Manitoba’s mental health court sits May 10

It was many, many moons ago that the NDP declared there would be a provincial mental health court in Manitoba. Nearly a decade has passed.

From the WFP 6/11/2011: By Mary Agnes Welch

It was 2004 when then-Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh first said a mental health court was in the works.

“We’re of the view that if we’re going to have a successful mental health court we have to develop this slowly and sure-footedly,” he told the Free Press at the time.

“Slowly” turned into seven years. Last week, the province announced the court would finally launch this winter.

Selinger said it took time to do proper due diligence and planning on things like the mental health court to get them to a workable point.

“We put it in the throne speech last fall and we did it this spring,” said Selinger of the mental health court. “That’s a pretty fast turnaround.”

But, according to a judicial memo circulated today, we can all mark May 10, 2012 on our calendars as the day the shiny new MHC will sit for the first time.

Re: MENTAL HEALTH COURT 

Effective Thursday May 10, 2012, Mental Health Court (MHC) will sit weekly on Thursdays at 1 p.m. in courtroom 408, 408 York Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba.

This problem-solving court will hear matters where the accused’s involvement with the criminal justice system is a result of mental health issues and there the particulars of the incident(s) fall within the sets of criteria established by the Crown and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team.

PROCESS: 

Persons with mental health issues who have been or are about to be charged with an offence may be identified to the Crown by police, courts or corrections staff or counsel.

In these cases, the Crown will review the file and may refer the accused to the FACT team for a suitability and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application for and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application form and the required waiver form. Provided the accused is a suitable candidate for MHC and willing to participate, the FACT team will prepare a report to the MHC judge which will include a treatment plan. This process constitutes application to Mental Health Court.

Until an accused applies for MHC, the charges will be remanded on the pre-trial coordinator’s dockets. Upon application, the accused with appear for the first time on the MHC docket as arranged by counsel with court staff. The accused will enter guilty pleas, file application and waiver forms and enter into a bail as agreed upon by all parties. The charges will then be remanded week to week while the accused’s mental health is addressed during the treatment plan.

Each Thursday at 12 p.m. the MHC judge will meet with the FACT team and counsel in Judges’ chambers to discuss the treatment progress of each person on the docket. During the court sitting as the Crown calls each matter the MHC judge will address the named accused directly to encourage ongoing commitment.

As each accused’s mental health improves, appearances may become less frequent. Upon the treatment plan being completed, the accused will make a final appearance before the MHC judge either to be sentenced to a community based disposition or for the Crown to stay the charges.

The entire process is expected to take 18-24 months from referral to disposition.

ISSUED By Chief Judge Ken Champagne, Provincial Court of Manitoba

Over the past few months I had heard rumblings this would be happening, but like many, I’m sure, had no idea when.

The only other thing I had heard is that the Crown prosecutor who will be running the show is Susan Helenchilde, who is leaving community prosecutions to take this on.

The first Mental Health Court started in 1998 in Toronto, putting us well behind the curve in terms of time — that’s also allowed (hopefully) Manitoba to gain from the knowledge MHC’s in other jurisdictions have only gleaned through trial (pun intended) and error.

It’s interesting to note that in Toronto’s system, there’s a wide range of offences that aren’t eligible for MHC (below).

We’ll obviously learn in coming days what’s permissible for MHC in Manitoba.

I’d also highly recommend reading the “factors to consider” section of the Toronto MHA website. It’s also clear that Manitoba’s taking a bit of a ‘baby-step’ approach by electing (as per the memo above) to not stay charges until the treatment plan is completed.

Geeks can read stats analysis and other research topics on MHC’s here at Stats Can. (Like the court, your tax dollars paid for it, may as well read it.)

3. Eligibility of Offences

    • a. Offences that are not eligible (also known as Class III for purposes of other practice memoranda)

The following classes of offences will not be eligible for treatment plans or supervisory programs as an alternative to prosecution, regardless of the circumstances of the alleged offence or the accused:

      • murder, manslaughter, infanticide, criminal negligence causing death;
      • causing death or bodily harm by dangerous or impaired driving;
      • any offence causing serious bodily harm;
      • simple impaired driving or driving with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration;
      • offences involving firearms;
      • criminal organization offences;
      • kidnapping;
      • spouse/partner offences
      • child abuse;
      • offences involving child pornography
      • sexual offences including sexual assault, interference and exploitation, invitation to sexual touching and incest;
      • specific hate offences
      • home invasions;
      • perjury;

The judge’s tirade came maybe just a bit too late

Judge Fred Sandhu

You gotta admire Provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu.

At the same time, you have to pity the fact he can’t simply walk into the CBC or the offices of any other media outlet in Winnipeg and put his opinions on the record for all to hear.

It’s the job of the media to be there to hear what judges like Sandhu have to say. And in this case, only the Winnipeg Sun was on September 30, 2011 — a few days prior to the election — but his words apparently went largely un-noticed by the electorate.

Sandhu was charged on that day with sentencing Daniel Smith, 26, for cracking a broomstick over the head of his wife while she breastfed their child. Then he stabbed her a few times with it.

They were fighting over beer, and the fact money was used to buy the baby essentials at Wal-Mart instead of more booze. The overconsumption of liquor and resulting problems has been a frequent issue in Smith’s life, Sandhu heard.

Without question, one of the most read and commented on posts on this blog in the last year was a recent one about Manitoba’s booze problem and its impact on our soaring violent crime rate.

And how it should be a key focus of any political party seeking reelection if they’re truly serious about ‘getting tough on crime.’

While many comments were positive and agreed to varying extents with my position, others — sent by email, largely, attacked me for taking a perceived prudish and anti-personal-responsibility stance on the issue of alcoholism and booze consumption in our province.

It’s like the Air Canada story that’s been rocking the airwaves this week. The truth hurts.

Sandhu, for whatever reason — frustration, anger, boredom — whatever, used Smith’s case to rail about the provincial booze-influenced-crime issue for an extended period of time.

In addition to my short story in Metro Winnipeg (Dean Pritchard’s earlier story is here), I wanted to put his “tirade” on the record in full.

Here it is, mostly verbatim, for the public record, emphasis mine.

‘Did you hear what you did?’ — it’s rhetorical.

Your behaviour was animalistic. That’s not the way even semi-decent human beings behave.

… It appears to me is what she did is she was asked to get beer and she changed — didn’t want to.

She went and got baby stuff instead because of some reason; she felt the baby needed some stuff.

And here you were, you and your wife and this cousin (Note: she’s 12) — I don’t know how much she was drinking, you were insistent, as was your wife,

‘No, we want to drink.’

That’s much more important to you than anything else.

‘We want to drink’ and if you don’t drink, she comes back without beer, without alcohol and it’s  — you get so upset with this that you hit her over the head with a broomstick — and that wasn’t good enough for you. While she’s holding the four-(month)-old, as I’ve been told, that wasn’t good enough for you and you start stabbing her with it.

All for what? For alcohol? Because you wanted more alcohol?

I don’t understand. I understand the power of alcohol — and that people do what appear to be very evil things because they were under the influence of what can be a very evil substance.

And I’ve been told that the combination in terms of costs to society of alcohol is many, many times greater by factors of 10 and 20 and 30 than any — all of the other drugs combined.

And that’s what we see here day to day, the effects of alcohol. And we hear about people doing these evil things and they say: ‘Well, I’m under the influence of alcohol.’

And I understand that that’s not an excuse, it’s not an excuse, but it shows me — and it’s shown to me day after day, and year after year, the incredible evil of alcohol on certain people. In certain situations.

And the evil is compounded by the fact that even when people appear here, time after time, having done what appear to be evil things, they can’t stop.

They continue to drink — and they continue to do evil things.

And then we look at all that and go, ‘well, is it the person that’s evil?’ The act was certainly evil. ‘Is the person evil? Is alcohol evil?’

You can’t ignore the fact that alcohol’s involved in all of these things. And here’s an almost perfect example of a person who can’t get the alcohol, who can’t get the thing that they crave and they do these animalistic things.

All for the power of alcohol — because of the power of alcohol. Sold at the corner store.

Friendly neighbourhood grocery store soon. 

And we wonder ‘how come there’s so much crime, how come there’s so much apparent evil in the world?’

And the only thing I hear about the alcohol is, ‘Oh, people are using it as an excuse,’ ‘Oh, why should they get less time because they’re drinking alcohol?’

That’s not the point.

The whole point being missed is what alcohol does to people, how it changes their behaviour, how they don’t even remember what they did.

Somebody who is on cocaine or marijuana or on speed, or on meth — you don’t see them doing these things. Maybe once in a while, something happens, an overdose …

But what happens day after day, month after month, year after year, case after case — is alcohol.

And people try to do things about it and get treatment — they try to go through rehab time and time again. They come back to court, thy lose their freedom. They lose their family, they lose their jobs, they lose their lives — they know other people have lost their lives and they still drink. Absolutely no control.

The control is completely from the substance — and that has to be recognized.

I‘m getting tired of this, in that the … the effect of alcohol people, and the complete lack of treatment facilities in this province to deal with it and people burying their heads in the sand about what the reality is. 

Has to end. Look what it’s doing to our society. And the courts are supposed to deal with it? How can we deal with it?

The only power that I have is to take away your freedom. That’s my ultimate power. That’s it. That’s all I have. When you leave the courtroom here today, you’re not to be punished any further — your punishment is your loss of freedom and that’s it.

When you go to jail, you’re not required to do anything … you’re not required to go to rehab, you’re not required to deal with the alcohol.

You don’t want to, you don’t have to. That because the only power the court has  — your loss of freedom. There is nothing other than the lower penalties that we have, the fines and so on. But the ultimate penalty is simply your loss of freedom.

And it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with all the time on your hand — because you’ve had lots of time on your hands and you’ve done nothing about your alcohol — I haven’t heard anything from your lawyer that you’ve even tried. Maybe you’re one of these people that alcohol is such a strong attraction that you don’t care. You don’t even care for rehab. There’s even a song about that: ‘You don’t even care for rehab,’ because you want the alcohol.

For you, the shining light on the hill is alcohol and you stab people and you hit them over the head with a broomstick and you run up a criminal record that’s three pages long — all alcohol related.

And you’re one of those people that’s only going to quit when you’re face down in the ground.

Is that what you want to be? Is that your life? Four-month-old baby — you’re going to lose your baby, you’re going to lose your life, you’re going to lose your freedom, gonna lose your job — if you had one — that didn’t stop you.

And eventually, there’s gonna be a time where you could well be locked up indefinitely.

Because if you have no control over this substance that makes you such an angry person, makes you do such evil acts — even though you yourself may not be evil ‚ then we have to deal with the evil act. We can’t deal with the person anymore — there’s comes a time, and as I said, the courts have very limited power. We can’t cure the problems of society by sitting here and sending people to jail. It’s not our job.

That’s the job of society to deal with it. And society wants to bury their heads in the sand.

And don’t blame the courts for not being able to fix society’s evils.

Sandhu even made the point of jumping Smith’s time for failing to comply with a probation order for verboten drinking by 15 days (from 45 to 60).

“I think even the two months is generous,” he said.

He even rubbed it in a tiny bit by ordering that Smith pay the $300 victim fine surcharge in the case — a penalty usually wiped out when a person has been locked up for months and months because they’ve likely lost everything. Smith was credited with double time for just shy of a year behind bars.

Just a final word, Mr. Smith. Do something about your alcohol. Unless you want to die, do something about it. I know many people who are very fine people when they are not drinking. And they’re completely different people when they are drinking. And if they didn’t drink, I would say that we wouldn’t even see them. Wouldn’t even see them in court — but we see them time after time after time.

And I give this speech to a lot of people — well, part of this speech to a lot of people — I know it doesn’t get through. All I can try to do is tell you that there is help available. If you don’t take advantage of it, you’re going to be back here again. And again and again and again.

… It’s your life. You’ve got another 50 years to go. Is this how you want to spend it?

-30-

Minor annoyances

There’s a few small things that have been nagging at me lately.

1] Police disciplinary records and the ‘rush to expunge.’

Absolutely wicked editorial today in the WFP about this issue. I’m guessing Catherine Mitchell penned it. Why she’s not a regular public columnist  bewilders me. (Here’s another good recent one.)

From the piece:

The fact it passed council without a whiff of debate is damning.

Well, what irks me is, what do people expect? There is absolutely no public police oversight body in the province that has any tangible teeth. You can’t expect council to carry the water for an independent police oversight body.

And yes, LERA, I’m talking about you, despite the fact you only look at non-criminal complaints against police.

It’s now approaching the end of 2011, and we’re still waiting on your annual report from 2010. That’s not an indication it will say anything, but still. Sheesh.

On the municipal level, City Hall’s protection committee, despite having the authority to ask questions of police brass on behalf of citizens, has long been neutered by the unspoken sentiment that nobody on council will dare irk the WPS by asking tough questions, let alone fostering a real debate on policing and police budgetary issues.

I point you to this prior post where, just weeks after four people were shot (three fatally) in the North End and Point Douglas, and not one ward councillor on the committee had a question for the divisional commander of any real consequence. Sad.

That’s beside the point.

The fact that police want a five-year expungement exemption for discipline records doesn’t mean anything, really, in my humble view. It’s reasonable to expect that a police officer can go five years without issues and have their prior record expunged. Cops aren’t perfect, and they deal with seriously bad-assed people. Stuff goes wrong.

Is every one of your decisions perfect?

Aside from this, the Winnipeg public has never seen, nor had a right to see, police service records nor attend discipline hearings formal or informal.

I can count on one finger where I’ve seen the records asked for in court as part of the disclosure process, and that came to nothing.

To me, it’s much ado about nothing from the police end of things.

But, the fact that city politicians let the issue pass in a ‘breathless’ manner should surprise nobody. Not one whit.

2] Where’s Minister Swan?

Maybe I’m missing something, but the only single time I’ve heard a peep out of Justice Minister Andrew Swan (Minto) during the current election campaign is when he said a few words at the police officer memorial at the legislature last weekend. He spoke well.

But what I don’t get is why the provincial Justice Minister, in an election where crime and the solutions for it (should be) a front-and-centre issue for everybody, has been virtually silent.

I just don’t get it, and I guess I expected to see him front and centre stumping for the NDP.

To be honest, the crime and safety platforms from each of the parties are sorely lacking in my opinion. Only the poor Libs, have shown at least some clue that more cops ‘walking the beat,’ a new gun unit or some GPS bracelets aren’t the end-all solution to address our long-term crime problems.

Maybe someone should think about the fact that ‘cops on the beat’ isn’t just about lack of resources, it’s also about officer safety.

You’d be a lunatic to walk up and down College Avenue in a police uniform at any time of day without backup or a cruiser car nearby.

Sheer lunacy.

3] Kid Killers

 14 years old, maybe 80 pounds soaking wet, and now an accused killer of the premeditated kind. In other words, the worst, most reviled kind.

That’s the reality in the case of the teen who allegedly pulled the trigger on the fatal shooting of David Vincett on Boyd Avenue last Sunday.

The associated image is a social media profile picture from an account belonging to the accused, who was charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting the guy in the face and leaving him to die.

[UPDATE EDIT] He was recently sentenced for firing a shot at a postal carrier, not as I otherwise suggested. Apologies.

He’s 14 and entrenched in a feared and loathed street gang.

Wow. The theory I’ve heard is that while in jail for the robbery, he was likely ‘schooled’ in how to come up in the IP, make a name for himself.

IP versus MOB.

Although there’s serious doubt as to whether Vincett was a bona fide member of the MOB. Given his ADHD, he may have just blurted out the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Still, that makes Two young people dead in two weeks (teen Clark Stevenson’s stabbing was Sept. 10). The accused in the Stevenson case was arrested while on remand for a vicious stabbing.

Let’s remember:

In 2004, it was Mad Cowz beefing with the B-Siders, and the killing of a young Mad Cow (Shaggy) that forever altered the street gang landscape in the city.

After the Mad Cowz leadership refused to retaliate for Shaggy’s killing to the level that some in the gang felt was needed, the African Mafia was formed. ‘

Not long after, the infighting led to the murder of Phil Haiart. That led to the establishment of ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ – a police and political effort to crack down on gang crime in the West End. That in turn led to the creation of the current Street Crime unit of the WPS.

I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that again.

An irk I have is with media planning in the city — this city, rife with young offenders of all stripes and tendencies.

When are we going to wake up and see that youth crime ought to be a major focus for any outlet?

Cover the cases, get to know the trends and take it seriously when planning crime coverage.

I believe — and maybe I’m wrong — that the general public cares deeply about it, about trying to solve it.

No, you may not be able to name the kids, but that doesn’t mean that the issues and crimes they commit are any less serious.

Now that the police scanners have gone dark there may be a push to do just this. Who knows.

-30

Mynarksi, polling results by station

The Katz-supporting and well-spoken Jenny Motkaluk is defeated by Ross Eadie just days after a triple shooting in the crime-troubled area.

Interesting that in the Mynarski area hardest hit by crime, Motkaluk took her only polling victory at Children of the Earth School.

I guess the parts of the ward where Eadie really cleaned up are “not a crime disaster” as he famously said of the area not long ago.

Motkaluk also took the seniors vote in the advance polls.

Greg Littlejohn also seems to have run a fairly well-recieved campaign.

Elmwood-East-Kildonan, station by station

We now have our first former NHL’er as city councillor (I believe).

Wow. What a race — this one, more than any others likely peeved the NDP off completely.

Still, I’m glad Giesbrecht had the courage to run. He did rather well under the circumstances, judging by the results.

[Note: please forgive the placement of the ‘Jet’ between Talbot and Nairn – it’s the advance results (which Steen narrowly took) and I had to put it somewhere…]

Peace, order and good government

Kevin Chief, running for the NDP in Winnipeg North

The A4-A5 spread in Friday’s Winnipeg Free Press is worth reading, and re-reading, and then reading again.

First, with the civic election now over, the focus now shifts to the upcoming federal byelection in Winnipeg North.

As it was in the municipal contest, crime appears to lead the debate in the area, just in a more oblique and less tangible way. The recent shootings that claimed two lives is the hook.

Crime top-of-mind in Winnipeg North

Mia Rabson quotes CrimeStat stats that state in the last month alone (taken to mean Sept 29 to Oct 29 2010) the riding has been “the site of at least three slayings, more than a dozen sexual assaults, several shootings and countless robberies and assaults.”

Winnipeg North Riding, C/O Elections Canada

Remember: the Winnipeg North riding is not the same as the electoral ward of Mynarski or North Point Douglas. [Map provided, click to enlarge] Crime Stat won’t measure by anything other than police district, electoral ward or precise neighbourhood. Neither does the public view of CrimeStat denote assaults.

The federal catchment area is huge, much larger than what we’d consider the North End.

“The riding includes the neighbourhoods of Jefferson North, Mandalay West, Maple Glen, Garden City, Jefferson, St. John’s, Inkster Faraday, William Whyte, Dufferin, North End, Burrows Central, Robertson, Selkirk, Mynarski, Northwood,Shaughnessy Heights, Lord, Tyndall Park, Garden Grove, Oak Point, Inkster Gardens, Luxton, the south part of The Maples and the north part of Logan CPR in the City of Winnipeg.”‘

But for the purposes of this article, we’ll tabulate the available police-provided stats (homicides, shootings, sex assaults, robberies) from the following defined neighbourhoods: St John’s, Burrows Central, Lord Selkirk Park, Inkster Faraday and William Whyte.

These make up the big bad North End most people would refer to in terms of the “crime-riddled North End.”

The 30 days of data that was available to people via CrimeStat for the last month from today stemmed from Sept. 28 to Oct. 27, 2010.

  • St. Johns: 1 homicide, 7 robberies, 3 sex assaults, 0 shootings
  • William Whyte: 1 homicide, 10 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Robertson: 0 homicides, 1 robbery, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 0 shootings
  • Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting
  • Inkster Faraday: 0 homicides, 4 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting

Total: 2 homicides (Beardy and MacDonald), 28 robberies, 4 sex assaults, 2 shootings

A year earlier, same period:

  • St. Johns: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • William Whyte: 0 homicides, 13 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 5 shootings
  • Robertson: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 0 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 7 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Inkster Faraday: 0, 0, 0, 0 in all categories

Total: 0 homicides, 25 robberies, 1 sex assault, 5 shootings

So, from this, we see that for this 30-day period, crime appears slightly up year over year, but realistically, not up by much. Shootings are down; robberies are statistically at the same level. The rise in sexual assaults, however, is concerning.

Saturday Shootings map

So, we have a scary scenario that plays out last Saturday. Three shootings — two fatal— happen within about a 35 minute span. The assumption being made (see page A5 of today’s WFP) is that a single individual (either masked or in a ninja costume) was behind all three.

Police haven’t said as much and are wisely keeping their options open.

Anyhow, despite a jarring and unprecedented warning from the WPS for people in the area to remain in their homes and not answer their doors to strangers directly after the shootings, police quickly locked down the crime scenes and flooded the area with officers.

A mobile command centre is set up in the area a day and half later.

Over the next few days — continuing as I write this — there are scores of police officers in the North End proper, either shaking down potential suspects, scouring for leads in the shootings or otherwise keeping a lid on things.

So, naturally, given the heightened level of police presence and vigilance [more officers = greater safety, remember ; ) ] My eyebrows raised up when I read, re-read and read again the remarks made by would-be NDP MP Kevin Chief in Rabson’s article:

Chief knows first-hand what crime has done to the neighbourhoods of Winnipeg North, where he has lived all his life.

“I live three streets over from one of the (shootings),” he said.

Chief and his wife welcomed their first child three weeks ago, but despite some pleasant weather since, they haven’t taken their son out in the stroller for a walk.

There is no way we’re taking our son for a walk in these circumstances,” said Chief.

Chief said there are things that can be done immediately, like improved street lighting and a heightened police presence.

For a week, police have been crawling all over the area. On the scanner, every two seconds they seem to be spot-checking people, responding to calls.

Chief says he has lived in the area all his life.

Is it a surprise to him that statistically, the level of crime hasn’t changed in two years — and it could even be said it’s dropped in terms of the number of shootings.

But a man who wants to be an elected member of the federal government — wants to lead and represent people who live in a very troubled area — says the current “circumstances” are keeping him and his family indoors. He wouldn’t dare head outside.

To me, that’s got me scratching my head.

The message from leaders, (would-be or elected) should be:

We’re not going to let the thugs, the degenerates and the reprobates keep us cowering inside or homes. We’re going to rise up and start calling police, the powerline  — whatever — if we’re seeing suspicious stuff or crimes taking place.

‘The police are doing their part, now we can do ours,‘ is what I’d be expecting to hear if I was voter in the area.

The last lines of the article also had me scratching my head, but a slight smile on my lips.

Conservative candidate Julie Javier was canvassing Thursday and could not be reached for an interview.

Nice to know not everyone’s afraid to go outside.

Chief’s right about the lighting, tho.

“Not a crime disaster”

Good, workmanlike article about the Mynarski ward and crime from Rob Brown at the weeklies.

At the bottom:

Candidate Ross Eadie said less bureaucracy, not necessarily more cops, is needed to address the crime issue.

The North End is not a crime disaster, and neighbourhood police should be deciding where they are needed the most,” he said, adding that the Winnipeg Police Service should release more statistics on violent crimes to members of the public.

Don’t know about you, but there’s few other areas of the city where a 21-year-old mom can get shot and killed on her way to her car outside a reputed gang hangout and it barely raises a peep out of the “leadership” — or anyone else for that matter— in Winnipeg.

Phil Haiart, the son of a city doctor, was shot and killed crossing the street in the West End on Oct. 10, 2005.

By Oct. 13, there were screaming headlines like this one:

Will Phillipe’s killing be last straw?

and:

Teen’s death ‘call to arms’

By Oct. 14, the police service was weighing in:

Courts too soft, Ewatski warns

Coun. Russ Wyatt attempts to hold a public meeting of council to have a frank public discussion about drugs, crime and gangs in Winnipeg. He’s accused of grandstanding on the back of a tragedy and the meeting request is shot down.

One week after Haiart’s killing, we start to see:

City heeds ‘call to arms’

Winnipeg Free Press
Tue Oct 18 2005
Page: A1
Section: City
Byline: Bill Redekop

WINNIPEGGERS came together on several fronts yesterday to demand changes to conditions that led to last week’s death of an innocent 17-year-old bystander caught in a gang gunfight.

They seemed to have heard the “call to arms” that Philippe Haiart’s friends and family said his death represented.

At 3 p.m., Winnipeg Police Insp. Boyd Campbell received news that eight of 23 police graduates will be assigned to his inner city precinct, where Haiart’s shooting occurred, starting in two weeks.

Then, the next day:

A chance to voice our shared disgust over gang violence

Headlines like this continued for about 2 weeks (see above Re: police officers) and then:

‘In-your-face’ blitz unveiled

Winnipeg Free Press
Wed Oct 26 2005
Page: A1
Section: City
Byline: Bruce Owen

MAYOR Sam Katz and Police Chief Jack Ewatski teamed up yesterday to “take back our streets” with a blitz involving 45 police officers.

They announced Operation Clean Sweep and warned “in-your-face-policing” will target gangs, prostitution and drugs.

“We don’t need an ivory-tower policy discussion,” Katz said at an outdoor news conference at Langside Street and Sargent Avenue, near the site where St. John’s-Ravenscourt School graduate Philippe Haiart, 17, was killed by gang fire on Oct. 10.

And “operation clean sweep” was born, and would live on as a hallmark moment for policing and public safety in Winnipeg.

But three days after Tiffany Johnson was gunned down, there’s no evidence of a start to such a buildup or angry condemnation of what happened to her, except maybe from the police service.

And I mean from everyone: The community, the media, the politicians and the police service.

I suppose I just wonder why.

Is it that North End crime has become so ingrained in our minds that we — all of us — just look the other way?

Usually one can’t take one’s eyes off a disaster. Maybe that means Eadie’s right.

But I don’t think that’s it.

-30-

“Let the system do its work”

 

Manitoba Law Courts building

 

The headline of this post is what Rose McLeod says she heard when she phoned around in an effort to get her mentally-ill husband, Joe, sprung from the Remand Centre.

I feel for her, and him. He must have been scared out of his wits being in there.

But the case is intriguing, and I’d bet to many on the inside of the system, deeply troubling on a few levels.

No person is above the law.

It’s a fundamental principle of justice that the law must be uniformly applied to  everyone in society.

The administration of justice must be above political influence and the whims of the public and the press (whose views are so often looked upon by justice officials with a kind of contempt, I personally feel)

Let’s look at the facts of the McLeod case as they’ve become known:

In early September, a disoriented Joe McLeod pushes his wife, who calls police because she doesn’t know what else to do. Police arrest and charge him with assault causing bodily harm.

For some reason, police chose to detain him, perhaps over concerns for the safety of his wife and maybe the fact he has nowhere else to go that would keep him away from her (she’s a named complainant, don’t forget).

Within my understanding of WPS domestic-violence policy, the officers attending the call had no discretion but to arrest him.

He’s sent to the Remand Centre, where he’s held in a medical ward, away from general population.

On Sept. 8, Joe McLeod make his first court appearance.

His case is remanded 11 times. He appears in courtroom 304 – the domestic-violence bail court – 3 times, but fails to make a bail application.

His wife, worried sick, ramps up her efforts to try and explain the situation.

“Let the system do its work,” she says everyone told her.

Finally, the Liberal party of Manitoba, through its leader Jon Gerrard — a doctor —  saw that holding a press conference to highlight McLeod’s situation was the best way to accomplish two things: Help Rose McLeod in a troubling situation, and, at the same time, criticize the NDP government, which as a matter of routine, is beyond cagy when it comes to public accountability on the justice file.

Headlines blare and the WRHA (???) is held up to talk about/explain the issue to reporters. Since when does the health authority have discretion to comment on criminal justice cases?

Reporters scratch their heads as to why, but the story continues.

The justice minister is nowhere to be found and requests to speak with him are declined.

Political pressure is applied and magnifies the plight of this one mentally-ill man.

Friday — two days after the Liberal press conference — Judge Sandy Chapman sets him free on bail so he can go live at a care home that was hastily arranged for him by health officials.

The Crown (which had the discretion to consented to his bail weeks ago if it so chose) did not oppose his release.

In effect, the bail hearing was a completely unnecessary bit of show.

Note, however, that the file changed hands from junior to senior prosecutor by Friday.

The charge against McLeod remains, and will no doubt be stayed down the road before it ever gets before a judge for a hearing. That’s my bet.

The McLeod case has me thinking a number of concerning things about the nature of justice in Manitoba.

  1. Either the police who arrested him and had him detained were inexperienced,  OR there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling people OR they were hamstrung by the WPS’s ‘mandatory arrest’ policy in DV cases (that’s arrest, not detain, mind you), [NOTE: see comments below for a great explanation of how it works…] OR
  2. The Remand Centre has no intake protocol or discretion with Manitoba Justice to flag cases of concern to the Crown…OR
  3. If you make a big enough stink in the press you can skirt the #1 notion of the justice system (that it applies equally to all — you have to “let the system do its work” —) and get fast-tracked to the front of the line for health care services OR,
  4. S**t happens, mistakes get made, OR,
  5. You fill in the blank.
Rose McLeod was told to “let the system do its work,” but found that to get results, she had no choice but to work the system.
  • What about the next time this happens?
  • How come one press conference and a hue and cry in the media can get nearly-immediate results or action from a system that’s supposed to be above responding to such things?
  • How many other accused persons with Alzheimer’s or Schizophrenia or other mental illnesses are behind bars or locked in medical wards of hospitals when they should be — as the McLeod case shows — getting care?
  • Why do my legal sources — people working on the front-lines of the criminal justice system every day — tell me that 7-day mental health assessments ordered by a court for bail purposes routinely take 5-6 weeks to prepare?
  • Why are there only two doctors in Manitoba currently doing these assessments, along with a range of other duties?
  • How can any WRHA official use the excuse of “the case is before the courts, and therefore we can’t comment” ever again?
  • Where is the mental health court that former Attorney General Dave Chomiak promised Manitobans?