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Yukon NDP says man with dementia should not be in jail

Yukon's NDP health critic says the territory's health and justice systems failed, with respect to Titus Charlie. The Whitehorse man with dementia is in jail facing criminal charges, despite previous court decisions that found him unfit to stand trial.

Titus Charlie 'not a unique case,' said NDP health critic Jan Stick

'These individuals, and there’s many of them, need appropriate supports. Not just for themselves, but for the community,' said NDP health and social services critic Jan Stick. (CBC)

Yukon NDP health critic Jan Stick is blasting the territory's justice system for failing to deal appropriately with people who suffer mental health problems.

At issue is the fate of Titus Charlie, a 53-year-old man who has dementia and now sits in a Whitehorse jail cell. He's charged with assault and resisting arrest for an incident that occurred outside the Salvation Army shelter on Dec. 24.

Management at Whitehorse's River View Hotel confirmed that Titus Charlie was staying there in the weeks leading up to his Dec. 24 arrest.

Charlie has a lengthy criminal record, but in 2008 and again in 2011 he was deemed unfit to stand trial by the Yukon Review Board.

"If you're not criminally responsible, you should not be sitting in the jail," said Stick.

"This is a failure of health and social services, of the justice system, of mental health services, and of the Yukon Review Board. The system is broken."

Charlie was under mandatory 24-hour government supervision until recently. What's not clear is why that supervision ended, or when. Charlie was not supervised at the time of his arrest, Dec. 24.

"This is not a unique case. There are many individuals who are being treated — if you want to call it that — in this way. They're not getting the supports and services they require."

Titus Charlie 'needs to be looked after and taken care of,' said his legal aid lawyer Bob Dick. (CBC)

No place to go

Bob Dick, a legal aid lawyer who has represented Charlie, agrees that jail is "not the appropriate place" for people such as Charlie.

"He needs to be looked after, and taken care of," Dick said, but "we don't have another place."

The Yukon government has officially designated the jail a hospital, to justify holding people with mental health issues there. 

"There is no home for people who just can't cope, and [Charlie's] just one of the many you've seen me deal with over the last few years," Dick said.

He's also not sure why or when Charlie stopped being supervised, but said "if you can leave someone on their own, you're saving a lot of money."

Dick and Titus Charlie will be back in Yukon court on Friday, to ask for a new mental health assessment of Charlie.