Speaking at the Salt Spring Forum in December, Tom Flanagan -- Stephen Harper's former eminence gris -- said of his former pupil:
He is an unusual package of characteristics. He can be charismatic in small groups, morose, secretive, suspicious and vindictive. These may not be traits you want in your next door neighbour, but they are very useful in politics."
Harper himself provided an illustration of those characteristics this week when, Carol Goar writes, he told a Burnaby audience that
he would change the Criminal Code, giving prosecutors the power to designate some of these offenders as too dangerous to be released, meaning they would forfeit the right to an annual review of their mental health and the privilege of becoming eligible for unescorted passes. He would also require provincial review boards, which decide whether they can be discharged from psychiatric facilities, to place public safety above all other considerations, including the individual’s constitutionally enshrined rights.
And he brought with him his list of tough on crime achievements:
To demonstrate his commitment to community safety, the Prime Minister brought along a 10-page list of the bills his government had enacted to fight crime. There was legislation targeting sexual predators, terrorists, drug dealers, child pornographers, violent young offenders, street racers, white collar criminals and gang members. The implication — unstated, of course — was that mentally ill offenders belonged on the list.
The problem with Harper's achievements, is that they arise from his own fevered brain, not a verifiable social context. Canadian crime is at its lowest in forty years. And examples of the mentally unstable prowling our streets are few and far between:
Harper’s announcement was designed to tap into public anxiety. In recent memory, there have been three gruesome homicides by people with mental illness. In 2008, Schoenborn killed his children and Vince Li, who had schizophrenia, decapitated his seatmate on a Greyhound bus headed for Winnipeg. In 2009, Guy Turcotte, a Montreal cardiologist, brutally stabbed his two children in a bout of depression.
But none of these tragedies exposed “glaring gaps” in the justice system. The B.C. Review Board failed to contact Schoenborn’s ex-wife and children before granting him a day pass; a deadly human error. The Tribunal Adminstratif du Québec was duped by Turcotte, a long-time manipulator, into believing he posed no danger to society – a fatal misjudgment . No one knew Li was schizophrenic when he killed his seatmate. Harper’s legislation would have made no difference in his case.
Once again, Mr. Harper has verified Flanagan's diagnosis. The prime minister is a morose, vindictive man.