There has been a lot written about the circumstances that led to the death
of Raymond Taavel.
There are questions about why Andre Denny, the man accused of beating
Taavel to death, was allowed out of a secure psychiatric facility on a temporary
pass. There is now a government review of the protocols and assessment policies
that led to that fatal decision.
We've received numerous comments and questions from our viewers, readers
One stood out. Tony Brewer sent us this email:
"Why isn't anyone asking the obvious question, which is, why
patients equipped with some sort of GPS device like an ankle
way, if they don't return for their curfew,
the authorities would know exactly
where they are and return them to the
A good question. On the surface, it sounds like GPS monitoring could be a
valuable tool for the health professionals who have the difficult job of
reintegrating patients, many of whom have been committed for violent criminal
behaviour, back into their communities.
So I asked the Capital District Health Authority, the agency that runs the
East Coast Forensic Hospital, for its thoughts.
Capital Health tells me it has not considered employing GPS technology to
monitor patients and, as far as it knows, no other institution in Canada is
using it either.
When asked if, in light of this horrible incident, will they consider it
now, the Health Authority emailed this response:
"While we have not considered this in the past, we are
hesitant, in light of an
exceptional event, to implement a potentially coercive
and intrusive measure on
all patients, we are open to
examining any options that might enhance the risk
management of our patients as
they progress to resuming full-time living in the
Prior to engaging in a resource intensive endeavour we would
carefully consider whether or not it would in fact provide a degree of
etc. that would justify the resources and
intrusiveness, as well as the message
it sends to patients and the community
regarding rehabilitation and reintegration."
Reading between the lines of some pretty bureaucratic language it sounds a
lot like a no.
I also received an email from a man who says he is living with
schizophrenia. He too, talked about the need to rehabilitate and re-introduce
psychiatric patients back into the community. He notes that passes help build
trust and responsibility. Here's an excerpt from his thoughtful letter:
"What is important is that these are patients, not prisoners. In the
case of Andre
Denny, it is saddening that this happened - I don't know the
details of how he would
have attained an hour unaccompanied pass -
he did not seem ready for that kind of
responsibility. However even if he had an
ankle bracelet, at some point he would still
have to be
trusted to be on a pass without a monitoring device".
It's a position echoed by Nova Scotia's health minister. Maureen MacDonald
has made it clear she is philosophically opposed to using electronic monitoring
technology on psychiatric patients.
Having said that, both MacDonald and Capital Health say they want to wait
to see what recommendations come out of the review and investigation that was
ordered after Taavel's murder.
But it's pretty clear that, unless that review makes a strong case for
electronic monitoring, we're not likely to see them put to use in Nova Scotia.