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NCJ Number: 77010 Find in a Library
Title: Dangerousness Concept in Canadian Mental Health Legislation The Case of Dangerous Mentally Disordered Persons and the Criminally Insane
Author(s): M Petrunik
Corporate Author: Canada Solicitor General
Research and Statistics Group Programs Group
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: Canada Solicitor General
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8, Canada
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: This paper discusses Canadian laws permitting the involuntary commitment of mentally disordered dangerous persons, certification of offenders alleged to be mentally disordered upon release, and the rationale behind proposed legal reform.
Abstract: In Canada, responsibility for the areas of health and welfare is given to each of the 10 provinces. Legal controls permitting the involuntary commitment of mentally disordered dangerous persons are found in mental health legislation under the jurisdiction of the provinces. This legislation usually defines mental illness in general terms. The power of commitment is not based on judicial decision, but on the signature of one or two physicians, depending upon the province. It has been frequently contended that such commitments take place too easily because of the tendency to diagnose mental illness in doubtful cases. Recently, media attention has been directed to incidents of commitment on invalid grounds. On the other hand, cases involving the release of failure to certify mentally ill persons have also been observed. In one case, an individual who had been released from a psychiatric institute weeks earlier wounded five people in a sniping incident before killing himself. Another major problem in Canada lies in the certification of offenders alleged to be mentally disordered and dangerous upon expiration of sentence or release on mandatory supervision. Certification is difficult to accomplish because of the reluctance of mental health officials to accept patients who may prove to be highly disruptive. Because of such problems with existing laws, the law reform commission has recommended the establishment of a system of hospital orders molded along the lines of the system in England and Wales. The most important of these proposed modifications is that the order is to be conditional upon both the offender's and the hospital's consent, and that there be judicially defined limits to treatment and extensive judicial supervision of the treatment process. Despite problems arising as a result of the multiplicity of jurisdictions in Canada and the attitudes of mental health and correctional officials, these proposals should be enacted. Solid research findings support such change.
Index Term(s): Canada; Civil commitment; Criminal responsibility; Criminally insane persons; Dangerousness; Law reform; Legislation; Mentally ill offenders; Violent offenders
Note: Paper presented at the International Sociological Association Meetings, Uppsala, Sweden, August 18, 1978.
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