The Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch (CBABC) applauds new recommendations for changes to the BC Mental Health Act (MHA) made by the Office of the Ombudsperson in its Special Report No. 42: Committed to Change. The Report is the result of an investigation commenced in August 2017 into the involuntary admission process under the MHA.
CBABC published An Agenda for Justice in 2017 to advocate for the BC government to amend the MHA to provide better protections of legal rights and improved access to justice for involuntary detainees. “Patients with mental health issues who have been involuntarily detained have not had a clear option for legal representation when their review or hearing is held,” said CBABC President, Margaret Mereigh.
The Ombudsperson found that “compliance with the involuntary admissions procedure is inconsistent and inadequate. The procedural safeguards in the Act and the regulation are only of any use to the extent that they are put into practice.” The Ombudsperson recommends that government mandate the Legal Services Society to deliver independent rights and advocacy to involuntarily admitted patients.
“We continue to ask government to make legal aid funds available to these vulnerable people, so their right to a fair and independent hearing is protected, and so they can access independent legal advice upon detention as guaranteed by the Charter. That is how to improve the process for patients while strengthening public confidence in the system. We absolutely encourage the BC government to now implement the Ombudsperson’s recommendations,” concluded the CBABC President.
The government has accepted the Report in principle. CBABC will continue its advocacy for implementation of recommendations that protect the rights of involuntary detainees.
An Agenda for Justice is in plain language to help British Columbians understand how issues within the justice system affect day-to-day life in BC. To learn more about the issues and to view An Agenda for Justice, please visit cbabc.org/A4J.
The Canadian Bar Association is the professional organization representing more than 38,000 lawyers, judges and law students across Canada with 7,000 members in British Columbia.
Member Communications Officer