The Ontario general election will be held on June 7, 2018. As such, the Dementia Justice Society of Canada, a non-partisan organization, has asked parties the following pre-election platform question: “If elected, how will your government improve the lives of Ontarians with dementia who are in conflict with the criminal justice system (e.g., as accused persons, offenders living in the community, inmates in provincial corrections)?"
We have received the following response from the Ontario New Democratic Party:
Dementia and Criminal Justice
Ontario NDP Response
April 18, 2018
Thank you for reaching out regarding your concerns for the well being of Ontarians with dementia who are in conflict with the criminal justice system. New Democrats believe our justice system should focus on keeping people safe, and on fighting crime by addressing its causes. And we believe those involved at every step along the way — law enforcement, courts and corrections — should have the resources and guidance they need to do the job. The record of consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments has been the privatization and outsourcing of our justice system's key programs. This has meant fewer staff with appropriate training to recognize and respond to those living with dementia. This has been exasperated by cuts and privatization to healthcare, which has left more individuals in a state of crisis - resulting in the criminalization of crisis. It shouldn't be this way. The goal of a New Democrat government will be to address the root causes of crime and violence. We are committed to an Ontario where victims are listened to, individuals in the criminal justice system are treated fairly and in a timely way, where no one is defined by their experience, where public safety workers are respected, and where all Ontarians feel safe. We will continue to fund Ontario's Dementia Strategy.
One of the growing realities is that encounters between individuals facing a mental health crisis, particularly involving those with dementia, and the police are increasing in frequency. We will look to expand pilot and regional partnerships with health programs, particularly first response mental health programs, as a way to deescalate conflicts wherever possible. For example, Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams — pairing police officers with mental health workers — have a proven record of success, and we will expand them with a new dedicated A Crisis Is Not A Crime fund, which will provide $5 million annually for mobile crisis teams.
With regards to courts, correctional facilities and probation services we are committed to conducting reviews of current practices and implementing changes that reflect the growing needs of individuals with dementia. We will investigate the best way to offer addiction and mental health services, including appropriate dementia related services in provincial correctional facilities, consistent with the recommendations of the Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform, in consultation with front-line staff and health professionals. We will work with the Ontario Law Reform Commission to find ways to deal with those suffering from dementia that reflects their needs while considering the seriousness of potential crimes or violations in order to deliver a long-overdue modernization of court and bail rules and operations.
We know that if the Liberal government was interested in addressing the underlying issues that result in crime, they would have already done so. We also know that number of individuals with dementia is rapidly increasing in Ontario and that their needs when interacting with the justice system must be at the heart of any systemic changes that are made. We hope that your organization will continue to work closely with the Ontario NDP as we re-form the justice system into one where all Ontarians can feel safe. Thank you once again for taking the time to reach out and advocate on this very important issue.
Dementia Justice thanks the Ontario NDP for taking the time to respond to our question. We look forward to receiving a response from the Green Party of Ontario, the Ontario Liberal Party, and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.