OTTAWA, May 13 /CNW/ - On Monday, May 16th, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith is due to begin in
Toronto. This case raises serious issues regarding the treatment of the
mentally ill in Canada's correctional system.
Ashley Smith was first incarcerated at the age of 13 after throwing a
crab apple at a postal worker. It is possible that she ended up in jail
primarily because of mental illness.
After her death in a correctional facility, the Correctional
Investigator of Canada found that Ms. Smith's mental health needs were
never accommodated by Correctional Services Canada. Instead of leading
to rehabilitation, Ashley Smith's incarceration led to a worsening of
her condition. The Investigator has also reported that Ms. Smith's
experience was not unique.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has identified the treatment of
people with mental illness in Canada's correctional facilities as a
pressing human rights issue.
Mental illness is a disability. In Canada, people with disabilities have
a right to be accommodated when they receive services from the
Offenders with mental illness often do not get public sympathy, in part
because of the stigma associated with their condition. Yet while
offenders lose many rights as a consequence of their actions, they
remain human beings. Human beings have human rights.
The case of Ashley Smith challenges Canadians to reflect on fundamental
principles of justice and human rights that affect all of us, not just
the mentally ill. It is important that these issues are fully explored
in public, through informed discussion and debate.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission will be closely following this and
other similar cases to drive awareness of these issues and urge that
they be addressed in policy, and in practice.
SOURCE Canadian Human Rights Commission
For further information:
or to request an interview:
Director, Communications Branch
Canadian Human Rights Commission