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Quebec Coroner Urges Creation of Specialized Mental-Health Tribunal in Response to 2022 Killing Spree

A Quebec coroner recently released a final report on the tragic deaths of three individuals who were randomly shot by a mentally ill man in the Montreal area in 2022. The report recommended the establishment of a specialized court in the province to handle cases involving mental health issues.

Coroner Géhane Kamel put forth several suggestions on Feb. 29, proposing the transformation of Quebec’s mental-health review board into a dedicated tribunal similar to Ontario’s approach. This would facilitate the involvement of law enforcement, medical professionals, and prosecutors in mental health cases.

The inquest conducted by Ms. Kamel focused on the murders of André Lemieux, Mohamed Belhaj, and Alex Lévis Crevier in August 2022, as well as the death of Abdulla Shaikh, the assailant who was killed in a police shootout at a Montreal motel.

“An administrative tribunal specializing in mental health would provide consistency in decisions and leverage the expertise of decision-makers,” Ms. Kamel stated in her 58-page report.

Presently, Quebec’s Commission d’examen des troubles mentaux assesses the risk posed by individuals deemed not-criminally responsible. However, other aspects of such cases require court intervention, leading to disjointed efforts among prosecutors, law enforcement, and mental health professionals.

The proposed specialized body would ensure compliance with conditions and aid police in determining when to apply legal measures for individuals whose mental health poses a danger. Despite concerns raised by families, the implementation of such measures has been challenging.

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Abdulla Shaikh, who had a history of mental health issues, was not criminally charged despite prior encounters with the law. Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2018, he had undergone extended hospital stays. His family reported non-compliance with prescribed medication, even though he was due for a refill shortly before his demise.

In March 2022, Quebec’s mental-health review board determined that Mr. Shaikh, under the care of a mental health facility, posed a significant risk to public safety but could remain in the community. The board noted comments from his psychiatrist, citing denial and trivialization of behavioral issues, violence, and psychiatric conditions.

The final report included around twenty recommendations for various stakeholders, such as law enforcement, prosecutors, regional health boards, and governmental departments responsible for health and justice.

Ms. Kamel highlighted several warning signs in Mr. Shaikh’s case, such as lengthy court delays, lack of cooperation with mental health workers, and inadequate follow-up care after his case was closed, limited to quarterly psychiatrist visits and medication supervision.

The coroner stressed the scarcity of mental-health resources overall, especially for individuals falling under the provincial mental health review board’s jurisdiction who decline or are hesitant to seek help.

Mr. Shaikh possessed two homemade firearms, leading Ms. Kamel to conclude that the killings were premeditated, with motives known only to the deceased. His actions were deemed indicative of a personality disorder rather than psychosis.

During a single hour on August 2, 2022, Mr. Shaikh fatally shot Mr. Lemieux and Mr. Belhaj in Montreal before traveling to Ontario for a visit to Toronto Zoo and Canada’s Wonderland. He later returned to Montreal’s Laval suburb to murder Lévis Crevier, who was skateboarding on the street.

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