SCI Climate Futures
If you are a person with a physical disability who is currently at risk due to the high temperatures in BC, Praxis Spinal Cord Institute and Technology for Living would like to help you as soon as they can. Through their pilot initiative: SCI Climate Futures, brought to you by BC Hydro, they are looking to reach out to individuals with disabilities who don’t have effective cooling in their homes. Their goal is to provide you with portable cooling devices, free of charge, to make sure you stay comfortable during heatwaves this summer.
Please sign up here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RZHPLXR
Government proposes legislation extending the temporary exclusion of eligibility for MAiD on the sole basis of mental illness
A bill has been introduced in the House of Commons to introduce legislation that would delay the expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying (#MAID) ‘s eligibility requirements—particularly for people with mental illness as their only underlying condition— to March 2024. Read the government’s press release here.
We empathize that for people with mental illness who have been wanting to apply for MAID, the possible passing of this bill will come as a huge disappointment. We feel for those who are not currently able to apply for MAiD but wish to do so. We also strongly advocate for comprehensive and holistic supports and safeguards that can provide greater access to necessary treatments and access to services that reduce poverty and increase quality of life. No one should feel that their only choice is MAiD due to poor societal conditions alone.
If this bill is passed, we hope that over the course of the next year, actionable work on clarifying eligibility criteria can be informed by the input of those most impacted.
Article: Human Rights vs. BC's Mental Health Act
This article was written by Kendra Milne, and originally appeared in the edition of DABC’s Transition magazine, Dying for Health Care: Navigating An Ableist System (Fall/Winter 2022). Read the issue here.
If you’re interested in contributing to Transition as an individual or an organization, please email email@example.com.
Mental health advocates in BC have been sounding the alarm for decades: our Mental Health Act is one of the most archaic and discriminatory pieces of our ableist health care system.
Ableism plays out in mental health law and policy by reinforcing ideas that there are certain “normal” ways of thinking, interacting and participating in community. These ideas often reflect colonial and neurotypical lenses on the world.
BC’s Mental Health Act sets out when you can be admitted to hospital and treated for what the Act calls a “mental disorder” because either you ask for that care or because you are being detained and involuntarily treated.
The Act views and treats mental health issues as moral failings that can be disciplined out of people.
This law impacts people diagnosed with mental illness, brain injuries, dementia, substance-use-related health issues, and many other disabilities or health conditions.
The Act was passed in 1964 and many portions of it are the same today.
Every patient is subject to the direction and discipline of the facility staff. They can be confined in solitarily seclusion rooms, restrained to their beds, or otherwise punished during their time in hospital. There are no limits and no review on when, how or why someone can be subject to these restraints.
This is still true, even though a 2021 investigation into the Mental Health Act, by the Representative for Children and Youth, concluded there should be strict limits on restraints.
When any citizen accesses health care, the law protects our right to make our own health care consent decisions. If we are incapable of understanding and making a health care decision, the law protects our right to have the people who know us best make the decision.
That is, unless you are involuntarily committed under the Mental Health Act–then you have no such rights. All involuntary patients can be given any form of psychiatric treatment without consent and supporters are excluded from decision-making.
Other countries have acknowledged the need to modernize their mental health laws and have taken action. For example, Victoria, Australia’s recently tabled new Mental Health Act, rooted in human rights, ensures Indigenous people receive culturally safe services and establishes adequate oversight. The UK also commissioned an independent review recognizing that its mental health law entrenched systemic racism, and relied heavily on coercion.
There is growing evidence that our Mental Health Act is not serving BC well, and needs to be modernized to protect human rights and well-being. Emerging investigations from independent offices, and compelling stories from people and their families with experience of the mental health system, all point to the same conclusion.
BC needs an independent review of the Mental Health Act to create reforms that respect human rights, promote evidence-based care, and build in oversight from an independent provincial Mental Health Advocate.
Kendra Milne is a lawyer and Executive Director of Health Justice. Learn more at https://www.healthjustice.ca.