British Columbia’s Mental Health Care
Self-Plagiarism- Is It Possible?
This website page is actually taken from an article in the August 2021 Newsletter of the Neuroscience Research & Development Consultancy. (Sign up to get your free monthly Newsletter.) We’ve put it on the website because we’ve had several responses to the Newsletter article from Canadians, and even one from a person in Australia. It would appear to be a more interesting topic than we realized.
This article is important because one Province in Canada has some upset citizens. It’s the only Province in Canada that has latched onto outdated interpretations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We’ve heard the complaints from people in British Columbia and read about the legal cases. It’s important to know what’s going on in different parts of the world regarding medical care for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar medical conditions.
Forced Treatment for Mental Health Conditions in British Columbia
This whole situation has really blown up into quite a problem. There are Canadians in British Columbia (B.C.) that are upset. The voices are especially loud from the families of individuals with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. You see, here’s the dilemma. Patients in B.C. can be tossed into treatment whether they consent to it or not. And family members who try to step in to help with treatment decisions are ignored and blocked from assisting with their relative’s needs. But as is often said these days, “It’s complicated”. So, read on.
What’s The Charter and What’s a Charter Challenge?
“The Charter” is shorthand for a big piece of the Canadian constitution. The full name is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The legal and ethical intent of the Charter is to set out the rights and freedoms that Canadians believe are necessary in a free and democratic society. A “Charter Challenge” is a legal court case started by citizens against the government when people believe that the government has gone beyond the intent of the Charter. So, they challenge the Charter in court.
Who Are the Good Guys and Who Are the Bad Guys?
Before we get too deep into this good vs. evil discussion and start sounding like insurrectionists, we need to point out that, in the whole of the country of Canada, British Columbia is the only Province or Territory that still uses the antiquated “deemed consent” model for treating mental illness. More on this below. And the deemed consent model is a huge problem for some people.
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities Are The “Good Guys”
It’s pretty easy to see that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, that is, the CCD, are most likely the good guys. Melanie Benard of the CCD said in an April 6, 2021 press release, “We’re appalled that the B.C. government is doing everything it can to prevent this case from getting to trial. In the meantime, people’s rights are being violated. B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that still uses a ‘deemed consent’ model. The province’s outdated laws violate the Canadian Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. CCD is eager to have its day in court and we hope the government won’t prevent that.” The government of B.C. is appealing the Charter Challenge to the Canadian Supreme Court.
Sadly, That Would Seem to Leave the Government of B.C. as the “Bad Guys”
So, the good guys file a Charter Challenge against British Columbia’s outdated Mental Health Act and related laws. The government of B.C. is trying to block that Challenge. Specifically, the Challenge that B.C. is trying to block is a Challenge against the “deemed consent” provisions in several acts in the Charter, namely, the Mental Health Act, the Representation Agreement Act, and the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act.
“Deemed Consent” Can Be Pretty Awful
“Deemed Consent” can be a miserable part of the law if you’re a person with a mental health medical condition. That’s because “deemed consent” means that when people are involuntarily detained under B.C.’s Mental Health Act they have no right to give consent to or refuse consent to any psychiatric treatment. And it’s just B.C. that uses “deemed consent”, no other Canadian Province or Territory. This lack of any right to have a say in their own care is also true if they are released from the hospital on leave. “Deemed” here is a legal term. It means people detained for their mental health are “deemed” to have given consent to any and all psychiatric treatment. Even when they are mentally capable of making their own treatment decisions, they can be forced to take medication or be treated with ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).
The British Columbia Government Even Blocks the Help of Family Members
The family is barred from helping in care decisions because the law says these detained individuals do not have the right to a substitute person to help with treatment decisions. This means a substitute such as a family member. So the ill person cannot chose to have a family member step in for them to allow or refuse treatment consent.
What the Community Legal Assistance Society Says
In the same April 6, 2021 press release mentioned above, Kevin Love, a lawyer with the Community Legal Assistance Society had this to say. “We are disappointed that the B.C. government continues to fight a community group standing up for people’s rights instead of fixing the problems with B.C.’s outdated mental health laws. Access to justice is a huge problem right now. It’s hard for marginalized people living with mental health conditions to endure years of litigation, especially when the government is fighting you tooth and nail. Unless community organizations can take important issues forward, unconstitutional laws may never get reviewed.”
What’s the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)?
The Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) is a non-profit legal aid society incorporated in 1971. I guess one would have to say they’re also good guys. It’s a partnership between the private bar and community groups to provide legal aid to people facing discrimination and marginalization. It has given these free legal services to people in British Columbia since it started in 1971. It works for citizens in the areas of mental health, human rights, housing, income security, and workers’ rights. CLAS has helped tens of thousands of people over the years through law reform, test case litigation, systemic advocacy, delivery of public legal education, summary advice, workshops, and representation of clients before administrative tribunals and the courts.
What’s the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)?
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a Canadian national human rights organization of people with disabilities working to make all of Canada accessible and inclusive. It was started in 1976. There are nine provincial member groups, seven national disability organizations, and one affiliate member. Its mission includes law reform, policy development, and test case litigation in support of persons with disabilities.