Proposed changes to the Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder provisions of the Criminal Code have been done without adequate consultation and may further stigmatize people with mental health and addictions problems.
Ottawa (10 May 2013) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is raising concerns about the lack of adequate consultation on Bill C-54, the proposed changes to the Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder (NCRMD) provisions of the Criminal Code.
James Clancy, at microphone, during press conference with NUPGE's working group of justice workers
Need to find way to humanely deal with mentally ill offenders
James Clancy, National President of the 340,000 member NUPGE, in a letter to the Prime Minister raised concerns about "the growing incidence of criminalizing and incarcerating individuals with mental health problems. Canada needs to find a humane way to deal with people with mental health or addictions problems who break the law."
"While we strongly support efforts in Bill C-54 to provide further assistance to the victims of crimes, we must not then victimize those with mental illnesses who break the law. The overwhelming majority of mentally ill offenders need treatment and services to help them return to being productive members of Canadian society."
Significant changes being made without adequate consultation
A number of mental health organizations have raised concerns that some of the provisions of the legislation are of such significance that there is a need for much greater consultation.
For example, the proposal for moving away from annual reviews for individuals designated NCRMD of a violent crime to having them take place every three years is a significant change in the manner in which these individuals are treated by our justice system. Another important change would be that "high risk" NCRMD accused will be ineligible to be considered for release by a Review Board until their designation is revoked by a court.
Why the sudden need for the legislation
Clancy explains that "the rate at which offenders are designated NCRMD is exceedingly low (only 0.001 per cent of individuals charged with Criminal Code violations in Ontario were adjudicated NCRMD). Furthermore, the recidivism rates for NCRMD individuals range from 2.5 to 7.5 per cent — much lower than that of federal offenders in the regular justice system, at a rate of 41 to 44 per cent. We fail to see the great need for this legislation."
"This is not to say that the National Union does not see a need for review of the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code or appreciate that such a review is important to many Canadians. Indeed, we feel that there needs to be a review of how the entire justice system deals with people with mental health and addictions problems."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE