Quebec City slaughter and mental health: are we doing enough to prevent further tragedies?
The Halloween massacre in Quebec City has rekindled fears among people whose loved one has mental health problems and has been aggressive or violent.
Share November 16, 2020 3:00 a.m. Updated at 10:34 a.m. Share Quebec City slaughter and mental health: are we doing enough to prevent further tragedies?
Matthieu Max-Gessler Le Nouvelliste Trois-Rivières – The horror night experienced by Quebec City, on Halloween night 2020, shocked the province, but it also rekindled fears among people including a loved one has difficulty staying in touch with reality, due to mental health, and whose behavior is regularly aggressive, even violent. The sordid assault committed by Carl Girouard, who allegedly killed two people and wounded five others with a Japanese sword, makes one wonder: how long before a new tragedy occurs? But above all, what to do to avoid it?
Julie (not her real name) is worried. According to her, one of her relatives has serious mental health problems, which cause him paranoia. He is regularly aggressive and has had violent behavior in the past.
“Following an argument, he already came out of the house armed with a knife. When he lived with us, he often raised his voice, shouted and has already smashed a wall with his head, ”says this lady, who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from her loved one.
Julie explains that this man now lives in another city in Quebec. However, he regularly calls his relatives, including her, when he needs money. When you refuse to give it to him, it becomes harassing and aggressive.
“He can call 50 to 60 times a day to get money. If that doesn't answer, he sends a cab or the police. I already almost lost my job because he called my employer to speak badly about me. All because there is no law that would force him to consult. And there has been a gradation over the years that leads me to believe that one day, it will end badly, ”she laments.
She does fear that he might attack members of her family. However, impossible to get help, since he refuses to be diagnosed. He would also be very skilled at handling the police when they are called to intervene with him.
“He studied law a little and he is familiar with Law P-38 (the law which allows peace officers to intervene with a person whose state of mental health presents a danger to himself or herself). for the others, Editor's note). He never crosses the line that would allow the police to intervene against his will. He even manages to convince them that he is the victim, he is a very good manipulator, ”she explains.
The man was therefore never taken to hospital to receive treatment or to initiate follow-up, despite requests from his relatives to the police. And since the police cannot intervene, Julie and her family live in constant fear that one day, a tragedy like that of Halloween night in Quebec City will happen again. Or that what happened last summer in Drummondville, when a 32-year-old autistic man killed his mother, is repeating itself. The victim, Suzanne Desjardins, had contacted the police to ask them to force him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, shortly before the irreparable was committed. They had not done so, considering that the elements which would have allowed such an intervention under Act P-38 were not present.
The victim's son, Jean-Luc Ferland, has been charged with second degree murder. He was back in court on November 13 and will have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, according to L'Express newspaper. He is expected to return to court on December 11, unless the assessment of his mental state is not completed.
P-38: a debate going round in circles
Among the possible solutions that Julie evokes, there is the possibility of modifying law P-38 to give the police a little more leeway. However, according to several stakeholders that Le Nouvelliste contacted, the chances of this happening are very slim. “It is a law that directly affects the Charter of human rights and freedoms. It is a purely political debate at the federal level. It's a debate that has lasted for years: both CIUSSS teams and teams of psychiatrists have worked on it, but they have always come up against a huge wall ”, summarizes Josée Bourassa, Executive Director of La Lanterne, a community organization. de Trois-Rivières, which offers support to relatives of people living with a mental health problem.