Skip to main content

A Halifax man convicted of strangling an off-duty police officer and using a compost bin to dispose of her body is receiving treatment in prison for post-traumatic stress disorder – and it’s being funded by Veterans Affairs Canada.

The arrangement has drawn criticism from the victim’s aunt, Mandy Reekie Wong, who says veterans should be outraged that Christopher Garnier is getting funded treatment – even though he is not a veteran.

“There are actual veterans who returned from war, or multiple wars, and they are killing themselves because they can’t get help for the PTSD they suffer from through no fault of their own,” Reekie Wong said in a recent Facebook post, which she later confirmed in a direct message.

At a court hearing earlier this month, Crown lawyer Christine Driscoll confirmed the convicted murderer is being seen by a private psychologist, and that Veterans Affairs is covering the cost because Garnier’s father is a veteran who has also been diagnosed with PTSD.

Driscoll said any offender with an illness, whether physical or mental, has to be treated while in custody.

Garnier was convicted in December of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in the September 2015 death of 36-year-old Catherine Campbell.

On Aug. 13, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge decided Garnier would be able to apply for parole after serving 13.5 years – less 699 days for time served.

Garnier’s lawyer has argued that his client’s mental illness was brought on by the murder.

In submissions filed with the court, defence lawyer Joel Pink said a psychiatrist hired by the defence, Dr. Stephen Hucker, said in a report that Garnier suffered from acute stress disorder immediately following Campbell’s death.

“The testimony of Dr. Hucker clearly indicates that there is a strong link between Mr. Garnier’s illness and his interference with human remains; therefore, it should be considered a mitigating factor in his sentencing (on that charge),” Pink said in his submissions to Justice Joshua Arnold.

Garnier repeatedly told the jury he did not remember using a large green compost bin to dispose of the woman’s body near a Halifax bridge, where it stayed undetected for nearly five days.

During Garnier’s trial, the jury was told Garnier met Campbell for the first time at a downtown Halifax bar on Sept. 11, 2015. Hours later she was dead in a north end apartment.

In his decision regarding parole, Arnold said Campbell was expecting romance and affection that night, but “for reasons unknown, Mr. Garnier punched her in the face, broke her nose, strangled her to death, and then, in an effort to hide his crime, treated her remains like garbage.”

Veterans Affairs issued a statement Tuesday saying it couldn’t comment on any specific case, but it confirmed the relatives of veterans are eligible to apply for PTSD treatment.

“When a man or woman serves in Canada’s armed forces or the RCMP, their whole family serves with them,” the department said. “That is why the government of Canada has made it a priority to not only improve benefits and services for our nation’s veterans, but for their families as well.”

The federal department said counselling and other services can be offered to relatives when it is determined such a move will help the veteran achieve their rehabilitation goals.

As well, the department noted that 94 per cent of first applications completed for PTSD treatment are approved, and that 72 per cent of veterans receiving disability benefits for a mental-health condition have PTSD.

Interact with The Globe