ARCHIVED - Mental health and justice officials collaborate at national symposium

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Calgary, May 25, 2011 - Today, the Honourable Vic Toews, Canada's Minister of Public Safety, and the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, emphasized that the Federal Government is working together with provincial partners to address the needs of those with mental health issues in conflict with the law.

Minister Toews addressed the Building Bridges: Mental Health and the Justice System symposium, where he explained the Federal Government's stance on preventing crime and the need for a comprehensive approach to address mental health needs before they lead to contact with the criminal justice and correctional systems.

"It goes without saying that this Government is committed to preventing the victimization of law-abiding Canadians,” said Minister Toews.  “But along with tackling the scourge of repeat, violent offenders, our approach must be comprehensive if we are to truly address the problem of crime in a meaningful way.”

“Preventing crime before it happens, and addressing it appropriately when it does, means that we  must have a proper understanding of the scope and depth of the mental health challenges we face as a country,” continued Minister Toews.  “While I expect this process to take time, we must stop relying on prisons to act as a parallel health care system to provide care for the mentally ill after a crime has been committed.”

“We are working with our partners to ensure that the justice system treats those with mental health issues fairly and appropriately,” said Minister Nicholson. “Our Government will also continue to provide the services and support they require to ensure safer communities for all Canadians.”

“This is an extremely important and complex area that begs for collaboration and cooperation both within, and between, all levels of government," said Verlyn Olson, Alberta Minister of Justice and Attorney General. "Alberta is proud to host this symposium and provide a forum to share best practices and innovative solutions to an issue that affects Canadians across the country."

The Building Bridges: Mental Health and the Justice System symposium is an opportunity for the provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations, mental health professionals, and social service and justice officials to explore key issues, challenges, and next steps. It also allows them to collaboratively identify possible areas for improvement for people with mental health issues in conflict with the law, including offenders within the federal correctional system.

The Symposium is co-hosted by Public Safety Canada, Justice Canada and Alberta Justice.


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