Provincial Court Judge Speaks about PTSD

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B.C. Provincial Court judges’ contributions to their communities extend beyond provincial borders. On January 27, 2016, Judge Randall Callan delivered a webinar to students at the University of Ottawa.

Before his appointment as a Provincial Court judge, Judge Callan was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces. He served as a legal officer with the Office of the Judge Advocate General. In deployments to Afghanistan and Sudan, and as counsel for the Government of Canada and the Canadian Forces at the Somalia Inquiry, he saw first hand the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

While serving as defense counsel in the court-martial system he represented clients who suffered from PTSD after service in Rwanda and Bosnia. After 9/11 he had a number of friends who served in Afghanistan and suffered symptoms of PTSD as a result. Because of this experience, he has a special interest in how people with PTSD are treated in our justice system, either as accused or witnesses.

Major Randy Callan (as he then was (on rt)) and Major Bruce Mayo, Kandahar airfield 2002

Judge Callan spoke to a diverse audience of graduate students, under-grads, and professors from the Faculty of Law. He discussed and answered questions about PTSD and trauma issues, and how the legal system deals with people suffering from PTSD or trauma.

The workshop was part of a series organized by Students Against Stigma, a coalition of student leaders striving to promote mental health and wellness on campus. Through keynote speakers and workshops like the one Judge Callan led, the group works to educate students and faculty about mental health and mental illness, promote resiliency and self-care, and inform students about the services available.

Judge Callan has spoken to other groups about PTSD. Last fall he led an education program for his colleagues in the Provincial Court on the subject He says,

“Canada suffered a loss in Afghanistan of 156 Canadian Forces members, one diplomat and one embedded journalist. Recent articles in the media attribute PTSD as being the cause of some 59 cases of suicide by Canadian Forces members since they returned from Afghanistan. PTSD has also been an issue with police officers and first responders.

I was glad to have the opportunity to make my presentation to Students without Stigma. People suffering from the symptoms of PTSD are sometimes reluctant to seek treatment because of the stigma that is attached to mental health. Certainly in the Canadian Forces, the RCMP, other police, and first responders this can be a big issue.”

University of Ottawa student Morgan Leung said, “After Judge Callan’s presentation and Q & A we each left with a better understanding of PTSD and how it interacts with the judiciary and the legal system. Everyone who attended said how impressed they were with his tours of duty overseas and his first hand experiences, all of which we study. However, Judge Callan was able to apply what we learn to real life scenarios.”

She added her thanks to Chief Judge Crabtree and Regional Administrative Judge Brecknell for making the webinar possible. Ms. Leung concluded, “Most importantly, our sincere appreciation and gratitude to Judge Callan for his past commitment to his country in overseas conflicts, and to dedicating his time and sharing his knowledge and experience with each of us.”