Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act (Bill C-54)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank the justice critic for the official opposition for her interesting, thoughtful and important speech.

In this case, the key issues relate to human rights and people suffering from mental illness. This is somewhat different from criminality, since it is a health issue. We need to strike a balance between protecting public interest, which is very important, and protecting human rights.

If we were to imagine a system that would, at the same time, protect the rights of ill people and protect society against violence, what would the best possible system look like?

Françoise Boivin: Mr. Speaker, I would like to have a perfect answer to this question. It is the question that we must always ask and to which we must always try to find the most specific answers. We also have to give the people who are in a much better position than we are in this House the tools they need to solve this problem.

I have a great deal of respect for psychiatrists and all those who work in the mental health field. Unfortunately, here in Canada, they often get less than their due. Even my Conservative colleagues have to admit it. It is something that we are not used to dealing with and that we really do not understand.

I will never be able to repeat it enough: the danger with this bill is that we are making Canadians believe that the people who committed these offences are not patients, but prisoners. They are not criminals like Bernardo, for example, or like someone who coldly and with no regard for other people’s lives decided to commit unspeakable crimes. We have examples of this, here.

In this bill, we are talking about serious mental disorders. I cannot say it often enough: if we are not happy with the verdicts, we should discuss the verdicts. If we are reasonably satisfied with the verdicts, they have not been appealed and they are final decisions, the person is taken into care. What I think is that the system requires greater investment in protecting mental health. We have to be reasonably satisfied that the people in question are being well treated. However, it would be very sad to let people believe that we live in a society that is full of people who have been recognized as not criminally responsible because of mental illness and who are walking around in the open.

On the other hand, we have to ensure that these people and the victims are up to speed. There are some good elements in this bill, as I said in my speech. I just do not like how the stage is set, sometimes, because it takes some of the credibility away from the bill, with the kind of political speeches we are hearing about something as serious as mental disorders.