Criminal Code National Defence Act Third Reading


Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder) Senator Jane Cordy April 8th, 2014

Third Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator McIntyre, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dagenais, for the third reading of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder).

Senator Cordy: I was a member of the Social Affairs Committee when Senator Kirby chaired the committee and we did our study on mental health, mental illness and addictions. The deputy chair at that time was Senator LeBreton, and Senator Callbeck was also a member of that committee. We had just finished doing a study on the health care system in Canada, and we recognized that a number of issues related to health care really deserved more than a couple of paragraphs or even more than a chapter in our report on the health care system. One of them was women's health, one was Aboriginal health, and one was mental health.

Senator Kirby went around the table and said, "Out of all of these issues related to health, what would you like to do as your next study, as a follow-up to our study on the health care system?" Every senator on that committee - every senator, Conservative, Liberal, independent - spoke about a family member or a very close friend who suffered from poor mental health, so therefore we all said that this was the study that we had to do next, mental health and mental illness.

I wonder, if we went around the Senate Chamber as a whole, to each and every one of us, how many people in this chamber could say that they have a relative or a close friend who suffers from poor mental health? I know that my husband's sister has schizophrenia. This is a very bright woman who has her master's degree and who, in the 1970s, actually opened up one of the first family resource centres on a military base in Dartmouth and then another one in the Halifax area. In her late twenties she developed schizophrenia. She is a very kind and very gentle woman. I shudder to think of what would happen if she broke the law and what would happen to her under this new bill that is coming forward. She would be found not criminally responsible, and then would she be given a high-risk designation?

We've already talked about the stigma that those who suffer from poor mental health and mental illness suffer. The stigma is incredible. The government has spent millions of dollars on television advertisements and in the media to reduce the stigma for those who suffer from poor mental health. They have spent money trying to reduce the stigma of those with mental health and mental illness problems, and I agree that money was well spent, but then you turn around and bring forward a bill that is going to yet again further stigmatize those with poor mental health.

As Senator Jaffer said, fewer than 1 per cent of the people who are mentally ill are violent, yet this bill is based on two very high- profile cases in Canada. Unfortunately, a bill should not be based on fear-mongering for the public. Fewer than 1 per cent of those with mental illness are violent, and that's something we have to remember. I think Senator Jaffer addressed this very well. Bills should be based on research and on facts; they should not be based on a minister saying, "I believe," or "I think." This bill is wrong. It's wrong for Canadians, who should feel compassion for the people who live in Canada. It is wrong for the one in five Canadians who suffer from poor mental health. Thank you.