Alberta Review Board and the NCR Offender

Indeterminate detention in forensic hospital for those who have committed a criminal offence while mentally ill made headlines recently in an in-depth article in the Edmonton Journal involving Bottos Law Group lawyer, Jacqueline Petrie, and her client Jordan Kankam.  The article addressed various controversies involving the Alberta Review Board – the provincial tribunal tasked with overseeing offenders in forensic hospital – and the struggle of people, like Mr. Kankam, who have been in hospital for years but given almost no opportunity to move back into the community despite being mentally well for a long time. The Matthew de Grood case reshaped Alberta’s mental health review board. Why that has some patients and their lawyers worried | Edmonton Journal

The Alberta Review Board operates under Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code. Put simply, the Review Board’s mandate is to determine on an annual basis whether offenders like Mr. Kankam pose a significant threat to public safety. If the available psychiatric evidence does not support such a finding, then the individual must be released from hospital and from the authority of the Review Board. When first enacted in the early 90’s, Part XX.1 was heralded as the beginning of a more compassionate approach in criminal justice aimed at treating the mentally disordered offender, rather than punishing them. Thirty years later what has become painfully clear is that treatment is often not compassionate and detention in a forensic hospital can last much longer than a prison sentence. Far from being the “get out of jail free card” some regard the statutory scheme, for many it has proven to be a harsh reality of “stay in hospital for years with no end date in sight”, significantly impacting personal freedoms, relationships, educational goals, and job prospects.

Mr. Kankam has been living at Alberta Hospital since being admitted there in 2015 after attacking his mother while in the grip of a psychotic delusion. He was 19 at the time and newly diagnosed with schizophrenia. After his arrest, he was tried for attempted murder and found NCRMD (“not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder”). At his 2021 annual hearing, the Alberta Review Board learned of the troubled relationship between Mr. Kankam and his current psychiatrist, Dr. Santoch Rai, and concerns Mr. Kankam and his family had with a lengthy report Dr. Rai submitted to the Board that they felt inaccurately portrayed Mr. Kankam as a significant threat to public safety. The concern was that Dr. Rai had cherry-picked negative information to present to the Board because of ill-will between him and Mr. Kankam and positive information was purposely omitted, such as Mr. Kankam’s non-violence and lack of active symptoms since being placed on proper medication shortly after his arrival at Alberta Hospital. Currently, Mr. Kankam is awaiting a second psychiatric opinion regarding his risk to public safety. His hearing was adjourned in order so the opinion could be obtained and there is currently no date set for reconvening his hearing.

If you have been subject to an application under Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code or have a hearing before the Alberta Review Board, contact Jacqueline for further information.

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