November 29, 2017 10:59 am
Updated: November 29, 2017 11:45 pm

New report urges more oversight of involuntary detentions under BC’s Mental Health Act

Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam.

Global News

A new report by the Community Legal Assistance Society criticizes B.C.’s Mental Health Act and detention system.

Laura Johnston is a lawyer with the society and says there’s no criteria or limits to how doctors treat involuntary patients.

“The report evaluates the B.C. system for mental health detention and involuntary psychiatric treatment,” said Johnston.

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“Involuntary patients are put in mechanical and physical restraints, they are being tied to a bed with mechanical straps, and put in seclusion, which is solitary confinement in a small locked room.”

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She said there’s no oversight over several practices and doctors or facilities aren’t required to document such actions.

“In prison, you’re entitled to have your clothes removed from your body by someone of the same sex, except in certain exceptional circumstances. But for women in detention in the mental health system, there’s no protection for that, and so female detainees can have their clothes taken off their body by force by male security staff members,” said Johnston.

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She said seclusion and constraints are being used in much broader circumstances to “discipline patients when it’s not necessary to prevent harm.”


In response to the report, BC Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy said there’s little she can say.

“Well the report is 187 pages long. It’s clearly a very complex issue so we will need to review it very closely but the matter is before the courts, so I am not in a position to comment at this time.”

Darcy said the government welcomes feedback and it is working hard to improve the system across the board.

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