THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON Social Affairs,
Science and Technology
TORONTO, Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and
Technology met this day at 9:00 a.m. to examine issues concerning mental health
and mental illness.
Senator Michael Kirby (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Senators, first, I want to thank our
witnesses who have come from across the country to Toronto to meet in the one
place to which everybody from the rest of the country travels occasionally, and
then is happy to leave — it is just the nature of Toronto.
Beginning today, we will be focusing on the forensic side of
mental health. We have representatives of three police forces from across the
country, all of whom are involved in police/mental health liaison.
We will follow that with groups such as the Elizabeth Fry
Society, and others, who deal with police/mental health liaison, not from the
policing side, but from the viewpoint of helping people once they are convicted.
At the end of the day, we will be hearing from two judges from the Mental Health
Court here in Ontario, so we will be covering the spectrum.
Our first trio this morning consists of Terry Coleman, Chief
of Police in Moose Jaw and the Co-Chair of the Canadian National Committee for
Police/Mental Health Liaison; Michael Arruda is responsible for mental health
issues with the Montreal police force; and Sean Ryan, who, we discovered in an
earlier, brief conversation, grew up in the same town as my mother and my
grandfather and we know all kinds of people in common. Sean Ryan, as you can
tell both from the name and the accent, is from St. John's. Thank you very much
for coming. He is with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary — I still love the
We will have comments from the three of you and then we will
open it to questions. Thank you all very much for coming. We appreciate it.
Mr. Terry Coleman, Chief of the Moose Jaw Police Service;
Co-Chair of the Canadian National Committee for Police/Mental Health Liaison:
Good morning. I am Terry Coleman, the Chief of Police in Moose Jaw, but the
reason I am here today is I am the Co-Chair of the Canadian National Committee
for Police/Mental Health Liaison, which is a subcommittee of the Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police. We thank you for the opportunity to present a
police perspective, and to some extent, the justice system perspective, to your
important discussion. You probably have in front of you a paper from all three
of us that will give you more information than I am about to share today. I am
sure it will provide some basis for you to ask questions.
I have been a police officer for over 36 years, initially in
Calgary and more recently in Moose Jaw. What Inspector Ryan, Agent Arruda and I
have to share today is representative of the police community in Canada,
notwithstanding some differences from community to community. That police will
interact with mentally ill persons is inevitable and, to some extent, necessary.
After all, it is we who have the 24/7 telephones and the staffing to respond to
calls for service and people in crisis. Police services spend a significant
amount of time and money working with people who are experiencing mental health
The London Police Service, in conjunction with the University
of Western Ontario, conducted research in this respect approximately two years
ago, and I think it would be fruitful to have them make a presentation to you. I
will not present their research to you, but it was extremely useful and rare in
the Canadian context. This was —
The Chairman: Just to interrupt, that was a study done by
the London, Ontario, police force?
Mr. Coleman: That is correct.
The Chairman: Do you have a name?
Mr. Coleman: Yes, I do.
The Chairman: Can you give us the name later?
Mr. Coleman: I can. I have the name of the person.
The Chairman: That would be great. Thank you.
Mr. Coleman: It is rare in the Canadian context, and
Inspector Ryan will talk a little more about research before we are finished.
This research is enlightening, and as I said, the only such
research in Canada, to my knowledge. Their findings, broadly, were that the
police service was devoting substantial resources to their interactions with
mentally ill persons, and I repeat, “substantial.” As I said, I recommend you
access and read that report and perhaps meet with those people.
I do not share this purely from the “This is costing the cops
too much money” perspective, although resources are scarce, as we all know, but
to demonstrate the extent to which police organizations are already involved in
the mental health business, and their commitment. Although replication of the
research in other parts of Canada would be useful, research is also costly, and
it took them some time to put together. However, having examined the methodology
used in London and based on my experience, I consider it as representative of
policing across Canada in general.
In the context of this forum today, the questions we often
ask ourselves are: Are we the police the best people to be dealing with people
with mental illness, and are we equipped to meet their needs and best interests?
The answer, by and large, to both questions is we are not, at least not after
perhaps an initial contact and maybe the diffusion of a violent or
However, we are frequently frustrated by being unable to
refer or take these persons to mental health professionals and/or the
appropriate facilities, to be received in the appropriate manner. We in policing
are also client/consumer focused, and being unable to deliver service on that
basis frustrates us.
We realize there has been some improvement in some centres in
the last few years. In fact, there are some excellent programs in some places to
address the frustrations I speak of, and that is really encouraging, but as
always, we need to do better.
We must continually evaluate and improve the consultation and
collaboration. The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill dramatically and
directly affected police organizations across Canada. While I am not about to
get into the debate about whether such deinstitutionalization is or was good or
bad, my colleagues and I across Canada know that we and our communities in
general were not prepared. Why not?
To make a complex situation simple for the sake of brevity
here this morning, no one told us what was about to happen, or what the effect
on our communities might be. We were unprepared. I raise this for obvious
reasons, but also to encourage you to consider that we can all learn from that.
That is, we must ensure mental health professionals and consumer groups
communicate and work with police — and vice versa — and also make sure that in
the future, police are included with respect to ensuring mentally ill persons
receive the attention and care they deserve.
I would be remiss if I did not address the often-offered
panacea for fixing the deficiencies with respect to the intervention of police
with the mentally ill. That is the notion that training will fix it. Just give
them a little more training and all will be well, if you will pardon the pun.
Well, this is not so.
To the extent communication has happened in the past, it has
been through individual organizations approaching police organizations or
associations of chiefs of police, at the provincial or even the federal level,
national level, and asking to introduce their specific training into a police
Actually, my interest in becoming involved with the
particular committee that I co-chair was born out of frustrations with numerous
organizations approaching the police, each with their own interest, to be
delivered by training, and frankly, it is not practical for police colleges and
police organizations to introduce a course for each different mental illness.
Over the past two years, Dr. Cotton and I have been
conducting research in our spare time — and we both have very little of it —
with respect to recommendations on fatalities, coroner's inquests, resulting
from the death of a person during a police intervention. Far too often, these
persons were mentally ill. While not all recommendations of the inquests
included training the police more or training them with respect to this illness
or that illness, many of them did, and, ladies and gentlemen, while in some
situations training may be part of the solution, it is not the solution.
Therefore, what is required?
Mental health professionals and police must work together to
change structures whereby we understand each other and work more closely such
that we complement each other in providing what the consumers and their families
need and deserve. It is a systemic problem, not just a training problem. Just
adding training to a structural problem will not improve what we are seeking to
Working with and assisting people with mental illness are
consistent with our mandate as police organizations, and certainly consistent
with the philosophy of contemporary policing. In fact, four of the fundamentals
of contemporary, or community, policing, as you may know it, are a
customer/client/community focus, consultation and collaboration with the
community, quality and valued client/customer service and increased
communication. All of these also speak to our work with people with mental
illness and the systems that serve them.
I must also share with you some progress I am party to with
respect to mental illness within police organizations, and we have our share.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Human Resources Committee, of which
the committee I am here today to represent is a subcommittee, will hold a human
resource conference in Vancouver at the end of this March, and one of the topics
is “Operational Challenges in Managing Human Resources.” We will have a
presentation and a discussion around mental health within police organizations.
This is a huge step in our culture, where mental illness is something we deal
with externally, but we often hesitate to deal with internally.
This is what drives us as police organizations. As you can
see, we too are client/consumer focused. Although process is important, it is
the outcomes we are and should be concerned about. On behalf of the police
community, I am pleased to tell you that we want to be part of the solution. We
are ready to work on this matter for the benefit of consumers, their families
and their communities. Change in the public sector, and policing is no
exception, occurs far too often as a result of a crisis or crises. It seems to
take a tragedy to get the attention of policy-makers and those who are able to
assign necessary resources. I am sure I do not need to tell you that that is not
our preferred way of policing.
Once again, we appreciate today's opportunity to contribute
to solutions to address a complex but important issue. We look forward, whether
at the local or at a more global level, to police being included as part of
these solutions in the future.
We would like to think it is a good sign that we are here at
all today. Traditionally, forums such as this would not have included us in a
discussion like this, and we look forward to our continued involvement and thank
you for the invitation today. Such work is consistent with our mandate, and
certainly consistent with the philosophy of contemporary policing, and I thank
you on behalf of your police organizations and your police officers.
Mr. Michael Arruda, Agent and Counsellor, Action Strategies
with the Community, Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Montreal Police
Service: Senator Kirby, Senator Keon, members of the standing committee, I
have had the opportunity to listen to the committee hearings, read some passages
from the committee's last report and meet some of the consumer/survivors who
were asked to testify before the committee. I want to thank the committee
members for their involvement and for inviting me here today.
I am happy that the government is finally looking at the
subject of mental health and that your recommendations may one day be
implemented. This is a beginning, a time for change, a time when people will
begin discussing mental health like any other health problem. As a family member
of someone who has a mental health problem, I can sympathize with and relate to
the frustrations that the survivors and their families go through. Believe me, I
quickly understood why mental health consumers have earned the right to be
As a police officer, I must admit that I find it quite
disturbing and sad that family members and survivors have to turn to the police
in the hopes that they can get the proper care. I think it is a sign of how
wrong, or rather, sick our system is. Although police interventions are usually
very traumatizing for all parties involved, family members and survivors know
that we are probably the only service anywhere in Canada that operates 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and will act immediately to secure
someone who is in a mental health crisis.
Families expect officers to take their loved ones to the
appropriate professionals. Ironically, most of the time, these professionals are
not available, or, in some places, non-existent. In the places where services
are available, usually local hospitals, two officers are asked to stand guard on
the mentally ill person until the professional comes to see them. I have tried
to look back and remember when was the last time I stood guard and made sure
that someone with cancer or diabetes got treated.
What is most alarming is the number of calls that officers
across our country receive concerning someone who is in a mental health crisis.
Calls range from the person who seems confused and is wandering the streets to
the ultimate crisis call, the person who attempts to commit suicide.
Crisis calls are just one facet of police interventions.
Officers are routinely asked to apprehend people under the Mental Health Act,
interview witnesses and victims who have mental health problems, and arrest
people who are mentally ill and have committed a variety of illegal acts.
Furthermore, homeless people with mental health problems are
often shunned by the communities in which they live. The community ignores the
real issues: lack of mental health services, facilities and supervised housing.
It is much easier just to call the police.
Officers are obliged to intervene, again with few solutions.
Although they are not specialists in the matter and often have no formal
training, some police officers have to make assessments and evaluate whether the
person is a danger to themselves or to others. In small rural communities, where
few services are available, officers are forced to come up with desperate
solutions, and in some cases, these solutions have sad and tragic endings.
Police officers are overwhelmed and feel ill-equipped to intervene adequately.
These are interventions that need particular handling and care.
As the honourable members of the standing committee already
know, the difficulties encountered by all parties concerned are numerous, and it
would only be tedious and repetitive of me to enumerate the problems.
Now, is there anything positive going on in the police
service? Yes, there is. First, I must caution you that the programs available
are usually in major urban areas and that in fact, very few police forces have
them. Some police services have taken it upon themselves to offer mental health
crisis intervention training to their personnel. Basic training courses vary
from 4 hours to 26 hours of classroom time. Officers are introduced to
communication techniques, verbal crisis intervention, abnormal psychology,
observation methods and medical notions and language. Police departments are
starting to gather data in order to evaluate their services and develop a better
understanding of the situation.
Major police services have designated mental health liaison
officers who work on developing the mental health units and are responsible for
developing standard intervention procedures in order to have conformity
throughout the areas where they work.
Memoranda of agreement and protocols between police services
and medical facilities have been developed and implemented to define the police
and medical roles. Others have started initiatives such as police and community
joint programs, and crisis teams from local health facilities have also joined
the police in order to fill the gap. Cooperative programs such as Car 87 in
Vancouver, Coast in Hamilton, and the Montreal Joint Response Model are
initiatives that were developed as a result of the needs of the communities they
Regional and local police/mental health liaison committees
have also been developed throughout different cities to try to resolve immediate
and long-term issues. The Canadian National Committee for Police/Mental Health
Liaison was also developed to support, inform and provide guidance to all
agencies across Canada directly touched by the mental health issue.
Ontario has developed mental health courts, while several
provinces have diversion programs. Officers have been trained in the use of less
lethal weapons when intervening with someone in a high-risk situation and crisis
negotiation has become the norm in major cities.
Bolder initiatives, such as consumer/survivor advisory
committees, have been developed to counsel, educate and inform police forces on
how to intervene with people who have mental health problems. The
consumer/survivors are by far the best experts in the mental health field, not
because of their education, but because of their life experience.
Cross-training initiatives have been developed. Personnel
such as psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, researchers, teachers, public
health officials, low-income housing officials, government officials and anyone
directly involved with mental health are invited to patrol with police officers
and see the situations they come across. They are then debriefed, asked to
analyze the interventions and come up with better solutions. Officers are asked
to work in the other person's milieu and are exposed to the other's reality. The
same procedure is repeated.
Consumer/survivors are an integral part of this process. The
purpose is to understand everyone's reality and the difficulties encountered in
each organization. Solutions are sought, taking into consideration the
restraints that everyone has. Furthermore, the bond that is created is
exceptional. Participants see that there are faces and real people with names in
each organization. It is no longer the police, the psychiatrist, the consumer,
but rather, Mike, Nadia and John.
As you can see, efforts and initiatives are being developed.
What we need is a government that is ready to face the challenges and willing to
take the initiative. How can we better our services? Well, very simply put, let
us start by talking. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Arruda.
Mr. Sean Ryan, Inspector, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary:
Good morning, Senator Kirby. Like my colleagues, I thank you and the members of
your distinguished panel for giving us the opportunity to speak to you today on
this extremely complex social issue.
I come from a large family of 20 siblings in Newfoundland,
and I too speak from personal and professional experiences on how the existing
system is less than adequate to meet the continual needs of persons suffering
from mental illness.
Like many other law enforcement agencies in Canada, the Royal
Newfoundland Constabulary had to come to terms with analyzing the way we handled
issues surrounding mentally ill persons and, equally, our lack of collaboration
and cooperation with our health care system.
In 2000, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was involved in
two police shootings, one of which was fatal. In that same year, our federal
counterparts in Newfoundland, the RCMP, were also involved in a fatal shooting.
Unfortunately, all three incidents involved persons suffering from a mental
As a result, a judicial inquiry was held into the two fatal
shootings, chaired by the Honourable Judge Donald Luther, and it was through
that forum that a methodical analysis of the way we conduct business was
completed that resulted in Judge Luther making several articulate and beneficial
Chief Coleman eloquently set the stage by providing you with
the generic overview of the way police do business as well as the history
relevant to where we are today. Agent Arruda gave you an accurate account of
what police officers across Canada go through on a daily basis, with the common
thread that speaks to the police doing whatever is humanly possible to help
those in need.
Over the next few minutes, I will endeavour to provide you
and your distinguished panel with some suggestions on how we feel a federal body
such as you represent can help.
We recommend that you help to create a national, centralized
repository where data collected by police agencies in Canada can be received,
collated and analyzed to provide quality and, conceivably, tactical analysis to
aid in developing strategic approaches. Also, we see the potential of these same
data being analyzed to provide equally strategic analysis that could assist in
establishing standardized services that meet the consumer needs, as well as
determining any common themes or trends.
We also seek your assistance in recommending funding be made
available for research by police and health care providers in collaboration on
issues, as well as funding to support independent research for the same common
The research that is available in Canada today has rarely
been done in Canada. Most of the data that we refer to are U.S. data, which is
sad to say, with the exception of, as Chief Coleman said, the study that was
done in London.
The research will be done with the intention of bettering our
services as individual agencies as well as in cooperation with joint measures.
We request your support in funding national education and training initiatives
for police and mental health care workers alike, a national, public education
program that would decrease the unfortunate stigma attached to and fear of those
who suffer from a mental disorder.
We request your support in helping both police and health
care services to break down the bureaucratic and regulatory barriers that we
experience in attempting to share information, imperative information that can
provide the necessary intelligence to assist in formulating an effective
response by either department.
We request your support in providing the framework for a
national forum for law-enforcement agencies across Canada to share best
practices, comparable to the forum that was set up in the 1990s and led by the
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to deal with a national use-of-force
model and continuum. This particular forum was so successful that it has been
adopted today nationwide and serves for all of us as a standardized framework,
and I believe the same thing can be done with mental health issues.
Ladies and gentlemen, we readily recognize and appreciate
that we as individuals, as well as our respective agencies and our provinces,
have an obligation to provide the best service possible to persons suffering
from mental illness. We realize that enhanced training developed from quality
research can assist us, the police, and health care providers with providing a
prophylactic measure for the percentage of our society who suffer from a serious
illness and that, ultimately, can become embedded within the justice system.
We would be remiss if we did not impress upon you the
enormous fiscal strain our present antiquated response to the mentally ill puts
on already pressured police budgets. For example, as Agent Arruda mentioned,
police officers spend hours upon hours endeavouring to seek out the needed help
for the people we serve, but at the same time, contributing by our mere presence
to the associated criminality stigma attached to those who are ill.
Please, let me impress upon you that despite appearances, and
although we, the police, are looking for help, it is not about the police. This
is not about us. Moreover, it is all about the consumers, and once again, the
seeking and availing ourselves of such opportunities as this in an effort to
provide the best care to those who desperately need it.
We three, along with thousands of our colleagues, are
advocates for the mentally ill, and are proud to be so. We do not profess to
have all the answers, but we are surely eager to help you and any other body
willing to step forward to find those answers.
With your help, we can and will provide the service that
meets the need, and if through this forum and like opportunities we can make a
difference that benefits even one person, then that will indeed move it forward.
I thank you for this opportunity and the great work that you
have already done. We are prepared and eager to help you in any way we can in
your future endeavours and we wish you Godspeed. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you very much to the three of you for
your thoughtful statements, and, as I say, for all the effort you made to get
Before turning to my colleagues, could I just ask the three
of you for some clarification?
You mention a national forum in another area of policing. Who
funded that? Did the federal government fund that, or does anybody know?
Mr. Coleman: Actually, no, it did not. There was no
funding for it. It was a a collaboration that came out of the Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police Human Resource Committee, and the Ontario Police
College took a lead role in this. They have a representative on that committee
and we jointly put that together. It took several years for everybody to agree
on it, but there was no funding per se, although, obviously, different agencies
contributed in kind by way of people and resources.
The Chairman: The forum, Chief, was essentially a
week-long symposium or something?
Mr. Coleman: It was a series.
The Chairman: You are saying that you need something
similar with respect to mental health issues.
Mr. Ryan: Absolutely, senator, and I brought that up
simply because it was an issue that was crucial to how the police conduct
business, and it was through the collaborative effort from coast to coast that a
framework was established that has been adopted today and works very well. My
point is that if we can do it with one particular facet of policing, we can
certainly do it with this.
The Chairman: Second question: You talked about the
barriers to sharing information. Are they barriers among police forces or
between the police and local health authorities, and what kind of information
are you talking about?
Mr. Ryan: Well, it is a combination of them all. There
are issues and, of course, there are privacy act issues within our provinces as
well. There is bureaucracy within each organization — we refer to it as “turf” —
that prevents the sharing of information; and quite frankly, information from a
health care agency can certainly help us to formulate a proper response, but
oftentimes, we are left with second-guessing ourselves and trying to determine
what is happening in an immediate fashion.
There is an expectation that the issue can be solved through
training, and Chief Coleman referenced it. Society cannot expect us to turn
police officers into street diagnosticians. Quite frankly, it is difficult to
get two psychiatrists to agree on one diagnosis, so in the absence of some
intelligence, it is difficult for a police officer to make some determination as
to what a person is suffering from and try to formulate an effective response.
However, it can be aided by a full exchange, without imposing on somebody's
personal health, over an issue that could contribute to the individual’s safety
or someone else's safety.
The Chairman: At the present, there is reluctance on the
part of people in the medical profession, for example, or in any health
profession, to deal with that?
Mr. Ryan: In some cases.
The Chairman: I can understand that, because of privacy
laws and so on, but that is the problem?
Mr. Ryan: In some cases, yes, it is reluctance, but in
most cases, these departments want to share that with us and it becomes an issue
of a particular individual who happens to be on call that night sitting back and
second-guessing, “If I do, what are the ramifications of my sharing this
I bring forward the issue, albeit I understand that there may
be no pat answers. Insofar as suggestions are concerned, I bring it forward for
your collective wisdom.
Senator Cook: I have just had an opportunity to scan your
carefully laid-out document here. I will ask you a number of questions, but my
focus is on effective mental health legislation.
We are a federal team and you work in provincial
jurisdictions — which I think tends to create silos — and I note that the arrest
rate of those with mental illness is higher than for others. Sean, I will speak
to you, mainly because I am a Newfoundlander. I know, because I worked as a
volunteer at the Pottle Centre, that agencies tried to offer a caring
environment after the deinstitutionalization — that is a long word — to people
when they came out of the Waterford. However, those community supports were not
there, and the people who came out could not live in a community. I think
society failed them, and we have been trying to play catchup ever since. If you
want to respond to that, you can.
Mr. Ryan: You are absolutely right. It is an issue, and
we have seen it in the recent judicial inquiry into the deaths of Darryl Power
and Norman Reid.
One gentleman was from a rural community. There was
absolutely no social network there to support him, and Judge Luther in his
recommendations clearly articulates his position on that. The issue of community
treatment orders came up, and any number of areas, to try to deal with rural
communities. I know Constable Arruda and I have discussed that in connection
with communities outside the urban centres.
The infrastructure that is in place within urban centres is
less than adequate. Outside of urban centres, it is essentially non-existent and
I believe that in a forum such as this, it is imperative that we as public
servants discuss the undiscussable. Otherwise, we are not being fair to the
people that we are trying to serve, mentally ill persons.
Senator Cook: Your brief tells me about the variety of
circumstances in which you come into contact with people who appear to be
mentally ill and are victims of crime, and then I see that you are telling us
that the police should not be the de facto first line of support for most people
with mental illness. Well, if not you, who?
Mr. Ryan: I know that various recommendations were made
after the inquiry in Newfoundland. In keeping with joint programs that are
already in existence, such as the famous Coast program in Hamilton, our
recommendation was to have a mobile mental health crisis response team
associated with the respective health care centres. Our position was that even
if there is a joint effort on the response, there is still the associated
criminality of somebody being mentally ill.
In the vast majority of police officers' calls dealing with
people who are suffering from mental illness, there is no criminality, but the
police departments have been the catch basin for an otherwise non-existent
social network, and that is as frankly as I can put it. I apologize if I —
The Chairman: No. Please do not apologize. Be very blunt.
This committee said in its previous report that in our view, the prisons have
become the asylums of the 21st century. You deinstitutionalize, you do not put
anything in place, so prisons take over as the only place to put people. Please,
the blunter you are, the more helpful it is to us.
Mr. Ryan: Thank you.
Senator Cook: You also talk about local strategies, and I
think you do commendable work in local areas, but you are in search of something
more, and I understand that. I like your reference to being a taxi driver, and
if you are a uniformed cop in a car, picking up a person who appears to be
mentally ill, that does not lend a comfort level to someone who is stressed or
having a problem.
Mr. Ryan: Well, ma'am, to bring a sense of reality to
what you are saying, I worked as a district commander responsible for the city
centre of St. John's, and I remember getting a visit from two patrol constables
one morning who were very upset for a number of reasons.
On their previous shift, they had spent 10 hours in a
hospital emergency room sitting by the side of a woman who was suffering from
depression, simply because there was nobody there. We were called to respond. We
get calls on a daily basis from hospitals. “Can you transport this person to the
We are wearing uniforms, we are carrying guns and we drive
well-lit vehicles. Are we not a part of the problem as opposed to the solution?
That is a real concern for us and it is frustrating, because — Mike and I talked
about this — we are speaking from personal experiences within our families as
well as our professional experiences. Quite frankly, I think the attitude of
most Canadians is that everything happens to everyone else — we have to admit
that is true — and it only becomes important when it hits home.
We are here today to plead with you about how important this
is, and not for the police. This is not about a badge. This is not about a
uniform. This is about people who suffer a physiological, biochemical problem
comparable to cancer, to tuberculosis, but the treatment that they receive is
Senator Cook: Would effective mental health legislation
Mr. Ryan: It is a good question. Yes, it would, because
federal legislation would override many other particular regulations, but I
think it is imperative that there is careful consultation with justice and
It is imperative to talk to the people on the ground. We see
it in the corporate context, where executives speak to issues but never go to
the floor to see how the plant worker sees things. I make that analogy with us.
Mike and Terry and I can speak from our early days of what it was like, how
horrible it was.
I speak about Newfoundland — and this is not unlike other
communities in Canada — where just a short while ago, a short-stay unit was
established within the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s, the hospital for the
psychiatric patients. Prior to that, if I as a patrol constable detained
somebody under the Mental Health Act who met the three conditions in what is now
known to be a very antiquated act — of harming themselves, harming others, or
harming property — if I could not get them into a hospital setting, my only
recourse was to detain that person at the city lockup. Now, if that is not
spreading bacteria on an open wound, I do not know what is.
Senator Cook: Yes. We are here to try to understand and
do what is best for the consumer, the person who I think is the most stigmatized
in today's society, and while I can sit here and be happy that the Pottle Centre
cooks a meal for 45 people and they went out and got their own groceries, I
suppose everything starts with one.
However, I think we are in search of something more, Mr.
Chairman. We are in search of a national standard, one that enables everyone —
you, the consumers of mental health and all the other caregivers — to go about
with dignity and do the job that needs to be done. Again, I have to say, “Well,
you work in a provincial jurisdiction and we can only do so much.”
Then I look at the budgets and feel really negative, because
no matter how good a program is, if cutbacks come where do you think they will
be made? Are they likely to be made in programs that you would advocate to deal
with something like this? How can we ensure that there is continuity? What will
Mr. Ryan: Well, we have asked ourselves, and I have asked
myself many times, who do our political leaders work for? They work for us and
for our citizens, and they should say loudly and clearly when cuts are made to
whatever programs, it cannot be cuts that directly affect the health and welfare
and simple dignity of Canadians.
Senator Cook: However, you and I know that in the real
world that is not so, because even in a school program, if cuts come, music
goes, gym goes.
I will end on this, Mr. Chair: I am looking for a way that we
can put in a national standard, something effective, be it legislation or
whatever, to ensure that what you have given me in this wonderful document is
not jeopardized in any way.
Mr. Ryan: I wish I had the answers to give you.
Senator Cook: I guess that is our job.
The Chairman: Yes, it is.
Mr. Ryan: Thank you.
The Chairman: And we will.
Mr. Ryan: I hope so.
Senator Pepin: I have a supplementary question to what
Senator Cook was talking about, because in Bill C-10 that was tabled in the
house on February 7, 2005, it mentions allowing peace officers arresting an
accused who is in contravention of an assessment order or a disposition to
release, detain, compel the appearance of, or deliver the accused to a place
specified in the order. Maybe that could facilitate things?
Senator Cook: That is a start.
Senator Pepin: It is there, and I did not know if you
were aware of that. It was tabled last week, I think.
You spoke about training of police officers for from 4 to 26
hours. I was wondering how you decide that, let us say, a group of officers will
get 4, 10 or 26 hours? Is it because of the time available and who is available,
or is it their background? How are you able to organize that?
Mr. Arruda: I mentioned 4 to 26 hours because different
police forces offer different training. Some police forces will give four hours
of training, others one day. Some will give three or four days of training.
Senator Pepin: Okay.
Mr. Arruda: In Montreal, for example, we give one day of
training and it is for all police officers who are on patrol. Front-line
officers are obliged to take the training, which is base training.
Senator Pepin: I understand, and I think it will be
interesting to know how police services, as employers, are able to deal with the
problem of mentally ill —if you have any employees, policemen, who have a mental
health problem or someone in their family who is suffering from mental illness —
and we know that the police are working under stress — what kind of program do
you have? First, do you have any programs for your employees, such as
counselling or diagnostic programs, and how can you help those policemen who are
coming back to work to integrate? Maybe we can learn from your experience, if
any, in that field.
Mr. Arruda: Effectively, most police services employ
psychologists. In Montreal, we have a team of four psychologists who are there
for the personnel, for the employees. Employees can see a psychologist at any
time. They are on call, available 24 hours a day.
When there are major incidents in which police are involved,
the officers are automatically met by a psychologist and there will be a
debriefing. If police officers feel that they are not fit, or if the
psychologist or the medical personnel feel that they are not ready to return to
work, they will be put on sick leave. When they feel ready, when the medical
personnel feel they are ready, the officers are slowly integrated back into the
We also have a 1-800 number that police officers can call if
they have problems. If they do not feel right or they do not want to meet the
psychologist, we have a 1-800 number so they can call other police officers who
have been in similar situations and can counsel them.
Senator Pepin: I was wondering if Mr. Coleman or Mr. Ryan
had something to add to this.
Mr. Coleman: Senator, I have been in this business for a
long time and there has been tremendous change over the last 20 years. Michael
is correct. Many police services now have in-house psychologists, certainly the
larger ones, and many of the rest of us, the smaller ones, contract out our
employee and family assistance programs, so that there is access, but there is
still a fair amount of stigma in our organizations about acknowledging that one
needs this, and that is probably not unusual.
In Calgary, after a police officer has been involved in a
situation where there has been a death or very serious injury, it is now
mandated that that person will meet with the in-house psychologist, because many
would not do so unless told, “You will go.” That is not the best way, perhaps,
to get somebody to meet with the psychologist, but it was not happening
There has been tremendous progress, but it is still not
anywhere close to what it should be, and we are looking forward to raising this
issue on the national stage at our conference in Vancouver, in March. It is a
first for our conferences, so it will be interesting to see how we can build on
Senator Pepin: We can sometimes compare the police to the
military on this issue.
Mr. Coleman: Absolutely. Yes.
Mr. Ryan: Our agency has comparable setups to those
described by Agent Arruda and Chief Coleman. We contract with a psychologist to
deal with these outside issues, and of course, there is help within the employee
I think it speaks to the broad spectrum of the mental health
issue — and I spoke to this at the judicial inquiry — in that we had an officer
who, unfortunately, had to take the life of another person. The victim was
suffering from a mental illness, and as a result of that incident, there were
huge mental health problems for the officer and the family, with the issues
being brought to the forefront through the media. The officer's children and
family and friends were asking questions, and the individual suffered from the
pressures that occurred in a particular incident while doing their job.
It is such a broad spectrum when we look at not only dealing
with mentally ill people, but the spinoff from that within the service, so we
need to have our own house in order before we go outside.
Senator Pepin: I think it is a big step forward when, as
a policeman, you realize that something needs to be done for your employees, for
the police, because the stress they live under must make things very difficult.
Mr. Ryan: Absolutely, and I thank you for pointing that
Mr. Coleman: If I could just add to that, there is
sometimes a feeling that the rate of suicide in police organizations is higher
than the norm.
There is a professor at the University of Lethbridge whose
name escapes me right now, but I read his work. He has done some research on
this, and you might be interested in him in your travels. He found that it is
not actually out of line with the general population. However, it comes about
for a variety of different reasons.
All of us, I am sure, have had friends who have committed
suicide. I had not been in Moose Jaw more than a few weeks when one of our
police officers shot himself in our locker room first thing on a Sunday morning
— he had major problems — and it caused huge problems within our organization,
which is not really large. Therefore, we are only too well aware of the issue,
but the professor from Lethbridge has done some interesting work around
determining the incidence of suicide in police organizations.
Mr. Arruda: Just to add a little to that, in Montreal,
for example, and I do not have the exact numbers, but in 1999, there were 1,600
consultations by police officers, and in 2002 it was 2,700, so it is growing.
Police officers are less reluctant to seek help.
Senator Pepin: Merci beaucoup.
The Chairman: As is true, increasingly, in the general
public. It has a long way to go, but at least the trend line is a little better.
Senator Cochrane: I too welcome you all here, and I will
start with Chief Coleman.
Are you part of a forum that addresses mental health only
within your organization, or do you address mental health to learn about all the
problems and then go back to the institution and implement some of these changes
that have been made by other organizations?
Mr. Coleman: The subcommittee that we represent today
came about as a result of an initiative by Dr. Cotton, whom I believe you will
be listening to later on, and she can explain some of the history behind that,
but we are a group of interested people. We hold an annual conference that has
grown every year. We are just putting the fourth annual conference together in
Vancouver, and Senator Kirby will be speaking to us. We have already arranged
We share, for want of a better phrase, and it is a cliché,
best practices. We look at what other people are doing, at the Coast program in
Hamilton, the Car 87 in Vancouver, and there are a variety of programs around
that are actually pretty good. They all try to serve the same purpose, but they
are slight different models.
Yes, we are a liaison group; hence the name. We meet, we
share, we explore. We have attracted the attention of people from overseas. We
have had people come from Ireland two years in a row because they experience
similar problems to the rest of us. We had people from the United States attend
We are a group that shares, mostly at the annual conference,
but Dr. Cotton has established a list, and I think a couple of hundred people
contribute to that, and different issues are debated, depending on what is the
hot topic in any particular jurisdiction. They look for input from other people,
both mental health workers and police, across the country.
Senator Cochrane: You have passed on down through the
system some of the positive things that have come out of this and a lot of them
Mr. Coleman: That is correct, but certainly, I can only
speak from the police side.
For example, we have a provincial police college in
Saskatchewan, and representatives from that college, with some encouragement
from me, attended our conferences and have restructured their training for
recruits and in-service people around this very issue. We try to disseminate
knowledge and support people, yes.
Senator Cochrane: That is wonderful. You mentioned in
your opening remarks that the police are probably not the right people to call
on for these problems, and that you get calls frequently. My first reaction is
that it is probably because you are the most accessible, with the 24-hour
service and the 1-800 numbers. Is that why? Do you have any suggestions about
who people should call? What should they do when they need help?
Mr. Coleman: Well, at the risk of sounding a little
naive, if there were sufficient support services in our communities we would
probably not encounter many of these people, if any, in a utopian situation.
Many of the people we encounter are on the street, although
not all by any means. They cannot call a mental health worker or even the
emergency ward at the hospital, because they do not have the resources in a
crisis to go out and meet these people.
We accept that there is a role for us in the initial
interaction to try to stabilize a situation. We try to make sure that these
people then get the appropriate services, and that becomes frustrating because,
and at the risk of sounding like a whining cop, we have spent far too many hours
in emergency wards.
If we could just get emergency-ward doctors to understand a
little about this, because we witness those doctors in hospitals who are very
busy fixing broken legs, bleeding, heart attacks and everything else. The person
in crisis is guarded by two police officers because in many cases, hospitals
have laid off their security staff, so there are no in-house people to look
after these situations. We end up spending our time at the hospitals guarding
these people, and you have heard that from my colleagues here.
In the ideal world, we would not encounter these people under
most circumstances. The next best thing is if, after we have stabilized and
assessed the situation, we can then refer the person to somebody better
equipped. The Montreal model I recommend is excellent, and there are other
models around the country that do that, but it is not universal by any means.
Senator Cochrane: We heard some sad cases yesterday and
people are saying that they are just not getting the service that they should,
that they deserve. From your experience of bringing these people to the
hospital, are the doctors looking on these people as regular patients?
Mr. Ryan: No.
Senator Cochrane: Because of stigma, is it?
Mr. Ryan: Well, in our experience, they are bumped to the
end of the line, and if someone else comes in, they are bumped back even
further. That is understandable, in the sense that —
Senator Cochrane: Not because of real emergencies.
Mr. Ryan: Oftentimes not. When we look at our advanced
society today, it is a sad state of affairs when someone who may be suffering
from a breathing problem or some physiological ailment can call an ambulance and
receive medical attention, but yet people suffering a mental health crisis
invariably call the police. It is horrible.
Mr. Arruda: I would just like to add that there is a
paradox in that. When police officers bring people into the hospital who are
mentally ill, who want to commit suicide, it is because there is a serious
danger to their health. Yet when we get there, the doctors or the medical
personnel do not see it as a danger, and so the broken leg or the cuts become a
priority and are treated first, even when there is an actual life in danger, and
this is what frustrates police officers.
We bring them in because there is a serious danger, and once
we get to the hospital, they are categorized a 4 or a 5, which is the lowest
priority given. Often, when these people are left there or go in by themselves,
they wait two, three, four hours — and these are people in serious crisis. There
are quite a few who leave and commit suicide because they did not get the
attention they needed.
Mr. Ryan: To add to what Agent Arruda was saying, how
could we ever find out why somebody committed suicide? In talking to the people
who have attempted it and trying to understand their mindset, it was not
necessarily for any particular reason. It was simply that there was no network,
they had nowhere to go, and there was nobody willing to accept them. The
infrastructure is not in place and we are losing Canadians every day. We sit
back and try to determine why they have done that horrible thing, but I would
submit, ladies and gentlemen, that it is simply because, in many cases, there is
no help for them.
Senator Cochrane: Chief Coleman, would you say that is
the case across the country?
Mr. Coleman: I would, yes. Of course, we get to meet
police officers and mental health workers from across the country through our
conference, and when the experiences are shared, informally and formally, and
through our listserv, I would say that is representative of the country as a
Senator Cochrane: Do you have an idea of what percentage
of your budget is spent on mental health issues?
Mr. Coleman: Well, codifying our interactions with people
with mental illness becomes problematic and is a hit-and-miss situation, so when
we go into our databases, as wonderful as they are at storing all sorts of
information, if it is not entered correctly, we cannot retrieve it.
It shows up in a variety of ways. We may get a call about a
disturbance at the 7-Eleven or about damage being done to somebody's car. It is
not necessarily coded at any point as an incident involving a person who is
mentally ill. We can usually give you an assessment of how much time we spend
sitting in hospitals waiting for the appropriate people to deal with the
The study that I told you about in London, Ontario, is a
structured, sound, scientific study. They took the material from the London
police database and have done a really good job. I cannot remember the figures.
As I said before, I would recommend that you look at that study. I have read it
and I have a copy here — it was shared with me just for information — and it is
representative. It is relative, depending on the size of the service, but I
consider it to be representative of what is happening across the country, and it
Senator Cochrane: Okay. We will get that.
Senator Keon: First of all, thank you very much for being
here. I am a medical doctor, a surgeon, and in the course of my training, I had
to spend a lot of time in emergency rooms training in surgery, and I can confirm
that when you people brought somebody in who had to be restrained, you just
stayed there, because it seemed we could do something useful for the other
people and did not know what to do with the person you were looking after.
I have always had the greatest admiration for the police, who
have to act sometimes in a terrible situation where people are being violent,
and the next minute they have to act with compassion. I will tell you a little
story that is not relevant, but I will tell it anyway.
About 25 years ago, two heavily armed young men robbed a bank
in Ottawa, the police were called and entered the bank, gunfire was exchanged,
and one of the robbers was hit in the head and the other in the chest. The
operational frame of mind of those police officers flipped in a split second,
and they took the two young men out and put them in the back of the cruiser.
They did not call an ambulance, and they radioed ahead that they had one person
with a head wound and one with a chest wound.
I was contacted immediately, and I said, “Bring the fellow
with the chest wound directly to the operating room. Do not stop in emergency,”
and when they got him to the operating room, his heart had stopped. He was shot
through the heart, but we were able to restart his heart and suture the front
and back of it, and he eventually stood trial and served his time. When he got
out of jail, he came to see me and told me that he intended to lead a useful and
I have lost track of him. I do not know what became of him,
but I thought it was such a classic example of the range of operational mindsets
with which police officers have to deal. One second they are defending the
employees of a bank, with bullets going in every direction. The next second,
they turn with total compassion to the people lying on the floor who were
shooting at everybody.
Now I want to turn to the system. If we can accomplish what
we want to do, by next fall, we will have outlined a structural framework and,
hopefully, a national strategy for dealing with mental health in Canada; and we
will have defined, I hope, the necessary components, from forensic custodial
facilities to community facilities.
There is a tremendous opportunity now to do this correctly,
particularly in the design of community facilities that will include hospital
facilities, primary care facilities and home care. I think from your point of
view, it would be useful if we involved the emergency services people, because I
have spent a great deal of time since 9/11 and SARS sitting on committees
working on the design of emergency service systems in Canada. I believe we will
surface with realistic emergency service systems, as you said, Officer Ryan,
especially in the cities. It will be more difficult in the small communities,
but at least in the cities, I can assure you we will look at that aspect to see
what can be done.
It would be worthwhile to bring in the emergency services arm
and see how it can be integrated into community, hospital and police services,
so that your officers know exactly where to go or who to call when they are
confronted with a street person or somebody who is violent.
I would like to hear all three of you respond to that.
Mr. Ryan: Thank you, senator, for your kind words; we
welcome every shot in the arm that we can get.
There is a framework and a system in place in major centres
so that officers know where to go from a standard operating procedure point of
view. As I said, prior to the judicial inquiry that dealt with the two
shootings, our only recourse was to detain people in the city lockup until they
were seen by a psychiatrist. Thankfully, that has changed. You are right, there
needs to be a connection between all the emergency services.
Where we are running into difficulties, as I said earlier, is
in the exchange of information and the restrictions placed on agencies as to how
and when they can share it. When you call someone at three o’clock in the
morning to make a decision on giving information out on whether Sean Ryan has a
propensity for violence or has any specific diagnosis, then that is not always
readily available. That is one of the key components necessary to link up a
Society expects us to be omnipotent, omnipresent, telepathic,
and be doctors, lawyers, priests and counsellors. We welcome that
responsibility, quite honestly, but we are human too, and this forum gives us
the opportunity to say that at times we get tired.
Senator, I certainly endorse and support what you are saying
about the necessity of inter-agency connections to formulate an effective
response, but the first issue that springs to my mind is information sharing, so
that may be something that you could speak to in your report.
Mr. Coleman: I include — I think you do — the staff in
emergency wards in the emergency services group. They are wonderful people,
overworked, and we do not want to sound as if we are dumping on them, but I
think an increased awareness would be useful for many of them.
I go back to a previous situation. Back in 1978 in Calgary, I
was one of four police officers who formed what turned out to be the first
sexual assault investigation unit in Canada. We were trying to improve the way
in which sexual assaults were investigated. That had not been done terribly well
in the past, partly out of ignorance, partly out of lack of resources. We were
looking for best evidence, which in many of those cases, if not most of them,
comes from our emergency ward doctors who examine victims after they are brought
in. One of my colleagues developed what we now call a sexual assault kit, with
all the appropriate swabs and other things to collect the evidence. However,
this was pretty foreign to the doctors in our emergency wards, and Calgary had
quite a few hospitals and a lot of emergency doctors.
With the cooperation of the hospitals, we spent a lot of time
working with the doctors and explaining to them — training them, if you want.
There is a medical school at the University of Calgary and we got on their
agenda. Once a year, we would go to speak to doctors who were about to graduate
or go out into the hospitals and explain to them what we were looking for, how
this worked and its importance, and that was very beneficial. We developed some
useful rapport with doctors in those emergency wards around the issue of sexual
I think it would be very useful to do something similar
around the issue of mental illness and share with them our role in this to try
to build a better relationship for the benefit of the mentally ill person.
I want to talk a little about the sharing of information,
though. The various privacy acts across the country are somewhat frustrating, in
that they have limited some of the information that can be shared, and maybe
some of it was shared inappropriately in the past — I am not privy to those
particulars. I find that although there are provisions in the various pieces of
legislation to allow for the sharing of information under certain circumstances,
the staff in the medical business particularly, and that includes the
paramedics, the ambulance personnel, are scared silly of the legislation and
actually overreact. They tell you, “I cannot share this because of this act.”
If you chase it down and talk to somebody in a position of
authority in a health region, they will say “Oh no, under those circumstances,
they could have shared this” because of this, that and the other. Because they
do not want to be disciplined or lose their job or whatever they see as the
consequences, people often overreact to some of the provisions in that
legislation and then we do not get the information and cannot help people.
Mr. Arruda: Actually, in Montreal, we have started
gathering all the people in emergency services together. We have, as I mentioned
before, a local police/mental health liaison committee that includes all the
emergency services people, the police officers, the ambulance technicians,
people from the government health department and also doctors. We get together
to discuss how can we improve our services.
We have noticed that information does come forward more
easily. Without going into specifics, there is less constraint. They know the
people whom they are dealing with, so emergency committees do work very well and
should be spread throughout the country.
Senator Keon: Thank you.
Senator Callbeck: Welcome.
I want to come back to C-10, which was mentioned a few
minutes ago, and which is before the Senate right now. It is an amendment to the
Criminal Code dealing with people who are unfit to stand trial or are found not
criminally responsible. The bill gives a lot of new powers to the review board,
it deals with victim impact statements and so on, and the police have also been
given some new powers. It gives them more options when they arrest someone who
is in contravention of a disposition.
To give you a little background, back in 1992 there was an
amendment to the Criminal Code that had to be reviewed in 10 years, so it was
reviewed in 2002 by a House of Commons committee. I know that the police were
very much involved in that review, and C-10 is the result.
Were there other amendments that the police would have liked
to see that are not in C-10? It would be very helpful to know that because the
bill is before the Senate right now, and will be going to a standing committee.
Mr. Ryan: Senator, I was just conversing with my
colleague here, and this is news to us. I am not familiar with the development
of C-10, nor have I heard within law-enforcement circles about the level of
consultation with police. I am not familiar with the nuances of the changes that
you have just mentioned, so I cannot comment effectively on that. Chief?
Mr. Coleman: I am a little embarrassed because I am not
familiar with C-10 either. I assume, and one should not do that, I suppose, that
the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police law amendments committee has been
working with the various authorities on that. We can look at it and come back
with a written response to the committee if you wish, but I cannot comment on
Senator Callbeck: Who would be the person for me to
contact to find out about that?
Mr. Coleman: In what respect, ma'am?
Senator Callbeck: Whether there were any suggestions or
recommendations put forward by the police association that they wanted
incorporated into C-10 and that are not there.
Mr. Coleman: You can use me as the conduit. I will
contact the law amendments committee of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police, which is in Ottawa, and they are very active in the area of new
legislation and amendments to legislation. I will find out what submissions they
made, or if they have even been asked for any submissions.
Senator Callbeck: Thank you.
Senator Cordy: My question will be very quick because you
actually dealt with it already, and that was the breaking down of barriers,
which I think is so important. It took 9/11 to get government departments to
talk to one another about security in our country, but 9/11s are happening every
day in the field of mental health.
How do we go about balancing the privacy of the individual,
which is a big issue, with what is in the best interest of that individual and
finding help? I just think we should let people know how important the role of
the police officer is in mental health issues, because we talk about primary
care doctors as the first step, but in fact, you are the first step in many
situations that the mentally ill person deals with, and how do you get the
information? You said the people at the top know that the information can be
shared, but yet the emergency services people do not have it.
Mr. Ryan: As Chief Coleman mentioned, there are
provisions within our respective privacy acts that allow for the sharing of
information when there are emergent issues, but this is not transferred to the
worker who is called into the middle of the night, in terms of educating them as
to what they can and cannot do. As Chief Coleman alluded to, it works its way
down in the form of, “Well, I would rather say nothing and be perceived as a
fool than open my mouth and remove all doubts.” That is the position that some
of them adopt, very innocently, based on the fear of repercussions.
Senator Cordy: And you cannot really blame them.
Mr. Ryan: You cannot, but there is, moreover, an onus on
the employer, the people at the top.
As we have said, the CEOs and the COOs — whatever acronym
they give themselves — are aware of the specifics of the regulations that are
applicable to them, but it seems not to find its way down to the factory worker
on the floor who needs to know; and at three or four in the morning, we are
talking to the factory worker on the floor.
Senator Cordy: You have raised an excellent point, so
thank you so much for today's presentation. It has been invaluable.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Thank you, Chair, colleagues,
and very distinguished members of the policing community across Canada.
I just want to make one comment on what you said about help
not being there in the case of suicide. I am a family doctor by training and I
would say there is a great difference between those who threaten suicide, talk
about it, cut their wrists, so on and so forth, and those who actually commit
suicide. In so many cases, help is there, it has been offered, and I just have
the feeling that when that mindset is there — now the mind may be only set for
15 minutes or for two hours, or it might have been set for several days — it is
very hard to deal with once the person has made that decision.
If we have enough time, I wanted to have a little more
discussion of community-based policing because I think that is at the heart of
it, and when you come from a small community, as I do, it makes sense. Whether
it makes sense in Montreal or Regina or St. John's, Newfoundland, I am not sure.
I wanted to ask you about data sharing. I believe that right
across this country you can type in a licence plate number and get a name and
some information. Let us say you have intervened in the case of a manic incident
with a person who is bipolar. Is there any record on this database that I think
you have — and maybe you are not able to tell us what you have — that this
person is bipolar or this person is schizophrenic or whatever? Is that in the
Mr. Coleman: Well, the short answer is no. Databases that
are managed by individual police organizations may have a record of an
interaction with a person apprehended under a mental health act order or
something similar, but you would not be able to type in and find out that so and
so was bipolar.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: If you have something saying
“mental health incident,” is that shared only locally, let us say by a municipal
police force, or in the case of the RCMP, across the country?
Mr. Coleman: They certainly have a national database, but
by and large — and there is a qualification here — the databases are local and
unique to each police organization. However, there is a large movement that is
slowly rolling out — and I stand to be corrected — and most police services in
Ontario are now either linked or in the process of becoming so.
The Solicitor General’s department has an integrated data
management program. I cannot remember what it is called now; it has one of those
catchy acronyms that only government can come up with. There is a movement to
try to link databases across the country, although it is very slow and very
expensive, but I am not sure that it would address your question.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Well, Chairman, I was anxious
to find this out. I think it is of the utmost importance. Just to give you a
very common example that people can understand, I have been involved in cases of
diabetics experiencing an insulin reaction, and at one stage in that process,
they can become very aggressive. I am thinking of one case amongst many, of a
person brought into the emergency department and the assumption was that the
individual was being violent. It took a little while to find out that that
person was an insulin-dependent diabetic.
I know that in one hospital in New Brunswick, all medical
information will be shared now. We are moving on, data will be shared, and I
think we as Canadians need to think about that.
May I ask about community-based policing? It is a wonderful
philosophy. I have seen it work in some cities in terms of youth and drugs,
street crime and so on. Is it what we are after, in the sense that it comes down
to individual families on individual streets, individual business owners, and
young people as part of families? I know it can be very relevant in town. How
relevant is it in our major cities?
Mr. Coleman: It is very relevant and I am glad you raised
the issue, because it is a pet peeve of mine that many people do not understand
what it is, and if you will just indulge me for a moment, I will share with you
the fundamentals of community policing, contemporary policing.
I shared some already — a customer/client focus, consultation
and collaboration with the community, quality and valued customer/consumer
service, continuous evaluation, continuous improvement and change, teamwork,
decentralization of authority and decision-making, total involvement — that is,
we are all committed to it — participative leadership, increased communication,
internal and external alignment so that our processes inside our organizations
line up with what is required on the outside. It is outcome focused; that is,
rather than look at how many arrests we have made, for example, we ask what
difference we have made in a community. It includes due process, equity and
fairness. Those things are relevant to delivering public services.
That is what contemporary policing is all about. That leads
you then into the collaboration and the working together with the mentally ill,
the health districts, groups such as this. That opens the door, all for the
purpose of achieving an outcome; that is, the quality and value of service that
the consumer, the client, the community receives.
There is a big misunderstanding, even in my own business,
about what community policing actually is.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Well, I think in the area of
mental health, this is the same philosophy we heard from the people from whom we
learned so much yesterday. They are individual problems, but they are also
community problems, and we listened to sad stories, but also wonderful success
stories. In a sense, it was all about community, and it is terribly difficult
for you people to work in isolation and not have follow-up.
For instance, I am wondering, if you were called to intervene
with somebody who is manic — and we know how horrible that is and it happens
often, I am sure, in your lives — do you recommend to your members that some
weeks later or when the person is out of hospital, that they make any kind of
effort to maybe have five minutes with that family, just to reconnect and put
things on a different level?
Mr. Arruda: Effectively, part of the community policing
philosophy was that we would have follow-up on what was going on. Unfortunately,
it does not happen. In theory, it is great; in practice, it is not applicable.
It is left to the police officer on the street, who, if he wants to know the
outcome, would meet the family.
When we intervene with individuals, they are usually in a
crisis and we bring them to the proper authorities. Once they have taken over,
we lose contact with the person. We do not go back and see how the person is
doing. The mentality was that we would go back and meet with the families and
see how the person was doing. In theory, we are supposed to; in practice, it is
Senator Trenholme Counsell: And we know why, because you
are so busy, but these are ideals we are talking about. Thank you.
Mr. Ryan: I think it is safe to say that what Constable
Arruda says is pretty much true nationwide, in the sense that most accredited
police agencies embrace a community policing philosophy and would love the
opportunity to go back and see how somebody is doing. The work demands just do
not allow for it. It is a resources issue, and for the most part, it is not
Mr. Coleman: I could just add to that: If people who are
mentally ill have been a victims of crime — they have been assaulted, they have
been mugged, they have been stabbed, and this often occurs with our street and
our homeless people — in many police organizations, and certainly in the one I
used to work in and the one I currently work in, victim services organizations,
which are composed largely of volunteers, will make some subsequent contact, and
if it results in a court case, will even go to court with them and help them
work their way through the system.
Victim services programs — and there are many of them across
the country — do that follow-up, but only if the person has been a victim of a
The Chairman: I thank you all for coming, and I cannot
tell you how useful your testimony will be. It is terrific.
In closing, let me make one comment about an issue that we
all knew of intellectually, but which the three of you put in excellent
perspective. One of you said that if people have a heart attack and are in
danger of dying, they call 911. If people are in danger of dying because they
are thinking of committing suicide, they call the police. Right there you have
the beginning of the dichotomy that mental illness is not really illness, and it
continues when you get to the hospital, where you are always put at the very
bottom of the list, because, as Senator Keon said, we know what to do with the
person with the heart attack. Maybe we do not necessarily know what to do in
your case, but the stigma that is attached to mental illness is so deeply
embedded in society that it begins with the initial phone call, and that is a
very telling observation on the nature of the system.
Mr. Coleman: If I could just respond, sir, thank you. We
appreciate the opportunity and would be more than willing to continue to work
with this group, collectively or individually, because we are committed to this
The Chairman: We will get back to you. Thank you very
much for coming.
Senators, as we progress through the forensic mental health
system in our hearings today, we will hear at the end of the day, as you know,
from two members of the judiciary. We will now talk to people who, in many
cases, deal with individuals once they have come out of prison. We have Kim
Pate, who is the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry
Societies; Dr. Dorothy Cotton from Kingston, who is the Co-Chair of the Canadian
National Committee for Police/Mental Health Liaison; and Randy Pritchard, who is
with the empowerment unit at CAMH.
Ms. Dorothy Cotton, Co-Chair, Canadian National Committee for
Police/Mental Health Liaison; Psychologist: I will reiterate what everybody
else said, in that I am thrilled to be here, and I especially appreciate the
fact that you have given me four hours to talk rather than the five minutes that
everyone else has.
I am here wearing a variety of hats. As was mentioned, I am
the co-chair of the group you just heard from, but I am a psychologist by trade,
so I suppose I am the mental health part of things.
I am also a psychologist for Correctional Service Canada. I
am on the executive of the College of Psychologists of Ontario, and I was
formerly the director of a forensic program in a provincial psychiatric
hospital. I have also been a consumer and have numerous family members who are
consumers. My family is not as big as Sean's, but we have our numbers.
The first I thing I have to state, being a federal government
employee, is the official disclaimer that I am speaking for myself and not any
of the groups that I have mentioned. I have a vested interest in remaining
I will also say that I think my comments will be a little
disjointed, because I know you are hearing from a variety of groups and what I
am trying to do is fill in some of the gaps rather than state things that you
have heard from 50 people, such as, “We do not have enough services.” I suspect
you have heard that message by now.
The number one message in my opening remarks here, and I
think you have copies, is talk to the police. As the director of a forensic unit
and somebody who worked in a psych hospital for 25 years, it never occurred to
me that the police had anything to do with our line of work, and I am
embarrassed by that. We would hope that we do not do that again. Let me make
some unrelated comments here.
Communication and information exchange is a big issue, no
matter what level of the system you are talking about, and with all due respect
to the three witnesses you just heard from about us confused mental health
practitioners — they will murder me after this — it is not as simple as they
like to make it sound.
In my current job, my current profession, I am governed by
federal-provincial legislation, provincial privacy legislation, the CCRA, the
Psychologists Registration Act, the Mental Health Act, the Regulated Health
Professions Act and a few others that I am too nervous to remember right now.
All of these send me clear messages about what I can say to
whom, and I will tell you something: Even though I am the chair of the
complaints committee of the College of Psychologists, what I can say to anybody
when one of my clients is having a crisis is completely beyond me, and as a
result, we do not say anything to anybody.
The increasingly confusing part of that is it would be
different if I were a social worker instead of a psychologist. Most of the
people working in community mental health agencies are not regulated health care
providers at all, so they are governed by entirely different, and hopefully
fewer, sets of legislation than I am.
The communication issue in terms of the legislative situation
is huge, and it is a major problem.
Secondly, on the subject of data, I always like to go around
announcing that I am Canada's leading researcher in the area of police/mental
health liaison. This is not as impressive as I like to make it sound. I am
Canada's only researcher in this field. There is no funding for this kind of
research and there are no data. If you want to go out and count people on a
street corner, you can be the second leading researcher in this field, if you
like. We have no data. We have no routine data collection. All the studies you
hear about in this area are in fact American.
Within corrections, we do not have a very good idea of who is
coming into our system, what their mental health needs are. We have some data.
They are not great. You heard from some CSC people in your previous round of
hearings, and I know that they are scheduled to be back again next week, but
there are big problems with data and with research funding.
In fact, police and people who do research with police do not
have access to any of the existing funds. If you are not an academic, basically,
you cannot get research funds in Canada. I am a part-time academic. I am also
not speaking for Queen's University. They are among the many groups I am not
Unless you are an academic, you have no access to research
funds in Canada, and no academic in his/her right mind, frankly, would research
issues at the kind of level we are talking about here. We are talking about
nose-counting. We are talking about very basic, descriptive kind of research.
Nobody would get such articles published. I had an article turned down recently
because it was claimed that I did not quote the previous research in this area.
There is no previous research in this area. We need an entirely different
Contrary to what many of us in the health care professions
think, there are a lot of police officers out there with degrees, with advanced
degrees, with Ph.D.s, who are quite capable of doing high-level research, but
they are not eligible for funding through SSHRCC and similar bodies because they
are not affiliated with academic institutions.
The next point I want to make is simply that we need
leadership. We had a great quandary in preparing for today, in that this is a
federal forum, a national forum, and both policing and health are provincial
jurisdictions. You probably know this. What can be done at a national level to
further things? I think part of the issue is a lot of flag waving.
There are no champions in this field; there is no one leading
the charge. There is no chief of mental health in Corrections Canada. There is
no position responsible for that. In terms of research, in terms of all areas,
there are no champions. We could use champions. The director of health care has
no mental health background, not that she is not a fine person and does a very
good job, but she is not a mental health person.
The Chairman: A lot of what this committee has examined,
both in this study and our previous health care study, were issues that were
directly in areas of provincial jurisdiction. We have made a series of
recommendations in areas that the federal government could not do anything
about, and none of that has caused any degree of upset to any provincial
minister of health or provincial premier. They have taken our previous report,
large parts of which are in the process of being implemented in various
provinces, as not so much a report from “Federal politicians” as a national
report. We are quite happy to stray directly into areas of provincial
jurisdiction and nobody seems bothered by that.
Ms. Cotton: That would be a good thing.
The next point I will make, however, is in terms of things
that the federal government is directly involved in, two areas mentioned in your
previous reports, Corrections Canada and the RCMP. The CSC is the largest
employer of psychologists in Canada and the RCMP, of course, also employs a lot
The federal government is a bad employer in this way: Wages
are easily 30 per cent below market value for psychologists. It is humiliating,
and contributes to the whole stigma issue.
I left a job as a senior manager at a hospital to become a
front-line worker in corrections, which is probably the lowest-status job you
can possibly have in my profession. I am sure three-quarters of the people in
the town in which I live assume I was fired from my previous job, because no one
in their right mind would make the kind of move I made. For the record, I was
not fired from my previous job. It is one of those mid-life things.
I will reiterate what everybody else, and your previous
reports, has said about stigma. As I have just suggested, it applies not only to
the people with mental health problems, but certainly anybody affiliated with
that system. My guess would be that being the mental health liaison officer with
a police service is not the route to becoming the next chief. These are not —
sorry, Michael — high-status positions in most places.
I appreciate that I am being a little disjointed here, but
increasingly, the legal system is becoming the gold card for access to mental
health services in Canada. If you break the law, you can be ordered into a
hospital, you can be ordered into treatment by a judge, but if you do not break
the law, nobody can make you take the treatment. You can be ordered into a
hospital for treatment even when nobody else can get a bed. If a judge says you
need a bed, you get a bed.
If you break the law and are charged, you might get access to
a diversion program, and then you get a case manager and are hooked up with
community services, such as they are, but if you do not break the law, you do
not get those kinds of services. If you break the law and are convicted, you
might get a parole officer who monitors your behaviour, enforces treatment and
makes sure you get access, but if you have not been in trouble with the law, you
do not get those services. If you annoy your neighbours and are generally
disruptive, nobody will pay any attention to you until the police or the legal
system gets involved.
Therefore, in some ways, it is to your advantage if you have
a mental illness to run afoul of the law. You get access to a lot of services
you would not otherwise, but it is a Catch-22, because once you become a
“mentally disordered offender” — such a lovely and flattering term — you are
then denied access to services at all because community mental health agencies
have exclusionary criteria. They do not want people with a history of criminal
behaviour or people with substance abuse problems, and that accounts for
virtually 100 per cent of the people who come out of the correctional system,
needless to say.
I work in a psychiatric hospital within federal corrections,
and it is completely impossible to hook up our departing offenders who have
mental health needs with community agencies.
As you well know, psychiatric services within correctional
facilities are grossly inadequate. We will leave it at that.
The Chairman: Thank you, Dorothy. You have raised a lot
of questions that we will come back to.
Ms. Kim Pate, Executive Director, Canadian Association of
Elizabeth Fry Societies: It is a pleasure to be here and thank you for
I have worked now for more than 20 years, first with young
people, then with men, and for the last 13 years in my capacity at the Elizabeth
Fry Society, with women prisoners, and I and many people appearing before you,
many people involved in this work, come with our own experiences, familial,
personal, and in terms of the individuals with whom we have had the privilege,
and sometimes challenges, of working.
I represent 25 member societies across the country that work
with women and girls in the community. Some of them are the only community
resource in their area. Some of them cover entire provinces, sometimes with only
two or three staff, and their focus, the mandate of our organization, is to work
with those who have been marginalized, who have been criminalized and
imprisoned. I think some of you know that I am a lawyer and a teacher by
training, so that is another piece in my background. I am currently getting some
forensic mental health post-secondary education as well.
We first targeted this as an issue we needed to work on more
than 10 years ago, because we started to see what Dr. Cotton has described as
the gold card into the system. With the deinstitutionalization that was a
worldwide phenomenon, we saw the numbers, particularly of women and girls, who
had historically been overrepresented in mental health and psychiatric
facilities but underrepresented in prisons, start to increase.
I noticed that the material that is available is
fundamentally lacking in analysis of what impact all of this has on women and
girls in particular, and it should interest you to know that while crime rates
and incarceration rates are decreasing overall, it is not the case for women. In
fact, women are the fastest-growing prison population, not just in Canada, but
worldwide, even more so if they are Aboriginal and have mental health diagnoses,
labels, difficulties, illnesses, disabilities; regardless of what the label is,
that is the increasing trend.
We first saw this trend, not surprisingly, in the prison for
women in Kingston, where a number of women were held in segregation, and most of
them were from the Maritime provinces. Why, you might ask? Those of you who know
our economic, political and social policy history know that some of the first
and deepest cuts occurred in those provinces. With the cuts to national
standards for health care, social services and education occasioned by the
elimination of the Canada Assistance Plan, and the introduction of the
no-strings-attached approach that you talked about, we also saw increased
numbers of people who fell through all of those service cracks and ended up in
the criminal justice system. That is because it is the only system that cannot
close its doors and say, “No, we are full, our beds are full,” and it is not
difficult to characterize behaviour that is often symptomatic of mental illness
as also criminal. Sometimes it is mischief, sometimes it is theft, sometimes, if
you are resisting restraint, it can be assault, and so we first started to see
some of those trends.
We are now in a situation where the corrections service, as
Dr. Cotton has pointed out, is one of the largest employers of psychologists.
The difficulty with that is trying to get an analysis that goes beyond that
correctional mindset, and we had that experience when trying to intervene in the
case of a woman who had committed suicide in the fairly new mental health unit
of the federal prison in this province. We could not find a psychologist who was
willing to testify at that inquest and critique the correctional policies in
place; hence, the reason for my most recent educational endeavours.
The difficulty is that very well-intentioned, excellent
people, like my colleagues here at the table, go in with a clear intention of
trying to support, assist and facilitate the meeting of what has sometimes been
described as disabling needs within the correctional structure. We know that the
report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women, Madam Justice Arbour's
report and, just last year, the Canadian Human Rights Commission report
chronicle some of the discriminatory treatment that women, including those with
mental health issues, experience in our federal prison system. We see that the
overlay of the criminal justice model, the overlay of the label of criminality,
often interferes with the ability to address the mental health needs.
Particularly in the case of women, even though a tremendous
amount of resources, time, energy and goodwill have been invested by corrections
and others in developing services in house, we still see that those who pose the
greatest challenge to the system — not necessarily a threat to public safety,
however — end up being held in prison in the most isolating circumstances.
We see more women being held in the maximum security units,
in isolation and in segregation. Even though their behaviour might be recognized
in a hospital setting, in most cases, we are only able to have them removed into
a hospital setting when they are in crisis. I cannot tell you the number of
times I have been on my knees in front of a segregation cell, talking to someone
through a meal slot, trying to convince her to stop smashing her head on the
wall, and had staff say that they are told to count to 20, because then it is no
longer just an attention-getting behaviour, it may be life-threatening. That is
not because those staff are ill-intentioned, but they have been trained to
believe that up to a certain point, it may just be a manipulative behaviour.
I am suggesting that we have to look at some of these areas
because, short of training everybody in corrections to be mental health
professionals — which I do not think is feasible — we have to develop some
strategies for removing people from that system. There have been attempts
through mental health courts, through other vehicles. Within corrections, as I
mentioned, it is when someone is in absolute crisis that we can often trigger a
removal to a psychiatric hospital. We often see people improve almost within 24
hours, and I do not mean to be overly simplistic, but part of the reason is they
are then seen through the lens of the mental health issues/psychiatric label,
not the lens of criminality. The intervention may have a positive result much
Also, the individuals involved will often recognize that this
is a mental health facility and although, arguably, the consent to treatment
would be an issue, in our experiences, most women, and certainly the men and
young people I worked with, would say they want some intervention because they
recognize something is wrong. They may not know what.
We would advocate that in our cases, some of the increasingly
non-available mental-health and psychiatric advocacy groups be encouraged to
come in and assist in situations like that.
I found the reports extremely helpful, with the exception of
not seeing much, if any, gender analysis, and I know from my experience in
working with others internationally, with colleagues in the United States, the
United Kingdom, Australia, less so in New Zealand, that they are finding a
similar problem. The models in place may not meet the needs of women in those
circumstances, and we are still seeing women posing some of the greatest
challenges and ending up being criminalized as they try to survive and negotiate
their way through the system.
In some of the models that you are looking at, that talk
about plans for a range of services, there is a strong emphasis on the
integration of social services and health services. We know that for integration
to actually happen, even if you have excellent mental health services, all the
things that everybody else is talking about, if there is no place for people to
live, if they have no means to support themselves, then mental health issues
quickly arise again. We all know that people will say, “If I could just have a
job, have a place to live, I would feel a whole lot better.” The beyondblue
report talks a little about how to ameliorate depression and other mental health
phenomena in a context where it is hard to imagine how people are even
If this committee could look at linking the recommendations
you will make about mental health to the need for other social services and
supports, and to the types of national standards that were virtually eliminated
when the Canada Assistance Plan was cancelled, I think that would go a long way
toward a solution, because it is those kinds of integrated services that we
We also think, of course, that ensuring that the Charter and
human rights legislation apply is important. If any of the committee members are
interested, there is a series of fairly extensive reports in which the DisAbled
Women's Network of Canada and our organization in particular made
recommendations about the kinds of interventions that would assist women in the
system. Many people who have read them have indicated they would also assist
men. I believe that is true.
They recommend advocates to assist people with negotiating
access to programs and services, where they in fact exist. You have heard a lot
about the lack of services, so I will not repeat that.
There is a need for community-based services, a need for
almost a brokerage function. We use that term, and we are certainly open to
suggestions on how we might more accurately describe it, but if you have a
diagnosis, a mental health label attached to you, with that comes the
understanding there will be allocation of resources that you will have some
control over and some support in determining how those needs are met.
For instance, we are seeing in the Aboriginal women's
community an overwhelming increase in the number of women and children being
diagnosed with FAS — fetal alcohol syndrome — fetal alcohol effect,
alcohol-related neurological disorders, et cetera, and so we are suggesting that
if that diagnosis led to a triggering of an allocation of funds, we would see
two things: Probably, we would not see the diagnosis as quickly, to be very
blunt; and secondly, we would see some greater ability to access resources.
In the legislative framework, we would suggest that something
akin to the work of the committee on the Youth Criminal Justice Act to ensure
key principles are put in place would also be useful.
The principle of presumption that someone with a mental
health issue would not be criminalized, first and foremost, would go a long way
toward encouraging provinces and communities to develop resources, and combined
with national standards, would mean a greater chance that people would actually
be able to access resources in the community.
The continuation of the principle of using the least
intrusive measure possible in light of the Charter and human rights protections
would also be useful, in addition to looking at some national strategies and
guidelines to encourage those accessing services to create some of the
interesting community-based and consumer-driven options that people are talking
I have other comments, but I suspect I have run over my time,
so I will pass it on to my colleague.
Mr. Randy Pritchard, As an individual: Thanks for
inviting us here today.
I read with great anticipation the first volume of the three
volumes you produced, and when I saw the vision laid out there for the
client-oriented, and possibly even client-directed, services I was exhilarated.
I then went on to read the rest of the documents and wondered
how on earth did we end up here from that vision; I turned to the back of the
volumes and looked at the witness lists, and then I understood.
The Mental Health Legal Advocacy Coalition is a non-profit
group here in Ontario. The only requirement for membership is that people have
been inpatients of a psychiatric unit. We look to address concerns of our
members where the issues of mental health and the law intersect. We have
successfully intervened in three Supreme Court cases to date: As a predecessor
organization, Queen Street Patients Council, in LePage, which was joined
with Winko in that landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada; in
Starson, where competency to consent to treatment was an issue; and in
Pinet and Tulikorpi, two forensic clients, which clarified once again
that the least restrictive and least onerous provisions were to apply to an
entire disposition warrant.
Having won those victories, there were those who believed
that we could take a break, but what we have seen instead is the attempts of the
mental health system to circumvent the rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Shortly after the Starson ruling, a workshop was held
at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health here in Toronto to advise staff on
what they could now do to get around the intent of that ruling. This is nothing
new to us. We have been seeing this all of our lives.
I had originally planned to bring you a written version of my
remarks but I jettisoned it yesterday after returning from an inquest in North
Bay on Tuesday where I was a witness. It was into the suicide by hanging of a
forensic client. Having had the opportunity to review the three volumes of
documentation, clinical notes, various medical tests and testimony of
individuals, I was appalled that the same mistakes were being made again. In
reading the document here, I could not help but note that when you adopted the
recovery philosophy, you defined it as it has been previously defined. You
require some history on this.
The recovery philosophy was first adopted by mental patients
in the United States who had noticed that the further away they got from the
mental health system, in 30 per cent of cases symptoms disappeared. I think
individuals mistakenly adopted that word “recovery” to describe that in an
attempt to prove to service providers that “Maybe what you are saying might
apply to some people, but it does not apply to me.” It has now been co-opted by
service providers with the definition that we see driving the actions here.
Yesterday, you heard from the Gerstein Centre here in
Toronto, and I believe that someone asked, “Well, why are there not these places
across the country?” and one of the panellists chimed in, “Well, because it is
not medical,” and that is the reason.
Fifteen years ago, you knew how to do this better. Fifteen
years ago, the federal government made sure that significant numbers of users of
services were involved in any consultation. I and many of my colleagues attended
a federal-provincial consultation in Ottawa on mental health that was funded by
the federal government. We made up about a third of the body there — as did the
service providers and the bureaucrats — and our position was very different from
anybody else's. The problem here, as far as I can see, is that you need to
return to that vision of all change being driven by the user.
It is ironic that we can successfully intervene in court
cases in an attempt to have our rights upheld, and then — you cannot believe how
horrified I was — I read the presentation of the schizophrenia society that
suggested you actually recommend removing the right of forensic patients to
refuse treatment under the Criminal Code.
We need to stop and pay attention to what the Supreme Court
said in Winko. It listed all of the protections that were in place,
including our right to refuse treatment, as its justification for not calling it
a section 15 Charter violation.
We have made a presentation to the parliamentary committee
responsible for the proposed Criminal Code amendments, and there is a copy of
that in your package because we understand that possibly, this committee will be
reviewing it in the Senate. I implore you to fulfill your function as the
chamber of sober second thought when it comes to that, because there are some
horrible provisions in there that undermine our Charter rights.
We have surveyed, as part of a court challenge that has
sponsored a small program here, individuals in the forensic health system in
Ontario and in British Columbia. What is striking is that the system will
periodically, as evidence of its accountability, tell you about the surveys that
they conduct. There is a wonderful client satisfaction survey, done by the Law
and Mental Health Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health here in
Toronto — staff-administered — that shows that people are generally pretty
happy. When we interview those very same people, we get quite a different
response, and I would suggest to you that the reason is, if staff members are
administering a client satisfaction survey and their opinion determines your
very liberty, you may be a little cautious about being forthright. All of these
mechanisms have no validity.
I was so angry when I left North Bay after seeing the blatant
attempts to duck responsibility for some very real physical problems that this
man who killed himself had. It took 16 years for them to be addressed, and this
is another common problem in the system, the tendency to see us according to our
label, to dehumanize us and discount any of the realities.
A member of our organization complained for years about
stomach problems and was told repeatedly, “Don’t worry about it. It is just part
of your illness.” Recently, they finally got around to sending her for medical
tests and a mass was found in her stomach that, thank God, was benign and will
not kill her, but here we are again.
Two patients in North Bay reported sighting the missing
patient shortly after he left the facility, and this should have triggered in
the internal responses the call to the police to set the whole missing person
case in motion. The nurse chose not to do that. Two hours later, a maintenance
man who had done a lot of work at the facility also saw this man in the same
general area and phoned in a report. Now, she believed him, and that triggered
the search for him. In those two hours, he had sufficient time to get to where
he wanted to go and he hung himself.
I think what needs to be understood here is people do not
suddenly go mad. While I have avoided doing this for the last 15 years, I will
do it here: I was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1981 on a charge of
unlawful possession of explosives. I spent 10 years in the forensic system
before I was suddenly, with the stroke of a pen, cured of my mental illness, and
that was the criteria at that point for leaving the system. Today, it is that we
are not a danger to the public.
What is incredibly ironic about that situation is in my final
review board hearing, the one question they had for me was, “How do we know in
the future that you will turn to someone for assistance if you run into
trouble?” My response was, “Rest assured I will not turn to you.” There is a
punishment involved. If you are forthright, if you are honest about your
difficulties, expect to stay in longer, expect your incarceration to continue. I
said, “But also be assured that my experience with you has been so unpleasant
that I will do whatever I need to do not to come in contact with you again.”
What kind of a system would take that kind of criticism unchallenged and then
turn around and say, “Okay. It is good enough for us. Go.” That is exactly what
Nothing has changed. On the day that I was on the stand in
North Bay a report was released that another forensic patient at the Royal
Ottawa Hospital had committed suicide. Most of the cross-examination of me while
I was on the stand was an attempt to dismiss what I was saying, and the lawyer
for the hospital said, “You will agree with me that the hospital did end up
providing this piece of medical equipment.” It is called a CPAP machine and
allowed the man to keep breathing at night. My response was, “I will agree that
after 16 years and ample evidence that a physical condition existed, two months
before his death, you got that machine for him. Yes, I agree.”
Our issues: There was something ironically called the first
annual database on warrant of the lieutenant-governor populations. It was
commissioned in 1989 by the federal justice department and the review boards
across the country and was authored by a man named Chris Webster, a researcher
who was with the Clarke Institute at that time. It was a demographic study of
the population across the country, and some rather interesting statistics came
out of it — for example, the lack of education among people in the forensic
The highest grade average was in Alberta, at grade 11. Here
in Ontario, it was grade 9; 25 per cent of people had zero income at the time of
the offence. They were not on social assistance. They were not on anything. They
had nothing; 25 per cent of that population was homeless. There was massive
unemployment due to lack of education and vocational skills and substandard or
Even the World Health Organization recognized back in 1990
that income levels are basic determinants of mental health, and we seem to have
swept that all aside. We pay lip service to the notion that these are the things
that are required, when what is required instead is a massive intrusion of the
services currently available in the institutional sector into the community.
I know that some questions were raised here yesterday about
ACT teams. They are an absolute disaster. I was asked in 1990 as part of my job
to review the prototype for ACT teams in this province at the Brockville
Psychiatric Hospital, led by Dr. LeFevre. The battle was already being waged
between staff people who had come from the institutional side and those who were
more community oriented. Their goal at that time was to address five issues in
people’s lives: their housing situation, their employment situation, their
educational situation, their recreational situation and their social situation.
When people presented at the hospital, the emergency ward,
looking to be admitted, they were moved over to him. He would send them home
with his staff, who were to remain with them until such time as the issues had
started to be addressed. He was able to close a 38-bed psych ward as a result of
that. He lost the battle for control, and what we ended up with, as the
institutional sector side won, is what we have today.
I could go on for ever, but my time is up. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you to all three of you for coming. I
would like to ask all of you a question.
Given the number of people sentenced to prison who suffer
from some form of mental illness — I am not now talking necessarily about
extreme cases — what services, if any, do they actually receive; and when their
prison term is over, has their problem actually been treated, has it become
worse, or is it the same?
Mr. Pritchard: I would approach it from the perspective
of the forensic mental health population because that is what I am most familiar
with. There are a number of people who have been in both the prison system and
the mental health system, or at least the forensic part of it, and when asked, a
significant number would have preferred being sent to prison because they
believe there were more options available to them there.
One of our recommendations to the jury in North Bay was,
following the model of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, that non-clinical staff
positions be created whose sole function is to be assigned to individuals when
they enter the system and their only concern is the necessary tools when people
leave and helping to address them. Quite frankly, if our life issues, which I
tell you are major contributors to what we are choosing to call mental illness,
are not addressed, if you open the door after years of incarceration and say,
“Now, take care of your life and don't screw up,” it will be a disaster.
Ms. Cotton: Not surprisingly, my answer to that is
slightly different from Randy's. The people he is talking about are contained in
the mental health system, the forensic patients. They are not in the prison
system, and I would say that in the forensic system in Ontario, you get the same
standard of care as in the rest of the psychiatric system. You can make your own
judgments about what standard of care that is, but certainly my experience in
forensic programs is the care was more or less the same as you got elsewhere in
the psychiatric hospital, warts and all.
Certainly from my experience in talking to
patient/consumer/survivors, one of the main reasons that people often prefer a
prison sentence to a forensic sentence is that it is a determined length. When I
was director of forensics, we had in our program a man who had shoved a bag
lady. He would not have received five minutes of jail time had he been found
guilty of that crime, but he had been in our program for over five years. There
is a definite preference, unless you are serving a sentence for murder, for
doing the jail time, because you will get out a lot quicker.
In terms of your specific question about services, it would
be my personal opinion — and again, I hope not to be unemployed soon — that the
standard of care in the federal correctional system does not come close to
meeting a community standard. The principles of correctional treatment involve
criminogenic needs, degree of risk and responsivity factors, and so mental
health issues are primarily addressed only if it addresses the criminal
The more generic needs, unless they are acute, are not
generally addressed within the correctional system. It is not part of the
mandate. Corrections is not health care, believe me. It is not health care. It
is jail. It is a very low priority within the system.
The floor I am working on has eight psychologists, three
nurses, a social worker, an OT and a clerk. This is a hospital. We are the
hospital in Ontario for federal corrections. Our printer cartridge, one that 15
of us share, ran out and we were told we would get a new one in the next fiscal
year, which, as you know, is April. That is how high we are in the priorities.
It is not a community standard of care.
The Chairman: Is it fair then for me to conclude that you
are really saying — and I am not talking about forensic patients now, I am
talking about the general prison population — that if people clearly need mental
health treatment of some kind, counselling, whatever, that by and large, that is
not given and that they therefore come out, at the very least, no better and,
conceivably, worse than when they went in?
Ms. Cotton: If their mental health issues are directly
related to the commission of a crime, they will likely get some treatment that
would not be as intensive or as ongoing as if they had been able to access
services in the community. If it is directly related to their criminal offences,
they are more likely to get treatment.
Also, it depends on what you are talking about. For sex
offenders there is a lot of intensified, high-level and ongoing treatment
available, and in spite of what the public seems to think, moderately successful
treatment. However, the rate of depression, for example, among federal offenders
is incredibly high, for a variety of reasons that you can guess at, and if it is
not really related to criminal behaviour, they are low on the totem pole.
Institutions other than psychiatric hospitals will house 400
to 600 offenders, and will have maybe four or five psychologists; that is it.
There is no team.
The final piece of the puzzle is the linkage to the outside
world. The federal correction service does not provide aftercare. There is the
parole system and there are some psychologists who work with ex-offenders in the
community. However, if people need much more intensive care, they should be
reintegrated and accessing the same services as everybody else. Of course, it is
hard enough for everybody else to get access, and far more difficult for
somebody with a criminal record.
Ms. Pate: My experience would be very similar to what has
been discussed, except that when people are locked in isolation cells, often,
any other place sounds better. I just want to be clear, getting people out to
get them into a mental health or a psychiatric setting is not something I would
normally advocate, but when faced with the prospect of people potentially dying
in an isolation cell, obtaining a court order to get them out for an assessment
has sometimes been the only way to get them before the court again. In some of
those cases, we have managed to squeeze out a little space to reopen what has
happened to them in the prison system. I do not want to be heard as in any way
advocating putting people into forensic units. That is not it.
It has probably been a little different for women because
five new mental health units have been constructed across the country in women's
prisons in recognition of the reality that I was talking about earlier. However,
the people who end up there are not the women who were, if you will, the
rationale for those units being put in place, and in large part, it is because
the type of program and the types of services that are being offered are not
meeting their needs.
There are behaviour science technicians who offer the kind of
psycho-social behaviour modification treatment that has been shown in many other
places not to be the most effective way to deal with anybody, whether or not
they are in prison or in mental health facilities. Our experience is that where
there are in fact some supports, it tends to be the kinds that are provided
outside the correctional milieu. It will be an individual who will take the time
to provide some services. It may be a linkage to the community. It may be an
advocate who has been in touch, and yes, the services in the community are
lacking as well, and largely because it has not been a priority. A person who is
low on the totem pole is actually in a significant place. In my experience it is
quite the opposite, there are people who are not on the totem pole at all.
We have women who started out with 18-month sentences doing
18 years now, all from charges that have accumulated inside that have been
linked to mental health issues. Most of them end up being held until their
warrant expiry, because if they have the misfortune to have their criminal
behaviour linked to their mental health, then they are more likely to be seen as
dangerous, despite all the research to the contrary that I believe you have
heard about. Lots of people, as well as those who live the experience, can tell
you that in fact there is no correlation between mental illness or mental health
labels and violence, and yet that is the first label to be attached.
Resisting restraint or busting down a segregation cell door
that hits someone will cause people to end up facing charges of assaulting
guards, that sort of thing. Sometimes they will actually assault a guard because
that is the person they see as standing between where they are and where they
need to get to.
I have been in the segregation unit and have sometimes
argued, mostly unsuccessfully, to have those doors unlocked, and I have never
been assaulted. What Randy was talking about is that we see a different person
in a different context. The person with whom you are intervening understands
that you are there to assist, to advocate, and not to further intrude on their
rights. I am not suggesting it is a magical solution. I think it is quite
straightforward that when you have that kind of control over your life, you will
exercise it in a way that is beneficial for you and for others generally, even
if you are seen to be in a state other than what is often termed “normal.”
As I mentioned, despite best efforts to develop programs and
services inside, they are not meeting the needs, and it is fundamentally about
seeing it through the correctional lens.
Therefore, our recommendation, and that of DisAbled Women's
Network of Canada, was for the use of a provision in the Corrections and
Conditional Release Act that for health reasons — and mental health comes under
that — allows individuals to be taken out of prison at any point in their
sentence for more appropriate health services that meet their needs in the
community. I suggest that that is a mechanism that does not require law reform,
but could trigger a look at community-based options.
For instance, in one case, a woman who was serving a life
sentence was 15 years past her parole eligibility dates, but because primarily
of her mental health condition, had not been able to even get the reports from
corrections to go before the National Parole Board. Her mental health condition
was linked to her offending, even though everybody agreed they did not know why
because she had never shown any other instance of violence in the 25 years she
had been in prison.
The only way we could publicize it was to approach a
filmmaker to make a film, and if you have not seen Sentence Vie/Sentenced to
Life I would recommend you have a look at it, either as a committee or
individually. I think it captures some of what we are talking about, how people
get spun into the system and can never get out. The insanity, and I use that
word advisedly, of the system was exposed to public view and it resulted in
corrections ceasing to put that woman in segregation and agreeing to let her
have some control over the services she was accessing. I am happy to say that
she is now more than half time in the community, starting with one of our
halfway houses and with some additional supports, but those resources are still
If you look at the millions of dollars that have been spent
by corrections on the women's prisons for these mental health units that are
still not meeting the needs, versus the cost of an occasional extra mental
health worker or support advocate in the community, you see the dichotomy.
On two occasions now, I have taken holidays for a week to go
and walk with individuals whom we have identified as high profile. Our
organization has identified about 17 women as high profile and with whom our
two-woman office has become directly involved.
Even when resources are applied, there is virtually nothing
in the community, so our halfway houses are being approached to provide services
to women, but our staffing situation means we are unable to help in those ways.
Means that could obviously be more humane and also far more cost effective are
not being implemented.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: One of the questions I asked
yesterday concerned information on persons in the correctional system. I wanted
to know whether, given the intensive interrogation and examination that precedes
an admission to a maximum or medium security facility, when a person arrives, do
you have a substantial amount of good, correct, useful information on that
person's health status and social status? Of course, now I am thinking mainly of
mental illness. Do staff members avail themselves of that information? Is it
mandatory? Is it a must?
Ms. Pate: Certainly my experience is limited, because I
am not usually there when someone is being taken in, but because of inquests,
some of the interventions we have done in court cases, and all the advocacy work
I do, I often see some of those documents because the women ask me to review
them. Generally, if it is linked to the offence, as Dr. Cotton said, if it is
seen as a criminogenic factor, it will be there. If it is seen as linking to
that, it will be there, but it will appear in very odd ways.
For instance, a woman who was labelled schizophrenic, who had
been raped by her father, was seen as having inappropriate relationships. One of
the things that were seen as contributing to her criminality and included in her
file was that she had had a sexual relationship with her father. That was
included as an indication of inappropriate behaviour, and my response was, in
what context do we see rape of a child by her father as somehow within her
control. Then how do we make the leap that it is somehow linked to her
offending. It may very well be that her history of abuse was the reason she
defended herself against the man who attacked her when she was being prostituted
on the street, but it is certainly not indicative of a mental health issue, I
Part of the reason that Madam Justice Arbour, the Auditor
General, the Public Accounts Committee and the Canadian Human Rights Commission
have recommended alternative strategies for assessment in classification of
women is that it is usually an overlay of a male model. If a woman has
experienced violence and then has reacted to that, it will often trigger the
switching of a need to a risk, and it will be characterized as a risk factor.
She may then be required to take anger management classes, when I would say —
not to condone the use of violence — if you are a woman who has experienced a
long history of violence and you react to another act of violence against you
with violence, then to characterize the problem as only your violence and not
put it in the context of what has been happening historically and currently in
your life is problematic.
I am not sure if that answers your question, but certainly,
there is often information there. How it gets used is often the greatest
challenge, because it is seen through that lens of criminality.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Thank you. You have answered
in part, but I was wondering, for instance, is there a social history, work
history, medical history, criminal history or whatever? Is it all there in a
succinct, accessible, clear fashion?
You are talking about the difficulties in the case of rape or
reaction to violence. Those are not necessarily subtle, but they are factors of
which I would expect to see some documentation. Not being part of the system, I
am not sure how much could be put in such a record, but can the correctional
officers, and you as an intervener, read that and know a lot about the person?
Ms. Pate: I find that out from talking to the individual
Senator Trenholme Counsell: However, you do not have what
I call a chart sheet. You do not have a file or whatever that you can go through
Ms. Pate: Well, there is the Correctional Service of
Canada’s intake process. Although we have challenged some of those provisions as
unconstitutional because they go into things like social condition and start to
translate them into risk factors.
Those are factors such as you have lived in a low income
area, you do not have an education, or other family members have a criminal
history. We know from the Causey report that in Alberta, 90 per cent of
Aboriginal men have a criminal record by the time they reach the age of 30.
If those kinds of categories exist when people are being
assessed, then it is left to the judgment of the individual, who can
characterize that category as a risk factor. It could be done by the new
Ms. Cotton: If I can comment on that, there is a fairly
detailed history taken on people when they come in, but it is a criminal history
and factors related to offending behaviour.
I am the neuropsychologist for Ontario, so I see all the
institutionalized people who are viewed as having some kind of “brain damage,”
which includes everything. There is nothing in the files that constitutes what
in a hospital would be called the social history, and it is problematic, for
reasons that Kim points out.
A lot of the information can be used against the offenders,
as can my report. It is a very delicate position for me to be in if I say, “This
man has a lot of frontal lobe damage, and he has impulse control problems
because he has damage to his left temporal lobe.” The upshot of me saying that
is they will keep him in longer because they will assume he is likely to
reoffend, which may or may not be true. In fact, we do not have data to support
that, but theoretically, it makes sense.
It also means there are “bazillions” of sets of files within
the correctional system, so the work that I and the mental health workers do in
the system is not accessible to, for instance, the parole officers. Because of
confidentiality rules, unless it is a health care issue, they do not have access
to the files, the same as you would not have access to somebody's health care
files in any other hospital. It is a basic right that your health care files are
not public information, so it becomes very confused in the correctional system.
There tends to be history of criminal offences, there tends
to be history of substance abuse, which is a “biggy.” If somebody volunteers the
information, there will be just a checklist on whether you have ever been
treated for a mental disorder, but there is no particularly comprehensive
psychiatric assessment done. Corrections, by and large, does not employ social
workers, so there is nothing that would constitute what we would call a social
The Chairman: Kim, did I hear you say that there was a
report done in Alberta that said that 90 per cent of Aboriginal women have a
criminal record by the age of 30?
Ms. Pate: Men, sorry. It was men. By the age of 30, 90
per cent of Aboriginal men have a criminal record. It was the Causey report in
Alberta. We now know that almost a third of the women serving two years or more
are Aboriginal. It is increasingly rare to find people who do not have a family
member with a criminal record, which gets used against them.
Senator Callbeck: Thank you for coming this morning with
your presentations. I have a short question for each of you.
Ms. Pate, does the Elizabeth Fry Society come in contact with
these people when they enter prison, or do you have contact with them before?
Ms. Pate: It largely depends on the community, but
generally both. We generally have contact before. Many of our local societies
provide early intervention services. Some also offer victim services in some
parts of the country, so it depends on the community.
Senator Callbeck: You mentioned that the fastest growing
segment of the prison population is women, and you also said that the greatest
increase in the Kingston Penitentiary is people from Atlantic Canada. Does that
mean in Atlantic Canada, we have the highest increase in the number of women in
Ms. Pate: Thank you for asking that question because
obviously I was not clear. I was saying that our organization flagged this issue
more than 10 years ago because we first saw the trend coming from Atlantic
Canada. It is now right across the country, but it is true that for about seven
years, the Correctional Service of Canada had segregated maximum security units
in men's prisons. In Atlantic Canada, they were put in Springhill Institution.
There was never a time when I was in that institution that those units were not
full of women with significant mental health issues. That was clearly the
predominant issue when you went in. If you went into the one at the Saskatchewan
Penitentiary, it was Aboriginal women, many of whom had also been diagnosed as
having mental health issues.
I am not suggesting that it is just a phenomenon in Atlantic
Canada. It is that is how we came to flag it as an issue our organization needed
to be watching.
Ms. Cotton: Could I just make a comment related to that?
I certainly understood anecdotally from a friend who used to be the chief
psychologist at the Prison for Women in Kingston that the sentencing is somewhat
dependent on the whims of judges. My impression, and correct me if I am wrong,
is that there was certainly a trend afoot in Atlantic Canada to give sentences,
particularly to women, of exactly two years because it gave them access to the
federal as opposed to the provincial system. Much as Corrections Canada could do
a lot better, it is Olympic class compared to most of the provincial systems, so
if the provincial systems were particularly weak, you got almost differential
Ms. Pate: Yes. For a time, the number of women serving
federal sentences in Atlantic Canada quintupled. It has gone down a lot. It has
almost halved, although it is still more than double what it was when they were
at the Prison for Women, just because there is a prison there. It has tripled in
the Prairie region as well.
Obviously, we are seeing the impact of the cuts to social
services, health care, education in particular, that the provinces have been
allowed to implement, because people are dropping through the cracks. In the
women's context, we are seeing increasing welfare fraud, carrying packages
across the border, across the country, prostitution to make ends meet at the end
of the month. A number of Aboriginal women who in for armed robbery had demanded
money after they had committed the sex act and not been paid, and then the man
involved indicated she was in the process of robbing him. It is an Aboriginal
woman. If she has a mental health issue, as Randy said, whose credibility is
Senator Callbeck: Dr. Cotton, you mentioned that salaries
for psychologists in Corrections Canada are 30 per cent below the average. I
know that we are short of psychologists in the system, but are there any
vacancies that are not filled?
Ms. Cotton: There are vacancies on paper. I am not sure
whether they are actively hiring. I know that on my floor there are three empty
offices for psychologists who have moved on and those positions are on the book.
There is no money, so the party line goes.
Recruitment is a big problem. It is a bigger problem for the
RCMP. I notice in your previous report — I was quite struck by it — it says
that, “All statement, no information was available from the RCMP,” which speaks
Another one of my tangents is the area of police psychology,
which does not exist in Canada. I will not go off on a tangent. It is in my
written brief. I am involved in a national survey with a professor at the
University of Moncton looking at police utilization of psychological services,
and a big issue, particularly for the RCMP, is the inability to recruit.
A federal government salary for a psychologist is about
$70,000. The community standard is about $90,000. In corrections, we get a term
allowance, as they call it, so we get an extra $1,000 a week or a month or a
year or something — I forget what it is — that is not actually part of our
salary and they can take it away at any point. The RCMP does not offer that.
Therefore, they are trying to hire psychologists for $20,000
to $30,000 less than the hospital down the street is paying, and they cannot
recruit them. If I had a dime for every time I have been approached by the RCMP
to come and work for them, I would be a wealthy woman, but you cannot hire
people for that kind of money. It also speaks to what they think of the
Senator Callbeck: Mr. Pritchard, a question for you. I
have not had time to read your brief, but I will.
Mr. Pritchard: Thank you.
Senator Callbeck: However, there are some comments in
here regarding the proposed legislation that is before the Senate right now.
Mr. Pritchard: Are we referring to C-10?
Senator Callbeck: Right, C-10, and I notice the provision
dealing with the victim impact statement, which would be in cases where people
are not criminally responsible for the act.
Mr. Pritchard: Correct.
Senator Callbeck: This proposed legislation would put a
victim impact statement in place.
Mr. Pritchard: They exist already in legislation. This
makes them far more onerous, and quite frankly, the position in the Winko
ruling was their utility is in a criminal proceeding. It is the ability of the
victim to impact sentencing.
Given that this special system has been created for forensic
patients, the NCR accused, one of its hallmarks is that in law, punishment is
not allowed. It precludes the value of that. I recognize that people who have
been victimized by someone who ends up with an NCR designation have a right to
be heard, but not in this forum. There have to be other mechanisms found for
that. It just has no place in a system where someone is deemed, due to mental
disorder, to have lacked the criminal intent, the guilty mind, as it were.
Senator Callbeck: Where would you suggest they be heard?
Mr. Pritchard: Quite frankly, I think there are
mechanisms. I have a friend who was able to access victim services here in
Ontario after being assaulted, and I would suggest that in terms of the healing
process, I do not know how much value there is in being able to confront the
perpetrator more than once.
In the current legislation, people are allowed to submit a
written victim impact statement, and it can be considered in the initial
disposition order. It is being proposed that they can now deliver it in person
and that it can be used to make decisions about disposition orders into
eternity, and that is quite contrary to the intent of the bill. It just does not
have a place there.
We seem to be trying to make this comparison between the two
systems, and there is none. It is not allowed in law, and I would suggest to you
that if the provisions that are being proposed are passed, we will be the first
out of the gate to organize a way to challenge you. They violate our section 15
Charter rights, and we will no longer be the placid little mental patients who
were willing to put up with this. We will not.
Senator Callbeck: Thank you.
Senator Pepin: Ms. Pate, I want to thank you for your
presentation. I have been involved in the issue of violence against women for
more than 25 years, but what you said this morning has added to it so much and I
realize that I was missing lots of information, specifically on women inmates.
We know that the correctional services are maybe not up to date, but I was
wondering about the National Parole Board.
When they interview those patients, do you know if they are
aware of those people’s illness? Are they trained to do those interviews? I was
wondering if you know anything about that, because they are the ones who decide
if the patients will go outside.
Ms. Pate: Thank you for asking, because I think that
there is an increased interest in this area at the National Parole Board,
especially from the current vice-chair, and there has been more work done.
They actually had us do a training session a couple of years
ago. They are in the midst of some research now around decision-making, how it
differs between women and men, and how the interpretation of what happens to men
impacts women's decisions, such as in violence against women situations.
Certainly, I think there is room for improvement. One of the
challenges, however, is that the Parole Board relies on the information that is
brought to it, and that is one of the reasons for suggesting more support people
and groups like Randy's and others be involved. I am not suggesting we do not
have enough work, but it is why we are involved in some of these other cases
nationally as well as the one I was talking about.
We realize that we have to intervene and almost try to
reconstruct the situation. In one case where we were able to do that, a woman
was being referred for detention. The board had all of the information put forth
by corrections, and again, it is not that people were not trying to help, but
their interpretation of how to assist in that case was very different from ours.
I can tell you, though, that that process — I was the one who worked on that
particular case — took a hundred-and-some hours, going back to interview some of
the same people, talking to the same psychologist, and reconstructing another
version of how that case could be looked at.
The result was that she was released, with several
conditions. She then reported feeling as if she was about to get into trouble,
and she actually got into a car and drove it away. The keys had been left
inside. The man who owned the car said, “I don't want to press charges,” but
that was the precipitating factor that led her to go back to prison to stay
until her warrant expiry, even though everybody involved said, “Gee, would it
not have been better if...” She got into that car and drove back to the halfway
house, went in and said, “I just stole a car.” Now, technically, she did steal a
car, and that was the basis on which the Parole Board put her back inside. They
felt they did not have an option because it was a one-shot statutory release.
That means you have one chance. If you breach any of the conditions, you are
back in jail; so there she was.
When she was finally released, they felt they had to notify
the police, again because of the structure that had been put in place. The long
and the short of it is she has now been out for a year and a half after serving
10 years. Her original sentence was three years. She still has situations, but
everybody says, “We cannot believe how much her mental health has improved.” I
do not mean to be flippant, but if we let a few more people out and had someone
there to support them, a community of support and a place for them to live, then
it is not that problems disappear, but as Randy said, the more people move away
from the system, the less likely everything they do will be framed in that way.
The Chairman: May I thank all of you for coming. I really
appreciate you taking the time to be with us.
We now have three witnesses from the media who have been kind
enough to come and talk to us about an issue that has not only troubled us, but
troubled other countries that have looked at the mental health issue. This is
not being by any means critical of the journalistic profession; the portrayal
that one often picks up in the media is the portrayal in most Canadians’ minds.
What we are most interested in is to what extent the media
can be part of the solution to the stigma problem.
As some of you may know, in Australia, for example, the
schools of journalism worked with the Mental Health Council to develop, as part
of journalism programs, a way to ensure that budding journalists were made aware
of the appropriate ways to describe mental health patients and people suffering
from mental illness. Their tracking data evidence shows that it has been a
significant element in changing broad public attitudes. They also ran a
substantial communications campaign, and over the 10 years they have been
tracking it, there has been a significant improvement in the acceptance of
mental illness as an illness and less of the usual stigma. It shows that over
time, just as we have seen in this country on drunk-driving, anti-smoking and so
on, you can change attitudes. Any advice you have on the role the media or
journalism schools could play would be very helpful.
We have three people with us, and let me stress that they are
appearing as individuals, not as representatives of a corporate view. That is an
important point, because these are people who have experience in the media, are
still employed in the media, but should not be seen as officially representing
their employers here.
We have Louise Elliott, who is a journalist with CBC Radio;
Scott Simmie, who is with the Toronto Star; and Rona Maynard, who is the
former editor-in-chief of Chatelaîne.
We will begin with a brief opening statement from each of you
and then we will ask you some questions. I thank all three of you for taking the
time to be with us today.
Ms. Rona Maynard, Former Editor-in-Chief, Chatelaîne:
I am delighted to be here. I would like to begin with my personal experience of
stigma as well as that of a journalist who assigned many articles on mental
illness when I was editor of Chatelaîne. I have experienced chronic
low-grade depression and I lived with that until I was about 36 years old.
I grew up in the United States and the first year I was
entitled to vote was 1972. George McGovern was running for the Democratic Party
and his running mate was Senator Thomas Eagleton, who appeared to be a terrific
candidate for vice-president. Suddenly the news broke: Eagleton had been
hospitalized for a depression and had had shock therapy. A huge outcry broke out
in the press, after which Eagleton was dumped from the ticket. I am sure some of
you remember that.
To me, it was shocking, demoralizing, shameful and personally
hurtful. I suspected that there was something the matter with me, some reason
why I always felt so down, why I did not have any hope, and the day that
McGovern, after saying he was 1,000 per cent behind Eagleton, dropped him, I
felt I was receiving a very strong message that people like me were unreliable,
unworthy and unfit for any kind of public role.
It was framed as a character issue. The American people did
not get Thomas Eagleton, but they did get Richard Nixon.
Now, having gone through that and other experiences and
having had conversations and e-mail correspondence with a great many ordinary
Canadians as a result of things that I wrote, said and commissioned as editor of
Chatelaîne, I am still somewhat skeptical about the focus on stigma. I am
not saying it does not exist, because it absolutely does. I have had ordinary
people say to me, “I just feel dreadful and it takes everything I have to get
out of bed in the morning, but I am a grade 2 teacher and I think if the parents
knew this, they would not want me teaching their kids.”
People feel it is not okay to talk about it, but the way to
make it okay, I think, is not simply to ask ourselves how we can stop the
stigmatism. What terms should we not be using? What kinds of stories and people
should we not be portraying in the media? I think we should be asking how we can
That was what I tried to do. In my job at Chatelaîne,
one of the last stories that I commissioned, and one of the ones I was most
proud of, was about a married couple where the husband had been suffering from
depression off and on for many years. It had been a real test of their marriage.
The wife had had to deal with all kinds of difficult questions, such as “How can
I be there for this man when he cannot be there for me?” and “How do I talk to
my kids about what is going on in our family's life?” These are hidden dramas
that are unfolding across the land, and the stories, by and large, are not
Now, people I have corresponded with have been telling me
over and over again what it is they think they need. They want to know where
they can go for help, and they want to believe, they want to see, that there are
in fact services available. This is a particularly big problem, as you know, for
young people and older people. They want to be able to talk to their family
doctor. The family doctor is usually not very helpful, and many people do not
have one, cannot find one. They do not want to be afraid that they will lose
their job. They wish their family and friends would understand. It is a
character issue, and people are being told by their own loved ones every day,
“Pull up your socks. It could be worse. Try harder.” People are getting the idea
that if they only tried harder, they would be able to be there for their
families and the people at work.
They also see that nobody is rallying around to help when
they are ill. We once did an article on how to help a friend with cancer, and it
was written by a woman with breast cancer. She gave about 10 suggestions for how
you could help your friend. They were small things, such as, “Bring food, talk
to my spouse, please ask me how I am; take my kids out.” Well, I got this
amazing letter from a man with a couple of young kids and a wife saying, “Every
suggestion that you have given about the cancer patient applies equally to me,”
and the stories are not being told.
Also, I think a big part of the answer is for us, for the
media, to be simply speaking honestly about the impact on people's lives. We are
already doing it with physical illness. Every year in October, the media unroll
this spate of articles about breast cancer, every aspect of it, treatment, how
it affects you, how to talk to your kids about it, how your friends can help.
The cosmetics companies are sending people into hospital wards to do makeup for
Is any of this happening for people with mental illness? No,
it is not, and when something is hidden away and not discussed, when people who
are hospitalized for a psychiatric illness are not receiving flowers or get well
cards, what is the message that people get? It does not exist, it is not normal,
and it is also fearful because it is hidden away.
I am profoundly skeptical about the idea that we should be
teaching stigma reduction regarding mental illness in journalism schools. I have
little use as it is for what is being taught in journalism schools, and I think
the last thing we need to do is bring in a lot of so-called experts to tell
people what terms they can use when talking about psychiatric illness.
Also, I think there is a question of fairness. People with
mental illness are not the only stigmatized group. Does this mean we will also
have people coming in for all the other stigmatized groups?
Just to reiterate my main point, I think it is a focus on the
positive. That is what I would like to see, and it is starting to happen, but
not nearly fast enough.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Mr. Scott Simmie, Journalist, Toronto Star: Good
afternoon. I am a feature writer with the Toronto Star with an interest
in mental health. I have written about it extensively and co-authored two books
about it in a major newspaper series in 1998 that got a lot of attention. I will
leave copies of the books for members of the committee that I hope will be of
use, and no, I will not send you a bill.
This afternoon, I will try to offer a few headlines, with the
intention of writing a more lengthy brief for submission in the near future, and
the first headline — though I am sure it is not news to you - is that mental
health, mental illness and addiction are, I believe, the most pressing, yet most
neglected, public health issues in the country.
Headline number two — I will disagree with Rona — we
desperately need, as the committee has heard, a sustained, national anti-stigma
campaign. Perhaps it should be termed an inclusion campaign or an enlightenment
campaign, but it should have the imprint and authority of Health Canada.
Headline number three: The media can and must do a better job
of reporting on issues of mental illness, mental health and addiction. In
failing to do so, I believe we are doing the communities we supposedly reflect a
Journalists are best at telling stories, so I will try to
fill in some of those headlines with an anecdote or two.
When I first began researching mental health in 1998, I went
to the largest psychiatric hospital in Toronto, and on the grounds of that
hospital there was a sign. The sign was supposed to say “Dogs must be kept on a
leash.” Someone had spray-painted out the word “Dogs” and had put in the word
“Nuts.” “Nuts must be kept on a leash.” Every time I drove by that hospital for
an interview, I checked to see if that sign was still there. Patients would have
seen it, doctors would have seen it, and the public would have seen it. Eight
months after I began my research, someone had finally spray-painted out the
Now, imagine a different scenario; picture a similar sign on
the grounds of a synagogue. If the word “Dogs” had been replaced by “Jews,”
people would have been outraged. The police would likely have been called, the
act would have been described, accurately, as a hate crime, and rest assured,
the sign would have been gone the very next day. Yet the sign at the hospital
remained unaltered for all that time, and who knows how long it had been there
before I first noticed it.
The analogy I would draw is that mental illness and addiction
are similarly stigmatized on a national scale, and with the exception of this
committee and some noted advocates, no one takes action.
I can state unequivocally that the many Canadians I have
interviewed who are struggling with mental illness and addiction say that stigma
and the associated discrimination are the foremost issues on their radar. It can
be, as your Issues and Options report notes, as important a source
of distress as the disorder itself. As one man with schizophrenia pointedly told
me, “We are outcasts. We are untouchables.”
What can be done about it? Many have said, and said for
years, that a national anti-stigma program is needed. We have seen, in the past
couple of decades, positive and measurable awareness campaigns on HIV and AIDS,
so why can we not do the same with mental illness and addictions? I believe we
can, but I would caution that AIDS may not be the best analogy. While certainly
it was, and to a certain extent remains, a heavily stigmatized illness, it was
new. Arguably, it did not have to overcome the centuries of negative
connotations associated with mental illness and addictions.
Though Canada has some dedicated, high-profile mental health
advocates, ranging from Michael Wilson to Pat Capponi, they cannot do it alone,
nor can groups like the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation, which had a
terrific series of television and radio ads targeting stigma, afford to sustain
the kind of long-term campaign that is needed.
Health Canada, by comparison, is a known brand in this
country. People realize that by mandate, the department is interested in the
well-being of Canadians. Anyone who watches television certainly knows that
Health Canada thinks, with good reason, we should not smoke. I believe there is
an opportunity for Health Canada to use that established credibility to begin
stressing the equal importance of mental health, not merely in a preventive
fashion, though that, too, would be useful, but in an educational campaign that
shows average Canadians — men, women, teens, seniors, and real people, not
actors — telling their own stories.
I also believe if we intend to revamp our systems and change
attitudes, that provincial education ministries can play a role by putting
mental health and addiction higher on the agenda in high school. Not only is it
a place where attitudes are forged at a crucial age, the teen years are also
when many people endure their first bout of mental illness or first experience
As the committee noted, this country loses some 3,700 people
annually to suicide. If a plane carrying 300 Canadians were to go down every
month, there would be a national outcry. Inquiries would be launched. Special
investigative reports would dominate the media and this country would be moving
heaven and earth to ensure that not one more aircraft went down. However, with
suicide, perhaps the most stigmatized area in this field, and where mental
illness and substance use often collide, we do not see such articles. We do not
see the Prime Minister laying a wreath on behalf of the more than 300 Canadians
who die from suicide each month. Instead, we avert our eyes, and the media, with
rare exceptions, are complicit.
I have wondered over the years why the media do not do a
better job of mental health coverage, why there is not more of it. It is a field
crying out for regular, in-depth, compassionate reporting.
I will make an aside here. I had not planned to mention this,
but since I am leaving copies of the book, I will. The man you are looking at
today in a suit jacket was once in a straitjacket in Hong Kong. I had been
working for the CBC and had a psychotic episode after reporting on the war in
That is what led me to my interest in mental health. That is
what led me to research the topic through the Atkinson Fellowship in Public
Policy, and ultimately, that is what led me to travel across the country and to
the U.K., asking people about their experiences and looking at policy.
I will just conclude. There are a few other things I had
hoped to mention, but there is a main point I would like to emphasize.
I appreciate, in this public phase, the committee's efforts
to reach out, such as inviting written submissions or posting online
questionnaires. When I looked through the appendix and saw the many experts that
you have heard from in the first phase of these hearings, I was quite impressed,
and I recognize many names because they were people that I had interviewed
During my year of research, I read a lot of documents, I
talked to a lot of professionals, but it was really when I headed out to the
boarding houses in Toronto, in Saskatoon, New Brunswick and elsewhere across the
land that I learned the most. Therefore, I would respectfully urge the committee
to bear in mind that many of the people with the most to say on the topic are
the very people you are least likely to reach — the Canadians who, through no
fault of their own, feel abandoned by the system and by society at large.
There are sections of this city, and many others in Canada,
filled with boarding homes, and in those boarding homes and group homes, you
will find people who have little more in their lives than regular doses of
medication. Many of them live with little meaning or purpose because Canadian
society fails to recognize they have worth. Some struggle with poverty so
grinding and housing so appalling, it would challenge the sanity of even the
strongest among us. Yet these people, these forgotten Canadians, have skills and
they have dreams.
Unfortunately, many of them will not be aware of the
committee's call for submissions, nor are they likely to have anyone encouraging
them to go down to the library and fill out an online questionnaire. I would
respectfully propose, and almost beseech, that the committee pay a visit to one
of these neighbourhoods and arrange an informal meeting with residents of a few
of these boarding houses. I would be happy to offer contacts who could arrange
this. In fact, I am sure that Pat Capponi, who I believe was here yesterday,
could take you on a tour that just might change the very course of your final
report. It is a gesture that would not only demonstrate your genuine interest in
their views, but would send them a powerful signal that they count, that their
voices as Canadians are worth hearing, and if we are truly serious about
reforming mental health, that is a noble start. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you, Scott.
Ms. Louise Elliott, Journalist, CBC Radio: I just want to
say how honoured I am to be here today in such distinguished company. I will
read my statement.
My experience reporting on mental illness began in
northwestern Ontario where I edited a newspaper that circulated as far north as
Fort Severn. I routinely visited fly-in Ojibway communities where the suicide
rate is one of the highest in the world. I spent several weeks in Sandy Lake and
My later work for the Toronto Star and The Canadian
Press took me back to communities like Pikangikum where copycat and contagion
suicides are affecting children as young as 10 and hitting more and more girls
in large numbers. There, suicide has become a way of coping.
Since leaving the North, I have reported on addiction issues
and mental health issues on a regular basis. Some would say as a parliamentary
reporter, I am well positioned to do so.
Two years ago, I completed with Sue Bailey an ambitious
project for The Canadian Press that linked gambling and suicide. What I learned
from these experiences is that suicide, addiction and mental illness cannot be
separated from the general health and well-being of any community. Poverty is
not always present with mental illness, but poverty is a stress that will
increase the likelihood of mental illness to manifest itself. Moreover, the
tendency of media to report only on “disaster” scenarios, for example, large
swaths of Aboriginal youths taking their own lives, precludes a longer look. It
does not mean that Aboriginal suicide should not be covered, nor does it mean
that we should not be probing underlying causes such as residential school
syndrome and its cycle of abuse. However, other deeper factors such as cultural
change and the alienation of Aboriginal youth from both the traditional world
and modern urban culture cannot be underestimated, and they do not lend
themselves to easy media treatment.
In both Aboriginals and the wider population, the biggest sin
the media commits is one of omission — and Scott has summed this up. Not unlike
federal policy-makers, media tends to ignore mental health as a growing area of
concern, and that, in my view, is the biggest challenge involving mental illness
and the media today. Stories ranging from spectacular suicides to isolated and
often egregious abuses in care make the news, but there are not enough stories
about policy change and the need to treat mental illness as a physiological
illness, nor is there sufficient coverage of scientific advancement in the
treatment of the physiological underpinnings of disease. Schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, depression, all are seeing rapid advances in treatment due to genetic
research. New drugs are emerging and the treatment picture is thought to be
Thus, stigma takes at least two forms in the news media: The
first is the inadvertent trivialization of the issue by intermittent coverage of
worst-case scenarios — for example, mass suicide in native communities or
dramatic incidents involving public figures; the second is neglect of the issue
as a legitimate health problem with both physiological and social underpinnings.
This neglect in the news media only furthers the inability for a society to
normalize, and this is the word that Rona was using, normalize and address a
growing health problem.
As a recent example of the media blind spot, I spoke with the
current Minister of Health, Ujjal Dosanjh, last week, and he mentioned to me a
speech he made in British Columbia recently about his plans on mental health,
plans that include a national mental health surveillance strategy, and this
would fall under the new public health department that Health Canada has
created. The speech itself received no coverage at all, a clear indication of
how interested the media is in general in this issue. So more needs to be done.
There are two thoughts I would like to leave you with today.
One of the clarion calls I repeatedly hear from people in the field, whether I
am reporting on native mental health or mental health generally is this: There
is a need for a suicide strategy. That includes both an Aboriginal suicide
strategy and a national suicide strategy. Canada is one of the few
industrialized countries left in the world that does not have a national suicide
strategy. Such a strategy could save countless lives.
Second, the more I probe these issues as a reporter, the more
I realize that mental health issues touch us all. They cut across social strata
and reach into every walk of life. They are not issues that exist in isolation
from the overall health of Canadians and, as such, they touch most of us, not an
underprivileged class alone.
Those with mental illness are often underprivileged as a
result of inadequate recognition and treatment, but that does not mean there are
not ways of bringing the issue into the public debate in a way that creates less
stigma, less of an “us” and “them” approach. Those ways will require greater
creativity, and I think that has already been dealt with here, by journalists
and by policy-makers. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you to all three of you for coming. I
am going to begin with a couple of questions and then turn it over to Senator
First, Scott, I am intrigued by your idea of us visiting what
you call a boarding house. We will look seriously into that, particularly
because I know where they are in Ottawa — my sister happens to manage one. I
think that would be a good thing for us to do.
Let me get back to the issue that has troubled me, and I
agree and I think it was Scott who made the comment that the analogy to AIDS is
not really a good analogy because it is a new disease. How do you ultimately
change underlying attitudes? If I ask myself to think of an example where
attitudes have changed dramatically over the last 10 or 15 years, the most
obvious example to me is the issue of homosexuality. In some sense, it has
become okay to come out of the closet, and I use the phrase “come out of the
closet” because, in essence, the problem with mental illness is that it is still
in the closet.
So my question to all three of you would be this: On the
basis of your experience as journalists — and recognizing, by the way, that
coming out of the closet and changing public attitudes is a long-term process;
it is not a one- or two-year exercise, but rather a 10- to 15-year exercise —
what can government do, what can journalists do? If we compare where we are now
with respect to someone being not upset at being identified as gay or lesbian to
where they would have been, say, 20 years ago, how do we get from here to there?
Mr. Simmie: We have seen a decrease in homophobia partly
because of its link with AIDS awareness campaigns. It put a human face on many
people who in the past were not out publicly, so to speak. We saw long,
sympathetic, compassionate profiles of people, and we saw many celebrities
taking up the cause, endorsing it. We saw the red ribbons on the red carpet in
Hollywood. In my view, then, the reduction in homophobia has as much as to do
with the powerfulness of the AIDS lobby as with anything else — the power of
personal stories powerfully told.
The Chairman: By real people.
Mr. Simmie: By real people.
The Chairman: Not actors, as you said.
Mr. Simmie: It does seem to have a very positive impact.
During my career as a reporter — I had worked in London, in
China, covered Tiananmen Square, Russia — the most response I have received to
anything that I have ever written, and I have never received the same response
since, was the “Out of Mind” series, which included my own personal disclosure
of having had a psychotic break.
I heard from many, many people that they would never again
view people with a mental illness in the same light. I heard from others that it
empowered them or encouraged them to step forward and discuss it more openly
with families and friends. I certainly felt within the newsroom that it was
suddenly an okay topic to discuss.
So, we can perhaps draw a lesson, though I do caution they
are not entirely the same, but I think we can draw a lesson from the success of
the AIDS campaigns in that sense.
Ms. Maynard: I would generally agree with what Scott has
said — that is, that as long as people cannot put faces to the issue of mental
illness they are going to be able to tell themselves that they do not know any
of those people, or that they can cross the street to avoid going anywhere near
them. It is a fact that there are many walking wounded out there. The person in
the next office who appears to be doing okay might be sitting there with the
door closed just staring at the screen, not able to do anything. Hence, we do
need to be telling stories about what it really looks like, what really happens,
how you will know if it is happening to you.
I also want to come back to one of the ideas in the materials
we were sent — a speaker's bureau.
The Chairman: The U.K., I believe.
Ms. Maynard: Yes. That is interesting because the more
stories and voices we can put in front of people, the more ground we are going
to break. This also goes back to something that Scott said, that any kind of
awareness campaign should feature real folks.
One specific area where I see a big need for this is
postpartum depression. Women with postpartum depression are a very hard group to
reach. The volunteers in that field are all saying that. Hence, women with
postpartum depression need to see a woman who is a good mom standing up and
saying, “I had it and it is not the end of the world.”
Ms. Elliott: Just to follow up on your question about
what governments can do, there is a lot more the federal government can do than
it is doing, and that comes from my own experience of watching so much federal
money being rolled out for health initiatives all over the place — but not for
The Chairman: Right. It is virtually zero. For all
intents and purposes, it is zero.
Ms. Elliott: It is inconceivable that that is still
happening at this point, given the research on productivity levels, as one
example. Even if you do not want to think about the social costs, the effect on
society from a productivity level is massive — and in Nordic countries, it is
particularly high. We are considered a northern hemisphere country.
There has to be a commitment federally, which will signal the
provinces that this is something that they have to take seriously in their
handling of their health dollars. We need a strategy, a mental health strategy,
and as I was saying earlier, a suicide strategy that would involve crisis
management, prevention and treatment. Those things have to be in place in order
for this whole issue to be properly dealt with.
Currently, the same-sex marriage bill is being debated in the
House of Commons. That is how far this country has come. Regardless of which way
the vote goes, that is how far the debate has come on homosexuality.
Nevertheless, not enough dollars are being directed at mental health. That does
not seem in proportion, really, in terms of advancement.
The Chairman: Absolutely. Just one question before
turning to Senator Keon. I am interested in this — since you people are from a
journalistic standpoint in terms of what attracts attention. If you are going to
use real stories, and we agree on that, do the stories, in order to get
attention, do they stories have to include what I would call big names, and I am
thinking of a Michael Wilson, for example. Should the stories — and I do not
mean this pejoratively — be about ordinary people, as in a mother who has had
postpartum depression and then is fine? Will your profession bother to cover
anybody unless they are a big name?
Ms. Elliott: I think so. I think it depends on the forum
in which it is being covered. It may not be covered in a hard news format, but
there are many magazine formats and feature formats in which that kind of a
story does get covered, and can be better covered.
The Chairman: Right, and so you are suggesting a
combination, I assume, of both print material and electronic material format?
Ms. Elliott: Yes.
Senator Keon: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all
of you for taking the time out to come here and be helpful to our committee, and
to you, Scott, for being generous enough of self to tell your story.
I have spent a tremendous time from my past medical life on
committees and studies and in my own shop attempting to implement electronic
records, and the barrier, of course, is called privacy, but the real barrier is
mental illness. People are terrified of having that come up on the electronic
record; and particularly, if mental illness is coupled with a criminal record,
they are truly terrified.
Now, in the journalistic world, you people have the
equivalent of the electronic record. When you do your search on somebody of any
note, you pretty well can find where they have been and what they have done —
and Rona, you gave an example of a high-ranking politician who, for one reason
or other, just sort of got cast aside because of mental illness.
So in your effort to help, and I agree with what all three of
you have said, I think it is wonderful if you can do positive stories, but I
think your stories are going to have to come from winners pretty much, and I am
not sure that that is much of a sample of the population.
So I am just wondering how you think you can overcome this
tremendous fear that people with the diagnosis of mental illness that have not
been able to cope with it like you have, Scott, how you can overcome this fear
of being in contact with you, let alone doing a story on it. I would appreciate
all three of you talking about that.
Ms. Maynard: Senator Keon, are you talking about getting
them to co-operate with the story? Is that where you are coming from on this?
Senator Keon: I am talking about getting them to
co-operate with you in your efforts because your profession is so powerful.
Ms. Maynard: I think there are ways. It takes a very
sophisticated and compassionate reporter to do it. The reporter has to agree not
only to change the name, but also any identifying details, because people do
have good reason for not wanting to go public with a story like this. There have
been cases in my life as a journalist where I have advised people not to go with
their real name, even though in a moment of blind openness they thought they
I also think that it would be extremely helpful in a case
like this to get the people around that person to be part of the story and to
share their stories. One story I would very much like to read in either a
newspaper or a magazine would be a story about a suicide that would not be just
about the person, but about all the other people who remember and miss that
person and their perspective.
Senator Keon: Do you think, Rona, that you can somewhere
along the road gain the confidence of the mentally ill population to the point
that they will see you as an advocate?
Ms. Maynard: I would like to hear what Scott has to say
on that, because he has spent much more time in the trenches with this
population than I have. However, in my experience if you show people that you
are willing to listen to them, that you are interested in their story, that
their story has meaning — it is a profound human need to believe that my story,
which may be a very tough and painful story, was not in vain, and that it has
meaning, and that maybe it is going to change thinking out there, maybe it is
going to change or save a life.
Mr. Simmie: One of the challenges is not so much
encouraging people to openly tell their stories; rather, it is encouraging
reporters to write about them. Part of the problem with the whole mental health
field is that it is very complicated. Mental illness is a very complicated
topic. Addictions are very complicated. Most reporters by their nature in
newsrooms in Canada are generalists. They are trained to grasp the basics of
something fairly quickly and spit out something that is credible for the next
day's news or that evening's news, and I think the complexity, the sheer
complexity of mental illness puts some reporters off.
As you have no doubt discovered in your first round of
hearings, it is also a very political field. There are many groups with
different agendas in this field. It can be become quite complex for a reporter
who finally thinks he understands how this field is working and who phones
another interview subject that completely turns the reporter’s world upside
down. The reporter says, “I do not understand this anymore.” It took me,
honestly, the better part of that year on the Atkinson Fellowship before I felt
that I could confidently write on a wide breadth on this topic.
One of the potential solutions, I was thinking about this
last night, in Atlanta, the Centers for Disease Control offers a boot camp on
infectious diseases. It is week-long, and it is very intensive, and you meet
people who are experts from all angles of the field. I was fortunate enough to
attend one of these boot camps a year ago and I walked away with more PowerPoint
presentations than I could bear, but with a lot more knowledge than I arrived on
If Health Canada, perhaps in concert with a mental health
institution, were to offer a boot camp that is seen as somehow a sought-after
fellowship for journalists who would get a week, working on location with the
top experts in the field, that that might be one way of encouraging people to
report more on this topic.
I have to say that I looked over at the media area today and
was surprised and yet not surprised to see that there are not people here, or
that I am aware of, covering this event. This is a hugely important issue.
Part of the challenge, perhaps the greatest challenge, your
committee will face is not in getting people to tell their stories but in
getting the media to report on the work of your work, and when the
recommendations ultimately come out, to keep those recommendations in the paper,
to not just have a one-day splash with five bullets from the executive summary
and then, sadly, the report is forgotten. I know it is very much your wish that
that does not occur and it is very much my wish as well that that does not
occur, but I believe reporters must become more interested for any wide-scale
implementation to take place.
Ms. Maynard: I would just like to point out that I think
a boot camp like the one you mentioned, Scott, is in the formative stages here.
I do not want to say anything inaccurate, but I know that people at the Centre
for Addiction and Mental Health have talked about it and I think they are
working on it.
Ms. Elliott: I would just add from my own experience,
certainly in the North, there is an additional barrier there, several barriers,
in fact, to reporting on aboriginal culture, as you can imagine, getting people
to tell their stories to a non-native reporter — and, in particular, very
private issues around mental illness, suicide, that kind of thing. In a
community that is closed like Pikangikum, it is an incredible challenge. Yet, it
is not an insurmountable challenge when approached in the right way, and the
right way I guess would simply be throwing off all assumptions, especially
assumptions of what is considered normal behaviour in any given society. That,
to me, is probably one of the big challenges for reporting on mental illness —
that is, the preconceived idea of normal often prevents reporters from wanting
to do this kind of work, from venturing into areas where they might come into
contact with someone who is mentally ill. In fact, these are people who are part
of our society, and my experience has been the same, that people, by and large,
are eager to tell their stories, that, for the most part, they are like any
other segment of society.
There are people who want to tell their stories and those who
do not. There are usually two types of people in reporting, the type that move
towards the microphone and the type that move away. Hence, it is a question of
finding the type that like to talk, which in itself is a challenge, but not an
insurmountable, as I say.
My bigger challenge actually has been to convince editors and
news organizations that this is a valuable subject for reporting on. There is a
reason why I have been a parliamentary reporter now for the last several years,
and exclusively designated a parliamentary reporter. It is partly because I am
interested in it, but also it is partly because there is no mental illness
reporter. There is no social issues reporter anymore. There once was a day when
these types of reporters existed in larger numbers. So, there is a narrowing of
these types of reporters in journalistic organizations as well that I think is
playing a role here.
Senator Cochrane: You three people are here today as
media people. Now, to me, the media has a great spotlight on when it comes to
having people read what you say. You could have one of the greatest impacts on
how people view this, whether or not it is going to be positive or negative. I
think it is the media that focuses on issues that make the general public really
think about it.
Now, can you three, in your different focuses, do this for
mental illness? I am sure that I know you have higher levels that will be
looking over your shoulder and probably saying this is not important, but can
you in all sincerity break that barrier and do what is necessary to put this on
the front burner?
Mr. Simmie: I would suggest that all of us in our own
ways have tried to do that over the years but that we need to reach some sort of
critical mass where we have more reporters who find this field interesting and
worthy. Aside from the sheer complexity of the topic, I think quite frankly part
of the problem is just the stigma itself. Reporters are not immune to stigma. If
some reporters have a negative perception of what mental illness and addictions
are, they may just think I do not want to go near there.
I am not sure if the committee has been doing this as part of
your hearings, or if it might consider it, but sitting down with members of
editorial boards of newspapers and stressing to them the importance of this work
may have some impact.
Ms. Maynard: I had a great luxury. I decided what was
important to write about in Chatelaine. Because of my own experience, my
family's experience, the experience of a great many people I knew, including two
people from my kindergarten class who both had psychotic breaks, I was just able
to say we are going to do this. A lot of people are affected. When the response
came in, I was able to say, “Look, the reading public really does care about
this.” Every time we talk about these issues, we get letters. I think it is a
lot harder for people in a busy news room — and this has been mentioned — you
have both mentioned that there are not specialist reporters, that they have to
do a lot of other things besides think about how they might, not simply raise
the profile of this issue, but bring it to life. It is a big challenge to make
people care. You do not make people care just by putting numbers and statistics
in front of them. That is only part of it.
Senator Cochrane: Was this issue just a one-time thing?
Ms. Maynard: No. We did it many times. I talked about it
myself in my editor's column, and every time I said that I had suffered from
depression, I had people writing to say, oh, thank you for acknowledging this. I
was ready to stop talking about it, but it was clear there was still a need, and
we told a lot of other people's stories, too.
I commissioned a writer with bipolar disorder, Sandy Naiman
who is a reporter at the Toronto Sun, to do a piece for us about her life
and about how she was able to hold down a job, be a productive member of
society, have friends, get married. It went on all the time and I think it will
continue. I do not know, but I think it will continue after me.
Senator Cochrane: You both talked about focusing on the
positive, and then, Scott, you talked about bringing it into the high schools. I
do not know if you are aware, but there is a program right across the country —
not a program federally funded or funded in such a way that it is going to
continue — called “Roots of Empathy.” This program focuses on raising levels of
empathy resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels
of bullying and aggression.
The heart of the program is a neighbourhood infant and a
parent who visit the classroom once a month for the full school year. There is a
certified instructor present also. The mother and the infant come into the
classroom, and the students observe the infant. They observe how the infant
cannot do anything. The feelings of the children in the classroom toward this
child are talked about. The baby helps bring out their feelings. Some of the
children may not have spoken a word, but this baby brings these feelings out so
that when these children finish this program they can identify their feelings
about other things — for example, “Miss, I am sad. Miss, I am hungry.”
Generally, people with depression keep these feelings inside all the way through
the school system and into adulthood. Were you aware of this program?
Mr. Simmie: No, I was not.
Senator Cochrane: It is country-wide. The founder is Mary
Ms. Maynard: I am familiar with Mary Gordon. She is an
amazing woman. There is a need for a lot more programs. Scott talked about
adolescence, which is such a critical time. Everything that is going on now is
For example, I know of a woman in Winnipeg who is going into
high schools. Her son committed suicide and she is doing public education with
teenagers. That is great work, but why cannot kids also be learning when they
learn about other kinds of illness? They are learning about cancer — why cannot
they learn about these illnesses? Why cannot they be learning what addiction is
and that it is not a character flaw, that a brother who is abusing drugs or a
parent who drinks is not a bad person?
(French Follows - Senator Pepin — Évidemment, on parle depuis
tantôt de l'importance des)
Senator Pépin: for a while now, the discussion has been
about the importance of the media in stigmatizing those who suffer from mental
illnesses, and how they reflect all the stereotypical predispositions and myths.
The impression given is that those who are mentally ill are more violent. They
are described as such, and it is often reported that a person was arrested, but
that the person was mentally ill and committed an act of violence.
We are all aware of the study by Health Canada that reports
very few cases of mentally ill people who are arrested because of acts of
violence. Where violence has occurred, it is usually because they have used
substances or drugs or because they have not been receiving treatment.
Based on your own experience, do you know of any colleagues
who are aware of how they depict — falsely depict — people who are mentally ill,
in their news reporting?
Journalists from Châtelaine write highly structured
and well-researched articles. But when they want to make a splash, they give a
completely false picture of what mentally ill people are like in their
interpretation of the news.
Have you ever heard of a radio or television station
establishing guidelines on the use of terms that discriminate against the
mentally ill? That would be worth knowing about.
Have there ever been complaints about the misrepresentation
of people who are mentally ill in print or electronic media? Do you think
journalists should be involved in a national strategy against stigmatization?
What role do you feel they could play? That, I think, would be important.
I agree with what Mr. Simmie said earlier: We should meet the
Editor-in-Chief of a newspaper like the Toronto Star. What could we do to
get journalists involved to make them aware of the impact they have, or to get
them the change their attitude?
I know that selling newspapers is important, and that the
news comes first, but perhaps the time has come for us to take the time to get
Ms. Elliott: I would like to address the beginning of
that, because the issue of violence in relation to mental illness is something
that has been a stereotype that has been perpetrated, and I think it has been
perpetrated largely in the mass media. I have done some stories not necessarily
by the news media but by entertainment media.
A few years ago, there was a Jim Carey movie called “Me,
Myself and Irene.” I did some stories on this, because the 20th Century Fox was
advertising this film, which played on the idea of schizophrenia and split
personality disorder or multiple personality disorder, which is something
completely different, and it created this character who was violent. In the
advertisements for the movie, there was a slogan that read, “From gentle to
mental.” “Schizo” was another slogan. There was an outcry in Canada, and 20th
Century Fox in the end was forced to change the advertisements across North
America, if I am not mistaken. That is a good example of how that stereotype —
it was just a silly comedy with Jim Carey — was one of a violent schizophrenic
and a misnomer in terms of what actually was wrong with him, which was multiple
In terms of violence and mental illness, there is an issue of
violent crime that can often be perpetrated by somebody who is mentally ill.
There is a case today in Ottawa of an individual who committed murder, then
committed suicide. That case is receiving wide coverage. The daily news media
often seem to magnify the image of the violent person as though other forms of
mental illness are not, they are just not as visible, and it is only when
something dramatic like that happens that it gets attention. It is truly an
unfortunate aspect of the daily new media that does need attention and it is
thought about by journalists. It is not something that journalists do not think
about, but in community papers and in community coverage, there is this sort of
compulsory drive to cover whatever happens in a community. Whether it is covered
sensitively depends on the organization that is doing the coverage.
I would say the onus is on the organization to do adequate
follow-up, to actually follow those stories with stories about mental illness in
the community from a much broader perspective, so that the story is not just
about crime or isolated incidents that appear to come from nowhere when, in
fact, they are part of a much broader fabric. That would be my answer to the
Mr. Simmie: I would agree that the media quite often does
link violence or dangerousness with mental illness, and it always seems to be
kind of a knee-jerk reaction before we even know whether the diagnosis or the
history of mental health problems was directly linked or not to the violent act.
Some of the best research out there will tell you that 96 per
cent of the crimes committed are committed by people who do not, in fact, have
mental disorders but are perfectly sane individuals.
There was some very interesting work that was initially quite
hopeful that was done in Calgary where the World Psychiatric Association paired
with the Calgary Herald and other local media, and over a period of time
they worked with the reporters to get more accurate, more human stories about
people living with schizophrenia in particular. It focused only on the one
disorder. They measured public perceptions of schizophrenia, whether it meant
the person was likely to be dangerous or unpredictable, et cetera. They measured
a number of things, and they measured those before this campaign began, which
was about a year long — and I believe Dr. Julio Arboleda-Florez may have
presented to your committee. He was involved with this program. They measured
attitudes again, and found that they had indeed changed, that all it took was
one incident, which was a shooting that occurred on Capitol Hill in Washington
by a man who had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and where, in fact, it was quite
likely that that diagnosis played a role. This was on the front page of the
newspapers and they found that when they measured public perceptions again, that
all the good work, all the ground they had made was gone.
With your permission, I would just like to read one little
example that I brought along that struck me. I was really quite offended and
angered by it a few years back in Ottawa. What had happened was that a woman was
pushed on the subway in Toronto and she died. The man who pushed her had a
diagnosis of schizophrenia. He also had a crack addiction, and he was also a
very, very angry young man. There was testimony at his trial where he was
convicted criminally, not found not criminally responsible due to mental
disorder. There was clear testimony at his trial from forensic psychiatrists,
from the individual himself, and from others that this man was not psychotic at
the time. He was not in a delusional state, that essentially the diagnosis of
schizophrenia played no role in his actions, and yet a columnist for the
National Post who had throughout her column described this person as a
schizophrenic, then wrote the following. The man's name was Herbert Chong, by
the way: “As for Chong, he sat in the prisoner's box, but hardly was he here.
His dark hair was matted and dull and stuck in clumps from his head. His
forearms are oddly foreshortened. Sometimes he yawned. Sometimes he picked
earnestly at his fingers as apes scour their mates' bodies for nits. Sometimes
he rocked gently. Sometimes he stared at the floor and sometimes he looked the
way a big fish does in a bowl when it bangs against the glass, a little taken
aback but neither alarmed nor offended.”
Now, those words have to make you wonder, would an accused,
who did not have a psychiatric history, have been portrayed in the same light?
Just finally on that same story from the Capitol Hill
shooting in Washington, the Toronto Sun had a big headline, “No hiding
from nutters.” You can imagine the uproar had a different N-word, referring to
African-Canadians, been used, what the public outcry would have been, but yet
there was nothing that I am aware of.
I think all of us at this table are very aware of the
tendency to link this. I think it is part of human nature. It is part of the
kind of dangerous, axe-wielding, psycho movies that have been around for years
and years, that it is part of human nature to suddenly and inextricably link
these events when they occur with the diagnosis — but, no, the media must do a
better job with this.
The Chairman: I must tell you, just so you know, it is
not only the media. Yesterday, someone read us a press release from the
Government of Ontario written in the last year or two — I have to paraphrase
because I do not have it with me — announcing, as I recall, extra funding for an
assertive community treatment program. The very last sentence of the press
release said, in effect, “This will be much better for patients and make
communities much safer.” The bias and the prejudice is everywhere. That was the
Department of Health, by the way. Give me a break, right?
Mr. Simmie: Sorry, Rona, I just want to add one thing
about the subway pushing event. There was one other sort of near pushing, where
a woman had been edged forward, and this woman was the wife of a columnist in a
national newspaper. The columnist then proceeded to write a series of columns
about the need for community treatment orders in Ontario that would force people
to take their medication. What was interesting — because this had been a very
hotly debated issue within the mental health field, and it was one that the
Ontario Ministry of Health was struggling with vis-à-vis where it should go on
this contentious issue. I had some contacts inside the ministry that I spoke
with following these columns, which was when the province decided it would
indeed proceed with community treatment orders. The individual told me that the
province had been sitting on the fence, but when this series of columns came
along it pushed them over to make the decision. So, even one person can have an
inordinate amount of influence. So, we try to take the responsibility seriously.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: We are being advised that we
should have a national strategy, et cetera, but deep down inside of me I am
wondering whether the really successful campaigns, be it AIDS or breast cancer
or autism or family violence — we can go down quite a long list — it seems to me
that the successful ones and the ones that stay out there those been grassroots
government can do many things with organizations and with
departments of education, but in terms of really sustaining and raising the
interest level, would an organization like the Canadian Mental Health
Association, and I know that they are probably doing everything that they can
do, do it better than we can in government?
Ms. Maynard: Government has a critical role to play,
starting with funding the services. We have already heard how pitiful it is, and
as long as the services are underfunded, people can certainly draw the message
that it is not important. Some leadership and awareness building — government
can be a partner there.
However, let me get back to the breast cancer example. It was
grassroots in the beginning, but the business community has now gotten involved
in that one in a big way — banks, cosmetic companies. It is enormous. People are
now seeing this as a cause that they want to get behind. I remember when it was
considered revolutionary that Betty Ford was talking about a mastectomy.
The Chairman: As well, in terms of changing attitudes,
the government role on drunk driving, which has radically changed attitudes has
entirely — yes, MADD and others have had the odd advertisement — but that was
funded exclusively by government.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Of course, that is tied in
with legislation, with police legislation, with fines. There is a little more
structure there. However, there is no question that, right from the Prime
Minister and the federal Department of Health down to provincial and local
hospitals, we have to bring mental health to the forefront. I know the breast
cancer movement has had all this funding from CIBC — that is the one that comes
to my mind, but I am sure there is all kinds of others.
In terms of parenting and child development, Dr. Douglas
Willms, one of Canada's leading researchers, demonstrated that the biggest
single factor in vulnerability with children was the depression of the mother. I
have not seen that mentioned. We are talking about child care and development.
It seems to me it is so hard to capture that grassroots attention. I think
journalists have an incredible role to play in this, but does it have to be
individual journalists? Your CBC or your magazine or your newspaper, does an
individual journalist have to say “I am going to push this”?
Ms. Elliott: It has been my experience that I have had to
push this issue. It is not that, for example, The Canadian Press or the CBC has
not done reporting on mental illness before my arrival or will do after I leave.
There are other reporters who have done the work, but I have found that there is
nothing comprehensive, that everything I have done has been on the side, in
addition to my other duties. It has been a labour of love for me. The issues
that I was nurtured on as a young journalist in the North had such a deep impact
upon me that I felt it was something I would always want to report on, and in my
subsequent years as a journalist, I have had personal experiences.
The daughter of a colleague of mine killed herself just a
couple of years ago, and that had a huge impact on our news room. There are all
kinds of reasons why people get involved in these issues, but it really boils
down to a personal commitment that cuts across a job description. It must be the
same in government right now — there must be people within Health Canada who
want to see this issue have more of a profile than it does. I would say that
that has to happen, in addition to the grassroots work that is being done. It
has to come together. It cannot be one or the other. There has to be an official
commitment, just as there has to be official recognition for other problems,
other illnesses and other social issues.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Do you think we could ignite
the passions of Canadians better on the ground to push government — when I think
of resolutions coming up at our national convention, there is nothing about
mental health care. Can Canadians do it themselves? Is there a way that the
citizenship of this country can do a better job in terms of passion?
Ms. Maynard: The groups on the ground are often very
small, and the ones I have been dealing with do not have any money. I have been
working as an advisor to a small organization that is working to raise the
profile of postpartum depression, among other things. The group is operating on
a shoestring; they have one staff member. Let me give you one single example.
They wanted to do an awareness piece for every paediatrician in Ontario, because
the paediatrician is the key contact for the mom. If you want to reach these
moms, who are very embarrassed, the paediatrician is the best place to start.
There is no central registry that you can go to for all the paediatricians. You
have to do the work yourself, and it the small organization I referred to a very
long time to do it because they really did not have any resources. It is not
that the passion was not there.
Senator Cordy: Thank you very much to the three of you.
You have been extremely open with us this afternoon.
I would like to go back to the issue of the public tying the
mentally ill with police situations, with breaking the law. In a police
standoff, such as we had not that long ago in Nova Scotia, you get the TV
cameras, which visually has a major impact, the print media and so on, and the
tie-in automatically is that mentally ill means they are in trouble with the
law, means potential for violence because the TV has pictures of armed police
officers and so on. When these stories become the lead news story in the evening
— it reminds me of my teaching days: You have to tell a child a thousand times
how good they are, but if one person says they are not good, it sort of
diminishes the whole thing.
Is there anything further you wanted to add to what you said
Mr. Simmie: I wish I knew the answer. When there is a
dramatic standoff in a neighbourhood and the television cameras are there,
unfortunately, it is going to get on the evening news. The challenge for editors
and for journalists is to try to add some context. Let people know that the
majority of people with mental health issues do not pose a threat or are not
dangerous. Still I am not sure how much good that does when there is a picture
of someone being taken away in handcuffs. It is something that has contributed
to and fed stigma for many, many years, and I think it will continue. I am not
sure how we will get around it, other than more responsible reporting or more
proactive reporting at other times.
Ms. Maynard: I think there is an opportunity with some of
these stories for service-oriented sidebars as well as contextual information.
For example, there was a widely reported case in Toronto a
couple of months ago involving a seemingly happy young mother who killed herself
and one of her little kids. The case got a lot of play. With a story like that,
there is an opportunity to do sidebars that point out two things: First of all,
this is extremely common; it is underdiagnosed. If somebody had got to this
woman earlier, there might have been a very different outcome. Most of them are
not going to be violent to anybody. This could be your sister. This could be you
and here is where you can call if you notice one of these signs. I think that
would be a huge help. I am chagrined to say that I do not remember how much of
this information the papers actually were providing.
Senator Cordy: I may not be recalling the same story, but
there were interviews with neighbours who were saying the woman was a fine
neighbour and that they did not know anything was wrong. So, maybe the media can
do the kinds of things you suggested. The person is somebody's daughter or son.
They are sisters and brothers, those kinds of things. Highlighting the need for
more services might be a way of doing the sidebar.
Mr. Simmie: One of the things, and you will have to
forgive me if I mentioned it in my opening remarks, we found is that any time
that you write an explanatory story that does include contact numbers and
information for access points to the system, people will consistently tell you
from those agencies that their phones ring off the hook. I think it is worth
bearing in mind as reporters to try to include that kind of tangible, useful
information as well.
Senator Cordy: Louise, in your written material, you
talked about suicide addiction. I was not quite sure what you mean by suicide
Ms. Elliott: That is because I forgot to put a comma
between “suicide” and “addiction.”
Senator Cordy: I thought maybe that was it.
Ms. Elliott: Suicide and addiction.
Senator Cordy: You talked about crisis management. We had
police officers before us this morning as witnesses, and they talked about their
frustrations in taking a person who has attempted suicide to outpatients and
having to wait there for up to 10 hours to get help. So, in addition to the
person not getting help, the idea again goes back to what we spoke about
earlier, where the person needs a police escort and for 10 hours the police
escort is waiting with them.
What do you mean by crisis management?
Ms. Elliott: In a strategy, I mean. I would defer to
Scott on this, but my understanding of it from speaking with people who would
like to see these strategies in place is that community crisis management
involves all levels of crisis management. So, somebody needs attention, yes, you
have a police escort, but then you would also have an adequate service at the
receiving end, say, at a hospital where that person would receive attention on
an as-needs basis. In other words, if it is a crisis that person is not waiting.
There would then be follow-up for the family members. There would be follow-up
for the community. There would be prevention. There would be a coordinated
response to an incident rather than, as currently exists in the North, no
response in a lot of communities, so you see rashes of suicides taking place. In
very rare cases where I was, you see violent incidents, although that is very
rare in Ojibwa communities, but there have been a few.
Senator Cook: Thank you very much for being here. Yours
is an honourable profession; we are either completely captivated with it or
addicted to it. The first thing we do in the morning is run for the paper or
turn on the news; at the end of the day, we turn on the evening news. To bring a
balance to that is the challenge of your profession.
The power of that word is what is hanging inside me more and
more as I hear this, and the word is “stigma.” We hear the power of that word
over and over and over, and for me it is taking on a new significance, because
in my mind it is becoming a human rights issue. Unless we get rid of that word,
Mr. Chair, and use something else or apply it or do something, I do not think we
are going to move forward.
For me, the challenge, and I ask for your opinion on it, is
the integration of health services. Right now, mental health is outside the
loop. If we could bring it into the mainstream of the delivery of health
services, maybe we could help it. The empowerment is going to have to come from
the individual, the consumer, I believe. The only way around this is to empower
the individual to bring about change, because there it is and the media consumes
this in all aspects of our being.
So, for me, the challenge is this: If we cannot get rid of
stigma, we will change the word in some manner or fashion, but I think the
empowerment will have to come from the individual with all of adding to it. I
would like your opinion.
Ms. Maynard: One comment I would like to make is that the
media can empower consumers to ask for better care, to monitor their own lives
and the lives of people around them so that they will be alert for the signs of
trouble. However, if there is not anywhere to go, then people get stuck very
early on in their efforts to effect any kind of change. I have seen letter after
letter saying, “It is all very well to tell me I should be asking my doctor
these questions, but I cannot find a doctor, let alone one who will be qualified
to deal with these issues.” For parents of teenagers who need mental health
services for their kids, it is really heart-wrenching to watch what they go
through trying to get help for them.
Mr. Simmie: I would agree, senator, that it is a human
rights issue. As I was drafting my comments last night — journalists are
terrible procrastinators, some of us — I was thinking about what stigma and
discrimination are. They are a human rights issue, I believe. As you know, they
condemn people to unemployment, to appalling housing.
In my own instance, I was off on disability, finally getting
back to work and was going to get an RRSP loan. I went to the bank, a bank I had
dealt with for years, and they said they would be happy to give me a loan. I
told them I would like to get some insurance on the loan, because I was just
returning to work and was not sure how long I would be there. They asked me to
fill out a form, and of course one of the questions was, “Have you ever had a
mental illness?” And once you tick “yes” in that box, you will be denied
insurance at Canadian banks. That is a human rights issue.
A friend of mine down the street, who is a lawyer and has an
excellent reputation, had seen a psychiatrist once. She used to work for a large
law firm and decided to set up private practice. When she tried to purchase
private insurance, she was asked if she had ever seen a psychiatrist, and she
was denied insurance.
These are human rights issues; these types of questions
should be legislated against, in my opinion, or should be challenged in court.
So, perhaps that is one way.
In terms of empowerment, yes, empowerment ultimately does
come from the individual, but I do not think that empowerment can occur in a
society that places little value on people with mental health issues. I think it
is the time of your life when you feel more powerless than ever.
Senator Cook: In terms of integration of services,
tertiary care, primary care, would that help?
Mr. Simmie: I think there are pros and cons. One of the
pros is that people visit their GP generally. Therefore, a GP has a perfect
opportunity to pick up signs or to question people about signs of their mental
health or addiction. It is a perfect screening or entry point.
On the other hand, I visited New Brunswick as part of the
series, and in that province, almost everywhere, you will find community mental
health centres. They are called “Community Mental Health Centres.” If you walk
in the door of one of those centres and say, “I am not feeling that well,”
someone will find out what the problem is, and they know the landscape. They
know the mental health landscape so they will hook you up with the appropriate
agency or physician. So, in some ways, there are advantages to having a distinct
sort of mental health labelled system, but the two are ultimately and
Senator Callbeck: Is it true with all insurance companies
— that a person will be denied if they have a history?
Mr. Simmie: I could not say. I can only tell you about my
The Chairman: We can find out.
We are running late, so I would like to ask you a question
and leave it with you, to think about, to get back to me with an answer.
One of you said that it would be unfortunate to have our
mental health report come out and only get small coverage in the paper, say, and
then disappear. That was not the case with our previous health report, in part
because it was so radically different from the Romano report and, in part,
because a number of provincial governments are proceeding to do many of the
things that we recommended that he did not. So, it has been kept alive, not such
in the media, but by people on the ground. However, in that report, we were not
dealing with the issue of how to change attitudes. We were dealing with the
issue of how to solve a practical problem.
I sure would like some advice, when you have thought about
it, as to what has to be done to keep the mental health issue alive. We can put
out a report and make speeches, but to get this issue out of the closet and keep
it as a major issue before governments at all levels, one needs a mechanism for
doing that. Those of us who have been in and around governments a lot of our
lives are inclined to think of governmental mechanisms; however, often there are
other ways of doing things. If you do not mind, I would ask you to get back to
us on your thoughts on a mechanism. We see this report as the first step in a
long journey. It is not the end of the journey. We have to put in place a
mechanism that will carry the journey, and I would love to have the thoughts of
people from your end of the business, the communications business, as to what
that mechanism would be.
Thank you very much for attending here today.
Our next panel will deal with early intervention. They are
appearing together as a group, as it were, in the sense that they have all been
involved in very similar things. Tara Marttinen was a patient early on. She will
be followed by Phyllis Grant-Parker and Dr. Malla. Phyllis is from Ottawa and
Dr. Malla is from the Douglas Hospital — and for those of you who do not know
Montreal, what was once the Verdun Mental Hospital is now called the Douglas
Please proceed, Tara.
Ms. Tara Marttinen, As an individual: I am a third-year
honour psychology student at the University of Western Ontario, and I am also an
advocate for those living with mental illness.
On December 4, I composed a letter and sent it to your
committee. It was published in your first report of your hearings. It was on
behalf of the Parent Partnership Preventing Psychosis.
I am going to talk a little bit about myself, and then make
some recommendations pertaining to the third report.
The story of my life begins three years before I was born,
and it starts with somebody I do not know to this day — my father. When my dad
was 16 years old, he committed a minor offence for which he was jailed. In the
days following this offence, he attempted suicide for the first time, and it was
not his last time. This should have been a warning sign that something was
amiss, that maybe something was going on with him, but nobody really red-flagged
it. Nobody took it as anything. When my dad was 19, the time when I was
conceived, he began to behave very strangely. He was acting aggressively, very
impulsively, erratic, and he was speaking very irrationally.
When I was born, my mother would not let my father be alone
with me because she was afraid of his behaviour and the things he might do. At
about the same time, my father was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for the
first time, and it definitely was not his last time. He was in and out of
hospital in Sault Ste. Marie and in North Bay for three years, before he
committed suicide in June 1984. My father was never diagnosed with any disorder
in the three years he spent in and out of hospitals. However, after an inquest
into his death, he was diagnosed posthumously with schizophrenia — and this is
his legacy that I have and carry with me today.
When I was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, I was 16. It
took me less than six months to get the diagnosis my father got six years too
late, and I had not even had a break with reality. Break with reality is what
happens in psychosis. We lose contact with reality. Early intervention is the
approach to treatment that saved my life. Let me repeat: I believe it saved my
life, because we see the story of my father, and how I came to be treated by
this cutting-edge approach is actually a pretty interesting story.
Given my mother’s experience with my father, we understood
that I would not receive adequate care in Sault Ste. Marie — which is a Northern
Ontario community, basically said to be in the middle of nowhere and nowhere. My
mother called an uncle here in Toronto who is a psychologist. My uncle told her
about the treatment program that had opened up in London, and I was one of the
first clients accepted in its first year. The Prevention & Early Intervention
Program for Psychoses — PEPP— has a waiting period of up to two weeks, and
clients are seen by a psychiatrist, a psychometrist and a psychologist. Clients
are also assigned case managers who monitor their ongoing treatment and care.
The case managers also act as liaisons for these clients within the community.
Hence, case managers, on behalf of their clients, access programs and services
that PEPP does not offer — for example, disability pensions and educational
services. Family members are encouraged to be active participants in the loved
I like to mention this, because my grandmother was told to
butt out of my father's care. In fact, she did not even know what was going on
with him. She did not even know he was released from the hospital. He committed
suicide about eight hours after he was released.
I was fortunate to benefit from the PEPP program, which
offers a diverse range of services, including social development groups,
employment counselling and a peer-led support group. Clients coming out of this
program are, in my experience, a lot healthier and more productive — and I say
“in my experience,” because I ran a youth group there for two years. In
recognition of the healthy clients it produces, it hires them to speak publicly
about their experiences in the community, and I was one of the first people PEPP
hired. Dr. Malla recommended me for this job.
I have had the privilege to share my experiences and news of
enduring good health with students, nurses, doctors, and all kinds of community
organizations. I am here today not as a representative of PEPP specifically but
to represent everybody who has benefited from early intervention programs, and
for those who have not been able to enjoy the advantages early intervention has
I will now talk about my recommendations. I have read the
committee’s third report — Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction:
Issues and Options for Canada—Interim Report of the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Report 3
— and I recommend increased access to early intervention programming.
Section 1.4 of chapter 1 is entitled “Early Detection and Intervention.” I
believe that it is the federal government's responsibility to set standards for
acute care, in addition to standards for ongoing treatment. To my knowledge,
there are currently no best practice guidelines in the mental health arena. It
is my belief that standardizing care practices and instituting accountability
measures will ensure that more people have access to current treatments and that
fewer people will fall through the cracks.
Section 2.1 addresses the needs of children and adolescents.
It speaks particularly of introducing a mental health program into the schools.
In the case of psychiatric disability like schizophrenia and psychosis, I do not
think this is a good idea — the needs of these clients are very complex.
However, I do believe that counselling and referral services should be provided
and that the educators and counsellors should be kept up-to-date with respect to
local treatment options. I do believe that developmental disorders like autism
require special consideration.
Section 4.1 addresses stigma and discrimination, which I have
learned a lot about. A point I find particularly relevant is that, regarding the
mental health ambassadors, I have spoken to a diverse range of individuals and
groups regarding my illness. Because I am healthy, fairly articulate and
approachable, people are generally more receptive to learning about the disease,
and I try to shatter those barriers of stigma that people often have. Hence, I
strongly recommend implementing a mental health ambassadors program that is not
volunteer-based. I believe this should be a paid position and this program would
eliminate some of the stigma I think that a lot of people with mental illness
have to endure.
The Chairman: Before going to Phyllis, I have one quick
question. What is a psychometrist?
Ms. Marttinen: A psychometrist does cognitive testing and
measures cognitive functioning.
Ms. Phyllis Grant-Parker, As an individual: Today, I am
going to speak to you as a parent based on my own experience and also that of so
many families that I have met over the last three years.
Our family has suffered the pain of facing a system that
failed and did not provide early intervention, but we have also known the relief
and the joy of being part of one that did. I am going to be able to talk to you
from both sides, and I will talk to you mainly from a family perspective.
When you watch the impact on your child of a psychotic break
and you learn that he or she has a serious mental illness, one that they are
going to have to learn to manage for the rest of their lives, it is devastating
as a parent, absolutely devastating. When you face the reality that there is
basically no treatment that you can find for your child, it just becomes totally
Our son's illness presented when he was 16 years of age, in
grade 11. Like so many other families, we faced many barriers just trying to
find him treatment to support his recovery and managing to keep ourselves well
and to keep our family intact. With luck, mixed with a large dose of tenacity
and the sheer willpower to keep fighting for what our son needed, we were able
to survive. However, there were many times during his three-year journey to
recovery that we were really fearful that he would not survive and that we would
not have the strength to see him through it.
One of the most stressful issues that a family faces is just
in securing treatment. In our case, we were turned away or our son was turned
away four times from emergency. On the fourth — three times. On the fourth time,
he was taken by ambulance — his second suicide attempt. We almost lost our son
that night. Many of the triggers, the indicators, the early symptoms and signs
were totally missed by professionals.
Another enormous stressor is fighting to be part of the
treatment plan. At 16, our son was advised that he could refuse treatment. He
had to proactively sign a form that would allow us as parents to be part of his
recovery and allow the doctors to speak with us. Our son was given his diagnosis
of schizophrenia at the age of 16 without any parental support there for him.
When you are young and you have mental illness, it is like
the system expects you to immediately be an independent adult. In Ottawa, where
we live, we could not find him the necessary age-appropriate treatment. The
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario — CHEO — had no program. The Ottawa First
Episode Psychosis Clinic at the Ottawa Hospital had a six-month wait. As a
result, my son was hospitalized in a tertiary care hospital housed with
chronically ill adults and no rehabilitation program. It is a pretty bleak
forecast for a teenager and for his family.
After countless hours of research on the Internet, we
discovered the Whitby Mental Health Centre, and this is when the story turns
bright. It is an adolescent rehab program, and we were lucky to have our son
admitted because there are only seven beds to serve all of Ontario. This program
offered a multidisciplinary team approach, with psychiatrists, social workers,
youth workers, rec therapists. Families were encouraged to participate. In fact,
it was essential that you did in order to have your child participate. We were
assigned a social worker with weekly family meetings. Parents attended a 14-week
educational series, and they provided a seamless transition for our son. When he
turned 18, he was transferred to their similar program, the Young Adult program.
Hence, while we were very fortunate as a family to get access
to this kind of support, it was at a tremendous family cost. It was a five-hour
drive from Ottawa for us to see our son. The emotional impact of having him ill
that far away was tremendous. Over the 14 months, we drove 49,000 kilometres,
lost 50 per cent of our family income, closed a family business, and had $29,000
worth of out-of-pocket expenses.
Therefore, based on our experience and the experience of many
other families that I interface with, I recommend the following as the best ways
to support caregivers for those suffering the onset of psychosis.
First, I strongly believe that we need a national policy on
mental health care and early intervention psychosis that guarantees our rights
to treatment and support. We need adequately funded early intervention programs
or centres of excellence without wait periods and accessible to all Canadians.
These need to be staffed by multidisciplinary teams that can offer world-class
best practices and standards.
We need age-appropriate treatment for adolescents and young
adults that includes psychosocial rehab, to strengthen their recovery and to
educate them to manage their illness effectively. This will reduce the need for
long-term parental care and learned dependency.
We need trained emergency services personnel who can identify
the early warning symptoms. I find it odd that we would actually have emergency
people who cannot identify this.
I agree with the committee's proposal of a national portal
that provides access to information and services, because, quite frankly,
without searching the Internet, we would never have found the help that we
Each patient and family needs to be assigned a case manager
to help them navigate the system and to develop an individualized
patient-centred care plan, as was identified in your initial report.
I also recommend that each family have a social worker
assigned to them who works with the family unit to help them cope with the
impacts of the illness.
As far as increased support from the education system, I
recommend that the provincial education ministries mandate increased education
instruction for students and faculty on early detection and stigma and how to
support a student who is in recovery.
For some people in the early stages of their treatment during
a recovery, aggression and violence can be an issue, and many families face
this. Some people, due to their home environment, whether it is real or
imagined, just cannot stay at home during treatment. In these circumstances, to
support caregivers, we need quality residential programs that provide patients
with secure living while receiving treatment and during recovery.
We need mobile crisis teams that caregivers can call, as
opposed to calling police as first-line response. I can tell you that it breaks
a parent's heart to see their young child taken away in handcuffs in a police
car. We need increased training to response by police and ambulance attendants,
et cetera, to provide appropriate intervention.
We also need some sort of respite care for families who are
dealing with their loved one at home.
One of your questions was this: Should caregivers be more
involved and what kind of involvement should they have? I think it is essential
that families be involved because we hold the benchmark of our family member. We
know the person before their illness, and this illness can, during the early
treatment time, seriously change behaviours. The medical team only sees the sick
person. Hence, we hold the benchmark, because true recovery is really to return
a person to him or herself, to come back to who they were as close as possible.
Therefore, parents and families need to be welcomed as part of the team, and we
need a national or provincial ombudsman who can intervene on a family's behalf.
Changes to the legislation are required, to allow greater family involvement and
to make it easier for caregivers to access care, even when their family member
may resist treatment.
One thing for sure — the age of consent for youth should be a
minimum of 18, just as it is for any other illness. Why would we allow a 16 year
old in the middle of a psychotic break to make his or her decisions without
Federal, provincial and regional governments also have to
work together to develop consumer advisory committees. I also think that it
would be a good consideration to have family members as part of those
I think one of the things we face, particularly in Ontario,
is that children's mental health falls under the Ministry of Children and Youth
Services, as opposed to health care. As such, it is extremely cumbersome to have
any seamless transition. I believe that even young adolescents, aged 14, say,
who experience early psychosis, that at the onset of psychosis they be provided
access to what are more considered the adult early intervention programs.
Dr. Ashok Malla, Head of Research, Douglas Research Hospital:
Thank you for asking me to be part of this presentation, and particularly part
of the two presentations that we have just heard.
I am a professor of psychiatry at McGill, and I hold a Canada
Research Chair in Early Psychosis. However, before that, two years ago, I was
working in London and actually was fortunate enough to be in a position to start
the first early intervention program for psychoses in this country, and also
fortunate enough to have persons like Tara to work with us after she got better,
and her family.
To put this in some perspective, psychosis is just one
example of some very serious mental disorders that we have to deal with in every
population. There is not a single community on this earth that does not have to
deal with mental illness.
What makes it particularly serious is that all of these
disorders have their onset in adolescence, and they are lifelong in the sense
that the vulnerability to these disorders never goes away. It is like having
diabetes. You may be free of symptoms but you are not free of the illness. To
put it in another perspective, when people present with the first onset of
psychosis, most of the time they are hospitalized. They do not have to be if we
have proper programs. Some of our own data that we have just finished collecting
tells us that 30 per cent of people who come to hospital with their first onset
of psychosis have already had some legal involvement. Most of it is minor legal
involvement, but because they do not know how to negotiate the system, they got
into a lot more trouble than they would otherwise. Fifteen per cent have already
attempted suicide. Fifteen per cent have injuries sustained either through
suicidal attempts or through violence from others and 15 per cent have shown
some aggressive behaviour. These are all untreated people. On top of that, the
average delay in treatment of psychosis is about one to two years. For
depression it is eight years. For phobic and anxiety disorders it is 26 years.
That gives you some flavour for where we are in recognition of early signs of
As to specific comments about the report, of what has been
said by Tara and Phyllis I fully support. I certainly cannot put it in any
better words, but I will add a few things, both from my own experience and from
the research that we have been doing over the last many years.
First of all, what Phyllis said, if you think about it, is
really asking for the ordinary which our system has made extraordinary. People
are simply asking for families to be involved in their loved one's care. There
is nothing extraordinary about that, but the system generally rejects it.
I think the committee's report is absolutely correct in
assuming that the mental health care system functions more from a provider's
perspective than from a client or user's perspective. This is unacceptable and
has to be changed. The changes that are necessary include somewhat of a complex
but a necessary relationship that has to be formulated between community focus
services, hospitals and academic centres, partly because the existing knowledge
is more in the academic centres and hospitals and yet the services really have
to be delivered from the community.
One of the most limiting factors for improvement is lack of
proper training, and in all of the interventions I think one of the most
unfortunate things is that we know so much more than what we use in treatment.
The knowledge in treatment of mental disorders has really blossomed in the last
20 years, and I am not talking about just medication here. I am talking more
about the non-medical interventions, and very few of them are used. About 10 per
cent of patients actually receive proper family intervention — and yet there are
at least 25 studies showing that family intervention reduces recurrence rates by
50 per cent.
Culturally appropriate services, item 1.2, is an essential
element. I learned more about it since going to Montreal, because Montreal is
much more of a multicultural, multiethnic society. We have areas where 44 per
cent of the population of the area were born outside the country. Culturally
appropriate services must involve more than just translation or interpretation.
It requires proper training of staff, flexibility and access to services, and
ability for the system to simplify itself for the sake of culturally diverse
Yesterday I was asked to see a young man who, unfortunately,
does not meet criteria for our program, because it is not his first episode, but
I saw him anyway. He is of Cambodian parents. He could hardly say one word. He
was so acutely ill, and he had just been discharged from another hospital after
spending seven days there. The father did not have a clue about how to negotiate
the system. They had no medication. I happened to have some samples, so we
provided him those. In addition, the family did not have the money to buy
medication. The big gap in our health care system is that people have to buy
their own medication.
Item number 1.4, early detection and intervention, we all
have to admit that we do not know what causes mental illness nor do we know what
causes the majority of medical disorders. What we do know, as much as we know
about medical disorders, is about risk factors. We know some prominent risk
factors of who is going to be at higher risk for mental disorders and who is
not, especially for schizophrenia and manic depressive illness. We also know
that delay in treatment of these disorders is detrimental to the welfare of the
person, the family, and not only that, it does not bode well for their long-term
outcome. The interesting thing is that the outcome you get with these disorders
at the end of one year is what you are going to get at the end of 15 years, not
much changes after that. So, most of the window of opportunity is the first
couple of years.
We have reported, others have reported, delays of one to two
years, as I said, and believe it or not that delay is not in people not going to
seek treatment. That is a very small part of the delay. The larger part of the
delay is the run-around they get after they seek treatment. On average, people
seek treatment for one to two years and have contact four times with different
health professionals before they get actual treatment.
What are the solutions? I would give you my opinion about
some general solutions. I think we need generic mental health literacy programs,
but not just about what is mental illness, what is schizophrenia, but about risk
factors. Populations, especially high school teachers and students, need to be
taught about what are these risk factors, who is at higher risk.
Measures for general improvement in the lives of those who
are particularly at high risk I think have never been attempted seriously. I
will give you some examples. These would include children of those who already
have an established mental illness. They are going to be at least 10 to 40 times
at higher risk for those very mental disorders. People with lower socioeconomic
status, people living in densely populated areas of urban cities, especially in
the age period between 8 and 12, people of visible ethnic minorities, especially
if they live in non-ethnic areas — it is now fairly well-established that they
are at higher risk for mental disorders, serious mental disorders. Adolescents
who are already at high risk for substance abuse — for example, cannabis, even
moderate use of cannabis before the age of 15, increases your risk for
schizophrenia by about three and a half times.
With respect to specific solutions, I think we should follow
the example of National Health Service in England and Wales in establishing a
national strategy for early intervention in psychoses. They have just dedicated
39 million pounds per year and established one large service per million unit of
population, and following best practices. At a federal level, it would be
important to fund several demonstration projects in early intervention in
psychoses and other serious mental disorders with fully equipped funding for
model service delivery, for evaluation and research, so that we can generate new
knowledge and prepare the provinces for a negotiated strategy in this field.
Unfortunately, knowledge in this area cannot necessarily be translated entirely
from one country to another, because our health care systems are different.
We need specifically marked funding — this is very serious
for research and early intervention in schizophrenia and manic depressive
illness through bodies like the CIHR or, preferably, directly from Health
Canada, but not through competition with biomedical research. The reason for
that is that biomedical research is much further developed in its methodologies.
Their methodologies are more simple and straightforward. I do that research as
well and believe me it is so much easier for me to get a grant in neuro-imaging
than it is to get a grant for early intervention.
We need to define a clear pathway for transfer of knowledge
with appropriate training. For example, we need to do studies in early
intervention where we involve primary health care, teach them how to recognize
mental illness early and then see if we can actually transfer that knowledge
School mental health programs — I would agree with Tara's
statement that they are important, but we have to be very careful about what we
introduce into the schools. They are generally very effective for certain types
of problems, but they have to be guided and done in collaboration with academic
mental health services.
In terms of 1.5, enhancing access, I think access should be
open and flexible, maintaining systemic integrity only as far as it serves the
needs of the clients and their families. Sometimes I think systems become very
rigid and people fall through the cracks. For example, with respect to a
low-incidence but very severe disorder such as schizophrenia, people should have
direct access. They should not always have to go through a family doctor. If
they feel they need access, they should at least have access to an assessment,
and that assessment should be conducted in the least restrictive environment,
not necessarily in a clinic. We have done this for many years, and I can tell
you that it engages young people very quickly, rather than expecting them to
come to your clinic or to your hospital.
Alternatives to hospital care in general I think should be
reformulated and not simply made extensions of the old system whether they are
in the community or in the hospital. For example, the idea of a day hospital I
think is very appropriate — and I am sure some of my colleagues would disagree
with me — for an older population but it is not appropriate for very young
people. You will not get 17 and 18 year olds coming to a day hospital and
sitting there all day. We need to think very differently about where we take
their care to them, whether it is in the coffee shop, in school or at home.
I would recommend a study of the system that has been running
for several years now in Birmingham, England, where an alternative hospital care
for young people is not situated in some hospital or clinic but is in houses, in
residential areas, where people who have graduated from these programs staff
these places in conjunction with other trained staff. This is less stigmatizing.
One of the incentives to do this in Birmingham was the very high population of
East Indian people, who have about five or six times the rate of psychosis, and
are very reluctant to seek services. This has really sorted out their problems.
Their rate of involuntary admission has almost disappeared.
Children and adolescents need special attention, because most
psychiatric disorders have their onset during this age or at least they show
certain signs of these risk factors I talked about. However, separation of
child/adolescent from adult services I think is artificial and it is
counterproductive. While resources for this age group shall be protected at all
costs, disorders with onset during adolescence must be treated within a system
that is continuous, so that the expertise is available where the person needs
care, as opposed to the person going for so X-number of years to this unit and
then being transferred when they turn that magical age of 18 to another set of
Last comment I want to make about stigma. It is needless to
say that it is probably our greatest challenge and a great deal of research is
needed before we can talk of effective intervention. In my opinion, there is
little point in spending a lot more money in yet more service. I suggest that
the study of an intervention to reduce stigma should begin with the service
providers. There is a great deal of stigmatizing behaviour, even unconscious
stigmatizing behaviour among the service providers. For example, what Phyllis
mentioned, leaving the families out, as if it has nothing to do with them. I
always tell my students and my staff, “When you see a person who is going to be
your patient, think how you are going to treat your brother, your daughter, your
son. Just put yourself in that position and then start talking to them.” The
stigma campaigns and stigma research should really boil down to that level, that
micro level of units.
We should try to deliver services and benefits in such a way
that it retains the individual's capacity for independence, whatever that level
of independence may be. We have a system where either we provide nothing or we
give them this patient role for the rest of their lives and then make them
dependent on what we have to provide them. This is a very delicate thing to do,
but I think we have to attempt to do it — and you have an excellent example here
of someone entirely independent and who has as good a future as I hope and I
wish for my own children.
I would submit that we have one of the better mental health
care centres in the world, but I think we have very far to go. I have seen
mental health care systems in Japan, in Switzerland. I can tell you that ours is
phenomenally better, but I think we need to do a lot more to make it truly,
truly accessible to people who need it the most.
Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Thank you to all three of you.
What percentage of people who need it would get early
Dr. Malla: A very small percentage. There are a handful
of early intervention programs currently in Canada. The early intervention
movement really started in the mid-1990s — and actually started in Melbourne,
We started our program in 1997; it was one of the early
programs. There is a lot to be worked out about what is early intervention. It
is not simply providing treatment early. If we just simply bring forward the
treatment we used to provide and provide it early, it is not early intervention.
We need two things. We need an early intervention approach, which is a different
approach to treating young people, taking into consideration their developmental
needs — that they may recover completely. We have to keep that in mind. We also
need to reduce this delay in treatment. So, it is kind of a two-pronged
The Chairman: When you said that a very small number of
people who need it get early intervention, are you talking 5 per cent to 10 per
Dr. Malla: That would be optimistic.
The Chairman: You talked about a stigma from people who
actually work in the mental health field — to me, that is counterintuitive. One
would assume that the group that most likely would have dealt with the issue of
stigma and gotten rid of it were people working in the mental health system. I
am surprise to hear anecdotally at least that people working in the mental
health system have the same attitudes as the general population. That is
Can you talk about a couple of examples, and Tara may well
have had some too as a patient, that you ran into when you were dealing with
people who were supposedly providing service to you?
Ms. Grant-Parker: A couple of examples quickly come to
mind. One would be when we had to take our son back by ambulance when he had
The Chairman: Back to Whitby.
Ms. Grant-Parker: No, no, before Whitby. We were still
seeking treatment for him and he had a break. We had to take him by ambulance,
and when we got there, we knew exactly what he needed because he was — I am
sorry, he was currently being treated at Whitby; he was home for the weekend. We
knew he needed a particular medication. The nurse was very upset at me, for
pushing for this medication. I told her, “You need to realize that this
particular medication for my son is the same as an inhaler or oxygen would be
for someone with asthma who could not breathe.” Hence, just being able to get
recognition of the severity would be desirable.
At CHEO, they have what parents in Ottawa refer to as the
“funny little room.” When our children were brought in by ambulance, they would
go into a particular room, so nobody else could see them. That room had a
window. Now, for someone who is suffering from psychosis and may have delusional
thoughts, to be placed in a room with a little window, where people watch you,
and where every time there is an announcement it is heard in that room, that is
However, being told in emergency — understand that most
parents do not ever really even know what is happening. If you have never been
to emergency before, and you know nothing about psychosis — and I had no idea
what was happening. My son was starting to behave differently, and suddenly he
did not want to talk to me, did not want me involved. I said innocently to the
doctor, “I don't know. I feel like there is something wrong with me or
something.” He said, “Well, quite frankly, I think you are probably the
problem.” It is hard for me to believe that in the year 2002 I would hear that
remark from a doctor in a highly reputable facility.
The Chairman: That tells you a lot.
Ms. Grant-Parker: The other place where there is great
stigma is in the high schools themselves. My son was an honour student, junior
athlete of the year for this high school, but when he became sick no teacher, no
coach, no administrator ever, ever called to find out how he was. There has been
no contact whatsoever. There are two places one can seek help from at that age,
and one of those places is in the school. School is a huge community, and you
look for help there, and you look for it in your medical staff.
The Chairman: Everybody ran for cover.
Ms. Grant-Parker: We are a little tenacious in our
household, so I called the school and told them that I really did not think this
had been a particularly cool thing. I told them that had my son been suffering
from cancer, the school no doubt would have had a fundraiser and his room would
have been filled with gifts. Instead, I said, my son has become persona non
grata — nobody wants anything to do with him because of the stigma that goes
with it. These were my son’s friends. He has been in the process of having to
make an entire new set of friends.
The Chairman: Tara, any comment you would like to make?
Ms. Marttinen: One of my first talks was with a group of
nurses in the psyche ward at the London Health Sciences Centre. After I gave my
talk, they were all coming up to me and saying, “Well, that was really
interesting. You do stuff; you have a life. I only see you when you are ill. I
did not know you have a life.” The nurses do not understand or have a conception
of who we are beyond our illness. It is important to have mental health
ambassadors or young people, clients, visit with nurses and doctors, talk about
their life when they are healthy, let the nurses and doctors see them when they
are healthy, because then they would be able to personalize it a little bit
The Chairman: Even though the nurses you referred to are
psychiatric nurses, they did not get that there was another you outside of the
Ms. Marttinen: No. They are desensitized; all they see is
the illness. They treat the person as an irrational being, dependent and
child-like, basically. I have never been in the hospital. I am really lucky. I
never had to experience some of the stigma that can go on in the hospital.
However, I have friends who have told me horror stories, just of things that
have gone on with them — where doctors said inappropriate things in front of the
them. It is really sad.
Senator Cordy: Tara, that goes to Phyllis's point of the
family being involved and having the benchmark — treating the person. You are
treating a person and it all becomes all-inclusive.
I want to go back to early detection and intervention. Tara,
you were fortunate, in that your mother knew somebody within the system so was
able to get you information.
Phyllis, you have already told us that you are tenacious and
you used the Internet and got information.
What about families that do not have access to the Internet,
that do not have access to somebody within the system? How are they coping? Are
they getting early intervention?
Dr. Malla: Maybe I can respond to that. I think the quick
answer would be no, because we really do not have an early intervention strategy
in any of the provinces. British Columbia may have come closest to it. When I
was in Ontario, up until two years ago, we formed a working group and eventually
persuaded the government to put some money into early intervention, which,
unfortunately, came after I left so I did not get any benefit of that. However,
it has come through, and hopefully it will be part of the policy that took about
As we have all said, we need the kind of national strategy
that Australia is looking at, the national strategy that the National Health
Services in England has already started, and they are into their third year now.
Right now, these are elite programs. I would be the first one to say that my
program is an elite program. I started it. I went to Montreal. I was recruited
there just to do that. Maybe the population that we serve has access to it, but
people on the other side of Montreal do not have that access. Most of the
country does not have access to these kinds of services.
It is not a simple thing to do, either. Early case detection
is very complex. Early signs are easily mistaken as adolescent turmoil or
sometimes simply brushed off as cannabis use. However, those of us who are
working on the academic side of early intervention have now programs where we
can teach people. The problem is funding. We are just starting a program in
Montreal, working with CLSCs, which are our community health agencies and
primary health care, but we have to practically beg for funds. We have a few
donations here and there. You cannot get funds to do things like that. Some
people do not really believe it is doable.
I had a comment that I do not mind sharing with you. I had a
research grant recently rejected — which I am resubmitting. One of the comments
from the reviewer was that you cannot do this because family doctors will never
learn how to recognize psychosis because they are too busy. That was the major
comment. Of course, we are not going to be successful in every case, but we have
to try something different because nothing else is working.
For 55 per cent of these patients, their first contact is the
family doctor. Only 5 per cent, and I am quoting you our own data, but this is
actually a little bit better than data from France, only 5 per cent of them
actually get into treatment the first time they make a visit. Most of the time
they are missed, not because family doctors are not good but because separating
out what could be adolescent crisis from psychosis is a highly specialized
skill. As well, there are going to be false positives — and some physicians
think it is a waste of an hour. However, in my opinion, it is a good use of an
hour to say, no, you do not have a psychosis. That is the system we need, one
where there is a capacity for immediate assessment.
If a mother calls and says, “I have a son who is 17 and I
think he is agreeable today to see you,” and we respond, “We will see him in two
weeks,” the chances are that in two weeks he will say, “I never said I will see
you.” However, on that day, if we were to send somebody out, just have a little
chat, nothing formal, just make that contact — that is the sort of system we
need. I can tell you that it is not any more expensive than having hospital
beds. We have just done a health economic study to show that, in fact, it is not
just only cost-neutral, it is actually cost-effective.
Senator Cordy: In my past life I was an educator, an
elementary school teacher, and I know that sometimes you would make a referral
and it would be six months before a family could be seen, a family in crisis. I
guess I am wondering how much educators are kept in the loop. You talked about
the need to educate educators, so that they can pick up on things. Educators are
at the front line; they are seeing a child for five hours a day.
I am wondering how much educators are kept in the loop about
things that are happening. At times, it was very frustrating as an elementary
school teacher, not to be given information that you needed in teaching the
child as a whole person. Obviously, you were not going to stand on a street
corner announcing information that you had gotten from a doctor or hospital, but
it was almost suspect by psychologists or psychiatrists that you were only an
educator and you could not deal with it. Is that still the case?
Dr. Malla: I think it is still largely the case, and I
think there does need to be some change there as well, not only in our health
care system but some sort of a dialogue between the health care and the
education system. A lot of the school psychologists would have excellent
training in dealing with psychological problems, but not really a good knowledge
of serious mental disorders, the risk factors and early behaviours that are
perhaps suggestive. Even if you knew that a particular child had some
difficulties — I only mentioned four or five risk factors. That kind of
knowledge would be helpful, and, later on, during high school, early
adolescence, there may be a different level of knowledge that is necessary.
We ran a program in London where one of our senior clinicians
rotated between all high schools, attending guidance counsel meetings. Each
month, she would go to each of the schools — which is how we actually did a lot
of the early identification. It was not a huge yield, but it attached a face to
a name, so that when they called, they knew who to call. They do not have to
actually reveal the child’s name. They can simply say that they are seeing a
particular kind of behaviour, and ask, “Should I be doing something or should I
just watch it?” This advice is available all the time. However, if the two
systems never have any connection with one another, it is not going to happen.
Senator Cordy: Tara, do you speak to young people in
school settings? What is your role?
Ms. Marttinen: I have not actually spoken in schools yet.
I have been asked to, but it just did not fit in with my schedule while I was at
school at Western, so no.
London has a youth ambassador project where they have young
people from high-risk groups taking counselling training to mentor other
high-risk adolescents, and I spoke to them. I have spoken to smaller groups like
Senator Cordy: As we have said here, the stigma issue is
very present in the adult population. Certainly, when you are a teenager, you do
not want to be different than your peers. You want to fit in. How difficult is
it for a young person, and you did it, but how difficult is it for a young
teenager to step forward and say “I have a problem”?
Ms. Marttinen: It is really hard. I remember the first
time I told somebody — I was very scared. How do you tell somebody, “I have lost
my mental faculties”? In some way, you feel like a diminished person.
I made a point of telling my friends because them knowing was
them being supportive towards me. That was part of my support group, I guess you
could say, support network. However, I was so healthy — I never had a break with
reality. I was never bizarre or irrational or anything like that. People took it
fairly well coming from me, but I know people who had different behaviours who
did not get as good of a reception as I did.
Senator Cordy: Have you thought about the easiest way for
a young person to disclose to a trusted adult?
Ms. Marttinen: The easiest way to disclose to a trusted
adult — I think anonymity is an important thing.
Senator Cordy: Sorry?
Ms. Marttinen: Anonymity. One of the fears is that
everybody is going to find out. When somebody knows, everybody is going to know,
and people are going to treat you differently. So, I think an important issue is
to always have that as a part of it.
In schools, one of the reasons I do not thinking treating
people in schools is ideal is that there is stigma associated with mental
illness right now, and when you see one of your friends going into that door at
the school, you run the risk of them being talked about and gossiped about in
Senator Cordy: There is even a stigma in schools. It is
okay when five, six and seven year old are going for extra academic help.
However, as they get into the upper grades, there is a stigma attached to that.
So, when you talk about a mental illness and going to the room or the door, you
are absolutely right.
Ms. Marttinen: My mother called my principal after I was
diagnosed and wanted to talk to him about it, and we sat down and had a chat
with him and he said, “Okay. Everything is fine. I will let your teachers know
and we will deal with this accordingly.”
So, I went through high school. I was in grade 11 when I was
diagnosed. I went through for three years, and when I came back to get a
scholarship letter of recommendation written from a teacher, I said, “Will you
write this recommendation for me. It’s about mental health,” and I just dropped
it off. He called my house and he said, “Mental health, what is this?” I told
him about my diagnosis. I asked him whether he knew. He said, “We were just told
that you were having problems at home.” I do not know what they thought the
problem was, but they did not know I had a mental illness, and a very serious
one. They would have treated me differently, I think, just having that
knowledge. So, there is that stigma too.
Senator Cordy: Phyllis, if you look at the case of your
son, top student, top athlete, these are the kids who are esteemed in high
school — particularly, unfortunately, athletic before academic probably. You
would think that that would be the perfect role model to portray mental illness
as being something open, and yet that was not the situation with your son.
Ms. Grant-Parker: It is a Catch-22, because the only way
we are going to break the stigma is having enough people like Tara come forward.
However, there is such a risk — and Tara was lucky as she said because she did
not actually have a break with reality. My son did and friends witnessed some of
his behaviours that were very uncomfortable for them — nothing that was
catastrophic, but just they were very uncomfortable with him.
As a parent, when people would ask me why he was in the
hospital, what was the matter, I always had to be careful about what I said, how
much I disclosed, so that he was not be stigmatized or discriminated against?
We have a good program in Ottawa, Parents’ Lifelines of
Eastern Ontario — PLEO. It is a parents' organization, where we support families
with youth with mental illness. Our executive director and her son, Justin, who
is 20, along with a psychiatrist from the Royal Ottawa present in high schools,
and they get tremendous response. It does work when you do it. In fact, one day,
one of the students at Glebe High School said to Justin — she was about to ask
him a question — “Before I ask you the question, I have to tell you that you are
so brave. I am so impressed that you would be so brave to come and talk to us
So, it is making an impact, but the risk is so high for that
young person. I have asked Justin’s mom, not him, whether he has had an impact,
and she said, “As far as we are concerned, as far as he is concerned, this is an
illness like any other illness. That is what it is, and so we treat it no
differently.” That is why you want to share information. However, there is no
doubt that it is a difficult thing to do. Not knowing how that information will
be used and where it will carry forward, whether it will affect somebody's
ability to get a job or whatever — those are the unknown risks.
Senator Keon: Thank you very much all three of you for
coming in and educating us in this area.
I will start with you, Phyllis. We are wrestling with how we
could structure this so that people can have access to community services or to
mental health services through community facilities probably associated with
primary care and home care and so forth. However, had there been a program in
the community that you could have plugged into — similar to what Tara had —
would this have made a big difference in the way your son was managed?
Ms. Grant-Parker: Huge. That is what we wanted. Having to
take our son to another city to get treatment had huge implications, even just
his integration. Integrating from hospital back into the community to start with
is a hurdle. When the hospital has been your home, and you have been out of
touch with what has been going on in your community, that is big.
We do have a program such as the one in London, but it is
underfunded. So, we did not have the ability.
I attend a lot of meetings to advocate for funding for
health. It is interesting —I always think of my hospital, any one of them, as
part of my community. I am always sitting in meetings where we talk community
versus hospital, as though they are two separate things. In fact, we called
London. We tried to get our son into that program, but he was outside the
catchment area; neither were we able to get him into the Hamilton.
Senator Keon: Dr. Malla, I am familiar with the overall
medical literature but not the psychiatric literature. We have certainly never
drilled down through it, but the overwhelming attitude, at least from an
editorial point of view, seems to be that early intervention is the key to
everything in this discipline in mental health, particularly for the young
patients, but there can be no early intervention if we do not have access
Dr. Malla: Absolutely.
Senator Keon: I was quite intrigued with what you had to
say about the way you see the universe unfolding — and there is no question that
what you are doing is highly successful. However, the community at large, the
large population, would not have access to what you are talking about as far as
I can see.
We are grappling right now with how we can integrate mental
health services across Canada, provide a model and a strategic plan that would
integrate mental health services, from the worst-case scenario, forensic
services, right down through the hospital services into the community services,
but with continuity and particularly with open access at the bottom end and, of
course, follow-up through the bottom end. How do you see that?
Dr. Malla: Obviously, the first thing is that mental
disorders are extremely heterogeneous. There is a hierarchy of needs even within
specific disorders. Any system has to come to grips with that. There may be a
good proportion of what are classified as mental disorders that may, in fact,
require very minimal intervention, at least minimum specialist intervention. We
are talking about anxiety disorders and moderate depression, for example, which
are ideally dealt with within the primary health care centre. In many cases, you
do not even need a physician to do it; you need staff that are trained, who know
exactly what works with this population.
Then you have another layer of services that are for
first-onset serious mental disorders — and that is what I think a lot of what we
have been talking about today has been, that is, that first onset of a serious
mental disorder, where the long-term consequences of not providing the best
possible treatment as early as possible are enormous. I keep coming back to the
National Health Service in England. That service has taken it upon themselves to
organize not just a strategy but also to put dollars into services where it is
clearly defined what the standards are going to be. We may have to do that
disorder by disorder, not that there is not some overlap. Of course, there is
overlap. There are complexities in human behaviour.
The stigma part, although it is an overarching thing, is too
complex to be dealt with in one strategy. Providing early treatment and getting
people better in itself is likely to be destigmatizing, because if people do not
look odd, nobody is going to know there is anything different about them.
On one hand, I can see that you have a huge task of making
suggestions or making an overall plan for the country, that where mental health
services are integrated they are uniform. At the same time, you may have to
think about some need for hierarchy of the disorders and the needs.
For example, if an individual who has schizophrenia has two
parents entirely interested in him or her, all you need to do is provide them
with the medical interventions and get the families involved to start with.
There is not a lot more that particular patient is going to need, as opposed to
someone who has only one parent and that parent also has a mental illness. The
second person is going to need an entirely different level of services. So, we
have to create a system that may be uniform from the outside but on the inside
it has to take into consideration these things.
Just as an aside, we have just published a paper where we
have shown that family and social support turn out to be the best predictor of
re-hospitalization over the subsequent three years — and this is not new news to
families. However, there are young people who do not have supportive families.
So, we need to create an entirely different level of service for them.
I apologize if my answer to your question is complex, but the
problem is complex as well. I think a lot of the burden on forensic services is
actually as a result of services not being provided through the regular system.
Senator Keon: Tara, if you had to visit a clinic
regularly, would you prefer a sign over the door that said “Community Mental
Health Services” or would you prefer a sign over the door that said “Community
Health and Social Services”?
Ms. Marttinen: Probably “Community Mental Health
Services” — hopefully you would be calling it what it is.
Senator Keon: You are at the stage now, I imagine, where
it does not bother you to say good-bye to your friend on the street, and say, “I
have got to go in here for an appointment.” You have gone beyond that.
Ms. Marttinen: I am a little bit beyond that, I think.
You know, some people may have an issue with that but it is, you know what, in
practical purposes, it identifies what the facility is, and I think — I hope
that we all reach a point in dealing with mental illness that we can come to
accept everybody and accept that we have these issues and problems. It is not
really problems. They are issues, you know. I cannot fairly answer that because
I have worked myself in a new position where I am comfortable with this and I do
not know how somebody else would feel about that. They might feel a little
differently than I would — and personally I have never walked into a building
whose sign reads “Mental Health Services” or anything like that. Most of them
have a pretty ambiguous sign.
Dr. Malla: I think Tara is a very brave girl, and she is
also nicely idealistic, but the reality is that a lot of the time that it is not
the case, and this is why you see with early intervention programs a lot of
acronyms. We came up with the acronym PEPP, in fact, before we actually named
the program. We fitted the words into that acronym, Prevention and Early
Intervention Program for Psychoses. I remember the day we came up with that
We have just created a high-risk clinic in our centre, and we
have called it CAYR — Centre for Assessment of Youth at Risk. Once people walk
through that door, it is different. Maybe one could say that that is falsifying
things — but to me it is like the saying, a well told lie is better than a
Senator Keon: The point I was trying to come at is that
it would seem to me a tremendous bonus to roll mental health services into the
big picture of health services and social services. We all admit that social
services are going to be a huge part of this.
Dr. Malla: As long as the money is protected.
Senator Cochrane: Tara, I do not want to be invasive, and
if you do not want to answer this, that is okay. Was your treatment paid for by
a medical care plan, or did your mother have to endure a lot of expense to get
Ms. Marttinen: It was partially covered, but travel
expenses were not covered. We had to apply for grants to travel from Sault Ste.
Marie to London, but we were denied a lot of those because we were travelling so
often and we did not necessarily meet the criteria. Hence, some of it was
out-of-pocket but most of it was not.
Senator Cochrane: Phyllis, how is your son now?
Ms. Grant-Parker: He is doing quite well. He is still in
recovery, back at school — he has to get two more credits — and planning
Senator Cochrane: That is wonderful.
Dr. Malla, I am so impressed with what you have told us. How
does one get the most informed treatment from the most knowledgeable people?
Dr. Malla: How does one get the most informed treatment?
I think at the moment it depends on where you live. If you live in a place where
somebody has a particular interest and is running a special program, you are
going to get help. This is why we need national standards — and above all, we
need training. Pharmaceutical companies do a great job in selling their drugs.
There is not a single person who sells any other treatment. So, it depends — if
you are lucky enough to be living in an area where people are running programs
like that, you will get good treatment.
Senator Cochrane: It is hard to find out about, right?
Dr. Malla: No. You can find out on the Internet now —
there are 12 early intervention programs that are highly developed throughout
the world, maybe 15. We are all connected on the Internet. If you press “early
intervention” you will get on.
Senator Callbeck: Tara, when you are dealing with people
or talking to groups of people, does it make any difference whether it is a
youth group or an older group in terms of having an impact at reducing stigma?
Ms. Marttinen: I really do not think so. In my belief,
there are two age groups of stigma. There is the older population, who has
experience with chronic mental illness and media stereotypes. So, when I come to
talk to them about mental illness, I tend to dispel the image they have, and
they almost do not believe I have a mental illness. “You are so healthy. What is
wrong with you?”
When I talk to young people, they do not have as much
experience with mental illness. They see it, but it is not as ingrained and they
do not have as much experience with family members becoming ill and things like
that. They really have less of a negative perception. It is more of a positive
groundbreaking thing for them. I think in general it is a more positive
experience for them because they know now that there is a greater possibility of
achieving something better than chronic mental illness.
Senator Callbeck: Phyllis, when you talk about consumer
advisory committees — there is one attached to your hospital, and you are a part
of it, I take it, from your notes. You have found it to be very good; in other
words, obviously, your group has been listened to. You are suggesting that the
federal government set one up, the provincial governments and right down the
line, that every hospital should have one?
Ms. Grant-Parker: Yes. It brings everybody to common
ground, and issues and concerns get discussed. We have patients, family members,
staff, medical staff, from the hospital. In my experience, things get discussed
and proposals and remedies get put on the table, and that is just at the
hospital level. I think it would be great to roll that up to a federal level.
Senator Callbeck: Doctor, you say that school mental
health programs may be important but are generally effective only for certain
types of problems. Could you elaborate on that, please?
Dr. Malla: I think an excellent example in the last few
years is the efficacy of school programs for reducing bullying. Bullying it is
more than just bullying — it has all kinds of consequences for other children
and mental health problems that result from it. Another one would be early
identification of developmental disorders.
However, in terms of serious mental disorders, they are low
frequency. There will be about 60 to 70 per 100,000 in that age group per year.
So, we are not talking about many children. It is very difficult to have
programs that would be that specific. The best thing we can do is sensitize
people so that if they see these kinds of behaviours, these are the
possibilities, here is the service, call and check it out. I think that is what
Senator Pepin: Dr. Malla, in terms of intern medical
student and nurses — we have had many representations where people have told us
that medical students and nurses do not know anything about mental illness.
People have told us of their experience at emergency, where the nurses and
doctors have said inappropriate things to them.
In your opinion, should there be training for nurses and
doctors? I am a former nurse, and we used to spend three months of our training
in a psychiatric hospital, and it was the same for interns. Should interns and
nurses receive special training, or should it be left to trained volunteers and
Dr. Malla: No. I entirely agree with you. In the last 10
years, most of the medical schools in Canada have introduced a lot more
sensitivities into training on mental health issues. At the Western University,
where I spent 20 years, I saw that change, where we started teaching simple
interviewing skills to medical students from first year whereas we used to do it
in the third year. I agree with you that I think there needs to be a lot more of
that sensitizing training for all medical staff. Unfortunately, the new system
of postgraduate training in Canada has switched away from what used to be a
rotating internship, where everybody had to spend a prescribed amount of time in
each specialty. Now, people do not have to do that and that I think has its
Senator Pepin: Madam Grant-Parker, you said that parents
should be consulted, and that the age for youth to give approval should be moved
from 16 to 18. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?
Ms. Grant-Parker: Right now, the legislation is such that
if you are being treated for a mental illness and you are 16 you have to sign a
form before the medical team can speak to your family. Without that signed
consent, the family can be given no information. My son had to sign a form that
said that his condition and his treatment could be discussed with us. If he had
denied that, we would have had no information. We could not give approvals for
anything without him signing to do so.
Senator Pepin: Has it been long since that legislation
came into force? I know that the age of consent varies from one province to
another — for example, I know that in Quebec it is lower.
The Chairman: Lower than 16?
Senator Pepin: If you have a teenager who is sex
frequently, she can ask her doctor and get contraception at the age of 14.
Ms. Grant-Parker: What is interesting is that if your
child had another illness there would not even be a discussion. However, with
this illness, the individual has diminished capacity to make a decision.
Luckily, in our case, our son allowed us to be involved; he asked for help from
About six months into it, when he just could not get enough
help, he said to me, “When you are sick like this, you have to do something
really bad to yourself or to somebody else before anybody will help you.” That
was his experience. He just kept asking people to help him.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I wanted to say to you, Tara,
that I have worked with an awful lot of young people all through the years and I
am so impressed with you. You are the Terry Fox of mental health. You really are
inspiring, but you have to spare yourself, put yourself first. However, you have
so much to offer to those around you and to this country and you are doing it
Phyllis, you have been a wonderful mother. You are so
rational about this and balanced. Thank you both very much.
Doctor, I just wanted to ask you one question, because I know
that time has run out. You said that the outcome at one year is what you will
get at 15 years. Are you talking only about schizophrenia and psychotic
disorders, or mental illness in general?
Dr. Malla: No. I am talking specifically about
schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. However, I should qualify by saying that,
for whatever reason, most of the research in this area has been in the field.
Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders have probably had the most extensive
research, in terms of long-term outcome and in terms of early intervention.
I think for many years people believed, and still do, for
that mater, that if you have a manic depressive illness you are better off.
However, recent evidence suggests that while you may be better off in the short
run you are not actually better off in the long run, because people drop out of
treatment at a greater frequency. They feel that it may sort itself out, that it
is time-limiting, but it is not.
My comments are prefaced by the fact that that is where the
data comes from. It may be true about others, I do not know.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I would like to debate that a
little bit, because I see people today that I saw 10 years ago and they are
incredibly better now than they were then, and that is because of better
management, specifically, better pharmacology. It struck me, when I heard you
say that, that this was not a message of hope, but it may be a very realistic
Dr. Malla: Two things I should say. One, when I make a
statement like that, we are talking about large group data. So that there will
be individuals who will not fall into that. These are data that come out of the
international pilot study of schizophrenia that was started way back in the
1960s, and is the only study that has a long-term outcome like this.
On the other hand, it is not pessimistic, but a bit of a
warning, in the sense that, on average, one or two years are lost in seeking and
getting treatment and then, if the best treatment is not available in the first
couple of years, a lot of deterioration takes place, neurobiological, cognitive
and social deterioration, in the first three to five years.
So, what I was trying to get at is that the window may not be
very large if we want to achieve the best outcome.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: With new medications, just
being very frank at this point in your knowledge, would you say that whatever
has become chronic by one or two years can be improved, or is the outcome less
than what might have happened if the management had been better in the first
Dr. Malla: With new medications, at least in the field of
schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, the improved outcome is actually
marginal. Part of the reason for that is that medication alone is not going to
do it. There are other interventions that have to be applied on top of
medication even to sustain people taking medication.
For example, the biggest problem clinically, as a clinician I
can tell you, is young people staying on medication.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Oh, I know that.
Dr. Malla: The reason for that is not a simple matter of
side effects or anything like that. It is a very internal process of why a 19
year old who is doing well now is likely to reject medication. If you think
about it from a healthy perspective — I do not need this — there is an art to
actually persuading them.
So, I would say, yes, new medications have improved outcome
but the data suggest that the improvement is relatively marginal and until we
support that with all of these other family intervention, skills, training, and
so on, it is not going to show a huge impact.
The Chairman: May I thank all of you for attending here
today. You have been very helpful to us.
Senators, we have one last panel, with two members of the
Ontario courts. I was first prompted to call Judge Carruthers because of some
very outspoken comments he made on this subject that I read in the newspaper.
This was probably six or seven months ago. When we set up the hearings, I
thought it would be ideal if we could hear from people on the judicial end,
since we have been doing largely forensic evidence today.
We had a terrific presentation from several police forces
across the country this morning, as well as a presentation from the Elizabeth
Fry Society and others, people who deal with inmates when they leave.
Judge Carruthers suggested that we call Judge Schneider.
We are interested in the insight you can give us with respect
to an issue that seems to be troubling a lot of us, that is, that as a result of
deinstitutionalization throughout the mental health system prisons seem to have
become the asylums of the 21st century. That is a sad comment on Canadian
society, in and of itself — and that is just a view some of us have. I would
like to know whether you agree and, second, if so, what can be done to reverse
that trend and to stop the recidivism rate. For people with mental illness,
there seems to be a swinging door in prisons. They come in as criminals, do not
get treatment, are in prison for a while, leave no better off than when they
came in and quite conceivably worse off, and then simply reappear. From a
societal standpoint, that is obviously about as unproductive a system as one
could have, and it was comments along that line that, as I say, Judge Carruthers
made some time ago that prompted me to invite the two of you to appear.
May I say that I am delighted that you agreed to appear. I
offered you the option of appearing in camera, but both of you were prepared to
appear in public. That is terrific.
Finally, I cannot resist telling you that this is about the
only group of politicians you could meet in which we do not have a single lawyer
on the panel. We have two doctors. We have two teachers. We have a nurse. We
have community health workers. We have an old professor like me, but we do not
have a lawyer.
We will begin with you, Judge Carruthers. Please proceed.
Honourable Douglas Carruthers, Judge, As an individual: I
have gained some insight into the fact that there could not have been a lawyer
involved in your proceedings because the material that I read that you have
prepared to date has been so insightful and so succinct, and there is no
question that — I digress for just a moment. When I first went to Ottawa to deal
with a matter for CRTC, there was a man appointed, Pierre Juneau, and I was
immediately impressed because he told me he did not want me to conduct a hearing
as if it was a court, and I tried.
I am chairman of the Ontario Review Board. There is a review
board in each province and each territory, established under the Criminal Code
of Canada. The boards deal only with people who have been charged with the
commission of a criminal offence and who have either been found unfit to stand
trial for that offence because of mental disorder or who have proceeded to trial
on that charge and have been found not criminally responsible for the commission
of the offence due to mental disorder.
We do not deal with the general prison population who may be
suffering from mental illness. To some extent, Richard would have more exposure
to them than I would as an active sitting judge. As a judge of the Supreme Court
of Ontario for 20 years, we dealt with people from time to time who were found
not guilty by reason of insanity, as the plea was known at that time, but,
generally speaking, we were absolved fortunately, from my point of view, from
dealing with what generally is the street crime that makes up so much of the
criminal activity in our courts.
The threshold test in every instance is whether the
individuals before us can be said with certainty to be a significant threat to
the safety of the community, and if we cannot say that, then the individuals are
free to go — and not having been convicted of any offence, they are left outside
of the jurisdiction of the law and are free. We let about 120 people a year go
free. Our recidivism rate has not been formally kept that I know of, and I
should know if there is one, but Richard and I over the years have tried to
consider how many people of ours who have gone out into the community either
free or subject to conditions have recommitted an offence — and I think,
Richard, we are still working on something less than 1 per cent.
Drs. Hucker and Webster in their recent text indicated that,
for reasons they could not tell, people who have been in our system seemed to
have more respect for what we tell them to do than the people who are in the
parole system and subject to the parole board. I just say that to you because
that is what it said in the book. Why we have such a satisfactory recidivism
rate, I do not know.
I will tell you that there are a group of psychologists in
Penetang who promote an instrument for measuring risk and recidivism who would
probably disagree with the figure that I have given to you, but in coming to
their conclusions, they count every slap on the wrist and every spit and every
yell that a patient might have during the course of being treated in a hospital.
We look at recidivism as being a real act of recidivism and not something that
might otherwise be considered unpopular behaviour.
Dr. Malla was asked how a person could get the best treatment
from the best informed, and I think that what Richard and I will tell you is
that they start by committing a criminal offence. That is the unfortunate part,
but our people do paradoxically get probably the best treatment available — but
they have to commit a criminal offence and be found not criminally responsible
or unfit due to mental disorder in order to get it.
The Chairman: I have seldom heard a one-sentence, more
powerful indictment of a system than that.
Honourable Richard Schneider, Judge, As an individual: I
circulated for your consideration the transcription of a presentation that was
made six years ago this coming summer at Cambridge, England, at Queens' College.
It was a talk put on by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, and
the title of the talk — I was one of the participants, and I know you have not
had an opportunity to read — was, “The Criminal Code of Canada: Mental Health
Act of Last Resort.”
The Chairman: Since there is no federal Mental Health
Act, it is really the Mental Health Act of first resort at the present moment;
is that right?
Judge Carruthers: The provinces have a Mental Health Act.
The Chairman: Yes, but the feds do not.
Judge Carruthers: No, but the Criminal Code, which is the
federal statute, is the Mental Health Act of last resort.
In terms of how the rubber hits the road on a provincial or
territorial level, you have got both statutes operative simultaneously, and I
can tell you — a previous speaker mentioned that somebody had to do something
extreme to get help. I was not entirely sure what they were alluding to, because
I came in late, but it is true. As Doug was saying, unfortunately, for the most
part, it is recognized that the gold card for mental health care in Canada is
either a criminal information or indictment. That is how an individual gets the
medical psychiatric attention he or she needs.
As a practising criminal lawyer prior to being appointed to
the bench, I had dozens of cases. My practice was largely limited to
representing psychiatric patients who had criminal difficulties. The family was
ecstatic that their son had fortunately been picked up by the police because now
they could get that assessment that they had not been able to get in the civil
system, a comprehensive report. If things went really, really well, they would
be found unfit to stand trial at the conclusion of the assessment and subsequent
hearing, and once unfit to stand trial, the court could make a mandatory order
for treatment for up to 60 days.
Again, as you may have heard, there is a process on the civil
side, certainly in Ontario, and I am guessing most of the other provinces and
territories for involuntary treatment, but it is a circuitous, difficult path
riddled with appeal routes and it is very difficult to enforce and engage.
If a loved one is very lucky, at the conclusion of the
treatment order and once they are rendered fit to stand trial, they are found
not criminally responsible in respect of those matters and then they will be
turned over to the Ontario or provincial territorial review board who will look
after them indefinitely, ensure they are obtaining adequate housing, medical
care, clothing, prescriptions, and all of the things that you talked about in
terms of closing down that revolving door.
I can tell you that — I am sure you do not want me to go on
length, because you want me to answer questions —
The Chairman: Please go ahead, because this is so
Judge Carruthers: I would like to add that Richard was a
clinical psychologist before he was a lawyer. He has double-barrelled
Judge Schneider: We have established a Mental Health
Court in downtown Toronto. It has been operative now since May 1998, and the
mandate of the court is to look after exclusively individuals who have got
mental disorders as well as criminal allegations. There are two broad mandates
for the court: One is to expedite pre-trial matters of getting assessed for
fitness and treatment, and moving things on, and then, at the conclusion of the
matter, slowing down that revolving door you talked about. What you see are
people cycling back time after time through the courts, with no improvement. The
reason for that, at least in Toronto, prior to the establishment of the Mental
Health Court, is that people would be ejected out onto the streets of Toronto
wearing an orange suit with no identification, no OHIP card, no social
assistance, no place to go, no doctor's appointment and no bus fare. It is not
surprising that they show up back in the courts in very short order.
One of the other key aspects of the court is to equip people
that leave the criminal justice system with a basic survival kit, to reduce the
probability of them returning to court. They are as much as possible plugged
back into the civil system that they fell out of.
I can tell you that the numbers of mentally disordered
accused are pouring through courthouse doors in Canada in unprecedented numbers,
and it is largely due to a failure on the part of the civil systems across
Canada to look after this population adequately. The courts have been left with
this hot potato and having to sort out the problem. So, therefore, the Criminal
Code of Canada Mental Health Act of last resort.
Judge Carruthers: I should like to add something to
embellish what Richard has said. The Mental Health Court that we have in Toronto
is really the brainchild of Richard, and I think I am safe in saying that it is
the only one of its kind in the world. It was supposed to be established at two
other centres in Ontario, but it has not been.
We met on the 23rd of August in the year prior to which it
was done, and we talked about it with certain people, and by the 14th of May,
the court was up and running. That must be an absolute record, and it is due all
to this man here.
The Chairman: Do you want to make some more comments?
Judge Schneider: I was just going to say that what we are
dealing with in the criminal justice system — we can call them alternatively
forensic patients, mentally disordered accused — are that they are all, and I am
using that extreme word “all” advisedly, largely failed civil mental health
customers. The reason I say that is that when a new customer comes into our
Mental Health Court, they invariably have extensive civil mental health
histories or files. So, that system had them but they got away — they slipped
through the net. They either evaded it or the legislation or the resources just
did not pick them up, and they slipped out of the civil net and got picked up
further down the stream in the forensic net, and we find them in the courthouse
having attracted the attention of the constabulary, generally for relatively
minor matters but often not, sometimes for pushing people off subway platforms
and things like that.
So, unfortunately, the courts in the criminal justice system
have been burdened with having to pick up and look after this population — and,
of course, the police and the courts’ lawyers and judges and jails are not the
best people to be looking after this population.
Mr. Chairman, I think you are right, that our prisons are
turning into the de facto psychiatric facilities of this century. There are more
mentally disordered people currently housed in prisons in Canada than there are
in mental health hospitals, psychiatric hospitals.
The Chairman: Can you take us through the process. If an
individual commits a crime and gets arrested, at what point in the process is a
decision made that the person belongs in the Mental Health Court, not in what I
would call the regular court stream?
Judge Schneider: Well, they can come in at any juncture,
general speaking, are recognized at first instance the morning after the arrest
in bail court when they are obviously not well. They might be behaving oddly,
speaking oddly, uncommunicative. There is something that attracts the attention
of either the duty counsel in the courtroom or the justice of the peace or the
judge in the bail court and they think that things may be somewhat not right and
they are sent over to the Mental Health Court where we will screen them in open
court. If we agree that there certainly is an issue, because you can still be
very unwell yet fit, then we will have them seen by a psychiatrist. The court is
staffed by psychiatrists five days a week and they do stand-down assessments.
Judge Carruthers: That is right there outside the door,
not going to a hospital.
The Chairman: Sorry, they do it in the courtroom
Judge Schneider: There are offices adjoining the actual
courtroom where the —
Judge Carruthers: They do not take up a bed for 15 or 20
Judge Schneider: So, that is the process. They are
recognized in court, regular court at first appearance, generally speaking, and
then referred to 102 Court. We will do the psychiatric assessment, trial of the
issue of fitness, entertain a Crown application for treatment of order if one is
being brought, and look after the whole process through to the point where
litigation is looming. If the accused does not want to resolve his matter at the
end of that process by way of a guilty plea and they want to litigate, by that
time they are fit to stand trial and are sent back to a trial court for
The Chairman: So, you send them back if, in fact, you
conclude they are fit to stand trial?
Judge Schneider: That is right.
The Chairman: You began this in what year, 1997 did you
Judge Schneider: The court?
The Chairman: The Mental Health Court.
Judge Schneider: It was conceived in 1997 and opened in
May of 1998.
The Chairman: So, you have got a seven-year history and
in that period there has been a huge movement to deinstitutionalization. It
began before 1997, but it has certainly been accelerated through the late 1990s
and the early part of this century.
Am I correct in thinking, therefore, that the demand on the
Mental Health Court has gone up almost as the institutionalization has gone
Judge Schneider: That is right. Deinstitutionalization
carried with it a whole host of broken promises. One was that the money that was
going to be saved from shutting down hospital beds would be reinvested in
community mental health care, and that never really happened. The other is that
some of these people that were being looked after in the old traditional
psychiatric facilities could be looked after adequately in the community. I do
not think the jury was completely back on that one before the decisions were
So, yes, as a combination of lack of resources, the
particular orientation of most provincial and territorial mental health
legislation, we are seeing unprecedented numbers of mentally disordered,
homeless people wandering around certainly the streets of Toronto and,
unfortunately, sometimes getting into trouble. If you go back 10, 15, 20 years,
you just did not see this population on the streets.
The Chairman: Just one other procedural question, and
then I will go to Senator Pepin. Take me through the same scenario if I am a
Judge Schneider: If you are a teenager, well, you would
be in another court. If you are younger than 18, you would be in Youth Court.
The Chairman: Youth Court. Are they qualified — maybe you
do not want to comment on that — but are they qualified with the same level of
experience that you people have?
Judge Schneider: No. They do not have a mental health
court. The main Youth Court in downtown Toronto is at 311 Jarvis Street, and I
will convene my court as a Youth Court to back them up. I can do that. I have
jurisdiction to declare myself a Youth Court, and if they have an acute
situation in their courthouse, they can send the accused over and I will look
after them on a case by case basis in our Mental Health Court.
However, practically speaking, largely for biological
reasons, these same psycho-legal issues generally do not arise in that
population. I do not know whether you have spoken to experts on major mental
disorders, schizophrenia in particular, but it generally blooms in late teens,
early 20s, which takes them out of that court. Of course, there are outliers
that will manifest psychotic systems prior to the age of 18. However, generally
speaking, that population are manifesting behavioural problems, conduct
disorders, but things that do not really attract the psycho-legal issues we are
dealing with, namely, fitness or competency to stand trial, lack of criminal
responsibility. In order to be compromised to that extent, you have to,
generally speaking, have full-blown psychosis.
Judge Carruthers: May I add something just by way of
background? I think you must be aware that when Bill C-30 was enacted into the
amendments to the Criminal Code as part XX.I of the code, which is the basis of
what Richard and I do in dealing with the mentally disordered, it created a
scheme that replaced a scheme that had been in effect for over 150 years, and it
is a pretty good scheme. There are close to 100 sections in the Criminal Code
and everything that is needed to function with the scheme is there in the
The unfortunate part about it, from our point of view, is
that we are charged at the end of the day in each hearing with fashioning a
disposition that is the least onerous and least restrictive for the accused
individual. That is where the focus is. We might determine that, for a person
who is in jail who comes before us in the first instance, the least onerous and
least restrictive disposition is for that person to go to a medium, secure unit
in North Bay. What do we do, having said that North Bay is the least onerous and
least restrictive, when we find out that North Bay has got no beds? We cannot
send them back to jail because we do not have any authority to send a person to
jail, but he will sit in jail and he will sit sometimes nine, ten months in jail
before he gets a bed. That is one problem that you have done federally in
handing over the implementation of your great scheme to the province.
The second problem that we have is a lack of knowledge about
the mentally disordered. It is just rampant throughout the judiciary, excluding
Richard and me, and it does not serve people well.
I am dealing with a young man now who was convicted of murder
in 2002. He had committed a murder while in an institution. He had been
committed to hospital in 1996. He was 17 at the time he committed his offence,
just turned 18, and he was in the most maximum secure facility in Ontario at 18
years of age. He has been in the system then for nine years, six and a half to
seven of those years in solitary confinement in a jail, and he still is. He is
not getting treatment. When you talk about closing the facilities — the people
who are running the facility want to get rid of him. Now, if he cannot stay in
the hospital where he is, as his lawyer said, they built Penetang for people
like him, where is he going to go? I am fighting hard to get him back into the
hospital. Our board has made an order every year for the last nine years that he
be detained in hospital and the courts have ignored us completely and put him in
Senator Pepin: Your court is fantastic. Who pays for the
services you are providing?
Judge Schneider: The court was originally started up with
no new resources and no money, no budget. That happened as a result of work with
a colleague of mine, Justice Ormston, who was actually a sitting judge. I have
only been a judge for four years.
Judge Carruthers: Just a kid.
Senator Pepin: He is a kid, yeah.
Judge Schneider: I was working on the protocol for the
court as a lawyer, not as a judge. What it really consisted of was, first of
all, the cooperation of the chief justice and the senior regional justice, to
hand us over the space, in terms of the physical plant in the courthouse — which
coincidentally was perfectly suited because it had adjoining cells attached to
the courtroom, so that the people were kept out of general population, and on
the other side of the courtroom, offices for the psychiatrist and the court
mental health workers, which I have not told you about yet.
The court is also staffed by mental health workers, who are
social workers who help reconnect people that come through the court back into
the system that they have become unplugged from or that was just not serving
Senator Pepin: Who pays?
Judge Schneider: Sorry, I am wandering all over the
place. It was just a redeployment of existing resources — through the
cooperation of a number of different partners, largely the Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health in Toronto, who were doing these assessments anyway but on an
in-patient basis. Hence, we are taking the same personnel but having them come
downtown to the courthouse, do the same work but on a stand-down basis rather
than wait for the accused to be delivered and stay in their facility for the
purposes of the same assessment. We had agencies who were also serving the same
population as part of their mandate but again move on-site.
It was then a matter of getting the cooperation of the
Ontario Legal Aid office to put in a dedicated number of lawyers that would be
there on staff in the courtroom, which we did obtain, a dedicated Crown
attorney. We got special training for guards, clerks. So, it sort of evolved and
jelled as time went on.
Judge Carruthers: It was a lovely thing to behold, the
final day that we sort of put the pieces together. There were over 70 people
assembled in one of the courtrooms at the Old Courthouse in Toronto. I sat there
and looked around and thought about how we had accomplished so much in that
short period of time. Everyone was so eager to have this thing work. However, we
cannot forget, three ministers also became involved — Corrections, AG, and
Ministry of Health. The coordination was wonderful. Everyone was ready to go.
Senator Pepin: As was mentioned, there is a lack of
knowledge from the Corrections people who work in those penitentiaries. As we
said, when the psychiatric hospitals closed, we find more mentally disordered
people in the penitentiaries. Given your experience in organizing the court,
what would you tell us we can do to help those people who are inside? How can we
get organized? How can those things be organized to help those people?
Judge Schneider: I guess it depends on what point along
the stream you are talking about intervening. Are you talking about the people
who are already there?
Senator Pepin: Yes.
Judge Schneider: I am no expert on the penitentiary
system, but it would be a matter of injecting into that system better resources,
better staff, better treatment possibilities, situations that are more of a
quasi-hospital environment. However, the prophylactic intervention and the best
spent buck is not in the jails, not in a mental health court. It is in beefing
up the civil mental health system. If the civil mental health system has a tight
net that holds on and adequately services the population, one would expect that
there will be far fewer of them coming through the courthouse doors and from the
courthouse to the review board to the penitentiary. So, ideally, the best spent
money is in civil mental health care, creating a comprehensive, potent, civil
mental health care system.
You have got people, as you are recognizing, who are already
through the door. So, it is a question of what to do with them, looking after
them while they are in. Again, the same problem that we are talking about with
the Mental Health Court, in terms of discharge planning, equipping them,
plugging them back in prior to discharge so that there is a safety net for them
when they return to the community and so that you are not simply releasing them
out onto the streets like we had been doing out of the courthouse here in their
orange suit and expecting them to survive.
Senator Pepin: They told us that they do not have any
Judge Schneider: They have to be reconnected if there is
any hope at all of them staying afloat on their own successfully in the
The Chairman: Judge Schneider, how many judges are there
in the Mental Health Court?
Judge Schneider: There are no formal numbers. There is a
handful who have got a special interest, probably four or five who rotate
through the court. I am probably there 50 or 60 per cent of the time, and there
is another judge that I referred to, Ted Ormston, who is in there probably 40
per cent or 50 per cent of the time.
The Chairman: The rest of your time you are hearing
traditional Trial Division, Supreme Court cases; is that right?
Judge Schneider: I am in the Ontario Court of Justice,
which would be our Provincial Court.
The Chairman: The old Court of Queen’s Bench.
Judge Schneider: No. It would be our old Provincial
Court, which is where 98 per cent of the criminal action begins and ends. Very
little of it goes to Superior Court now.
Senator Callbeck: I want to ask some questions about C-10
— which I am sure you are very familiar with. It is at second reading in the
Senate right now. It will be going to a standing committee for examination. You
may be appearing, I do not know. However, I should like to get your overall view
on that because it gives the review boards a lot more powers as well as the
police. I would particularly like to hear your comments about how it changes the
impact statement for victims where the person that committed the crime is
charged to be not responsible.
Judge Carruthers: To begin with, we had the privilege of
attending before the committee and making representations. The increase in power
that you talk about as far as boards are concerned relates to assessments, and
it is really plugged into a major problem that existed with people who were
found unfit to stand trial and were never going to be found fit to stand trial.
Year in, year out, we just had to keep processing them, and it was not right.
In that bill, there is a mechanism whereby the review board
can release an individual out of the system, if the individual is not a
significant threat to the safety of the public and is not going to be treatable.
As far as impact statements are concerned, I think there is a
meeting going on in two weeks with the Ministry of Justice in Ottawa to deal
with them. I am not so sure that that really is going to affect us. We get
impact statements. We get victims coming and we listen to them, and to the
extent that they are relevant, we apply them. However, unfortunately, I have to
say very candidly, they are very seldom relevant to the issues that we are
trying to decide. Nevertheless, they are heard, and we try to marshal them
through the representative of the Attorney General, who is a party to each
proceeding before us, because he represents the community.
The one concern we have is that we do not think we should be
going out to get the impact statements, nor do we think there should be a new
impact every year. I do not know if that answers your question or supplies any
information you need.
Perhaps Richard may want to add something.
Senator Callbeck: I just wondered if you had seen a copy
of Bill C-10 and whether there were any powers that you felt the review board
Judge Schneider: As Justice Carruthers indicated, we went
to the parliamentary committee with a rather long shopping list of amendments in
the code that would, from our perspective, really make the system work a lot
better and reduce the amount of time that people would spend in the system.
They picked up partially on the ability of the review boards
to order assessments. The provisions, if you have read them, are unnecessarily
limited. I do not have a copy of C-10 in front of me, but they are limited to
situations where there is no current report before the board or where one has
not been prepared in the last 12 months.
In any event, what I would have recommended was that the
board — since the courts rarely, upon a verdict of either unfit to stand trial
or not criminally responsible, make an initial disposition and leave it to the
review boards. To leave the review board in a position where it does not have,
in the spirit of Winko, the full ability to order assessments is really
inconsistent with the reasoning of the Supreme Court.
Just to put this into perspective, it was obviously written
by someone who did not understand how the system worked. There is often a report
available that has been produced within the last 12 months. The question is
whether it is directed to the issues that we have to decide as a review board. I
am saying “we” now because I am also an alternative chairman of the Ontario
Review Board and the Nunavut Review Board. The reports that would have been
prepared and attached to the information or indictment would have gone to the
issue of fitness to stand trial or criminal responsibility. They would not have
gone to the issue of least onerous, least restrictive disposition, which is what
the board has to decide.
Particularly with respect to the unfits, the fact that
somebody had been seen and an opinion offered with respect to fitness over the
last 12 months is really next to irrelevant because fitness is something that
fluctuates as a function of the individual's clinical condition; it can change
day-to-day, hour-to-hour. So, to limit the board's ability to order assessments
in the way that it has been done in C-10 I think is unnecessarily restrictive. I
would have simply altered the wording in 672.11 and put in beside “court,” “or
review board”. It would have been the simplest way around it.
The biggest one that was missed in C-10 though, quite apart
from the ability to make assessment orders, was the ability of the board to
treat accused who come through the system as unfit. Now, we do this quite
aggressively in the Mental Health Court because we have got practitioners who
are very familiar with the legislation and comfortable in applying it, but if
you go outside of this little area here, you will find that treatment orders are
generally not made by the court, which means that the accused goes to the
provincial or territorial review board as unfit and stays within the
jurisdiction of the provincial or territorial review board until they are fit.
When the board does not have the ability to order treatment, the same way that
the court would have under 672.58, that means that the province or territory
where the accused is housed has to rely on whatever the local civil legislation
is in order to get them treated. This means that you are going to have somebody
unfit staying in the system three, four, five times as long as they would have
had the board had just been able to order that they be treated for a period of
up to 60 days the same way the courts can under .58. If the board — which you
will remember is made up of a panel of experts — had the same powers as the
courts under .58, you would see the unfit people staying in the system for much
shorter periods of time. We strongly advocated for that and it just did not
receive a mention.
The other major flaw, and I do not think it was addressed in
C-10, was altering the definition of “unfit to stand trial” to include the
window up to and including the end of sentencing. I think it remains untouched
as going to the end of the verdict, which leaves a legal lacuna if the accused
happens to post-verdict get unfit prior to being sentenced.
There is a decision by the name of Balliram from
Ontario Superior Court, a decision of Justice McWatt, who actually reads in an
expanded interpretation of section 2 dealing with “unfit to stand trial”. We
were hoping that Parliament would pick up on that in C-10 but they did not.
Judge Carruthers: From a practical point of view, many
times a person has decompensated after verdict, pending, say, a dangerous
offender application. You are in irons because the person is not qualified or
capable of being sentenced, but he has been convicted, and it is crazy to not
extend the definition as Richard says from “verdict” to include “sentence,” and
then the whole thing is covered.
Senator Keon: I am a doctor, and I have to admit that I
do not understand this process very well. However, I do congratulate you for
what you are attempting to do.
Moving back a step, it seems to me it is a terrible problem
for somebody who is mentally ill, especially if they are young, to get involved
in the criminal justice system. It is almost an end-of-life situation if they
get convicted. As you know, they cannot get into any of the professions in
university. Their job opportunities are so incredibly limited and so forth that
their life is practically ruined. For a young person to get caught in that is
such a disaster.
Judge Carruthers: Can I just stop you for a moment there?
Senator Keon: Yes.
Judge Carruthers: You may be right in certain respects,
but I should like to draw something to your attention. You all probably remember
a young man who shot and killed a broadcaster in Ottawa.
The Chairman: Brian Smith was the broadcaster’s name.
Judge Carruthers: The young man's name was Jeffrey
Arenburg. He is still within our system. For five years, he went between Nova
Scotia and Ontario pleading for someone to do something for him. He felt that
the media were governing his thoughts and broadcasting his thoughts to his
friends, and he was suffering as a result. He was turned down. He never got any
treatment. The courts let him go. Hospitals let him go. He thought that if he
could get before a judge he could explain what was going on and that everything
would be fine. So, he packed up his rifle and drove to the CJOH-TV parking lot
in Ottawa, and waited for someone to come out. Brian Smith, who Arenburg did not
know, came out of the building and Arenburg fired two shots, one that went right
through his forehead. Brian Smith died.
I use this example. Jeffrey Arenburg is now working and
living in the community, because he has been treated. They have done a fantastic
job with him. Within three months, he recognized he was wrong, which he did not
So, to answer your concern, we have a lot of people like that
who are going back into the community. He wanted to go home to Nova Scotia with
his family. The Attorney General here agreed, the psychiatric commission in Nova
Scotia agreed, our review board said he should go to Nova Scotia, but the
Attorney General of Nova Scotia said not in my backyard, and that was the end of
Senator Keon: I appreciate that.
Judge Carruthers: He is now living outside of Toronto. He
is not the only example, but I give you him as an example.
Senator Keon: However, you have to admit that if you were
that young man's father and mother, you would not consider this a great success
story. He killed a good friend of mine, and he is back in the community and I
wish him well, but surely it is obvious that the system failed miserably all
along the way.
Judge Carruthers: That is what Richard has just finished
telling you, the civil system failed him. If he had not been failed by the civil
system, he would not have become our customer.
Senator Keon: Right. I deeply appreciate what Justice
Schneider is doing and what you are doing, sir, and I commend you highly.
Nonetheless, I have tremendous concerns about the number of young people that
are getting into the criminal justice system that, from my perspective and
perception, should not be there. They should have been treated. I guess you were
saying the same thing. They should have been treated for their mental illness
upfront; they should not get saddled with a double whammy.
Judge Schneider: I quite agree. It is an appalling
failure on the part of our society to let things go so far that they do not get
treated until they are charged with a criminal offence. I could not agree with
I think what Justice Carruthers is saying is that after those
failures have taken place though — which, as you are pointing out, is not
certainly a good thing — a lot of these people were, nevertheless, able to turn
around. However, quite rightly, they should have been caught much further
upstream. They should never have come through our courthouse door. They should
have been captured by the civil mental health care net and kept in that system.
We are a very blunt, clumsy instrument, courts. We can be brutally effective
because we can make orders that people have to comply with, but it just should
not get this far.
The ideal world would be one where we could close down the
Mental Health Court tomorrow because we are out of business because the civil
system is looking after these people the way it should. It used to be anomalous
for mentally disordered people to come through the courthouse system, if you go
back 15, 20, 25 years ago, but now they are coming through in unprecedented
Senator Keon: I will repeat, I want to highly commend
what you are doing. I have the greatest admiration for it, but where I would
like to see our committee get to is stopping — and particularly the young —
these people from getting into the criminal justice system. It is true, older
people can go back into the community, and they can do fairly well. We had one
of them here yesterday and he seemed quite satisfied that he is able to fit in
the community, but in the case of a young person, there are so many doors closed
to them that it must be the basis for tremendous depression in itself.
Judge Schneider: Right. In that regard, if I could just
respond, one of the efforts that is being considered now — and we are trying to
get funding from provincial and federal levels to put it in place here in the
GTA — is a scheme that does not have a formal label yet but one that I call
pre-arrest diversion. In other words, when the police respond to a 911 call or
come across an incident on the street, they have a greater array of options.
As it stands now, when an officer arrives on scene, he can
either split the parties up and send them away, arrest or apprehend the party or
parties under the Mental Health Act and take them to a Schedule 1 psychiatric
emergency, or lay that crummy little charge under the Criminal Code.
The ideal situation is to take the individual to the hospital
and exploit the medical route. We have disincentivized — I think that is a word
— the police in that regard.
Here is what happens. The officers arrive on scene or they
respond to a 911 call. They pick up Johnny, who is out of control, and take him
to psychiatric emergency. They wait around — and it will take two officers out
of a car, one on either side of the potentially accused person. The officers
wait in emergency until the psychiatric resident comes in. Generally, the
resident takes a five minute look at the person, determine that he or she does
not satisfy the criteria of the Mental Health Act, and the person is let go.
This is after the police have invested, not exaggerating, a number of hours
going through that process.
Judge Carruthers: As Richard has said, in the past, they
beat the police officers to the donut shop.
Judge Schneider: Hence, now when the police they arrive
on scene, it is not a matter of ignorance, not appreciating their options, it is
just that they do not have the time for this.
What we have to do is create a system that will get the
police more committed to exercising discretion under the Mental Health Act, or a
variation of the Mental Health Act we now have. In that regard, we have to
create a facility for the police to drop off an individual, who the police
realize has psychiatric issues, after he or she has been apprehended. Once the
individual has been dropped off, ownership, if you will, of the customer is
assumed immediately, not with the issuance of some process but assumed
immediately, and there is an obligation. The facility of course would have to be
open 24-7. There would be an obligation, say, within a window of 24 hours, to
clear the person out, whether that means getting the person back to hospital,
taking him or her to detox, getting them to a hospital, whatever the options
might be. This facility would be charged with looking after the individuals, to
reincent the police to exercise those options, because every time they do that,
there is one less guy in my Mental Health Court the next morning and one less
guy who, as you put it, has got a new set of criminal charges to deal with, all
of which has a tremendous stigma attached to it and can have lifelong
So, we have to work our way further and further upstream,
identify these problem people, and make sure the civil mental health system
kicks in and works for them immediately. That is what we are not having right
now. It is not happening.
Senator Keon: We are committed, I know our chairman and
all of us are committed, to try to do something about this. The police were here
this morning and they are committed too, I am sure, and I know you are
committed. The problem seems to be that the cracks are too big and nobody quite
knows how to close the gaps.
Judge Carruthers: It is not high on the list of
priorities for anybody to do anything about — and I mean, with respect to the
people who can do something effectively about it, it is way down the list.
Judge Schneider: There are cracks, you are right. It
requires a seamless web around the GTA, with seamless information transfer, and
it requires some money. I can guarantee you that, at the end of the day, the net
effect to the system as a whole, and talking provincially here, would be a
savings because it costs a tremendous amount more to process the same
problematic individual by pumping them through the courthouse door and looking
after them that way than it would to look after them in a properly funded and
resourced mental health system. It is far more expensive using the courts.
Senator Keon: I thank you both very much. I would ask of
both of you — you are people of tremendous influence — every time you get an
opportunity to make that point, to make it, and maybe in concert with us we can
Senator Trenholme Counsell: My impression, from the
reading I have done and from listening, is that in the end we are going to have
to rely on the interest, the dedication and the goodwill of the provincial
Saskatchewan was highlighted in this report as perhaps being
the best example at this point in time of what has been accomplished with
community treatment orders; is that correct?
Judge Schneider: This was written in 1999, just about the
time we were contemplating similar legislation in Ontario, either just before
our legislation or just after it. As it turns out, the community treatment order
sounded great but really is not picking up much of the slack. Theoretically, it
sounded like an instrument that would have great potential and keep people out
of hospital beds, but it just does not come through the way we all thought it
Judge Carruthers: It is not an order to begin with. It is
a consensual document and people, are not consenting. You cannot order people to
go to the hospital. I was asked how it affects the operation of our board, and I
said we have forgotten all about them, we never hear about them — that is how
useful they have been.
I do not think, Richard, you have seen very much.
Judge Schneider: No.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Am I correct in saying that,
in the end, it rests with the provinces? Our committee will do its best to bring
all this to the fore, through our report, but it becomes a provincial
Judge Schneider: There are things you can do to make the
criminal justice system work better — for example, the tweaks we talked about in
C-10. However, if you want to keep people out of the criminal justice system,
the provinces and the territories have to beef up their civil mental health
care. Whether that is something that the federal government would support by way
of helping with the financing, I do not know. However, it is certainly, yes, a
matter of provincial legislation, that is for sure.
Judge Carruthers: We were $28,000 short when we put that
court together, to ensure that we had enough social workers, and the Ministry of
Health said, “No, we are not paying any more.” I think it was $28,000 more that
we needed. What happened was the rest of the ministries were so embarrassed that
they threw the money into the pot, but the Ministry of Health still has not paid
for it. We were charged $34,000, our own board, to create a system.
Judge Schneider: We put 2,000 to 3,000 people through the
court a year.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: You refer to the trial of
Andrew Goldstein, and the judge’s comments in that trial. I will read them: “I
have no doubt that some day, probably after we are all gone, people will look
back at our treatment of mental illness under the law and be shocked and
Judge Carruthers: That is a New York judge.
The Chairman: Why do you think the Mental Health Court
experiment has not been copied elsewhere in Canada?
Judge Schneider: There are a couple of reasons. First of
all, to redeploy the resource that we have in downtown Toronto, you do need the
economies of scale, a critical mass in one spot to justify it. In other words,
you need certain volume in order to defend putting a psychiatrist into court
every day of the week.
The Chairman: That volume would exist I presume in
Winnipeg, in Vancouver, in Montreal and probably in Calgary.
Judge Schneider: I went out to Alberta — they were
talking about a pilot project in either Calgary or Edmonton — about four or five
years ago, but I have not heard that one has ever lifted off the ground.
I know they are talking about an experiment in Vancouver.
They are talking as we speak about one in Ottawa. There is one in New Brunswick.
You have to be careful, if researchers are taking a look at the literature,
because there are a number of different paradigms that all share the same name
“mental health court.” If you get into the literature and you start looking
south of the border, you will see that there hundreds of them down there, but
they are a completely different model with a completely different mandate. They
are all based on the American drug court system, and what those courts are doing
is really providing an alternative to what would otherwise be conventional
sentencing. They are voluntary. They presuppose the two basic psycho-legal
issues that we are looking at, namely, fitness to stand trial and criminal
responsibility. Both of those have to be assumed if you are going to contemplate
a guilty plea. So, it is a completely different thing. The one in New Brunswick
is based more on the American model. It is not at all what we are doing here.
So, to answer your question, yes, in the major urban centres
in Canada there would be a population sufficient to justify a court like this.
The Chairman: What was the biggest hurdle you had to get
over? That will tell those of us who have been bureaucrats where the resistance
lies? What was the biggest single hurdle you had?
Judge Schneider: Getting all the ministries and silos to
cooperate. First of all, there is a general resistance to change anyway, whether
it is going to be good or bad. There is tremendous inertia in a system and you
can point out a million reasons why another scheme might be better, but it will
be resisted just because it is change.
The other factor is that if we have got 10 people around a
table, a couple of their budgets may go up, but four or five may go down. So, it
is a question of getting the people whose budgets are going to go up to agree to
a system where the net effect will be a saving. So, in order to make something
like this work — because in Ontario at least every dollar spent in the province
comes through a ministry budget, other than the ombudsman's office. Hence, you
need somebody with omni-ministerial ability to rob people's back pockets and
spend money where they are convinced that, even though his budget is going up
and that one is going down, the net effect will be a saving. If you have
somebody with that sort of power, you can make something like this work.
The Chairman: In your case, I presume the chief justice
was instrumental in this. His support was critical.
Judge Schneider: That is right. His support was critical.
As I said, when we did start up, although specific budgets have been allocated
since the court started and has expanded. When we started, all we needed was
Judge Carruthers: We really made a silk purse out of a
sow's ear in creating that court, and I think what helped a great deal was that
the three ministers involved could see an awful lot of political benefit from
something that was not going to cost a lot of money. When they saw that, they
jumped on board and helped us a great deal. Up until then, however, we were
relying on people who did not really have the ability to pull the trigger.
The Chairman: Hence, it really took huge political will
to get it done.
Senator Pepin: We know that in other countries visible
minorities are living with very serious mental health problems. We know that in
some places a member of a minority group will face six times more chance of
being detained under the Mental Health Act.
Since Ontario is a province where there is a large number of
visible minorities, are you facing a similar situation? Do you feel that it is a
situation that has repeated itself here or not?
Judge Carruthers: I am not aware that we have an
inordinate amount of minorities that you are speaking about in our system. Both
Richard and I are involved in the Nunavut Review Board as well, so we are up
there quite often. If you want to see tragedy in life, go there. It is a bad
scene. We are dealing with people with fetal alcohol syndrome and that sort of
thing up there. Naturally, all our people up there are minorities, with the
exception of very few.
However, in Ontario, I am not aware that we are having an
inordinate number of First Nations or visible minority people in our system.
Judge Schneider: I am not aware of the data. I am sure it
exists. Certainly, with respect to the First Nations, they are overrepresented
in the criminal justice system in general.
However, in terms of specifically the Mental Health Court,
the court that I have got the most familiarity with or the review board, I do
not see that visible minorities are being overrepresented there curiously at
all. However, again, I have to confess, I do not have any data to back that up.
Senator Pepin: In Ontario, one person out of four belongs
to a visible minority group. I was wondering if you see them.
Judge Carruthers: Certainly not in that proportion.
The Chairman: May I thank both of you for attending here.
It has been very helpful to us.
Judge Carruthers: Our privilege.
The Chairman: Senators, we now move to the part of the
agenda where we have walk-ons. I would ask each of you to identify yourself as
you begin. You will be given two minutes to make a presentation. I do have to
watch the time tonight because we are running late.
Mr. Lionel Berger, As an individual: I am a family
member, a retired lawyer and vice-chair of a mental health organization. My son
was first hospitalized six years ago following a manic episode.
I have a few quick comments. First, I think it is overstating
the case to think of the failed civil system. The reason the criminal law
system, I am going to say, sometimes is the impetus is to appreciate that a
person's readiness to accept treatment may often be triggered by a crisis and
not influenced by persuasion.
On the subject of stigma, I can tell you that the advice I
received at the time of the first hospitalization and after was, “Do not tell
people, except on a need-to-know basis.” I am now a speaker at different events,
and I can tell you that the mental health professionals I speak to would agree
that was terrible advice. The advice should be that it is a tricky question as
to who you tell. However, the suggestion of not telling people except on a
need-to-know basis and loose lips sink ships — that type of advice just serves
to reinforce in the parents’ minds the stigma associated with mental health.
One might question the community mental health notion. You
need the courage to disclose mental health issues to those you think you should,
and we need the courage as a society to come forward and say it is a community
mental health setting.
One of the things I learned in the recovery series that I
recently attended after five and a half years was the importance of accepting
the individual with the mental health issue as an individual, not as someone who
needs to take their medication — that is a very narrow focus. The broader focus
is important — accepting the person as an individual has a lot of ramifications.
I hear all sorts of comments. The angst of parents and mental
health professionals is understandable. You look for solutions, the same way Job
wanted to suffer without getting answers, just having people to sit with him and
listen. I would caution you about naive or overstating cases because you want
solutions. Sometimes there are not simple solutions to complex problems. As I
said, sometimes it is a crisis that influences the motivation of someone to
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Don Weitz, As an individual: How much time do I have,
The Chairman: Two minutes.
Mr. Weitz: You have a copy of my brief of my submission
titled “A wakeup call on electroshock.”
The Chairman: Yes, we do. It has been distributed.
Mr. Weitz: I will have to get to the recommendations,
because no one told me how much time I had.
I am asking the committee to recommend a national ban on the
use of electroshock, otherwise called electroconvulsive therapy, by
psychiatrists. The reason is that this so-called treatment has caused a virtual
epidemic of brain damage, including permanent memory loss, which last been
thoroughly and responsibly documented for many years, almost since electroshock
began in Canada in the 1940s. This is a so-called treatment for depression. It
does not cure anything. It terrorizes. It traumatizes. There have been at least
411 recorded deaths in the English-language literature from the so-called safe,
effective and life-saving treatment. Hence, I am asking the committee to at
least recommend that, or a moratorium pending further research — which, by the
way, the board of health recommended for the province of Ontario in 1984 when we
gave testimony, but, unfortunately, the Toronto Board of Health has no power.
My second recommendation is that there be a mandatory
reporting law or regulation regarding electroconvulsive therapy or electroshock.
At the moment, there is none in any province or nationally. Hence, it is
discretionary. Hospitals do not have to report to a central data bank every time
they give shock, nor do they have to report the medical complications from this
at least so-called controversial procedure.
My final recommendation is that you are invited to public
hearings on psychiatric drugs on April 2 and 3 in Toronto's City Hall and the
following week on April 9 and 10 on electroshock. During these hearings, we have
a first-rate professional panel, which will act at facilitators, not speakers.
The only people that will be allowed to speak and give personal testimony will
be those who are currently on psychiatric drugs or have prescribed them or those
who have experienced electric shock.
I wish I had more time.
The Chairman: We will read the rest of your belief — we
Mr. Weitz: You have a copy of the flyer, right,
The Chairman: Yes, we do. Thank you.
Ms. Lembi Buchanan: Good afternoon. I am going to try to
be as brief as possible; I have a copy of my written notes for distribution.
Individuals with mental illnesses not only face
discrimination in the workplace, but they have a great difficulty accessing
income security programs when they are no longer able to work. I am talking
about federal disability tax credit, Canada pension disability and also
long-term disability from private insurers. I have had to fight for every
benefit my husband, Jim, has been entitled to. It is taken more than 10 years.
We are going to have to start all over again next year, but you can read about
We were forced into court by the Canada Revenue Agency to
secure the federal disability tax credit. His case was heard both in the Tax
Court and also in the Federal Court of Appeal because CRA decided to have a
judicial review. The decision in the Tax Court was upheld.
We had to fight for the long-term disability insurance — and
that was another long battle as well, fighting Prudential.
However, I do want to say that we could never have
anticipated that fighting government was actually going to be tougher than
fighting a private insurer.
Jim is a very intelligent, creative and resourceful
individual. He also suffers from bipolar disorder, which was first diagnosed in
1973 after he was discovered on top of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City,
where we lived at the time, waiting for a helicopter to take him to God. Thanks
to a new wonder drug, lithium carbonate, which is nothing more than a common
salt, Jim eventually recovered. However, Jim lost his job with the New York
The Chairman: Instead of giving us the long history, can
you get to what you are recommending?
Ms. Buchanan: I just want to say that he lost his job
with New York Telephone. In fact, every time he has had a major manic episode,
which has been in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, he has lost his job because
of a fundamental lack of understanding of the mental illness and a lack of
interest of employers trying to integrate these individuals with a serious
mental illness back into the workforce.
I will go right to my recommendations. We need to recognize
that persons with mental illnesses are amongst the most vulnerable members of
our society and ensure that they are treated fairly, justly and with respect and
dignity. Very few of them have advocates. We need to recognize that there is a
fundamental lack of understanding in our society of the disabling impacts of
psychiatric disorders and promote improved education within government — and you
have heard that over and over again — as well as private industry, to ensure
that these persons are not discriminated against because of misinterpretation of
legislation or using inappropriate guidelines to determine eligibility.
As well, we need to recognize that most persons with serious
mental illnesses are unable to advocate on their own behalf, to protest an
injustice, and appoint an ombudsman to assist them to access income security
programs. I have only been talking about federal ones, except for the LTD that
they are entitled to.
One final thing. Both my husband and I are alive today
because of the extraordinary medical services we have been able to access in
this province since 1990. I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He has
obviously a chronic illness and is subject to relapses, but I do not think that
we could live anywhere in the world — we have lived in the U.S. — where we would
have a publicly funded medical care service that would take care of us the way
I agree with Dr. Malla who said that, for all the problems we
have, and they are legion, we are still very thankful for what we have.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Ms. Sandra Schwartz, As an individual: My name is Sandra
Schwartz and I am a consumer survivor. My big issue with mental health is that
there are a lot of people with dual diagnosis, which is what I have — that is,
mental health issues and a learning disability.
All across Toronto, I have been frustrated, because I had a
lot of problems with first being diagnosed. I was not diagnosed until later, and
I had problems in my placement and in my working situation. I have gone through
all kinds of different programs, and I had to go from one program to another
program because one program did not understand the LD, and another program did.
I went to a program for LD, and then they turned me away because of my problem
that developed around an emotional breakout problem that I had with my mental
I am in another program at Progress Place, but the thing is,
it is just fortunate there is somebody there who does have a bit of an
understanding about learning disabilities, but it is mainly for mental illness.
There should be employment support and social skills support, whatever,
something specially designed for people with this dual diagnosis.
There is help for developmental problems and help for mental
illness, but nothing together. The only thing good — I went through a period of
homelessness — and the only thing good about having a mental illness with a
learning disability was that I was able to get welfare and disability because of
mental illness, not because of learning disability. They would turn me away from
The Chairman: Sandy, thank you for that, because we have
heard comments elsewhere in the country about the dual diagnosis problem.
Ms. Julie Haubrich: I am a community development worker,
presently working for a non-profit supportive housing organization here in the
City of Toronto. For the last five years, I have been working for them. I have
spent about 13 years working in community development in the City of Toronto,
working with homeless men and women, many with mental health issues.
I have learned a lot through that experience, from the
stories people have told me and from the struggles I have seen people endure.
One of the first things I know I have learned is that if you start with the
label — the person has been labelled with the illness — you get nowhere. In
order for change to happen, you need to address the whole person. You need to be
motivated by hope, hope that there is something in your future. You have to look
for the whole person, their strengths, and their strengths need to be recognized
I would like to take you on a short little journey with me. I
would like you to consider what it would be like for yourself, and maybe some of
you are in this situation, to be labelled with a mental illness and also
possibly consider what it would feel like to suffer either from depression or
from some of the symptoms that people with the different illnesses endure. Next,
I would like you to think about what it would be like if some of your family
members could not cope with you, were not there, could not do the journey with
you as you were struggling with your illness, struggling with your symptoms, and
sort of watch them drift away.
Then I would like you to consider what your world would be
like if you lost your job, because of that illness. Consider what it would be
like if you could not keep your work because the stresses were too much or your
employer did not understand you, and you lost your income. Finally, without
income, where do you live? Consider what it would be like if tonight you had no
place to go, you did not have a credit card, your cabin does not exist, you
cannot go there. Your car might have been long gone.
I just want people to know that these are often the stories I
hear from folks who suffer from a mental illness. Sometimes, their journey
starts when they are young, and they never get into the workforce. They never
lose a job because they never got one to begin with; others times, they cannot
I know that federal jurisdiction does not cover housing, but
I think it should. We have a country where people need to be housed. From my
work perspective, when people get the opportunity to get back on their feet with
housing, with work opportunities, where they are valued — even Mickey Mouse jobs
are good, but you need more opportunities.
I hope your jurisdiction will go beyond.
The Chairman: We will not stay stuck with just the
Ms. Haubrich: I think all those things have to be
considered, the whole person.
Ms. Morra Stewart, As an individual: My name is Morra
Stewart and I am a consumer survivor. I just want to say that I am really behind
putting money behind community centres. It is not an option. Either you are in
the hospital, in a bed, with doctors and nurses, or you are nowhere. The money
that was — as you said, there was deinstitutionalization. Well, all that money
should really go into the community, because most psychiatric patients would
rather live in the community anyway.
That is my big point. Thanks very much.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Mr. Weitz: Excuse me. I forgot to identify myself.
The Chairman: No, I got your name.
Mr. Weitz: Well, for the record, my name is Don Weitz. It
is very important that psychiatric survivors be recognized and identified
accurately. I am a shock survivor as well.
The Chairman: May I thank all of you for attending here
today. It has been very informative.
The committee adjourned.