To placate self-serving scolds, Ottawa abandons a policy of compassion

Let’s pause to consider the evil done by Opposition parties, pandering media, sanctimonious citizens, and Ministers of the Crown who can’t stand political heat.

Case in point:

Last December, a Halifax jury found Christopher Garnier guilty of a grotesque murder: After a night of drinking and sex, Garnier strangled Truro police constable Catherine Campbell, stuffed her body into a green garbage bin, and wheeled it around North End Halifax before dumping her remains in a brush-covered embankment near the MacDonald Bridge. Convicted of  second degree murder and interfering with a dead body, Garnier is serving life without parole for 13-1/2 years. (He has appealed both the conviction and the sentence.)

Garnier is the son of Vince Garnier, a veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Following the murder, the Chris Garnier, who never served in the armed forces, also developed PTSD.

At his mid-August sentencing hearing, a Crown Prosecutor revealed that Veterans’ Affairs Canada has been paying a private psychologist to treat the Garnier in prison, under a policy that provides counselling and other services to family members of veterans, if the treatments may help their veteran-relatives achieve their own rehabilitation goals.

This was too juicy for the media and Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer to resist. Veterans Affairs Canada, notoriously stingy and inept in its provision of services to actual veterans, was nevertheless paying to treat a repulsive murderer who never wore a uniform. Bellows of outrage scorched the air, filled the media, and tormented the Liberal government.

On Tuesday, with no let-up in sight, Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan threw in the towel. His department would no longer pay for treatment of incarcerated relatives of family members of veterans.

This will presumably end Garnier’s treatments, although Canada’s restrictive privacy laws prevented O’Regan from confirming their termination, an omission that gave Scheer license to extend his breast-beating marathon.

Let’s consider the real life consequences set in motion by this orgy of sanctimonious posturing. People with mental illness and developmental disabilities make up a disproportionate share of Canada’s prison population. Their conditions often go untreated or under-treated. But if they have a close relative who is a veteran, there is a chance they might get help.

Or there was a chance until Tuesday, when pandering politicians, ratings-hungry news outlets, outraged citizens, and a craven cabinet minister brought this small compassionate policy to a halt in a victory for vindictiveness.