It’s a legal phrase, mainly, although physicians use it as well.
If a person is confused or intoxicated or — per the definition — not of sound mind, their capacity to make decisions is considered to be impaired.
Non compos mentis, much of the country would agree, is a term that could be applied with great frequency to our lawmakers in Ottawa. From Whitehorse to Witless Bay, from Coal Harbour to Charlottetown, the nation is generally in agreement: Most days, they all seem a bit confused, down there in Ottawa.
Mental capacity, and the lack of it, was much discussed in and around Ottawa last week. An Alberta Liberal senator, Joyce Fairbairn, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
After she was diagnosed — and after a maladroit Liberal Senate staffer, Len Kuchar, agreed to act as an agent on Fairbairn’s behalf — apparently little was done. For a few weeks, she continued to work in the Senate, including participation in a dozen votes.
Fairbairn is a wonderful, elegant, graceful woman, one with whom I had the great pleasure to work, years ago. She has devoted her entire adult life to public service, since the ’60s. She is now taking extended sick leave and is unlikely to be back.
Despite that, the Conservative Party has elected to target Fairbairn, darkly hinting that she could be removed and that an actual constitutional crisis has been created by l’affaire Fairbairn.