Article: DABC Supports Challenge to Mental Health Act

This article was written by Andrew Robb, 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.

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On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision finding that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) has public interest standing to challenge parts of BC’s Mental Health Act (MHA) because it violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Attorney General of BC had argued that CCD was not entitled to public interest standing, unless there was an individual co-plaintiff who had been directly affected by the MHA.

This decision is part of CCD’s ongoing challenge to laws regarding involuntary psychiatric treatment. CCD says the MHA violates the Charter and the courts should force the government to change it.

BC is the only place in Canada where patients with involuntary status, including people detained in psychiatric facilities, are “deemed” to consent to all forms of psychiatric treatment, without safeguards.

For example, under the MHA, a patient can be forcibly administered psychotropic medications and electroconvulsive therapy, without consent from the patient or their legal guardians or family members.

The issue before the Supreme Court of Canada was a procedural question about whether CCD would be allowed to bring the case forward at all, without an individual co-plaintiff. The Supreme Court of Canada did not consider whether the MHA violates the Charter. That issue will now be decided by the BC Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision is very important to CCD and people in BC who are detained under the MHA. It means CCD’s legal challenge to the MHA can continue, but the legal process takes a long time; it may be years before the courts make a final decision about whether the MHA must be changed. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision will also set a precedent that will be helpful to other groups who want to challenge discriminatory and other unconstitutional laws in court.

CCD is a national organization of people with disabilities working for an accessible and inclusive Canada. Disability Alliance BC is a member organization.

DABC staff assisted the CCD committee that works with CCD’s pro bono lawyers. We are proud to play a role in this important case.

Andrew Robb is staff lawyer with DABC’s Disability Law Clinic.

#RewriteTheRules campaign

Yesterday, BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner launched their #RewriteTheRules campaign, designed to raise awareness of and combat ableism.

Learn more in this video featuring BC’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender and DABC Community Advocate Lauren Stinson!:

See how you can take action at

Update: Inquiry into Hate in the Pandemic

– A close-up portrait of a young Chinese man who has Down Syndrome, outside on a bright day. He is wearing red eyeglasses and a blue shirt. White text across the image says: 72% of survey respondents did not report the hate incidents they experienced or witnessed. BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.

72% of survey respondents in BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner’s Inquiry into Hate During the Pandemic did not report hate incidents to any individual or organization, including police. 68% said they didn’t think a report would make a difference.

If people don’t feel served by the system we have, we must find a new strategy to address hate incidents. Everyone deserves to feel heard and confident that there are supports available and structures in place to address hate.

The public survey for BCOHRC’s Inquiry into hate in the pandemic has now closed and is moving into its next phase before final recommendations for change in 2023. Explore written and video submissions made to the Commissioner from individuals and community groups across B.C. at #HumanRights4BC #BCPoli