It’s tough to defend guys like Allan Schoenborn or Vince Li because of the horrible things they did, so perhaps I shouldn't even try.
Instead, I want to tell you about a guy named Jack. Jack enlisted in the Canadian Army as a member of the King’s Own Rifles in 1942, later chosen for the Devil’s Brigade for World War II. In one of many battles, he took a shot to the neck and another in the chest and survived to fight for two more years.
He returned to Canada and married his high school sweetheart. They moved to B.C., bought a hotel and he was the volunteer fire chief. They never had children.
Friends said he was the “type of guy you wanted as your neighbour, that you wanted as your friend, as someone to back you up.”
About five years ago, shortly after his wife died, he developed Alzheimers and dementia. Slowly, the man he was, just sort of dissipated. Friends said he just wasn’t the same guy.
Four years later, he killed his roommate in the dementia ward of a care home.
RCMP were called and they arrested the 95-year-old man. The Crown charged him with murder. He went through the court system, went for a psychiatric evaluation and was found Not Criminally Responsible Due to Mental Disorder and put back into treatment.
Of course Jack committed the physical act, but that’s not really enough, is it? For a crime to be committed, a person must have an appreciation of wrong doing. Jack’s mind was lost, scrambled, had no idea what he was doing. He died a few months later an innocent man.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and your local MP — Dan Albas, Ron Cannan, Colin Mayes, Cathy McLeod — think Jack should have died in prison. He is not a victim of a disease, he’s a criminal. He killed a man and should be punished until his last breath.
Chances are, you think the same thing.
No one wants to say it in this example, of course, but that’s why we’re here. It feels different when Jack’s name is instead Allan Schoenborn, the man from Merritt who killed his three beautiful children in what a judge and psychiatrist said was a state of psychosis. Or Vince Li, who beheaded a stranger on a Greyhound bus, the manifestation of severe undiagnosed schizophrenia.
Where they truly differ is that Jack’s disease was incurable. There’s a period on the end; think no more about it. Schoenborn and Li are treatable. They can get better. Doctors said they already are and that’s the true complication. They are getting care and closely monitored and studied and if those professionals find they are no longer a risk, what is the point? By that point, it's true that another man committed the crime.
I assure you, Jack is a real person and his is a real case but I’m not volunteering his full identity because why further complicate the legacy of an innocent man and also because I’m guilty of choosing a perfect case to refute an opposing argument.
And that’s actually the trangression I accuse the Canadian Progressive Conservatives of committing with their get tough on crime election ploy. They seize on these examples of Schoenborn and Li for their statistically and logically indefensible crime bills because anger and outrage are absolute in the hearts of voters. The Conservatives play those emotions like fiddle strings at their own ball.
They put Li on their own advertising. They're interfering specifically in Schoenborn's medical progress.
And I know they know that cases like Schoenborn and Li happen every single day in this country, part of our absolute failure to look for, let alone find any sort of strategy for identifying or treating mental illness. In most cases, the only way we ever know someone is struggling with mental illness is when they commit a crime. And they often don't get treatment until they commit a serious crime.
The Conservatives use the worst examples of their own failure as an election strategy. And it's probably going to get them re-elected.
— Marshall Jones is the editor of infonews.ca