Nova Scotia

N.S. justice minister ready to discuss the role of police in mental health calls

Earlier this week, two police chiefs in Nova Scotia expressed concerns that their officers are not properly equipped to deal with someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Justice Minister Mark Furey says now is an appropriate time to revisit the role police play in responding to mental health calls.

Some police chiefs say officers not well equipped to help people in mental health crisis

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey supports revisiting the role police play in mental health calls. (CBC)

Justice Minister Mark Furey says now is an appropriate time to revisit and determine the role police play in responding to mental health calls.

Earlier this week, two police chiefs in Nova Scotia expressed concerns their officers are not properly equipped to deal with someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

"We don't call mental health clinicians to respond to break and enters, but unfortunately the police are kind of the agency of last resort," Truro police Chief Dave MacNeil told CBC News.

On Thursday, following a cabinet meeting, Furey, a former RCMP officer, said police are often the default service provider in communities because in many cases they're the only ones available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Since April, at least four people in Canada have been killed during wellness checks by the police, situations that have raised concerns about institutional racism and lack of trust among Black and Indigenous communities with the police.

A need for accountability

Although police have some training related to mental health and de-escalation, Furey said it's timely to have a conversation, given "all of the circumstances that we're seeing across the country and the continent."

That conversation, which Furey said should include police and all levels of government, should focus on whether officers are getting the appropriate training.

Furey said most people serving on police forces are providing a professional and respectful service, but he thinks another conversation worth having is how to address those officers who do not act professionally.

"Another discussion is a level of accountability for those actions that are disrespectful and certainly not professional," he said.

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