Response to the 14th Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

Review of the Mental Disorder Provisions of the Criminal Code

November 2002


I am pleased to release the federal Government's Response to the Review of the Mental Disorder Provisions of the Criminal Code, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' report on the statutorily required review of SC 1991, c. 43, now found in Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, commonly referred to as the mental disorder provisions.

The Response indicates our support for the Committee's recommendations and outlines how the Government intends to address the issues identified by the Committee that require action or reform.

The Response focuses on initiatives the Government of Canada can pursue given our mandate and responsibility for enacting the criminal law. However, the criminal justice system is not the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. The provinces are responsible for, among other things, law enforcement, the prosecution of offences, and the administration of justice in the provinces. In addition, responding to the needs of mentally disordered persons, whether or not they come into contact with the criminal justice system, relies to a great extent on cooperation with the health system. Therefore, continuing consultation with provinces and territories regarding programs, services and treatment to address the needs of the mentally disordered is crucial.

The recommendations of the Standing Committee reflect and confirm the need for reforms advocated over the last ten years (since enactment of SC 1991 c. 43) by provincial and territorial officials, hospital administrators, mental health advocates, victim advocates, mental health service providers and the case law. The Standing Committee's through review and consultation process ensures that all perspectives have been heard and carefully considered. I am therefore confident that our Response appropriately addresses necessary reforms to enhance Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code to improve its efficiency and effectiveness while safeguarding the rights of the accused and the public through a regime which provides for individual assessments to address both treatment and protection of society.

As the Committee noted, the public may equate mental illness and mental disorder with violent behaviour and dangerousness. Efforts must be made, through public education and awareness campaigns, to dispel such stereotypes.

Since the enactment of Part XX.1 (SC 1991, c. 43), the courts have offered guidance to interpret key provisions, unproclaimed provisions have been the subject of Charter challenges, inquests have made recommendations regarding Part XX.1 and the public has become more demanding of assurances regarding their safety. The Standing Committee has considered this evolution and proposed balanced approaches to improve a complex and essential component of our criminal law.

I want to thank all those who shared their expertise and experience with the Standing Committee in their written submissions and testimony before the committee. I also wish to thank the members of the Committee for their careful consideration of various perspectives and for their contribution to the further reform and modernization of our law.

As Minister of Justice, I commit myself to ensuring that the recommendations of the Committee are implemented to the fullest extent possible.

Martin Cauchon
Minister of Justice
and Attorney General of Canada