The mental health crisis in Canada's justice system | National Union of Public and General Employees

The mental health crisis in Canada's justice system

Experts from across the country will join representatives of Canada's justice workers to assess the growing crisis posed by mental health problems in correctional facilities.

James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)Ottawa (22 Sept. 2009) - Representatives of justice workers from Components of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) will tackle a range of serious issues during their annual meeting Sept. 24-25 in Ottawa.

"The criminal justice system is a pretty unique work environment," says NUPGE president James Clancy.

"Not only are these workers confronted by serious challenges and threats within their workplaces but by societal-wide problems. The safety of members who work in this sector is of utmost importance to us. We are also deeply concerned about the security of those who are incarcerated and by related social issues."

One of the growing social problems the meeting will address is the escalating number of people with mental illness who are coming into conflict with the law and being confined in Canada's correctional facilities.

"There is a critical absence of mental health services in this country," says Clancy. "The justice system is becoming the treatment option of last resort for many people."

Complete focus

For this reason NUPGE has dedicated the entire second day of the meeting to a series of presentations and discussions of various facets of the mental health crisis in Canada's justice system.

Presenters include:

  • Howard Sapers, Office of the Correctional Investigator.
  • André Picard, one of Canada's top public policy writers as well as the author of several books and public health reporter at The Globe and Mail.
  • Fiona Wilson-Bates, detective with the Vancouver Police Department and author of the report Lost in Transition: How a Lack of Capacity in the Mental Health System is Failing Vancouver's Mentally Ill and Draining Police Resources.
  • Bobbi Stadnyk, ground-breaking researcher on the incidence and effects of post-traumatic stress among correctional officers.
  • Neil Boyd, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University who has extensively studied over-crowding and working conditions in B.C. correctional facilities.

"We are taking a broad look at this issue," says Clancy.

"Not only are we looking at the number of people coming into conflict with the law but the effect that this has on the mental health of workers in the sector. We hope to provide an excellent basis for our future work on the issue."

Police and Peace Officers' Memorial

The two-day annual meeting occurs in advance of the annual Canadian Police and Peace Officers' Memorial Service, scheduled Sept. 27 on Parliament Hill.

At the memorial service, officers from across Canada will pay tribute to 10 police and peace officers who have lost their lives over the past year while working to keep Canadian communities safe. Their names will be added to the Memorial Honour Roll, joining those of other fallen officers inscribed on the monument located on Parliament Hill.

In 1998, the Canadian government officially proclaimed the last Sunday of September as Police and Peace Officers' National Memorial Day. The annual service gives Canadians an opportunity to express their appreciation for the ultimate dedication and sacrifice of police and peace officers.

The National Memorial Day Service is organized by the Canadian Police Association (CPA), the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and the Canadian Peace Officers' Memorial Association (CPOMA).


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