You lose your rights under the Mental Health Act

2 minute read

I just read this article in Focus magazine [PDF] which is the source of what nightmares are made of. Apparently in Canada, you lose your rights if being arrested under the British Columbian Mental Health Act (MHA). No right to a lawyer to represent you. They also can allegedly force you to take pills/medication against your will.

I can foresee a new wave of prank calls, where you can call the police on your enemy, and claim they are a close friend who just confided they have threatened suicide. If you do this at an emotionally vulnerable time, it could likely result in an episode they will never forget. All that really protects you is how interested or motivated the chain of law enforcement is to detaining you. How you conduct yourself, according to these articles, sounds immaterial.

Another concern I have, is that it suggests those who believe they are struggling with mental illness, should no longer disclose it to professionals. If a foreign government ever gets a record of it, they can ban you as the article suggests the US is now doing with Canadians. A previous disclosure to a professional can also be used to arrest you under the Mental Health Act; without any record of mental illness, this would be a lot more difficult, assuming your behaviour also doesn't (subjectively) provoke them.

In a time where hospitals are in short supply, it makes one wonder how many cases there are where it consists of innocent people who've been arrested taking up hospital staff and beds where those in need are not getting help.

Having heard one of these stories first hand, I'm surprised the victim is even willing to speak about it. It makes me wonder how prevalent these stories are, as the thought of disclosing them and upsetting the police further would be paralyzing to many. I can't imagine the fear of police retaliation, for life, when such a situation occurs. Definitely the stuff nightmares are made of.

As I don't like to raise issues without at least potential solutions:

  • What will it take to ensure that those arrested under the Mental Health Act still retain the right to 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms?
  • If we're going to have data sharing agreements with foreign countries, should we not only be providing it solely on the condition that they receive no different treatment than they would in Canada?
  • What process is used to evaluate Canadian's opinion and trust of law enforcement; that it is meeting policing needs and requirements, handles abuse and mistreatment appropriately, and adjusts itself if not?
  • Is there a process to make complaints about police or government abuse without fear of retaliation?