Amici Curiae: Harper nominates our next SCC Justice, and Ontario Promises to Change the Way its Jails Treat Mentally Ill Women

Harper nominates our next SCC Justice

With Justice Morris Fish resigning from the bench on August 31 2013, speculation mounted on who would take his place as the next Supreme Court Justice.  Well everyone, the nomination is in.  On Monday September 30 2013, Prime Minister Harper announced that he has nominated Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Justice Marc Nadon graduated from Collège Lionel-Grioulx and the Université de Sherbrooke with a Bachelor of Civil Law.  From 1974 to 1993, Justice Nadon was a partner at Fasken Martineau Walker, working both in Montreal and London UK.  In 1993, he was appointed to the Federal Court of Canada. He served there until 2001, when he moved to the Federal Court of Appeal.  In addition to his work as a judge, Justice Nadon is a recognized expert in maritime law.

To find out more about our new SCC Justice, visit the Prime Minister’s webpage.


Ontario promises to change the way its jails treat mentally ill women

An Ontario human rights complaint filed by a bipolar woman in Ottawa has caused the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to change the way Ontario jails treat mentally ill women.

Christina Jahn, a 43 year-old woman dying of breast and bone cancer, was arrested approximately two years ago while being treated in an Ottawa hospital. Her charges included causing a disturbance, resisting arrest, theft, and assault. Despite a police recommendation that she be diverted to a treatment facility, Jahn was placed into segregation at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre.  Why? Jahn is mentally ill, suffering from schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder.  For the majority of inmates who are mentally ill, the default treatment is segregation. This is especially so for women in Ottawa, where the only treatment facility serves male inmates, not female.

While in segregation, the correctional staff treated Jahn horribly – shutting off her cell’s water for days, forcing her to sleep on the floor without a mattress, and denying her her prescribed cancer medication.  Worst of all, the staff forced Jahn to miss her scheduled surgery and chemotherapy.  As such, she required an emergency mastectomy after being released from jail, a procedure that she may not have needed had the cancer not become so advanced.

Because of the way she was treated, Jahn launched a human rights complaint against the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, claiming that she was discriminated against on the grounds of mental illness and gender.  On Tuesday September 24 2013, the ministry and Jahn reached a settlement.

As part of this settlement, the ministry has promised to change the way it will treat mentally ill inmates. Primarily, Ontario jails will now screen all inmates for mental illness, and create treatment plans for those who are diagnosed as being mentally ill. Further, the ministry will train their correctional staff on how to better deal with mental illness. Finally, segregation will only be used as a last resort for those with mental illnesses.

This decision not only recognizes the overuse of segregation and the lack of available treatment for mentally ill inmates, it also marks a drastic improvement in the way Ontario jails will treat mentally ill women.  In addition, it demonstrates that human rights complaints in Canada, criticized for being toothless and ineffective, can make a difference.

For more information about this decision, read the following article, which includes a copy of the official settlement.


Do you have thoughts about our new SCC Justice, or the new changes to the way our Ontario jails treat mentally ill women? Share them with us on twitter by following @TheCourtdotca and using the hash tags: #SCCJusticeNadon and #MentallyIllInmates


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