The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act

February 15, 2021

Ottawa Journal (February 18 – February 22, 2021)

Our Government has always worked hard to stand up for victims of crime. Since first forming Government in 2006, we’ve made keeping our streets and communities safe a priority, which we’ve done by passing important pieces of legislation and we’re continuing to do this with the introduction of the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, which protects Canadians from high-risk accused persons found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder.

On February 08, 2013, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice, introduced the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act into the House of Commons, as part of our Government’s commitment to ensuring that Canada’s laws are strengthened and work to protect Canadians in situations where the accused has been found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder, who pose a risk to the public.

Currently, as the law stands, violent individuals found Not Criminally Responsible for their actions are released when a provincial review board, not a court, determines they no longer pose a significant threat to public safety. This means violent individuals may, therefore, be released anywhere and even into the very communities where their victims live. Sadly, there is no obligation or regulation presently in place to advise victims that the violent individuals are being released in the community. Furthermore, under the current laws, certain violent individuals, while remaining in detention, have been granted unescorted day passes even though they pose a risk to public safety.

Our Government recognized the serious flaws of the system and introduced the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, which includes several reforms, to protect Canadians and to ensure the rights of victims always come first. The legislation will:

  • Put Public Safety First – The legislation would explicitly set out that public safety is the paramount consideration in the decision-making process relating to accused persons found to be NCR.
  • Create a High-Risk Designation – The legislation would create a new designation to protect the public from high-risk NCR accused. Upon being designated by a court as high-risk, an NCR accused must be held in custody and cannot be considered for release by a review board until their designation is revoked by a court.
  • Enhance Victims’ Rights – The legislation will enhance the safety of victims by ensuring that they are specifically considered when decisions are being made about accused persons found NCR; ensuring they are notified when an NCR accused is discharged; and allowing non-communications orders between an NCR accused and the victim.

Individuals found Not Criminally Responsible will continue to have access to medical treatment. In addition, detained individuals will continue to be held in secure mental health facilities, not prisons. Furthermore, the defence of Not Criminally Responsible will still remain in place as a plea that accused individuals may submit to the courts.

The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act is another significant step forward by our Government in protecting victims. We’ve listened to Canadians and the reforms included in this Act demonstrate our continued commitment to keep our streets and communities safe, while placing the central focus of Canada’s criminal justice system where it should be firmly placed, on the rights of victims.