A daughter’s search for answers that won’t be found. The Blake Salemink Story

Gary McKenna of the The Tri-City News has written a good piece detailing the journey of Blake Salemink who was recently found not criminally responsible of manslaughter in the death of his mother, Colette. She died in a intentionally set fire of their Coquitlam home in April 2010. Judge Paul Williamson has ordered that Salemink go before the B.C. Review Board, where he will be assessed, before beginning treatment at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital at Colony Farm.

MacKenna’s story, told through the eyes of Blake’s sister Erica Salemink begins at the Royal Columbian Hospital in 2004. Erica shares how suspicions about her brother are confirmed. As Blake sat in a seclusion room, watched by a security guard, she was told her younger sibling was suffering from a mental disorder and needed to be kept under observation for several days. In those early days Erica had no fear of her brother and described him as a sweetheart that would draw pictures of the sister he looked up to.

In those earlier times Erica watched as the quiet youth who had a “go-with-the-flow” attitude became increasingly agitated. The hope that its was just a faze or a kid acting out was slowly replaced by the reality that her brother was mentally ill.

After that initial stay at at Riverview Hospital (there would be many) things appeared to be OK for a time. Despite his troubles, Blake managed to finish high school and, in 2005, attended Malaspina College (Vancouver Island University).

In 2007, Erica received a call from a family Blake was staying with in Mexico City. She learned that her brother had smashed a car and had been acting erratically. Erica boarded a plane but upon her arrival was unable to convince her brother to come home. Erica recounts to MacKenna her shock as Blake hit her for the first time.

Blake was eventually taken to a hospital in Mexico, where he was treated for psychosis, and escorted back to Canada by authorities. In the years that followed, Blake had several stays at Riverview Hospital, spending anywhere from a month to two months at the facility.  “They don’t keep you until you are well,” Erica says. “They keep you until they think you have the medication sorted out… They take you to a certain level and that is when they let you out.”

Erica describes Blake when he was diligently taking his medication, how the sweetness would return. She also recounts the change when he wasn’t,  how he became mean, and often lash out at his family.

By the spring of 2010, fights between Blake and his mom became common, and Coquitlam RCMP officers were routinely called to Colette’s Burian Drive home to intervene in disputes. On April 13 of that year, a mental health warrant was drawn up that could have put Blake, who was still on extended stay from Riverview, back in the hospital. But when he met with his caseworker two days later, the warrant was not executed, despite the fact he appeared giddy and admitted to having auditory hallucinations. He said he heard a song that sounded like it was speaking to him, the court would later be told, but he knew the voices were not real. After the meeting, Blake was allowed to return home.

On April 17, police were again called after Blake threatened to hire a hitman from Mexico to kill his mother. When officers arrived, Colette told them she did not believe the threat was serious and Blake was not taken into custody. Erica shares how in the final days both she and her mother Colette were hopeful that despite the recent events, solutions could be found.

In the early morning hours of April 19, Blake is believed to have started fire in the house he shared with his mother. He quickly left, heading for Mexico.  Colette died.

Erica goes into great detail with McKenna about Blake reaction to hearing their mother had died in a fire. His arrest and subsequent return to Canada. She also shares her conflicting emotions. Despite her anger at his reaction and indifference, Erica says that she has more of a big-sister, parental kind of love. “ The unconditional part of it is pretty amazing.”

When the trial started, the judge ordered Blake be moved to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital at Colony Farm in Coquitlam, where he will likely stay following the court verdict.

Erica asks many questions and has few answers about what led her brother to burn down their home and what wasn’t done that could have stopped him.

– The mental health warrant that was drawn up the week of the fire yet was not executed.
– Despite a death threat, police did not take Blake into custody.
– Why her mother’s request for supportive housing was ignored, forcing Blake back into her care when the family believed he should have been in a hospital setting.

In my opinion, Gary McKenna has done an exceptional job with this story. His portrayal of Blake Salemink as both a perpetrator, and a victim is well balanced. The emotional journey of a family dealing with mental illness is realistic and heart wrenching. Even when dealing with the obvious failures of the system to intervene, McKenna seems to have provided a sense of the futility that must be felt by mental health providers.

“I think back at what could have been done differently and I still don’t have the answer,” Erica said. “I just don’t know”.

Read  A sweet boy’s spiral, a mother’s life lost

William Joseph Tait incapable of appreciating consequence of actions. So nobody is responsible?

In May of 2011, William Joseph Tait was charged with a number of offences involving violence. Police records show Tait was not taking his medication. He had been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Months later in November of 2011, Tait was again charged with more violent offences.  Judge Peter Ross said the evidence was clear that Tait was incapable at the time of appreciating or understanding the nature and consequence of his actions.  There was six month between these crimes.. no medication, mentally ill, no treatment, no responsibility! 

Report from The Cape Breton Post 

The release of a 26-year-old New Waterford man now rests with a provincial review board after he was found not criminally responsible Friday for multiple offences.  William Joseph Tait will be returned to the East Coast Forensic Hospital and the board must meet within the next 45 days to make an initial assessment of Tait’s mental health.  After Friday’s sentencing hearing, Tait was remanded to the Cape Breton Correctional Centre for the weekend before his return to the Dartmouth hospital Monday.

Tait was first sentenced on charges of causing a disturbance and assaulting a police officer after his arrest last year at a doughnut shop. He received a sentence of one day in jail served by his presence in court. Prosecutor Diane McGrath explained to the court the strange circumstances involving the final two set of charges from incidents in May and November 2011.

The first set of charges, involving assault and threats and assault with a weapon, stem from a heated argument Tait was having with his girlfriend. In hearing the commotion, the landlord intervened and told Tait to leave the area. Tait instead fled inside the home but came running back out with a knife in his hand threatening to kill his landlord who was able to overpower Tait and hold him until police arrived.

McGrath said at the time of the offence, Tait was not taking his medication. He was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.
In November, 2011, Tait made contact with a friend requesting he be allowed to stay for a few days, McGrath said. The request was granted as the friend was concerned because Tait was highly agitated and described as running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

The friend showed Tait a pellet gun and the two talked briefly about the gun before the friend went to bed. At around 3 a.m., Tait left the home with the gun and, for some unexplained reason, wearing a pair of women’s white shoes accented with numerous red rhinestones. Witnesses described the shoes as not fitting Tait very well.

McGrath said he first stopped at a convenience store on Prince Street where staff noticed the gun when he bent over. Tait didn’t stay long in the store and staff said he was rambling. Tait then ventured to a nearby gas bar and told the duty clerk he would kill them if they didn’t put money, cigarettes and scratch lottery tickets in a bag. The clerk complied and Tait left returning to his friend’s home to show off his ill-gotten booty.

McGrath said video surveillance from both locations clearly show Tait as the culprit. As result of the two incidents, Tait was charged with weapons offences and armed robbery.

Defence lawyer Ann Marie MacInnes said her client has little memory of the crimes but does accept responsibility for his actions.
In passing sentence, Judge Peter Ross said the evidence was clear that Tait was incapable at the time of appreciating or understanding the nature and consequence of his actions.


Would anyone be criminally responsible had Tait actions ended in the death of someone? 

Sean Brennan thought life was a reality tv show & now Brian Bougie is dead

A 23-year-old Montreal man who thought his life was a reality tv show and stabbed a Pointe Claire man multiple times was found not criminally responsible for his actions. Sean Brennan, a paranoid schizophrenic, was suffering from an episode of psychosis when he stabbed and killed 41 year old Brian Bougie in January of 2011. Brian suffered 91 stab wounds after giving Brennan shelter after finding the 23-year-old sleeping in the stairwell of his Pointe Claire apartment building. But later that evening, Bougie told his boss he started to have misgivings about Brennan who was acting more and more aggressive. The next morning, Brian was dead.

A psychiatric evaluation found that Brennan thought his life was a reality tv show, similar to the plot in the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show, and that the tv told him in order to get to Hollywood, he had to kill David Bowie as personified by Bougie.  Sean Brennan also thought celebrities such as rap artist Eminem were talking to him directly and that when police arrived the day of the stabbing, he thought the officer was director Quentin Tarantino.

Brennan’s lawyer James Dawson has stated that Brennan had behavioural problems since he was young and was followed by a psychiatrist starting in his teens when he was also consuming drugs and alcohol. At the time of the stabbing, Brennan was not on any meds, was no longer going to his treatments at the Douglas Hospital and was under the influence of drugs and alcohol every day.

Sean Brennan was previously convicted of illegal possession of a firearm, obstructing a police officer, resisting arrest, uttering death threats, and breaking bail conditions on several occasions. He’s never received any jail time, only suspended sentences and probation.

Brennan is now detained and treated at the Pinel Psychiatric Institute.



Review Board is expected to give Vincent Li more freedom

On Monday, doctors from the Selkirk Mental Health Centre told a Criminal Review Board Hearing that Vincent Li has made significant progress in his treatment. Indeed, the risk of Li re-offending according to his medical handlers is only about 1 per cent. Based on this new diagnosis, the Review Board was asked to give Li extended privileges within the facility. Previously, Lii has been allowed passes to walk on hospital grounds, provided he has direct supervision. Now doctors are suggesting Li is doing so well with the daily 60-to-90 minute walks that he should be allowed general supervision like any other patient at the hospital.

A second proposal that was made involves Li being permitted to take 30-minute excursions away from the hospital within Selkirk, provided he is accompanied at all times by a peace officer and a nurse. His doctors say those passes can be extended by up to 15 minutes per week, provided there are no incidents and he continues to make great strides.

Within the request to the Board, there is no indication that the community would be made aware of Li’s presence in their neighborhood. In fact, his doctors suggested the accompanying peace officers should be allowed to wear plain clothes to avoid drawing extra attention to Li.

Carol de Delley, Tim McLean’s mother, disagrees. She believes that Li is “a very unpredictably dangerous person.” Carol has given numerous media interviews in an attempt to heighten the awareness of the issues surrounding Vincent Li. While she is not concerned about security and surveillance while Li is in the care of the hospital, De Delley does question his activities outside of confinement. “What happens when he’s not in care anymore?”

The answer to this question has not been forthcoming. At the Hearing, the Crown did not raise any opposition to the proposals. Why would she? Li was described as having a “low risk of reoffending” and described as a “nice gentle guy”. Ironically, however, Li sat quietly through the Hearing in leg irons. On face value, it would appear that the members of the board only trust him in the Selkirk neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it is expected that Vincent Li will be given more freedom in the days to come. The Board is expected to render their decision shortly.

Signing the petition for Tim’s Law is showing support for a dialogue that weighs the rights of all sides of this discussion.

Nova Scotia, Capital Health to Conduct Joint Review.. Raymond Taavel is still dead.

The Province of Nova Scotia in a press release announced that a joint review by the provincial Departments of Health, Department of Justice, and Capital District Health Authority will conduct a joint review of circumstances surrounding the release of a patient at East Coast Forensic Hospital on April 16.

The patient (Andre Denny) was subsequently charged in a homicide (of Raymond Taavel). The joint review will be led by the deputy ministers of Health and Wellness and Justice and the CEO of CDHA.

The review will determine whether all relevant policies and procedures were followed and whether they were adequate. Denny was a patient at the hospital since January after being found not criminally responsible for an assault charge. He left the hospital on a one-hour leave at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night and didn’t return.

Aileen Brunet, clinical director of the East Coast Forensic Hospital, has been quoted as stating  that the unit has a 60-bed capacity and is currently three-quarters full. “And the vast majority of those individuals have some access to the community every day varying between an hour or two and back, all the way up to spending several days and nights out of the hospital.”

“Our decision-making process involves consideration of the person’s risk, their mental state, their compliance with the team and behaviour in hospital,” she said. Usually at first patients are escorted out on passes.

“It’s an opportunity for them to get some fresh air, and be able to go off hospital grounds to have a cigarette.” Occasionally some are late but it’s rare they don’t show up at all, Brunet said. If they do, they’re generally back within 24 hours, she said.

Brunet said it appears policy was followed in this case.

A progress update will be provided in 30 days. More on the history that prompted the review can be found here
Media Contacts: Sherri Aikenhead:  Health and Wellness, 902-424-7942,E-mail: Sherri.Aikenhead@gov.ns.ca

Tara Walsh   Department of Justice 902-424-6282 E-mail: walsht@gov.ns.ca
John Gillis Capital District Health Authority Pager: 902-458-5376  E-mail:johnw.gillis@cdha.nshealth.ca
Continue reading Nova Scotia, Capital Health to Conduct Joint Review.. Raymond Taavel is still dead.

Raymond Taavel is dead. Ignoring those responsible doesn’t make them any less responsible.

Raymond Taavel is dead.  Andre Noel Denny, the man charged with murdering the well-known member of Halifax’s gay community,  was a resident of the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital who had left on an hour-long pass earlier that evening but didn’t return. Court documents show that Denny was troubled and delusional  and had a lengthy record of run-ins with the law. Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1997, Denny also had a substance abuse problem according to Nova Scotia Supreme Court documents.

In September 2009, court papers reveal Denny was charged with causing “unnecessary injury” to a dog, possession of stolen property (the dog), uttering a death threat to his neighbors and breach of probation. Denny’s court testimony in relation to those charges was often “sprinkled with delusions,” a judge wrote in court papers in October 2009.

Andre Noel Denny was also arrested after a seven-hour standoff at Membertou in 2011. That time he was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a woman, uttering threats and unlawfully confining her.

The extent of Denny’s mental illness was outlined in court proceedings related to the September 2009 crimes at Eskasoni.

Dr. Foley of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital  conducted preliminary assessment shortly after arrest. Dr. Foley believed Mr. Denny to be “grossly psychotic” at that time. Dr. Kronfli saw Mr. Denny just days afterwards and, with the benefit of this clinical history and his own observations and assessment, concluded that Mr. Denny was not criminally responsible for what he had done.

The psychiatrist later found his condition had improved after treatment at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth. By the late fall of 2009, it was determined he was fit to stand trial but was found not criminally responsible.  At this hearing the defense argued that the defendant was in control of his senses while the crown held that Denny should be found NCR and committed.

Judge Peter Ross described a gruesome threat Denny had made to his Eskasoni neighbors. Denny had been living next to them in a trailer for about a month. “He said he was going to ‘slice everyone’s throat’ when they were sleeping,” Denny also stole a three-month-old puppy and slit its throat. The dog was so badly injured that it had to be euthanized, court documents show. Denny told his doctor it was a “devil’s dog” and deemed his actions “part of my delusion,” the court papers said. Denny also testified that these statements were intended to manipulate his doctor  in order to secure medicine.

When a police officer saw him in Eskasoni on Sept. 2, she was concerned about his appearance as he was wearing gloves, a heavy jacket and a scarf across his face even though it was warm enough to wear shorts. “His presentation caused her such concern she put out a warning to other members who might come in contact with him,” the documents said.

According to other court documents, Denny also faced charges of resisting arrest and breaching an undertaking on Feb. 14, 2009. He was found responsible for this earlier incident.

Now Raymond Taavel’s life  has been cut short at the hands of Andre Noel Denny.  Whether or not Denny is again found Not Criminally Responsible for murdering Raymond is yet to be determined.  But Denny was not some unknown assailant walking the streets.  Denny was known to police, the courts, the mental health establishment… Denny was in their care and they were responsible to keep him from us!

So while the judicial system will ignore those responsible for this travesty, it does not make them any less responsible. We need a Tim’s Law for Tim. But we also need Tim’s Law for Raymond Taavel.

Much of this story and the research found in the content came from the dedicated staff at the Chronicle Herald in Halifax. The Chronicle Herald continues to provide updated coverage of the Raymond Taavel murder. The original story and details