A B.C. tribunal on severe mental health issues in the criminal justice system is confusing, untransparent and doesn’t consider victims, an advocate said following a high-profile hearing last week.
Dave Teixeira is an advocate for families of victims going through the B.C. Review Board process. He commented on what he says are the board’s deficiencies as Gabriel Klein, accused of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the 2016 Abbotsford Secondary School stabbing, goes through the B.C. Review Board’s process for fitness for trial hearings.
Teixeira’s gripes with the B.C. Review Board range from the ability for victims’ families to get information on matters like upcoming hearings or decisions to the proceedings themselves.
“You can’t easily find out when the hearing dates are, you don’t get the results easily. It’s just a strange process. There’s no guide; the B.C. Review Board’s own website doesn’t make it easy,” Teixeira said.
“I guess it starts with Attorney General David Eby [who needs] to instruct those branches to be almost a customer service focus, where you are focusing not just on the patient, but also on the victims’ needs, and also what the societal needs are, and also make it easy for the public to understand what’s going on.
“That way you destigmatize the process, because right now it’s a very secretive process, it’s a very strange process, and I think opening it up to the public in a more transparent way would make things a lot easier for the families as well.”
Teixeira did note that in the latest hearing the board’s chair acknowledged the victim’s family and that it is a difficult process.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen that happen in eight years that they actually acknowledge that there’s a victim in this.”
However, Teixeira said the family takes issue with a publication ban being placed on anything that can identify their daughter.
“It’s just strange that they’re muzzling the family and the newspapers of her name, where the victim’s family for one of the victims, the one who was murdered, has no issue with their daughter’s name being released,” he said.
In fact, he said the family is opposed to the news about Klein’s case being dominated with Klein’s name, with no opportunity for their daughter’s name to get out there and be remembered by the public.
In his eight or so years attending B.C. Review Board hearings, Teixeira said he has seen any number of even smaller issues that indicate little consideration for the families of victims, from lunch breaks that leave families scrambling so they can eat to a deficient sound system in the room.
That latter issue has been one of the most persistent issues, he said, pointing to an incident eight years ago, in which he says a family member of a victim asked the board to speak louder.
“The chair said ‘this is a hearing. You are to listen. We do not have to speak louder,’” Teixeira said.
“That’s the attitude of the tribunal. … They know best. They certainly have a good pedigree. I think they’re disconnected from what’s actually going on, and they certainly don’t understand how the victims feel.”
He also took aim at the ability of media to use recorders in hearings or social media to keep the public updated from inside the room — something that is allowed for accredited media in regular courtrooms.
“You have staff that are around the room with phones, you have staff with phones that go off, you have staff that are sitting beside us with a whole laptop,” Teixeira said. “So they give everyone all the tools, except for the reporters, and that doesn’t make sense.”
Teixeira said it would even be in the best interest of the B.C. Review Board to offer more transparent access for media and the public, as it would separate hearings that go well from those that don’t.
“This is a new piece of the process. If people don’t understand it, or worse, they oftentimes hear about the ones that are not working, such as the Allan Schoenborn case. So there are high-profile cases not working. Right now, as frustrating as it is for the family, the process is working.”