Mental health detention system violates charter rights: report
VANCOUVER — British Columbia needs to overhaul a mental health system that allows psychiatric facilities to detain people with little justification, to deny them access to a lawyer and to take away their personal clothing as a form of punishment, a legal advocacy group says.
The Community Legal Assistance Society published a report titled “Operating in Darkness” on Wednesday, which describes B.C.’s mental health detention regime as one of the most regressive in Canada.
The report says the province’s Mental Health Act allows people in care to be put in solitary confinement, strapped to a bed or given involuntary treatments like drugs and electroconvulsive therapy.
Report author Laura Johnston said it is “extremely unusual” for a provincial mental health act in Canada not to prohibit the discipline of patients who are being held without consent.
“Not only does our act not prohibit it, but it actively authorizes it,” Johnston said, adding that disciplinary measures include the use of restraints, solitary confinement and withholding personal clothing.
“You can ‘earn your way’ back up to your clothing access by good behaviour. But bad behaviour, you can lose your rights to clothing,” she said, describing the practice as disturbing.
The society, a non-profit group that provides legal services to people in mental health detention, has launched a charter rights court challenge against the provincial government over the same issue.