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The truth about Ottawa 

Mental health support services have failed us all.


“Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.”

“There are those who blame the Press, but in this I think they are mistaken. The Press is such as the public demands, and the public demands bad newspapers…” —Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Oh, how fast we were to point our fingers at the Ottawa terrorist!

Some people on Twitter said he looked Moroccan. Some said Aboriginal. Everyone agreed that he was a Muslim terrorist!

The Prime Minister hid in a broom closet. Ottawa went into lockdown.

At cafes, according to Twitter accounts – whites were allowed in behind the locked doors, but Muslims were not.

The next day the Prime Minister promised a pull back on our civil liberties. Detention without charges. Guilt by suspicion.

The attack was a call to nation, and we must all stand shoulder to shoulder.

But what did we really have happen in Ottawa? We have a dead reservist who proudly stood by our War Memorial. He, and the other men and women who do this ceremonial duty (their rifles are unarmed) are our witnesses to those who sacrificed in war (and, they look good for the tourists). His name was Nathan Cirillo. He was a father. Now there is an orphan.

And, we have a dead homeless man. His name was Michael Bibeau. He had a history of mental health and addiction issues.

At one point in his life Bibeau staged a fake armed robbery in order to go to prison where he hoped he would get mental health and addictions support. But the judge just gave him time served. He received no counselling.

Last week a report here in Nova Scotia noted that only one youth in 10 who needs mental health support receives any. We are the worst province, but the national average is only marginally better.

About 80 percent of the people who end up on the streets have mental health problems. There are virtually no supports for —save for the very worst cases—who end up spending the night in the hospital’s psych room (to be released in the morning).

So what do we really have here?

There are insufficient mental health and addiction supports because for the last 30 years governments have been cutting back on mental health services in order to support increased corporate tax breaks (now the lowest they have been since the Great Depression).

Any city police officer, homeless shelter worker, or street outreach worker will tell you that there are many Michael Bibeau’s out there wandering the back alleys and ravines of our cities.

Our intentional ignorance of this fact will be the fodder authoritarian nationalists will use to further retract our democratic freedoms.

And the corporate press will simply continue to feed us the things we want to hear.

***Sherwood Hines submitted this post to our Letters section***

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Vol 26, No 34
January 17, 2019

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