Ford rails about ‘nutcase’ who fled CAMH after being found non-criminally responsible for killing roommate

Ford rails about ‘nutcase’ who fled CAMH after being found non-criminally responsible for killing roommate

“We’re going to get down to the bottom of it … there’s going to be people held accountable. You can’t let guys like this loose. You throw away the key.”

The premier is alarmed that Zhebin Cong, 47, has been missing since July 3 and has escaped to China.

Cong, who killed his roommate in 2014, was found not criminally responsible for his actions. He was a patient at CAMH.

“Between the TPS (Toronto police service), the Ontario Review Board, and CAMH, someone’s going to be answering,” said Ford.

“What is the family thinking of the poor victim that got chopped up with a meat cleaver by this nutcase and then they let him loose on the streets? How did he get a passport to go to China?” he said.

“This is absolutely ridiculous and this is what we have to change, Jerry, right across the board making sure that these crazy, crazy people that want to go around chopping people up — they’re not on the streets,” the premier told Agar.

“I wouldn’t want to have lunch beside this guy, I’ll tell you that.”

Camille Quenneville, Ontario CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said “the language the premier has used is disappointing.”

“There a whole lot of people across Ontario who are struggling, who need help, and these kinds of incidents make them reluctant to get that help,” said Quenneville.

“I think the premier on reflection would no doubt regret the language he used. I’m not the language police. I am very interested in reducing stigma and I’m very interested in ensuring that people are not reluctant to get help when they need it,” she said.

Ford’s government has reduced planned annual funding to mental health programs by $335 million since taking office last summer.

With the defeat of the previous Liberal government in 2018, Ford’s Progressive Conservatives cancelled former premier Kathleen Wynne’s promised $2.1 billion in additional mental health services over four years.

Instead, the Tories are adding $1.9 billion over the next 10 years, which matches federal funding for mental health.

That meant a planned $525-million annual injection in new funding was reduced to $190 million.

Read more:

Rosie DiManno: A dangerous killer escaped CAMH and boarded a plane. Police told the public two weeks later

Asked if government cuts are to blame for Cong slipping through the cracks, Ford said “that’s an absolute bunch of nonsense.”

The premier blasted “the far left” for trying to pin the debacle on him.

NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex), stressing the need for protecting public safety, criticized Ford for using incendiary language, noting “we’ve been trying for years to destigmatize mental health issues.”

“To use those type of words, I don’t think help the issue at all. Doug should be deploying as many resources as possible … ensuring that we find this individual,” said Natyshak.

“To be inarticulate — as Doug is wont to be — doesn’t help this issue. His default is to blame it on the leftists when, hey, you’re in charge, Doug. This is your problem, this is your government,” he said.

After Ford’s explosive interview with Agar, his office issued a lengthy clarification that did not include the terms “nutcase” or “crazy crazy.”

“My heart breaks for the family of the victim who has to live knowing that the person who murdered their son is now off the hook,” the statement said.

“The Toronto Police Services Board needs to get to the bottom of why the public was not informed sooner. I am glad to hear that the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health has acknowledged that they need to review and improve their own procedures.”

It is rare for a person to be found not criminally responsible (NCR) for an offence — simply having a mental illness at the time the crime was committed is not enough.

A court must find that the mental disorder made the person unable to understand the nature and quality of what they did, or that they did not know it was wrong.

In 2017, there were a total of 126 people found not criminally responsible in Ontario, according to the Ministry of the Attorney General. In the same year, more than 200,000 cases were completed.

Advocates and experts have said a finding of not criminally responsible may be the first time the person obtained the level of psychiatric care they needed — though it comes at the cost of being indefinitely detained under the Ontario Review Board until the person is deemed not to be a “significant threat” to the public.

In many cases where NCR findings are made, there is a long record of interactions with hospitals and the criminal justice system, including attempts to seek help, which experts have said often highlights a failure to provide mental health treatment, housing and other community supports.

With files from Alyshah Hasham

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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