Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act (Bill C-54)

Elizabeth May : Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the concern that I have expressed this evening, that despite good intentions perhaps in the way this legislation is drafted to deal with a concern the public has, which I feel is driven by the headlines as opposed to empirical evidence, we may inadvertently make the situation worse.

The courts have been very clear that the not criminally insane provisions and much of the law that surrounds them must be seen in the context of mental health and treatment and not in a more punitive approach.

In evidence of this, I would just cite briefly from Mr. Justice Binnie in the Owen case, who said:

It is of central importance to the constitutional validity of this statutory arrangement that the individual…be confined only for reasons of public protection, not punishment.

I put it for my friend from Langley, that this bill, in many areas, seems to trespass from the preventative mental health focus to one that is treating mentally ill persons as criminals and  subject to more severe punishment.

Mark Warawa: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for being here during these late hours.

As parties, we have the opportunity to take a breather, but she is here, faithfully representing her community. I want to thank her for that. It takes a lot of effort for her to do it by herself.

To the member’s question about whether this is punitive, it is absolutely not. This is reaching a balance where the courts still have discretion to put a classification on somebody who presents, or could present, a very high risk of reoffending. The paramount consideration is whether this designation needs to be put on an individual to protect the public.

The courts have the discretion. If the designation is put on, it would only be the courts that could remove it.