Peaceful demonstrations were held across Nova Scotia Sunday, Jan. 5, in an effort to raise awareness of people with mental health issues clashing with the law, and to promote a change to the system.
The protests were held in Lower Sackville, Truro, Windsor, New Minas, and Yarmouth outside RCMP stations.
The demonstrations were in support of Nichele Benn. Due to a health condition, Benn, 25, is prone to violent outbursts. She resides at the Quest Rehabilitation Centre and has found herself in trouble with the law numerous times over the years due to not being able to control her aggressive outbursts.
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“She has been arrested and she is being fingerprinted in Lower Sackville today (Jan. 5) and we're here to show that she is not alone and that people with disabilities have health concerns and it's a health issue and it's not a criminal issue,” said Nancy Spicer, the primary adviser for Windsor People First.
“So we're here to support her today.”
About half a dozen members of Windsor People First arrived at the Windsor Rural RCMP detachment with signs to show their solidarity for the young woman, and others like her. While Benn was predominantly pictured on the signs, so too was Ashley Smith, a young offender who died by self-inflected strangulation while behind bars at a correctional institute for women in 2007. The teenager, suffering from mental illness, was under suicide watch at the time of her death.
The 2014 demonstrations were organized in hopes of changing how the law enforcement system reacts to people with mental health issues and to let Benn know she's not alone.