Under mental health laws, Michael Nehass will remain in care against his will

A Yukon man diagnosed with mental illness will not walk free despite having his charges stayed. Michael Nehass will instead be transferred to the Hillside Centre psychiatric hospital in B.C.

'Wait — are you trying to send me to another hospital?' Nehass said, interrupting court proceedings

Anik Morrow, who has served as Michael Nehass's defence lawyer, addressed reporters outside of the Yukon courthouse Tuesday. She supports the call for a public inquiry into Nehass's ordeal. 'It is inexplicable that [arrangements to transfer to a hospital] were not made earlier,' she said. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A Yukon man diagnosed with mental illness will not walk free despite having his charges stayed. 

Michael Nehass will instead be transferred to the Hillside Centre psychiatric hospital, a 44-bed facility on the Royal Inland Hospital campus in Kamloops, B.C. 

The decision was announced in Yukon Supreme Court Tuesday. 

Nehass, who appeared by videoconference from a mental health facility in Ontario, seemed surprised by the news and became agitated. 

"Wait — are you trying to send me to another hospital?" he said interrupting proceedings. 

He demanded to be released immediately.

"I am an innocent person since my charges were stayed," he said loudly into a microphone. "I would like to come home now. Not be committed. I need to go back to Whitehorse," he said.

"This court needs to stop jerking me around. I have been in custody for six years already. This is bullshit."

Nehass kept insisting he should be set free. 

The court muted his microphone and continued its discussion.

Best way to 'address public safety concerns'

Nehass is being detained under B.C.'s Mental Health Act, which allow for judges or medical professionals to admit people to hospital against their will. Similar acts exist in Yukon and Ontario. 

Nehass was diagnosed with schizophrenia last year. 

Anik Morrow, who has served as Nehass's defence lawyer, said he has shown signs of improvement while at a psychiatric hospital in Ontario, and seems to be responding to medication. However, she said "his mental state still changes from day to day."

For example, on Friday, Nehass emphatically told the court he wanted to transfer to B.C. and receive treatment. He later changed his mind.

Morrow described his hospitalization in Kamloops as the "best way to address public safety concerns."

Nehass has a history of violence. In 2003, he was convicted for taking part in the torture and beating of a Whitehorse man in assault called "premeditated, gangland-style enforcement" by the court. It included the severing of the man's finger.

In 2011, he was charged with assault related to threatening a woman at knifepoint in Watson Lake. He was found guilty, however the trial was declared a mistrial and the charges later stayed.

While at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, he incurred new charges relating to violently punching a guard. Those charges were also stayed by a judge last week. 

Father, brother support move

Nehass's family is in support of the move, Morrow told the court. She said his father and one brother have offered to provide support by moving to B.C. themselves. 

Nehass said he did not believe this.

Later, speaking outside the court, Morrow said: "everyone is in agreement that they would like Michael back. Back in the way they used to know him. They all want treatment for him, they are all on the same page."

Lawyer supports call for public inquiry

The Yukon NDP has called for a public inquiry into Nehass's lengthy ordeal. Morrow supports the notion. 

"It is inexplicable that [arrangements to transfer to a hospital] were not made earlier," Morrow said.

While testifying in the case, Yukon's director of Corrections, Patricia Ratel, said her department needs more resources to deal with mental illness, including a full-time psychiatric nurse.

Morrow repeated that call today.   

"We had evidence before the court, from the director of corrections, who wished to have more resources and understood that mental health could not be properly addressed within the WCC. 

'You can't put a person in a jail, treat them like they're in a jail, and call that place a hospital," she said.

CBC is seeking comment from Yukon's Minister of Justice.