Bill C-10 fails Canada’s mentally illPublished on 2 March 2012 by Senator Jane Cordy
Recent studies have shown a sharp increase in the number of inmates with poor mental health. Unfortunately these numbers continue to rise and will continue to rise when Bill C -10 passes into law. Many Canadians who are in poor mental health and who come in conflict with the law are going to be swept up into jails under this draconian law. Minimum mandatory sentencing and longer jail terms do not deter crime. In addition, taking away a judge’s discretion at sentencing will have the unfortunate consequence of sending those who are convicted and who suffer from poor mental health to jail instead of to a secure hospital environment.
There is a clear need for treatment for inmates who suffer from poor mental health on both a compassionate basis and a crime prevention basis. In most cases, inmates who enter the correctional facilities with a mental illness and remain there without any treatment come out in worse condition. The chances of these people re-offending or even committing a worse crime once released are significantly higher unless they receive the help they need. If these offenders receive proper treatment while in custody the percentage of those reoffending goes down significantly.
The gut reaction of vengeance is a powerful impulse when dealing with crime in our society. The government says this legislation is for victims’ rights but punishment without treatment of our mentally ill offenders does not serve society nor does it keep our streets safer.
I truly hope that there is room for compassion and discretion in a just and fair Canadian justice system. Let us not, as a society, allow those with a mental illness to languish in jail with no treatment. Let us not talk about being tough on crime or soft on crime. Let us talk about being smart on crime, or as the hundreds of emails sent to me convey, let us talk about a Bill that will make Canada safer, not meaner.