INVOLUNTARY COMMITTALS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
Since 2001 PSWA Canada has been researching the involuntary committal process in Canada with our focus on British Columbia. We have been advocating for changes to the B.C. Mental Health Act.
B.C. once had a mental health advocate, but that position was removed in 2001 after Liberal MLA Gulzar Cheema, B.C's Minister of Mental Health stated that he would be a mental health advocate.
But now the government of B.C. has no mental health advocate, as the Minister of Mental Health position, as well as The Ministry of Mental Health has been eliminated.
Sure there may be times when some citizens are a risk to themselves or others, and may need to be assessed for risk under emergency MHA detentions.
Section 28(1) of the British Columbia Mental Health Act gives police the authority to detain/arrest apprehend citizens who police believe may harm themselves or others.
BUT!!! What if police act on fabricated/embellished/mis-information from a caller Acting in Bad Faith with the sloe intention of discrediting the capable citizen in question. This could be for many reasons, gain control of a citizen/parent/family member etc, Gaurdianship, their money!
1) Caller (Acting in Bad Faith) calls police to ask police to transport a citizen (capable) to hospital for a mental health evaluation, providing police with an fabricated story.
2) Police believe caller instead of citizen with proposed crisis, police take person into custody.
3) Police transport person to ER, pass along information to ER staff by way of a verbal police report. (Some police leave written reports, while others do not.)
4) Some police believe they are not obliged to read the detained citizen their Charter Rights, or allow that citizen a call to lawyer, as they are being detained under the BC MHA Sec. 28. The police should read section 10 of the canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Act of Canada, criminals have rights to lawyer, so do citizens detained/arrested under mental health law.
5) ER staff might refuse to allow the "proposed patient" their Charter Rights call to a lawyer, because police may have told ER staff that the person may be dangerous and or violent. But what if the person is none of those, and a caller gave police mis-information, information which the police passed along to ER staff? Police may not know if the information is true or false and take the citizen for an assessment on the side of caution, and police may let ER staff be the one's to sort it out.
6) ER staff may order the proposed patient (before being assessed) to remove their clothes and put on an E.R. gown. If the citizen refuses, the medical staff /security may remove clothes for them.
7) ER staff might drug the detained citizen if the detained citizen refuses to co-operate with ER staff. Reason: Wants to get advice from a lawyer, as to advise them of their Rights, and to have the validity of their detention checked and to be released if it is not, and for lawyer to inform family where they are, and whom they are being detained by.
8) A detained citizen may appear delusional if their story is not the same as the verbal report from the police. (What if a caller fabricated the story they gave to police?) Misinformation, misunderstandings, how can a detained citizen defend themselves against false information if they are not allowed a call to a lawyer to seek legal advice as what to do.) (Calls to family and or friends are sometimes not allowed.)
Remember the ER staff are busy multi-tasking, have huge case loads, and usually don't have time to allow the detained citizen's wish for a phone call.
Detain citizens if we must! But we don't need to drug, or inject them with syringes because they refuse to see a psychiatrist or refuse to remove their clothes!
If a citizen is smashing things or is considered out of control, then restraint by the least means possible could be accepted by Society, but not if a person is refusing to co-operate because of a simple phone call to lawyer!
We are not lawyers, but we have studied Mental Health Law, and we are doing our best to make change for the better. Be it advocating for the unlawfully detained, or advocating for families who can't get help for their family member with mental illness, some who may be a risk to themselves or others.