Late in 2013, Bill S-208, an Act to establish the Canadian Commission on Mental Health and Justice was introduced and received first reading in the Senate. The bill was then sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in March 2015. The purpose of the Commission outlined in the bill was to facilitate the development, sharing and application of knowledge on mental health and the criminal justice system in order to promote health, safety and well-being for Canadians. The bill proposed that this would be done in several way including:
- Promoting mental health and early identification of mental health issues to assist in crime prevention
- Increasing awareness and understanding of criminal justice and mental health issues
- Studying and developing laws, policies and best practices to address the need of individuals with mental health issues who have come into contact with the justice system
To read the full bill, visit the Parliament of Canada website.
After discussions at the committee level, it was recommended that the bill not proceed further in the Senate for the following reasons:
- The proposed Commission has an overlapping mandate with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and is inappropriate at this time.
- The existing MHCC would be best suited to fulfil the purpose and duties outlined in Bill S-208. However, it was recognized that the MHCC would require additional resources to do so as this would expand their current mandate which expires in 2017, with no indication if it will be renewed.
- Most of the work proposed in the bill has already been undertaken by various organizations either independently or in collaboration with the MHCC.
To read the full report from the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, visit the Report of the Committee webpage.