The Review Board Systems in Canada: An Overview of Results from the Mentally Disordered Accused Data Collection Study


The authors would like to thank the participating Review Boards for their advice, guidance and assistance in collecting the data in this report. This project would not have been possible without their collaboration and support. In addition, the authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the work of the following individuals who diligently recorded the data from Review Board files: Francine Aumueller, Lindsay M. Broderick, Laura Mansueti, Éric Raymond, Sarah Turnbull, Marie-Ève Schmouth, and Myles Wieselman. We are also grateful for statistical advice on this project provided by Dr. Kwing Hung, as well as for data entry services provided by Paul Verbrugge and for data verification services completed by Alison Millar. Finally, we would like to sincerely thank the following individuals for their comments on an earlier draft of this report: Catherine Kane, Paula Kingston, Susan McDonald and Anna Paletta.

Executive Summary

The goal of this present study is to provide basic information on Review Board systems in Canada and the people who have passed through their control. Currently, there is little information on the nature of cases found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD) or unfit to stand trial (UST) that are processed through Review Board systems, including the type of offences for which accused have been charged, the psychiatric diagnoses of accused, the range of conditions imposed on accused, or the average length of time NCRMD or UST accused spend under the purview of Review Boards.

In order to fill this gap, the Department of Justice Canada introduced a data collection strategy in cooperation with Review Boards in seven provinces and territories (Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Nunavut). This report represents the results of this data collection strategy and provides information on the nature of cases that have been processed through the Review Board systems in Canada between 1992 and 2004.

The results of this data collection process answered a considerable number of policy and operational research questions. Some of the more pertinent findings include:

  • Review Board caseloads have been increasing over the last decade and are expected to continue to grow substantially over the next decade;
  • Although Aboriginal people do not appear to experience the same level of over-representation as they do within the traditional criminal justice system, it does appear as though they spend substantially more time under the control of Review Boards;
  • Nearly half of NCRMD/UST accused appearing before Review Boards at their initial hearing have never been convicted of a prior criminal offence;
  • NCRMD/UST accused have generally committed very serious violent offences such as murder, attempted murder, assault, sexual assault, criminal harassment, threats and arson;
  • Approximately three-quarters of those within the Review Board systems have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or an affective disorder, such as bi-polar disorder, schizo-affective disorder or major depression;
  • One in five cases that are processed by the Review Boards are released (e.g., found fit, given an absolute discharge) after the first hearing; and
  • Almost one-quarter of NCRMD/UST cases are spending at least ten years in the Review Board systems and some have been in for significantly longer.

Additional data collection is still needed, however, to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the forensic mental health system in Canada.

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