House Passed MP Majid Jowhari's First Private Member's Bill
The House of Commons passed Bill C-375: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (presentence report) on Nov 7, 2018. The bill introduced by Liberal MP Majid Jowhari (Richmond Hill) will amend the criminal code to require presentencing reports to include relevant information about mental health disorders of the offender. The bill was passed with bipartisan support of Liberals, NDP, Green and Bloc. Only the Conservatives voted against Bill C-375.
During the debate over the bill in House of Commons Conservative MP Kelly Block from Saskatchewan said:
I am deeply concerned about this bill. This bill, when taken together with other legislation introduced and passed by the current Liberal government, continues a long and disturbing pattern of favouring the protection of criminals over the protection of the victims of crime.
However, the bill was supported by members across party lines (other than Conservatives) and also advocates in the field. In spring of 2018, MP Jowhari was announced among winners of Champions of Mental Health Awards for 2018 by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH). In their announcement CAMIMH said:
Majid Jowhari is the Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill and a staunch advocate for mental health in Canada. He drafted and introduced legislation to change the criminal code to taking mental health information into account, and founded and chaired the Liberal Mental Health Caucus, and later, the Parliamentary Mental Health Caucus, reaching across party lines to bring mental health to the forefront of discussion on the Hill.
On October 31, 2018 during the third reading of the bill MP Jowhari said the following about the need and urgency for changes he proposed in Bill C-375:
The correctional investigator's 2012 annual report found that 36% of offenders at federal penitentiaries were identified as requiring psychiatric or psychological follow-up. Forty per cent of male inmates and 69% of female inmates were treated for mental health issues while in prison. Most importantly, it became clear that the deinstitutionalization of mental health services and the closure of psychiatric hospitals, a victory for the compassionate and progressive treatment of individuals with mental health needs, had been replaced with a new form of institutionalization, where individuals with mental health needs find themselves falling through the cracks and being funnelled into a criminal system designed for incarceration and punishment, not treatment or support.
Since then, I have expanded the mental health caucus into the parliamentary mental health caucus, where we have heard testimony from witnesses on the topic of youth suicide. Most recently, we co-hosted many events around mental health at Parliament. However, it was in the early days during our exploratory visit to the penitentiary that inspired the creation of Bill C-375.
Bill C-375 is one small step forward in addressing the invisible cost society bears fiscally and socially for our historical inability to provide care, treatment and support for those suffering from mental health concerns. As initially put forward, Bill C-375 would amend paragraph 721(3)(a) of the Criminal Code, mandating that unless otherwise specified, when a pre-sentencing report is required by a court, in addition to such information as age, maturity, character, behaviour, attitude and willingness to make amends, information outlining any mental health disorder as well as any mental health care programs available for the accused be provided as part of their pre-sentencing report.