I have been so busy thinking about how my bank account will swell with this EU Trade Agreement I didn’t take a close look at what Stephen Harper said in the Throne Speech. It all sounded really good as I polished my Brian Mulroney bronze bust but upon closer inspection something seems rotten in the state of Denmark.
“Canadians are rightfully alarmed when violent offenders found Not Criminally Responsible for their actions are released into our communities.”
In fact Stephen, Canadians are alarmed because many are misinformed. It does nothing to help when the government attempts to enshrine stigma into law. The damage is staggering. Shame on you if this is simply a political opportunity to play fiddle to your base whose view of justice is Right but not necessarily so. To ignore information and advice and proceed with this Bill only shows your disregard for people who hold no political promise for you. The mentally disabled.
The existing system for dealing with those deemed not criminally responsible was recently endorsed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. She must be a Liberal eh Stephen. Either that or she actually understands the existing system.
What I find most disturbing about the Throne Speech is your ostracization of the mentally disabled in only one sentence. If you open your mouth and this comes out I can understand your obsession with control of information. Less said Stephen. “Our communities” has the ring of exclusion in a speech I thought started out with something like, “Consider this: we are inclusive. We are 35 million people gathered from every part of the world. We welcome the contribution of all those who inhabit this land—from the first of us to the latest among us.” If one is not found guilty of the crime it can only be their mental illness that would exclude a person from a community.
The communities you refer to Mr. Prime Minister in fact belong also to those afflicted by serious mental illness. The unfortunate consequence of a crime motivated by a disorder of the mind has never and should never exclude those involved. No illness or disability should make someone less than the rest of “us”. These individuals come from “our” communities and with care and caution many fully return.
If we have “our” communities or they are withheld even in language from the mentally ill we needn’t worry about all those words about discrimination in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
According to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Section 15 jurisprudence, the equality guarantees of section 15 are aimed at preventing the “violation of essential human dignity and freedom through the imposition of disadvantage, stereotyping, or political and social prejudices, and to promote a society in which all persons enjoy equal recognition at law as human beings or as members of Canadian society, equally capable and equally deserving of concern, respect and consideration.” (Iacobucci J. in Law v. Canada, )
Most individuals found Not Criminally Responsible are legally disabled, often permanently. Mental disability is included in the Equality Rights. When I hear prejudice from the Throne Speech, when I see stigma in your most measured words I fear for everyone I know involved in mental illness. You represent my country Mr. Prime Minister. I hang my head in shame. You may think it only a slight to violent offenders but in fact your words pierce everyone who is touched by mental illness.
I don’t know if the Governor General would have to be in the Senate to apologize for the throne speech but Stephen, you might want to text him again.
You are “our” prime minister. If you don’t want mental illness in “your” community I suggest you vacate 24 Sussex. The delusion is yours Mr. Prime Minister.
As an Aside:
“The Court Challenges Program was first established in 1978. It was designed to provide legal and financial assistance to Canadians whose voice would not otherwise be heard by the courts. It was believed that in order to assure the equality rights of all Canadians, it was vital that Canadians, regardless of situation or financial means, have the ability to challenge government laws and directives on constitutional grounds. Without this protection, many Canadians would be voiceless when confronted by an unconstitutional action by their government – for them, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms rendered an ineffectual piece of paper.
This seemed to be of little concern to the Conservative party when they cancelled all funding for the program, on September 25, 2006.
In the House of Commons, Stephen Harper responded indignantly to questions about the program’s cancellation, saying that his government “intends to behave in a constitutional manner,” and that they “do not intend to adopt unconstitutional legislation.” But can Mr. Harper make the same guarantee for the governments that follow his? Why cancel a long-term protection that was functioning perfectly well, at very little cost?
Does it make sense to remove all the fire extinguishers from a building, reasoning that “We have no intention of starting a fire”?
Harper’s Conservatives have a history of not handling well the questioning of their authority or judgment, whether in the House of Commons or in the courts. When confronted, they would sooner silence the opposing voice than debate it. One might ask, “Is it wise to trust the intentions of a government that behaves in this manner?”