NUNAVUT REVIEW BOARD
The Nunavut Review Board is the board that is responsible for determining the placement of a person who has been found by the criminal court, to be unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The board decides whether the person should be detained in a hospital, discharged into the community with conditions or, in the case of the not criminally responsible (NCR), absolutely discharged. The board is mandated by the Criminal Code of Canada and every province and territory in Canada is required to establish a Review Board.
Members of the Board
The Criminal Code requires that the Board, for every hearing, have as its members, at least one psychiatrist and one judge (or lawyer who is qualified to become a judge). The board must have one other member as well. In Nunavut, the board has a policy that the third member should be a public member from Nunavut. All members, psychiatric, legal and public are appointed by Order in Council of the Territorial government. Because of the shortage of qualified psychiatrists and legal members in Nunavut presently, legal and psychiatric members are residents of Ontario and Alberta.
Work of the Board
When a court hearing a criminal case delivers a verdict of "not criminally responsible' or "unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder", the board must hold a hearing within forty five days. Not criminally responsible means that the person did the act but he/she is not responsible because of a mental illness. Unfit to stand trial means that the person cannot have a trial or plead to the charge against him/her because a mental illness interferes with his/her understanding of the trial. The court makes these determinations. It is only after the court decides if the person is "NCR" or "Unfit" that the Review Board holds a hearing.
There are three possible results in a hearing for a person who has been found "not criminally responsible :
1) Absolute discharge – if the person is not a significant threat to the safety of the public;
2) Conditional discharge – if the person is a threat, but the threat can be managed by supervision in the community;
3) Detention in a hospital – this disposition is made when the person cannot be managed in the community. It may include passes into the community or even the chance to live in the community with supervision by the hospital and return to the hospital if problems arise.
There are also three outcomes for a person found to be unfit to stand trial:
1) Return to court to face trial if the board determines that they are fit to stand trial;
2) Conditional discharge;
In reaching a decision, the board must take into account the need to protect the public from dangerous persons, the mental condition of the accused, the reintegration of the accused into society, and the other needs of the accused.
The Criminal Code requires that if a person is to be detained at a hospital, it must be a designated hospital. There is no designated hospital in Nunavut. Therefore, where a person has to be detained because he/she represents a threat to public safety if placed in the community, that person has to go to a hospital elsewhere in Canada.
The parties to the hearing are the accused person, the Crown, and the relevant health authorities or the hospital if the court has sent the person to a hospital.
All parties appearing before the board may be represented by a lawyer. While technically an accused person under the terms of the Criminal Code could appear without counsel under some circumstances, the Nunavut Review Board has a policy of always appointing a lawyer for an accused person.
Hearings are ideally held in the community where the offence is alleged to have occurred. This allows the full participation of the community most affected by the case. However, hearings have been held in Southern hospital on isolated occasions. This generally occurs because of some urgency in conducting the hearing where there is a need to change the conditions of detention to facilitate the reintegration of the accused into society. This also occurred in one case where the offence occurred in Nunavut but the person had no connection to Nunavut.
Hearings occur at least once every twelve months after the verdict and the initial hearing. The annual reviews consider the progress since the last hearing and consider whether changes should be made to the disposition. Reviews can be requested by any party before the twelve month period.
Hearings generally last from one to three hours depending on the issues being considered. The board usually hears evidence from the hospital or other mental health workers involved in treating the accused person and from the Crown. The accused person may give evidence but is not required to do so. Family members or victims may be called to give evidence by the Crown or another party.
The existence of support in the community for a person who is mentally ill, is an important factor for the board to consider. The involvement of the community in planning for this support is critical in reintegrating the person into the community in a safe and healthy way. Therefore, the evidence of family and elders will always be welcome in addition to the evidence of professionals. Hearings are open to the public.