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.