Unfortunately, Canada isn’t immune to the idiocy that seems to be running rampant in political spheres lately.
Earlier this month, Ontario premier Doug Ford chose to share his less than enlightened opinion on a man with schizophrenia who had not returned from an unaccompanied pass back to the forensic psychiatric unit where he was a patient. This man was being held in the forensic unit because he had been found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder for the death of his roommate. NCRMD is the Canadian version of being not guilty by reason of insanity.
Ford called this man an “animal”, and in a previous statement had called him “a nutcase.”
As quoted in an article by the CBC, Ford stated: “We’ve got to put these people away and if they have mental health issues they can be dealt with in jail — simple as that.” He added: “I’m passionate about helping people who have true mental illness … Stop sympathizing with axe-wielding murderers and all this bleeding heart stuff.”
In case his words don’t immediately make it clear we’re not talking about the best and the brightest here, a column entitled “Doug Ford: The Year of Living Stupidly” by Bob Hepburn in the Toronto publication The Star referred toFord’s first year in office “a complete disaster.” Hepburn described Ford as “an erratic and unqualified leader” who is “clearly out of his depth.”
Ford’s statements came only days after U.S. President Donald Trump made this statement about mass shootings in Ohio and Texas: “Mental illness and hatred pulled the trigger, not the gun.”
It’s a bit of an odd juxtaposition — Trump blaming the shootings on assumed mental illness, and Ford blaming an individual “animal” who had actually been found by the courts not criminally responsible due to mental illness,
Both add fuel to the fire of stigma.
Personally, I find Trump’s statements a bit easier to dismiss out of hand. The notion of mental illness being behind mass shootings is certainly not unique to him, and this is just one example out of a great many of Trump making ignorant statements.
Ford makes his own fair share of ignorant statements, but this one seems particularly egregious. I suspect he’s not familiar with the legal principle of mens rea (criminal mind) and how that underpins the notion of not criminally responsible, but ignorance isn’t a very good excuse when one leads a government.
He mentions putting mentally ill people in jail. There are already plenty of them — people with mental illness are over-represented in the jail and prison systems, where they’re unlikely to receive effective treatment. It is only a small proportion of mentally ill people who commit criminal acts who are found not criminally responsible for the courts and diverted to the forensic hospital system rather than the prison system. Mental illness is not a get out of jail free card with a bleeding heart stamped on it.
It seems that this sort of ignorance and fear-mongering is becoming increasingly de rigeur. That doesn’t make it acceptable.