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RSR Research - Canada Politics February 9, 2013
  Feb 09, 2013

Commentary
The Harper conservative government arrived in BC this week not to cut a program or shut something down in the province - not even to hang out with Christy Clark for a photo op. Instead they came to BC to announce that they would make it tougher for mentally ill criminals to be released from prison.
The example our Conservative government cites is the case of Allen Schoenborn who was found not criminally responsible for the brutal murder of his family.
The Schoenborn case is likely isolated in terms of its dramatic affect as an example of the 911 type need for changes to the legislation.
The proposed changes will be included in the National Defence Act - an opportunity as well for Stephen Harper to jail post 2006 Canadian War Veterans who suffer from some type of mental disorder such as PTSD and who commit a crime - in his newly proposed for profit prisons, the type that even Texas has now rejected. Remember in the case of those Veterans who are actually part of Canada's defence and who suffer from mental illness as a consequence, it takes time and resources to find the correct mix of medicine and therapy to deal with these serious illnesses. Is it possible that the Harper government will deem it easier and cheaper to simply jail some Veterans? Does this suggest the possibility that the Harper government now considers those people who defended the country in circumstances where PTSD and other mental issues prevail - to be Canada's new terrorist under the Defence Act? Is Harper trying to be like Pierre Trudeau who introduced the war measures act as a response to the FLQ - using mentally ill people as his foil? Does Harper look a little like a bully in this?
I cannot produce a defence for the heinous actions of Mr. Schoenborn but find it hard to believe that his example is sufficient from which to explain the amendment of an entire federal statute - the National Defence Act at that - as a response to persons who are mentally disabled.
This also raises a number of questions at a time when issues relating to mental illness are becoming a popular and necessary conversation among Canadians, but certainly not in the context of this announcement which appears almost more of a political distraction than a necessary expenditure of energy by persons elected to operate with some thoughtful consideration.
How does a mentally ill person end up in prison in the first place? If you aren't guilty of a crime at the point of the court, then you haven't broken the law under the criminal code. Why is such a person in a prison? Custody I understand but why prison?
How many mentally ill people are in prison? Are crimes committed by people on drugs or alcohol crimes by people in the 'right' state of mind or are they mentally deficient in this state? What if crimes are committed by persons who are mentally ill when they do not take their medication?
What about those Canadians are deemed mentally ill in all circumstances? Why are they not being treated or properly housed? Over a broader demographic of mentally ill people and not just isolated and headline grabbing cases like Allen Schoenborn's brutal murder of his family - what are the real motivations behind these amendments to the Defence Act.
I was under the impression as many Canadians probably are that mentally ill persons including those who commit crimes under the Code are a vulnerable minority. This announcement by the Prime Minister, his Justice Minister and BC minister who seems in desperate need of a headline - to save his declining political fortunes in a growing anti Conservative province - appears by any measure to be a significant announcement though the details are missing. Also, why the selection of what is a truly disturbing case, but cannot be a sufficient example of the norm to warrant such apparently histrionic action.
On it's face this announcement appears to be more about fear inducement of the masses - the kind of one hit wonder policy we have come to expect from the Conservatives who are protecting you from Canada's new terrorist threat - mentally ill criminals.
On it's face this announcement looks a little hasty and a little crazy to me-a kind of blitz policy. Perhaps Mr. Harper could explain what he and his ministers are proposing in a more rationale and sensible manner to the rest of us - and not the least of us who might be more easily induced to buy in to the fear mongering--or was that all that was intended - that and the marketing of the new for profit prisons in Canada.

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