The mother of a man with a psychotic illness is frustrated her son, who has been charged with attempted murder after she was stabbed more than a year ago, is in jail with dangerous criminals instead of receiving treatment at an Alberta hospital.
Gina Kankam was stabbed in April 2013.
Jordan Kankam, 21, has spent more than a year in the Edmonton Remand Centre awaiting his next court appearance in January.
His lawyer argues he should be held not criminally responsible and has requested he be admitted to hospital or have an earlier court date, but both requests have been denied.
"Something is wrong," Gina Kankam told CBC News. "Get him to the hospital and start treatment, you know what I mean? Sitting in jail, what is that doing? It's not doing anything."
Kankam said she noticed Jordan, her youngest son, talking to himself for the first time just before he turned 17.
“I started hearing noises coming from his bedroom,” she said. At first, she said, she thought he was just talking at the television.
“Then I would go in and the [television] wouldn’t be on," Kankam said. "You know, it would just be a little odd.”
She said Jordan's behaviour and condition worsened rapidly. Jordan began skipping school and it wasn’t long before his behaviour turned violent.
“One night he got so angry he kind of threw me over a dishwasher and I landed on the other side,” Kankam said. “Another time he tried to throw me down the stairs.”
Suspecting her son was on drugs, Kankam forced him into a detox program. But it turned out Jordan wasn’t on drugs, and he only resented her more upon his return from the facility, she said.
Kankam said she called police on countless occasions. Her son was arrested many times, but was always released shortly thereafter.
She said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and prescribed medication. Nevertheless, Kankam said, she feared her son would one day hurt her.
“There were a few times where he had to sleep out on the street because I was just so fed up with him and so terrified of him that I just didn’t want him in the house,” she said.
On April 9, 2013, Kankam’s fears became a reality.
She was sleeping in her bedroom when her son knocked on the door and asked for her. She had just enough time to see him coming toward her, wielding two knives.
“I wasn’t sure if I was still dreaming or if this was really happening,” Kankam said. “By that time, he’d already started stabbing me. He was stabbing me with one knife and slicing me with another.”
Kankam said she pleaded with her youngest son, repeating his name over and over, asking him what he was doing. She told him she loved him.
'By that time, he’d already started stabbing me. He was stabbing me with one knife and slicing me with another.'- Gina Kankam
"He's like, 'Oh right. If you loved me you wouldn't be making me take my medication,'" Kankam recalled.
Kankam said the only thought running through her mind while Jordan was attacking her was to worry about her other son coming home and finding her dead.
She continued to plead with Jordan to stop, but she said he told her she wouldn’t be getting out alive. Kankam said her son stabbed her more than 50 times.
Then, unexpectedly, Jordan stopped.
Kankam managed to escape and lock herself in the bathroom. Her son was arrested and charged with attempted murder, and he has been in the Remand Centre ever since.
“All of a sudden, something happened and that’s when I say God came in the room,” Kankam said. ‘Because all of a sudden, he just froze in mid-air. Just stood there. He didn’t move and he just stood there.”
According to court documents, Jordan Kankam frequently reported hearing voices in his head. Doctors suggested he suffered from psychotic illness, likely paranoid schizophrenia.
Court documents indicate that during an interview with police shortly after his arrest, Kankam showed no remorse for stabbing his mother.
“When he was shown pictures of her injuries, he grinned and laughed,” the documents said.
'When he was shown pictures of her injuries, he grinned and laughed,'- Court documents
Jordan’s lawyer is asking a judge to find the the young man not criminally responsible because he has a psychotic illness.
However, Steven Penney, a criminal law professor, says it can be difficult to prove an accused is not responsible for such a crime.
“It’s one of the few types of criminal cases where we put the onus of proof on the accused and not on the Crown to prove on a balance of probabilities that he or she suffers from this mental illness that caused this inability to understand that the act was wrong,” Penney said.
Kankam said she simply wants the best care for her troubled son.
“He’s already been in jail over a year and a half at this point,” Kankam said. “You know he doesn’t belong there. He needs to be in the hospital where he can get some help. He’s not getting any help at the jail.
“He’s just sitting there every day. And I think every day he just spews more and more and more [anger], especially at me.”
Glynnis Lieb, a social psychologist, said the situation is “damaging everybody involved.”
“Having people in a place where they are being confined but not being given the services they need is destructive,” Lieb said.
“People who have mental-health symptoms deteriorate without proper services. Nobody is going to get better sitting anywhere without any kind of intervention.”
Kankam said if her son does eventually get released, she will likely leave Edmonton. Even so, she will continue to advocate for her son’s well-being.
“I also have to remember that Jordan needs me,” Kankam said. “Even though he’s done what he’s done, he still needs me to fight for him, because he can’t do that for himself.”