Mental health court launched, though skepticism lingers

In the works for the past two years, the Montreal Municipal Court became the latest jurisdiction in Canada to launch a mental health court even though a coalition of local community organizations sought a moratorium and a study to examine the effectiveness of specialized courts for mentally ill people.

Modelled after the Toronto Mental Health Court, the three-year pilot project has put in place a multidisciplinary team to deal with mentally ill people charged with minor criminal offenses. Based on a therapeutic model of criminal justice that seeks to provide a dignified and compassionate approach to dealing with accused persons afflicted with mental illness or developmental disabilities, the Court sits five days a week during the afternoons.

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Quebec minister has wide powers over immigration rules appeal court

The Quebec government has wide discretionary powers to issue selection certificates to foreign nationals seeking to settle permanently in the province, according to two rulings issued concurrently in related matters by the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Indeed, the Court points out that under the Act respecting immigration to Québec (the Act), the Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities can issue selection certificates to applicants who do not satisfy conditions and selection of criteria established by government policy, or refuse applicants who meet the conditions. Continue reading “Quebec minister has wide powers over immigration rules appeal court”

Alimony rights for common-law spouses at stake in wealthy couple’s battle

A legal battle pitting a Brazilian aspiring model against a wealthy Montreal businessman may have all the ingredients of a riveting soap opera but at stake lies a constitutional challenge that strikes at the heart over the financial duties of common-law partners in Quebec.

The 35-year-old woman, who mothered three of the man’s children, is challenging the law that mandates spousal payments for couples who only have been legally married. Before Quebec Superior Court, she is seeking $56,000 in alimony and a share of his wealth. The identities of the protagonists are protected by the court, as is the case in Quebec when family law cases involve children.

“I want to help women who are in the same situation,” said the woman said outside the courtroom, adding she had assumed she had the same rights as women who are legally married. “Not many people know about the law.”

According to Statistics Canada, 35 per cent of couples in Quebec are unmarried, and 60 per cent of children are born out of wedlock. In the rest of Canada only 18 per cent of couples live together.

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Elderly molester to serve sentence in seniors home

A 93-year old man who sexually abused his daughters nearly fifty years go was condemned to two years less a day to be served in the community due to his advanced age and health problems.

Philippe Hamelin, convicted on a number of charges, including incest, sexual molestation and assault causing bodily harm for incidents that took place between 1956 and 1963, is now deaf and nearly blind, has skin cancer and suffers from a disease akin to Alzheimer’s.

The Crown was seeking a prison sentence of between seven and nine years while Hamelin’s lawyer had asked for two years less a day in the community.

Quebec Court Judge André Perreault decided against a prison sentence because of Perrault’s frail health.

“Mr. Hamelin might very well have been given that seven-year sentence if the decision needed to have been made during the decades that followed the crimes, even if he were old and had certain health problems,” Justice Perreault, noting that the convicted molester was unrepentant. “Only the exceptional circumstances I have described regarding Mr. Hamelin’s current health lead me to stray so far, and for humanitarian reasons, from imposing a normal sentence.”

Dealing with the elderly is a thorny issue that the justice system must grapple with, sooner or later. In Canada, older offenders account for 13% of the offender population. A 2004 report by the U.S. National Institute of Corrections found that the number of state and federal prisoners ages 50 or older rose 172 percent between 1992 and 2001.

The Correctional Service of Canada noted that “the combination of the physical health problems and the type of health care available at the prison often requires that the older offender be transferred to community medical facilities” – an expensive endeavour.

Another report concludes: “The incarceration of older prisoners, who represent the smallest threat to public safety but the largest cost to taxpayers to imprison, exemplifies failed public policy that favours imprisonment over more cost-effective alternatives.”

England too is wrestling with the issue. Anne Owers, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons since 2001, examined the issue of older prisoners in England and Wales in a comprehensive 126-page report and concluded that “the prison system in general is ill-equipped to meet their needs and its responsibilities.” The prison watchdog recently lamented that little has changed since the report was published four years ago.