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Controversies Concerning the Canadian Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act [2017]

In Canada, individuals found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder are subject to the disposition recommendations of the Provincial or Territorial Review Board of the jurisdiction where the offense was committed. Bill C-14, known as “The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act” made changes to the postverdict disposition process of these individuals. This legislation was consistent with a broader “tough-on-crime” agenda of the previous federal government. The legislative changes codify that Review Boards take public safety as the “paramount consideration” in making their recommendations. The legislation also creates a new “high-risk” category for certain offenders and imposes limitations on their liberty. Further, Bill C-14 seeks to enhance victim involvement in the disposition process. The passage of this legislation has generated significant controversy in the medical and legal fields. Critics have stated that there is an absence of empirical evidence on which to base the amendments, that the legislation was an overreaction to high-profile cases, and that Bill C-14 is in questionable compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this review, we explore the potential catalysts involved in the creation of Bill C-14, the controversy surrounding the legislation, and the potential future impact on practicing forensic psychiatrists and on the forensic mental health system in Canada.

Robert Lacroix, Roy O’Shaughnessy, Dale E. McNiel and Renée L. Binder

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, March 2017, 45 (1)

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