last two decades. It is effective and successfully rehabilitates people with a mental illness that has caused them to offend. NCR accused persons present less risk to others than similar persons who are criminally responsible for their offending and are sent to prison.

The current controversies that have given rise to the reasons for this legislation are a small number of high-profile offences of a grievous nature, as we've heard. The victims are understandably deeply traumatized and find the thought of community reintegration of perpetrators horrifying.

This isn’t about the current risk, however; it is about the nature of the trauma that occurred over past incidents. This presents a real difficulty for Parliament and for those of us involved in the care of NCR accused persons: how to be sensitive to the needs of victims without punishing the illness. Thus, the factors driving this bill are real and difficult ones; however, in my view, two-thirds of the answers in this bill are the wrong ones.

First, with regard to victim safety and involvement, CAMH supports Bill C-54's commitment to victim safety. Victim safety is always at the forefront of the decisions made by review boards and by forensic mental health programs and treatment planning. This part of the bill makes explicit powers that already exist.

Victim involvement in the review board process is also very important, and we agree that victims should continue to be included in that process if they choose to be so. However, addressing victim needs must be broader than simply notification. New approaches, such as issues of restorative justice, may be of equal value.

Second, on the creation of the “high risk” designation, Bill C-54 proposes a “high risk accused” designation. CAMH has concerns about how this new designation can be determined and its severe restrictions on those considered to be high risk.

High risk is about the possibility that future violence may occur. Counterintuitive though it may seem, the brutality of the person's index offence is not an effective way of telling if somebody is going to be at high risk of future offending. Instead, it looks only at the past. Therefore, a high-risk regime built around a single severe act of violence alone is not evidence-based or scientifically based and may thus be seen as arbitrary in a non-punishment regime. If brutality is not to be used, one must ask, then, what the proposed “high risk” category adds.

First, there are clearly some NCR accused persons who are of high risk. Currently, they may spend many years in conditions of high security, without community contact. One only gains access to the community if one's risk has fallen to such a degree that community contact is a safe option, so the available security proposed in the “high risk” category already exists for a significant number of NCR accused persons. Second, implementing the “high risk” category decreases the expert oversight of the person's care and limits therapeutic opportunities. This will delay progress or increase risk and will not assist public safety.

For these reasons, it is both ill-designed and wrongly targeted, and CAMH recommends that the “high risk” designation be removed from the legislation.

Tightening of the criteria for all NCR accused is third. Of great concern to CAMH is the Bill C-54 recommendation to change section 672.54 of the Criminal Code. This will tighten the criteria for progress and release for all NCR individuals. Bill C-54 makes safety the paramount consideration when a disposition order is made. While similar wording already exists in case law, changing the wording in the Criminal Code clearly signals the desire to shift the emphasis of the entire NCR regime. The original intent of the NCR legislation was to balance public safety with the treatment of rehabilitation needs of the mentally ill offender. Shifting this balance will prevent the NCR individuals from receiving the best possible mental health care while cognizant of public safety.

The bill also amends the current NCR legislation requiring review boards to make disposition orders that are the “least onerous and least restrictive”, to make orders that instead are “necessary and appropriate in the circumstances”. Given the context of Bill C-54 and its primary focus on public safety, it is likely the necessary and appropriate dispositions will be more restrictive, and that more NCR individuals will be detained in forensic units for longer periods and in higher-security units than is actually necessary. Not only will this compromise rehabilitation and community reintegration for any NCR individuals, but the widespread application of this amendment will lead to increased pressure on forensic mental health programs which are already operating over capacity.

Clause 10 of Bill C-54 introduces a new statutory regime of significant threat. It no longer requires the word “real” in relation to potential harm or violence, therefore lowering the risk threshold necessary to maintain the jurisdiction of the NCR over individuals. Given the impact of these changes on the NCR regime as a whole, CAMH recommends that section 672.54 remain as it currently stands in the legislation.

We fear significant unintended consequences of this legislation. We fear that the shift to increasing security and restrictions over treatment of rehabilitation will make the NRC regime much less attractive as a regime to go down. We fear defence counsel will argue to potential NCR accused not to go down this pathway, and instead plead guilty and go to prison. We think this will place increasing pressure on provincial and federal correctional services by having more mentally ill persons in prison, who will be released from custody at higher risk of reoffending than those people under the NCR regime. Thus paradoxically we fear that public safety will actually be compromised by this bill.

I thank you for your attention and will be happy to take questions.

4:25 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you, sir, for that.

Those are the presentations from our groups today. As you may know, there will be a bell in about five or six minutes. I need unanimous consent to go through the bell. I'll call it at the time that the bell goes, because who knows what's happening in the House.

To get us back sort of on time we'll go a little bit past 4:30, one round of five minutes per party. Share your time if you need to. The first round means there are two Conservative slots, one NDP, and one Liberal. We'll deal with this panel, and we'll see if we can get started on the next one before we have to recess.

With that, the first questioner is Mr. Mai from the New Democratic Party. Mr. Mai, and I'm going to hold you to your five minutes.

4:25 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to the witnesses for joining us today.

More particularly, thank you, Ms. Galt, for your testimony. I'm sure I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that we really heard what you said, and we really admire your courage in coming here today and sharing your story.

My question is for the representatives from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

We asked the government questions about the consultations. A number of witnesses, including those from the Canadian Psychiatric Association, told us that there have not been any consultations.

Yet the minister keeps telling us that this situation is problematic. This issue, where the recidivism rate is 38%, has become politicized to an extent.

Have there been consultations, yes or no? And could you give us the exact numbers on recidivism?

4:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Louise Bradley

I'll speak to the first part of that question, and then Dr. Baillie will speak to the second part.

We asked for a meeting with the minister back in November as soon as the press reports came out. We indeed were granted a meeting very soon thereafter. So we did offer to have experts present to the minister. I'm not sure whether or not those did occur. Very recently we had Dr. Baillie in particular meet with some folks here, but whether or not the minister went beyond that, I'm not sure, but certainly he had a meeting with me and we offered the experts to be available to him.

4:30 p.m.

Member, Advisory Council, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Dr. Patrick Baillie

I would add that in terms of the meetings that I had at the beginning of March, I very much appreciated the openness of members of all parties to some of the suggestions that I was bringing forward. I also circulated an e-mail earlier today to all the members of the committee regarding some possible amendments for your consideration. I hope that they have been received.

Regarding the recidivism statistic, there was an unfortunate error that occurred in the initial draft of the report that was provided to the Department of Justice in November 2012. That is the source of the figure of 38%.

There was an error in the coding of some of the data. That error was discovered on March 14 and immediately communicated to the minister's office, and a revised report was provided on March 18 with that data corrected. That five-day period was quite laborious because we had to go back to the original files to see what had happened. Frankly, what had happened was that individuals who had a previous criminal conviction were lumped together with individuals who had a previous finding of NCRMD leading to the number that you've quoted. That number is an error.

Clearly, the number of individuals who had a criminal conviction was substantially higher than the number of individuals who had a previous finding of NCR. A new report was submitted to the minister's office on March 18 regarding that data. It shows that among the homicide offenders, 5.2% had a previous finding of NCR; among the attempted murder offenders, 4.6% had a previous finding of NCR; and among the sexual offences, 9.5% had a previous finding of NCR.

I emphasize that those are findings for any type of offence on an NCR. In each of the categories, there was one person with a related offence. So one previous homicide became a homicide NCR, one previous attempted murder, and one previous sexual offence.

4:30 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Thank you very much.

My question is for Mr. Battista from the Barreau du Québec.

The Canadian Bar Association also expressed its concerns with respect to the potential problems of constitutionality, especially in terms of a less onerous decision. The fact that the term “brutality” is not actually defined and the situations in which the accused would be considered to be high-risk have also been raised.

You briefly told us about potential constitutional problems. Could you elaborate on that?

4:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

You have 30 seconds left.

4:30 p.m.

Lawyer and President, Committee on Criminal Law, Barreau du Québec

Giuseppe Battista

Yes, I'll try.

Basically, it is a matter of finding a balance between protecting the society and protecting the individual. As experts will tell you, it is always very difficult to assess how dangerous an individual is based on the one act the person committed. The act is definitely a major factor, but that is not what tells us whether the person will reoffend or not.

As an aside, the Barreau du Québec is happy that the judges will be responsible for assessing those issues. That is a good thing. However, we feel that, if a person is designated because of the offence committed and the brutality of the offence—which is a rather broad concept—and if the legislation sets out very strict rules for the process, it will create a straitjacket. In which case, the freedom of the person is at stake, when sometimes that is not necessary.

When it is necessary, the courts act accordingly. That happens every day. Dangerous people are sent to hospitals and are deprived of their freedom to a certain extent. At any rate, our concern is that it will create a straitjacket.

4:35 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Our next questioner is Mr. Wilks from the Conservative Party.

4:35 p.m.


David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here today.

My questions are for Stacy and Dave.

You did very well, Stacy. As a retired police officer, you provided very good evidence as well.

You had mentioned within your statement that each year you would need to go for a review based on the fact that Mr. Schoenborn would be in for an extended period of time. I want to know, how do you feel about the opportunity for a review board to extend the period for review up to 36 months, from the perspective of the victim and the healing opportunity for the victim?

After you answer, I will turn my time over to Mr. Seeback.

4:35 p.m.

As an Individual

Stacy Galt

I apologize. You're asking me....

4:35 p.m.


David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

How does it make you and Darcie feel that it goes to three years instead of one year?

4:35 p.m.

As an Individual

Stacy Galt

How does it make us feel that it'll be three years instead of one year?

4:35 p.m.


David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

From the perspective of the victim, the ability for healing of the victim and giving the victim that much more time to be able to heal, do you believe that three years is a better form for the review board to go down than what it is now, which is every year?

4:35 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Before you answer, Ms. Galt, the bells are ringing. I need unanimous consent to continue until the end of this round.

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


4:35 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

The floor is yours, Ms. Galt.