Mandatory addiction treatment could dial back crimes from repeat offenders, says Kelowna's top Mountie

·3 min read
Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said mandatory addiction treatment could be a measure to address prolific offenders. Her comments come weeks before the province is set to release a report on the issue. (Tom Popyk/CBC - image credit)
Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said mandatory addiction treatment could be a measure to address prolific offenders. Her comments come weeks before the province is set to release a report on the issue. (Tom Popyk/CBC - image credit)

Kelowna's top cop is calling for the B.C. government to send prolific repeat offenders to addiction treatment, just weeks before the province is scheduled to release a report on the issue.

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said on Wednesday that although she can't offer a complete solution to the problem of people repeatedly committing crimes, she believes that in some extreme cases where offenders have generated hundreds of police files and refuse help for substance use, forcing treatments could make a difference.

"In the absence of a criminal justice response, we need an adequate health response," she said. "Perhaps we need to consider something more like a compulsory pathway to health care."

B.C.'s government commissioned a former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief, Doug LePard, and health researcher and criminologist Amanda Butler to study the issue of prolific offenders in May. Following a brief extension, a summary of the report is expected to be released in mid-September with the full report available at the end of the month, according to a Thursday news release from the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Province's report on prolific offenders coming in September

The report is in response to concerns from the British Columbia's Urban Mayors' Caucus which is co-chaired by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

In a letter to the province in April, the two mayors complained that B.C. Prosecution Services often do not lay charges against prolific offenders or that they are released on bail without any meaningful conditions.

LePard and Butler were asked to focus on the root causes of crimes committed by repeat offenders and examine the feasibility of recommendations provided to the government, such as real-time electronic monitoring of chronic offenders who have been released into communities, and compulsory treatment programs for mental health and addiction issues.

RCMP press releases reiterate support for mandatory treatment

In the meantime, Kelowna RCMP have issued two statements this month calling for action.

In an Aug. 8 press release about the arrest of a repeat offender on Bernard Avenue, Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Const. Mike Della-Paolera wrote: "Without well-functioning and robust mental health and addiction services through mandated programs, individuals such as this person are going to be landing right back into our cells in no time — and the revolving door process starts all over again."

On Tuesday, Triance wrote about a local prolific offender, Justin Collins, being released from custody: "The Kelowna RCMP continue to make arrests and bring Justin Collins to court, however without adequate consequences or compulsory pathways to mental health and substance use programs, our public is at risk."

A day later, the Mounties announced they had arrested Collins again, adding he had generated 423 police files since 2016.

Mandatory treatment 'dehumanizing,' says advocate

The idea of mandatory treatment for people living with addiction is also supported by B.C. NDP leadership hopeful David Eby, who told to Postmedia last week that involuntary care should be an option for people who repeatedly overdose in order to protect them from serious brain injury.

But Meenakshi Mannoe, the criminalization and policing campaigner of Pivot Legal Society in Vancouver, says that kind of treatment is tantamount to incarceration, which she finds "dehumanizing."

"We can't just be forcing people into treatment because we don't like their behaviour," she said on CBC's Daybreak South. "They have Charter protections, whether they're unhoused or not, whether they use substances or not."