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Retired Provincial Court judge Ernie Quantz was honoured during Mental Health Week 2019 for his work to support people with mental health and substance use challenges. The Mental Health and Substance Use South Island Advisory Committee presented Judge Quantz (retired) with its Community Service Award for his work and leadership in the Victoria Integrated Court, one of the Provincial Court’s specialized bail and sentencing courts.

Judy Darcy, BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, commented, “By recognizing that mental health and substance use challenges are health conditions – and not a sign of weakness or moral failure – we can make it easier for more people to realize they are not alone and reach out for help. Community champions like Judge Quantz and Lori Tronko [another award recipient] are building stronger and more inclusive communities by helping people to feel seen, heard and cared for, and by helping people get the support they need to rebuild their lives.”

Ernie Quantz is a retired provincial court judge. Image by ourplacesociety.com

Intended to honour community members “who have made kindness and compassion an extension of their work life by supporting people with mental health and substance use challenges”, Judge Quantz’ award was well-deserved.

Judge Quantz played a primary and integral role in the creation and launch of the Victoria Integrated Court (“VIC”) in 2010. VIC was created in response to the number of repeat offenders whose struggle with serious mental health and substance misuse issues clearly played a role in their repeat offending.

Along with others, Judge Quantz strongly believed a different approach needed to be taken by the courts when addressing the criminal behaviour of these specific individuals

VIC takes an innovative, integrated approach to responding to a person’s criminal behaviour when they are willing to accept responsibility for their offence. Therefore, people attending VIC must consent to participate in its process. Clients are typically connected with an Assertive Community Treatment (“ACT”) team that provides ongoing and varied support including housing, counselling and treatment options in the community. Through this integrated approach, individuals are helped to address the underlying or root causes of their offending behaviour while also being held more accountable for their behaviour within the community on bail or after being sentenced in VIC.

In accepting the award, Judge Quantz said, “Time and time again, offenders struggling with mental health and substance use issues would come into my courtroom and often it was clear that they needed more community help and support to protect the public by addressing the underlying causes of the offender’s criminal activity. The integrated court program improves access to health, social and economic services for chronic offenders struggling with mental health and substance use issues, enhances public safety, and holds offenders accountable for their actions in a timely manner.”

VIC was established without the need for any additional funding and it continues to run as a regular court today. Judges from many other parts of Canada have shown an interest in VIC and in establishing similar courts in their jurisdictions. Other BC communities have also examined the model.

Judge Quantz took on administrative and sitting responsibilities for VIC. At the same time, Ardelle Quantz, his spouse, led the development of a therapeutic garden on the property of the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich where VIC clients could perform community work service, learn horticulture skills, and earn stipends selling produce they grew. Ms. Quantz continues to be Serenity Farm’s most prominent volunteer. Over the years, many VIC clients have worked in the garden with the Quantzes and with other volunteers who have generously committed to this endeavour.
Since his retirement, Judge Quantz has also been involved in the development of the Therapeutic Recovery Community (“TRC”), a new and much-needed intensive addiction treatment facility for men located in the Greater Victoria area. He chairs the Board of Directors for Our Place Society, the Society that operates TRC.

Judges Jennifer Barrett and Christine Lowe say, “Judge Quantz’ generous donation of his time, experience, and expertise to assist those who are extremely vulnerable and face significant challenges on a daily basis has had a real and positive impact not only on those individuals he has been involved with but on the community at large.

We, as colleagues, are very proud of Judge Quantz. We, as a community, are very grateful for his generosity. He has clearly earned recognition for his extraordinary efforts and achievements and is well-deserving of this Award. Congratulations!“