I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the horrific beheading of a sleeping passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba. The stranger sitting next to him just suddenly started repeatedly stabbing him and then hacked off his head and carried it around.
I can’t even imagine how traumatized those poor travelers must be. I felt vicariously traumatized just listening to the radio interview with one of the passengers. There’s something about decapitation that just seems infinitely worse than plain old stabbing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, because this story is making headlines all over the world.
Like most people, my first reaction was shock and horror. And then I felt so sad for everybody, because a lot of lives are going to be forever changed by this tragedy, and not for the better. I felt sad for the victim, his family, the witnesses, and the perpetrator and his family, because clearly he was psychotic and he and his family had probably been struggling with his mental illness for years.
So then I’m checking out news stories about it, and I read this:
“Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the perpetrator.
‘We want to make sure the process is followed as aggressively as possible, the full legal process . . . . ‘ Day said from Levis, Que., where Conservative MPs are gathered for a summer planning session.”
How could punishment be the first thought that springs to mind when you hear about something like this? The full weight of the law? Aggressive prosecution? Deterrence? Does Stockwell Day believe the courts need to send a strong message to the rest of us that we won’t get away with hacking each other’s heads off?
This is a mental health problem, not a criminal justice problem. It’s not a Public Safety problem, because how can you possibly prevent isolated incidents from ever happening again? It has nothing to do with Stockwell Day, Public Safety, the Conservative Party or the Government of Canada. The only interest they should be taking in it is from a mental health perspective – did this man have unmet mental health needs that could have been identified and met before yesterday? Are there other Canadians in critical need of mental health resources, and what can we do for them?