I wake up and look out my window. My street is pitch black. The rain and wind have knocked out power to the streetlights. I love the rain so I take this as a sign that it is going to be a good day. I have court this morning and I have already been told that the notes, which lead to my trial cancellation, are still not ready. At my last court appearance, they said they would be ready that week. I am not surprised at all and resist the urge to speculate. Based on past experiences, I already have a pretty good idea of what those notes will say. When my trial was first cancelled, months ago, I remember thinking that there was no way they would hand over those notes.
I head off to court, knowing that my matter will be adjourned. I leave at a time that will get me there a few minutes before it starts. I had a supporter at my last appearance. This time I have two supporters sitting beside me. Carol Anne Knapp is one of them. She quite proudly and publicly stands with me. I am really lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. They make the experience a lot less awful. They have more confidence in me than even I do. I am the first one to walk into the courtroom, as usual. I go straight to the Crown and ask what is the new timeline for disclosing these notes. He tells me they have asked for an additional two weeks. I give him my lawyer’s availability. Court begins shortly after our exchange.
My matter comes up. The Crown explains that the complainant has asked for another two weeks to get these notes ready. The Judge makes a face that can’t be described with one word. His cheeks puff up and then he exhales, almost like he just swallowed the words he really wanted to say. It is a look of annoyance mixed with frustration and anger, all while still trying to look impartial and unbiased. For a moment, I wonder if the Judge is about to throw the case out. Part of me wonders if this is the intent of the complainant, to avoid these notes becoming public record. I have waived my 11B charter right to a speedy trial, under the advice of my lawyer. They can have all the time in the world. The matter is adjourned to Nov. 20, 2017. This will be my fourth adjournment, waiting for this disclosure.
I have court today. It is the third year in a row I have had court in October. I’ve learned how to get out of there by lunch time now. To get a parking spot, I show up an hour early. I light a cigarette and by the time I’m done, the lot is full. I’m in no rush to go in. I know the court room doors won’t unlock until 9:30 and there will be no where to sit until then. I go in at 9:00am. People are squished together, sitting on the stairs and in various other creative spots. Everyone is either waiting for their lawyer or waiting to speak to duty counsel. I squeeze by all the people and position myself right in front of the court room door. I will be the first one in when it unlocks. I need to speak to the Crown and will be the first to do so. I need to give him the instructions that my lawyer gave me. This will be my best chance of getting out of there by noon.
Someone smells bad and my toes are stepped on twice. An old friend notices me and asks why I am there. I chuckle and respond by asking him why he is there. Everyone in that small space is listening to us and watching. I sheepishly say that I’m accused of being a hacker. Someone says I must be Russian and everyone laughs. I feel a lot more welcome here than I do in other social situations. It’s eerily comforting being here right now, aside from the mental anguish associated with being accused of crimes that could land me in jail for ten years. I don’t quite understand why I feel so relaxed.
The door finally unlocks and I am the first one in. I see the Crown and go directly to him, before any lawyers get a chance and I have to wait. I give him my lawyers instructions and he agrees with them. Neither of us have the notes yet but they are supposed to be ready sometime this week. My trial was adjourned because of these notes, a week before it was going to start. We are adjourning to give both parties time to review these much-anticipated notes. I sit directly behind the Crown and wait. I hear the Crown tell another lawyer that he is going to speak to an adjournment first.
“All rise. Court is now in session.”
The Crown brings my matter up first. The Judge wants to keep my matter in his court and is unavailable on the day my lawyer gave me and so it is adjourned to different day. This is okay as the next court date will be to set a date for a judicial pre-trial. I can do this on behalf of my lawyer and bring a list of his available days. My matter is adjourned to Oct. 30th, 2017. Now it’s 9:38am and I am done with court for the day.
I am writing in response to the recent article about bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, by Evelyn Harford, published on Oct. 11 by the Smiths Falls Record News. I thought people may also like to know the perspective of us low-wage earners on this topic.
“ “I think we’ve got a big problem,” said Coun. Dawn Quinn.
“We need to speak up,” said Coun. Jay Brennan.” As I read these quotes, I wondered to myself if it even occurs to these councillors that us poor people read the newspaper too. At first, I was highly offended, but then I remembered that oppression isn’t always intentional. It is also often born from ignorance.
These councillors are obviously speaking for their constituents that will be facing high tax hikes and loss of jobs and hours as businesses make cuts to absorb the extra costs of an increased minimum wage. The last thing the town needs is lost jobs. They are right in that regard, people will be hurt in that way.
However, I don’t hear any councillors speaking for the 43% of town that lives below the poverty line. An increase to minimum wage is welcome news to the rest of us. I don’t think people realize how costly poverty is and how much money would actually be saved through eradicating it. Violent crime could go down, hospital wait times may decrease and kids will be less hungry.
Lost jobs and increased taxes will hurt, but not as much as children living below the poverty line hurt right now. I don’t understand how a council that voted to send a delegation to lobby for the basic income pilot, can also encourage people to “speak up” against the more livable wage bill 148 will provide. We, the poor people, are not your political football. Thank-you.
Imagine, you have a family member experiencing dangerous psychiatric symptoms. Fearing for your safety and theirs, you call the police. You are then told you will be charged with mischief if you call again about this family member. Or let’s say you recently discovered that your apartment key unlocks several other units in your building. You go out one day and return to your home and notice some items missing. You call the police and report that you believe someone, who perhaps also discovered they had identical keys, entered your locked unit and removed these items. The responding officer then transports you to the hospital’s emergency room, for a psychiatric evaluation. An ambulance may or may not transport you to a Schedule One hospital where these psychiatric evaluations actually occur. The hospital in Smiths Falls does not have such designation under the Mental Health Act, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
These are just some of the stories about mental health experiences I have heard around town recently.
Mental health resources in Smiths Falls are in crisis. These agencies are overworked and underfunded, also reflective of the state of mental health services across the Province. People are suffering and cannot afford to wait for governments to decide they are a priority. Something needs to happen now. Someone needs to do something, now. We, as a community, need to fill the void right now. Besides these people and their families needlessly suffering, improper resources are also often diverted to help these overwhelmed mental health agencies cope with demand. Ambulance and emergency room visits tend to fill the gap, if not shelters in neighboring cities or some form of police custody.
Other cities and towns have implemented their own efforts to help people. I have worked in mental health in Ottawa for the last five years and have seen first-hand some of the measures the city has put in place to help those living with a mental health issue. One helpful resource I have seen in action, is the Ottawa Police Service’s Mental Health Unit. It is comprised of four police constables who work with the Ottawa Hospital to respond to calls for crisis involving mental health. These calls can then be diverted from using other resources not suited to helping those experiencing a mental health problem.
The Smiths Falls Police Service should consider having their own Mental Health Unit. We have a Community Service Officer, why not also have an officer trained to handle someone experiencing a mental health crisis. These officers would know and understand the Mental Health Act, outside of just its scope on the policing mandate. There are forms family members can access through the courts to help a loved one seek medical treatment. There are other agencies and processes that some may not know about. A Mental Health Unit within our own police department could act as a liaison between families and these services. Mental health resources in Ontario are a labyrinth of services that families sometimes just need help to navigate through. A designated first-responder that can handle such a call, 24/7, could take a crisis bound for danger and turn it into an opportunity to connect people to the resources they really need.