Speaking notes and submission by Dave Teixeira in favour of Bill C54 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Ottawa.
Please check against delivery
Thank you very much for the opportunity to address this Committee today.
My name is Dave Teixeira. I own a public, media and government relations company – Dave.ca Communications – in Port Coquitlam, BC and I am here to add my voice, along in support of Bill C54.
In my address I want to share with you how I met Darcie Clarke and Stacy Galt; my advocacy on the issue of “not criminally responsible” at all levels of government; further explain my support of this Bill and finally dispel many of the untruths that have been shared in the press, in the House of Commons and even during these hearings.
I remember hearing about the brutal murder of three children at the hands of Allan Schoenborn in April 2008. I remember being shocked and disgusted by the crimes. Honestly, within days of the initial story appearing in the media I all but forgot about this crime since it took place in Merritt, BC – about 2.5 hours north east from my home in Port Coquitlam.
Then in April 2010 I opened my local newspaper to find out that this triple child killer had been relocated to Coquitlam, BC and was being released into our community. The doctors in the article said that after one year of treatment they felt he was better and while they considered him to still be a significant risk to public safety, they felt it was in his best interest to be reintegrated into the community with escorted passes, then unescorted day and overnight passes and then an unconditional release. In the words of Allan Schoenborn, “I want to get a coffee at the local Starbucks and swim at Chimo Pool”.
This itself was disturbing but the next day on the news I watched as Stacy Galt, the cousin of Darcie Clarke the mother of the three children slain by Schoenborn, told the interviewer that the family had not been notified. In fact Darcie now lived in Coquitlam with family members since the murders three years earlier in Merritt.
The Review Board replied in the media that they did not know Darcie Clarke lived in Coquitlam and besides they had not had any negative feedback from anyone on Schoenborn. http://www.dave.ca/2011/04/13/allan-schoenborns-doctor-not-aware-of-safety-concerns/
To make a long story short, I contacted Stacy Galt and offered my services at no charge to her and Darcie. Within days the BC Review Board was flooded with hundreds of emails, phone calls and faxes from outraged residents, victims groups, media outlets, law enforcement, many Lower Mainland municipalities and just about every elected official at every level of government in the Tri-Cities.
We organized a rally the day before the hearing which attracted over one hundred people and every major news organization. This two hour rally was carried live on the top radio station in British Columbia – CKNW – and broadcast over their network to much of BC. MP James Moore spoke and promised that if his Conservative Party formed a majority government three weeks later in May 2011 he would ensure changes to the NCR rules were introduced.
As we know, Minister Moore kept his promise and joined with Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others to introduce Bill C54.
The next day at the hearing, the BC Review Board was shocked to see the gallery was packed. The Review Board turned off the microphones and conducted the review in near whispers. When Stacy protested the Chair said, “this is a HEARing which mean you need to listen” when I protested I was threatened with removal, when some of the media representatives protested, the Chair said they would try to speak up.
The 2011 review ended with Schoenborn withdrawing his demand for release and the Review Board finding him to pose a “significant threat to public safety”.
A year later, Schoenborn decided he did not want to have his review in March or April 2012 , instead moving it to November. Days before that hearing he moved it again – to Valentine’s Day 2013. At that hearing he did not ask for day passes etc, instead he asked to be transferred to Selkirk, Manitoba to the same non-gated facility as Vincent Li, the “Greyhound Bus Killer”. The Review Board granted this request while finding Schoenborn to continue to pose a “significant threat to public safety”.
These are just some of the many events which continued to take place over the last two years which convinced me that there is an imbalance in the system. A system where victims are purposefully removed from consultation and declined information. Bill C54 corrects these travesties.
C54 gives victims families two major changes: 1) the right to be informed of the progress and process of the NCR accused and 2) time to heal with up-to three years between reviews should the accused be found to be “high risk” as opposed to having to suffer through an annual process which the NCR accused can reschedule on a whim and in Schoenborn’s case, continue to be found to pose a significant threat to public safety.
In addition, by having a separate and distinct classification of “high risk offender” this Bill reaffirms that not all mental ill people nor all NCR accused are a danger to society. Those who do pose a risk are dealt with differently. This makes complete sense.
Bill C54 is not a catch all Bill. It will not solve all the ills in the criminal and mental health systems. Nor was it designed to. As I have said, the Bill corrects the imbalance which exists in the system and gives greater consideration to victims and community as a whole.
Voting against this Bill because it does not address various shortcomings in our criminal and mental health systems would be like voting against a “Lakes Protections Bill” because it does not address concerns with the oceans. Yes, both have to do with water but in my “Lakes Protections Bill” example the intent of such an act is clear. As is Bill C54 – which is meant to put victims first when dealing with an NCR designation..
Just about everything else in Bill C54 is the same process that exists today.
This is why I am disappointed to hear some Members of Parliament make heady statements which fry up incorrect conclusions.
This Bill IS NOT punitive nor does it enforce a three year mandatory detainment for NCR accused. Rather at the review hearing a determination of “high risk” will be made by doctors, approved by the Review Board and then further reviewed by a judge.
C54 DOES NOT stigmatize the mentally ill. Stigmatization comes from hiding the process from the public and keeping people ill informed or by labeling a group of people with just one label, such as NCR. C54 opens up the process giving people more insight and understanding which will alleviate much of the stigmatization.
Some lawyers suggest mentally ill will choose jail over an NCR designation. That can actually occur now under the current system. However now or even under Bill C54 a judge makes the final determination, therefore this Bill does not change the way someone “chooses” to have NCR applied to their crimes or actions.
Some witnesses and Members have said there will be Charter challenges to the Bill. I would guess there would be just as we saw in 2010 when folks were outraged they had to wear helmets while riding bikes in BC; or in 1997 when a Quebec resident argued that Section 117 of the Income Tax Act discriminated against taxpayers who earned higher incomes; or in the latest 1990s in just about every Province there were Charter challenges to banning smoking in restaurants and pubs. So yes, some people will make Charter challenges – just as we have seen many times whenever health and safety protections are put in place. And just as the examples I cited failed, I would suggest so would a challenge on Bill C54. When doing the right thing for public safety sometimes this means preventing some people from doing harmful things.
Opponents to Section 672.64 (1b) of the Bill say they do not like the fact that “a single brutal event” is the determining factor on the “high risk” designation. That is NOT what is in the Bill. These folks are cherry picking words and stringing together to form sentences which serve their political and/or fiscally driven views. In short, it is intellectually dishonest.
Subsection 2 is clear “In deciding whether to find that the accused is a high-risk accused, the court shall consider all relevant evidence”. This includes the nature of the offences, pattern of offences, current mental condition, willingness to follow treatment, past history and more. There is a full, complete and prudent set of rules by which all parties must follow before an accused is found to be high-risk.
Finally we have heard that the Crocker report shows there is a low rate of recidivism for folks found to be NCR and therefore the up to three year term for high risk offenders is not needed.
I believe we do not have proper information to make such conclusions on recidivism rates.
The Croker report is a very narrow study of the NCR system in Canada. How narrow? The study looked at only 165 people from three provinces – BC, Ontario and Quebec – for a 3, 4 and 5 year period respectively. In addition the study only considered recidivism if an act occurred three years after their study date. Also of note are some confusing figures. Conclusions state the recidivism rate in the low double digits however on page 17 it reads, “..38.8% had been previously convicted or found NCRMD”. Finally, on page 21 is this warning: “Given the follow-up time for this study was limited, the results here must be interpreted with caution.” I agree.
The State of Virginia earlier this year on their website http://vaperforms.virginia.gov/indicators/publicsafety/recidivism.php wrote:
“[recidivism rate comparisons are difficult] as there are usually significant differences in how states define and track recidivism measures.”
The State goes out to outline many of the reasons recidivism rates can be flawed.
Notes on Additional Differences in How Recidivism is Measured:
Variations in when recidivism tracking begins (while the offender is still in a correctional environment, or after release);
The length of time during which recidivism is tracked (one year, multiple years, etc.);
The kinds of offenses counted as recidivism (all offenses, only criminal offenses, only felonies, etc.);
How new qualifying offenses are characterized (must be new crimes or can be technical parole or minor violations (such as traffic infractions); and
How the data is obtained (juvenile system only, adult system only, both systems, different jurisdictional levels (city, county, statewide, multi-state, etc.).
Again, the Crocker report offers a similar caution.
This does not mean we discard the Crocker report, however, it means this Committee should not take as gospel the figures outlined in the report due to the limited scope (3 provinces), differing times frame (between 3 and 5 years) and short period for follow up (3 years).
As an analogy I could assert that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the greatest team in the history of the NHL…if you only look at teams from 3 Provinces – BC, Ontario and Quebec – for a specific and short period of time, say, 1962 to 1967. I am sure some of you will argue against my assessment and you should. Just as you should be leary of the conclusive recidivism rates presented to you by various groups.
In conclusion, Bill C54 continues to protect the mentally ill from incarceration while correcting the imbalance which sees victims ignored or worse, revictimized by the system.
As hard as we are working with the Federal Government on making changes to the system we are also working in BC with Premier Christy Clark and Justice Minister Shirley Bond to make changes to the BC Review Board process. We have already made huge advances in the area of domestic violence when in April 2012 the Province issued their report entitled “Honouring Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon” – which are of course the names of Darcie’s three children.
I call on all Parties and all Members of the House to vote unanimously in favour of Bill C54.
I realize our time in here today is limited you will note additional passages in my written submission which I could not articulate just now. I invite the members of the Committee, people in the gallery or folks watching this hearing’s broadcast to connect with Stacy and myself after this hearing in person or by email at email@example.com or Twitter @davedotca.
I look forward to your questions.