Tag Archives: canada

Signal Boost: Canada: 2011 Women’s Worlds Conference in July

The 2011 Women’s Worlds Conference is taking place in Ottowa from 3-7 July, 2011. Here’s some information about the theme of the conference, which may be relevant to some of our readers!

Inclusions, exclusions, and seclusions: Living in a globalized world

The theme of Women’s Worlds 2011 is “Inclusions, exclusions, and seclusions: Living in a globalized world”. Why? Where globalization and women are concerned, provocative questions abound:

Does globalization include, exclude, and/or seclude women?

As global hierarchies realign, how are gender roles and identities evolving?

How are social identifications like power, privilege, citizenship, and nation affected?

Ours is an increasingly integrated world – one where boundaries are shifting under growing flows of capital, goods, power … and people. Who and where we are as individuals and communities becomes less clear within this contemporary, globalized context.

Around the world, women are grappling with changing political, cultural, economic, social, and environmental realities. And the effects of numerous crises – be they economic, ecological, or health-related – intensify obstacles to women’s equality.

Globalization has contributed to the destabilization and marginalization of women and communities. Yet certain consequences have yielded positive results for women. Globalization has meant enhanced communications and organizing – trans-national connectivity that must be deepened as women’s organizations and networks struggle to sustain themselves and maintain resilience in the face of forces that oppose women’s equality.

Women’s Worlds 2011 will be a place for the exploration of these complex matters through reflection, learning, and sharing a variety of ideas and experiences – especially those of women most deeply affected.

Information about attending the conference can be found here.

By 15 December, 2010.    signal boost  ,  



Howard Hyde Inquiry Ignores Ableism As Cause of Death

Note: This post discusses police violence against people with mental health conditions.

The results of the Hyde Inquiry were released on Wednesday.

Some things about the Hyde Inquiry, since I don’t think it’s been widely covered outside of Nova Scotia. I wrote this summary several months ago:

Howard Hyde had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The treatments he was on were making him sick, so he stopped taking them. He became violent.

His wife called the mobile mental health team – a project in Halifax that will go to you rather than you needing to go to them. She then called 9-1-1.

Two days later, he was dead in police custody, having been tasered.

Various things went horribly wrong. Among them were -and continue to be – the police’s inability to deal with people who have schizophrenia, amongst other mental health related conditions.

What they should have done was taken him to the hospital. Which they did, for a bit, and then left, returning him to lock-up.

His wife had tried to contact them and make sure that he was okay, and that they were aware that he had schizophrenia.

“I really wanted him to be in the hospital and get the treatment he needed for psychosis,” she said.

He had been taken to hospital for assessment, and the hospital staff requested that he be returned to the hospital after his arraignment hearing. He was not.

Parts of the surveillance tape of the tasering itself are “missing”.

“Hyde began struggling when officers tried to cut the string from his shorts. Though images were not caught on tape, surveillance audio recorded sound of the scuffle. Edwards can be heard saying “Howard, sit down.” Fellow Const. Greg McCormack is then argued to have said “You’re going to be doing the f***ing dance next, Howard,” although his voice is muffled.

It was also revealed that more than 30 minutes of footage of Hyde in a cell waiting to be booked has gone missing.”

I’ve since learned that what was actually said to Howard as the police officers approached him with a knife:

A surveillance camera captured the moment when an officer told Hyde a utility knife would be used to remove a knot from the drawstring in Hyde’s shorts, saying: “I just have to cut off one of those balls there.”

Anyway, as I said, the results were back. After 11 months of looking into the death of a man who police were called to help, we’ve all been told that Howard’s murder was an “accident” and it had nothing to do with his mental health condition.

“The only useful approach is to understand that Mr. Hyde died because of physiological changes in his body brought on by an intense struggle involving restraint,” Derrick wrote. “He did not die because he was mentally ill.”

I suppose this is technically correct. Howard’s death was not because he was mentally ill, his death was because the police were ill-equipped to deal with someone having a mental health crisis. I don’t have statistics about the number of men having mental health crises that are murdered by police officers every year, but I do know that I can’t go a whole month without at least one report, and it’s an issue that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada feels needs to be addressed.

I think it is naive to state that Howard wasn’t murdered because of his diagnosis. I think it ignores a frightening history of people with mental health conditions being murdered by police officers. I think it ignores that the criminal justice system is not equipped to effectively deal with people with mental health conditions. I think it ignores that there are limited resources available for people with mental health conditions and their families to get the help they need to cope with crisis situations.

I think it completely ignores the fact that Howard’s wife called the police for help, and two days later he was dead.

So yes, Howard Hyde isn’t dead because he had schizophrenia. He’s dead because ableism kills.

Recommended Reading for Thursday, December 8, 2010

I hate this time of year because I live in the Northern Hemisphere and it’s dark really early. At least we’ve been avoiding the snow-dumps I hear are all over central Canada, but it’s only a matter of time.

Civil Rights Now!: Civil Rights Now! speech at Dec10 CLAS Forum on UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

As my lawyer friends say there’s no right without a remedy; because most BC voters with disabilities cannot afford a good lawyer their rights have very little meaning because they have no way to enforce them. And that’s why our governments, Health Authorities, businesses, School Boards, service providers and unions can do anything to you if you are a voter with a disability.

That’s why Civil Rights Now! believes BC voters with disabilities need:

  • Law which gives the equality provision of the Canadian Charter practical force and effect in their daily lives.
  • Law which gives them truly-portable, sufficiently-funded, consumer-driven Individualized Funding.
  • Law which gives them funding for test cases involving their civil rights.
  • Civil Rights Now! launched a campaign this year to persuade BC politicians to commit that whichever of them wins the next election they will enact such laws. By so doing they will fulfill the intent of the Convention and, more importantly, the equality provision of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, many decades after it became the supreme law of our country.

Urocyon: Disability and UK fuel poverty

I felt pretty bad, because until I started reading about the extent of problems this winter, I hadn’t considered just how bad the situation is. (Bit of a shame this is another thing that it apparently takes larger numbers of middle-class people being affected to draw more news attention.) This is in spite of having dealt with parental disability-related poverty and substandard heating for years, in a colder-winter climate not moderated by the Gulf Stream. This isn’t the coldest month, but it’s supposed to be 10°F/-12°C tonight back home–not unusual. It honestly didn’t seem that cold to me, even though I was aware that last winter was the harshest in 30 years for the UK, and this one is looking to be if anything worse. (Climate change? No…) But, even though it isn’t very cold in absolute terms, if you’re not used to its getting, much less staying, below freezing very often? That’s a pretty big problem.

Then I started thinking about how disabled people just weren’t getting mentioned much.

Anna Racoon: The Orwellian Present – Never Mind the Future.

No, he can’t, he has no access to the Mental Heath Tribunal – Autism isn’t a mental illness. This action isn’t being taken under the Mental Health Act – it is being taken under the Mental Capacity Act. Under the MCA he only has access to a ‘Best Interests Assessor’ – who is appointed on a consultancy basis, and paid, by…..the Local Authority.

He can be deprived of his liberty for up to a year, which period can be renewed indefinitely, for the purpose of ‘assessing’ him – see above – being sent to Wales to ‘assess’ why he is unhappy at being locked up.

Sharon Brennan at Comment is Free: It’s now officially ‘unsustainable’ to support disabled people

Let’s be clear: this increased DLA caseload is not because of fraud. DLA has one of the lowest fraud rates of any benefits. In fact, government figures published by the House of Commons work and pensions committee suggest that benefit fraud for DLA, carer’s and attendance allowance among others has reduced since 2001 from 2.2% to 0.8% between 2008-2009 (the most recent year for which statistics are available).

Diary of an NHS Buff: The Government is implicated in creating negative attitudes to disabled

Clearly there is a negative perception of disabled people in the UK, which can undoubtedly be attributed in part to right-wing media representation of the disabled. The Daily Mail is notorious for this. A recent front page screamed, “75% of claimants are fit to work”, and carried on: “Tough new benefits test weed out the workshy”.

You expect this kind of thing from the Daily Mail. But what shocked me is that the 75% figure came from a press release from the Department of Work and Pensions. And the figure is wrong. So it amounts to blatant Government propaganda.

WIN!: Federal Court Orders Canadian Government To Make Websites Accessible To Screen Readers!

I haven’t even had time to process this yet – I just found out when my friend called me to ask if I had heard the news. Donna Jodham has won her case against the Canadian Government – Government websites will now have 15 months to follow their own accessibility guidelines.

Canada must make Web accessible to blind

A federal court ruled Monday the government had denied Jodhan’s equality rights by not providing equal access to government programs online.

“She has been denied equal access to, and benefit from, government information and services provided online to the public on the Internet, and that this constitutes discrimination against her on the basis of her physical disability, namely that she is blind,” Justice Michael Kelen wrote in his ruling.

The government was not living up to its own 2001 accessibility standards, Kelen ruled, and he gave Ottawa 15 months to make its Web sites more accessible.

In a rare move, Kelen said the court would monitor the government’s implementation of online services for the visually impaired to ensure it complies by the deadline.

I am so excited to learn of this! Congratulations, Donna – your hard work is greatly appreciated!

Recommended Reading for Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hello Wednesday my old friend. Why I can’t remember that it’s Wednesday until late in the day (at least in my time zone), I will never know.

I was going to link an article about a showcase of artwork by Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing artists, and then when I re-read the article realised the only artist the article highlighted was a person who is neither d/Deaf nor hard of hearing, but wanted to show art in support of the project. I find that a really…. interesting…. way of framing a show that’s supposed to be about highlighting the work of artists with disabilities.

Instead, I’ll point your attention towards a presentation that Deaf photographer Stacy Lawrence gave to the Rochester School for the Deaf.

Katie at Muni Diaries: My Disability on Muni

I get on the train in the Sunset/Parkside district and ride it all the way in. My disability is largely invisible unless I’m barefoot or wearing a skirt that exposes my scar-covered right leg. I get dirty looks from older riders when I don’t get up to allow them a seat; I look like a perfectly healthy 22-year-old woman. I sit in the seat, repeat to myself “you’re handicapped and have a right to sit here” and stare at my foot-and-a-half while clutching my cane with white knuckles.

Jail no place for FASD offenders, ministers told

Citizens with FASD make up only 1% of the Canadian population but account for an estimated 40% to 50% of all prisoners. People born with FASD have difficulty learning new behaviours and controlling behavioural impulses.

Theatre Blog: How captions stopped plays being seen and not heard

Captioning is offered on a regular basis by major subsidised and commercial theatres all over the country. You’ll see “CAP” or “STAGETEXT” in the flyers. Stagetext is the name of a charity that made captioning happen big time. Over the past 10 years they have delivered captioned shows, and trained theatres in how to provide captioning in-house. Captioning has meant a big growth in deaf or hard of hearing theatregoers, for whom theatre is accessible like never before. Stagetext also offers deaf and access awareness training to theatre staff, including front of house staff, to help make a theatre visit more enjoyable and less stressful for deaf people. Clear communication and a friendly face work wonders. It’s great to see deaf and hard of hearing people talking passionately about shows with family and friends, and even daring to say what utter rubbish they’ve just seen.

Minister Responsible for Disability has Inaccessible Office Diane Finley, you are driving me up the wall.

Yes she piloted the Registered Disabilities Saving Plan through Parliament. That helps the children of upper-middle class Canadians save for the time when the parents have passed on. Those lucky few children with disabilities, then adults, face the bleak future of struggling to exist in Canada’s disability wasteland. The program is useless for most Canadians with disabilities who are struggling to survive. Where are they going to find disposable income to save for their childrens’ income?

Canadians with disabilities who can no longer work are subject to the worst conditions of poverty of any group. They form the largest number of people in Canada on social assistance.

The only Federal income program that helps them is the Canada Pension Disability which maxes out at $13,000 annually. Most Canadians on disabilities and CPP are receiving less than $10,000 a year. It doesn’t take an economist to understand survival on $10,000 is punishing poverty.

[Don has a RDSP. Don is also the child of upper-middle class parents. It’s also really really firmly designed with parents of children with disabilities in mind, much like the Registered Education Savings Plans. For example, our bank refused to allow Don to manage his RDSP over the phone, through ebanking, or anything else except in person. The bank building is only “wheelchair accessible” in certain areas, which doesn’t include the areas you need enter in order to manage your RDSP in person. Other banks have different policies, of course, but there’s nothing quite like being told an investment is “for you” when you can’t even get into the building to manage it.]

Mariness: Body scanners and pat downs

With the body scanner, however, you have to be able to stand still. Since I can’t do this without at the very least wobbling and swaying, I now have to do the patdown in my wheelchair.

Smackie the Frog:My TSA Experience

This got me to thinking, though. Am I going to always be subjected to the “enhanced pat down” because of my medical device? I don’t even so much object to the backscatter x-ray machines, and I don’t have any problem with them doing the swab on the device. So I did some research and talked to other people with the insulin pumps who have also flown, and they have had to deal with the same thing I did. One lady was even told by a TSA supervisor that if you have a medical device like an insulin pump, you have to go through the “enhanced pat down”. No choice.

American Coalition of Amputees: ACA calls for Improved Screening Procedures for TSA

“I had just been put in the Plexiglas screening booth,” said Peggy. “My 4-year-old son was made to sit across from me, crying because they would not let him touch me. Everyone was looking at us. Then the TSA agent asked for my prosthetic leg. I knew they could wand my leg, but he insisted on taking it from me. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, he asked for the liner sock that covers my residual limb, saying I had to give it to him. I felt pressured to give him my liner even though it is critical to keep it sanitary. I was embarrassed to have my residual limb exposed in public.”

There have been several news stories about how the changes in the TSA in the US have affected passengers with disabilities. Here is only a sample, I assure you:

Bladder Cancer Survivor Recounts Humiliating TSA Screening See Also: TSA pat-down leaves traveler covered in urine

Teen says TSA Screener opened sterile equipment, put life in danger

TSA makes Cancer Victim Remove Prosthetic Breast

Signal Boost: Personal Successes: Unlimited Potential eBook from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

(via email)

How would you define success in your own life? This is a very individual question, and there are many different answers, both large and small.

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians collected success stories from blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians. These success stories were on any topic, whether on employment, community involvement or conquering your own personal goals. Most importantly, these success stories differ from others that tend to reinforce the “superhero” notion of disability, by highlighting the often simple and realistic techniques we employ to complete everyday tasks and achieve our goals.

We hope that this collection of stories will, on the one hand, educate the public by painting a more realistic image of blindness, and on the other, encourage those who have recently experienced vision loss to work towards their goals.

Visit Personal Successes, Unlimited Potential to download your copy of the book today!

AEBC continues to collect success stories from blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted Canadians. Do you have a story to share? What do you constitute as “success” in your own life? Please email your story to info AT blindcanadians DOT ca.

Politicians care so much they make their message nonsense

Like a lot of people, I signed up for automatic emails from the various political parties in Canada. Because I live in Nova Scotia, the main federal parties that run here are the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, and the New Democratic Party (often just the NDP). (If I lived in Quebec, I would also have the option of voting for the Bloc Québécois federally.) I dutifully signed up for all four of these parties, so I could be informed about the issues they think are important.

One thing that seems to be very important: YouTube videos! Each of the parties maintains their own YouTube channel, and they stock these channels with videos. Every week or two, I get another email from a political party that really wants my vote (or at least my money), and they often include links to the YouTube channel, or even embedded video. And every week or two, I respond like clockwork, asking them to please provide captioning and/or transcription of the video.

So far, the response has been silence.

I wonder if the reason for this is simply because there’s the new Auto-Captioning service at YouTube, which attempts to automatically subtitle a video a video. Surely this will provide a good working set of subtitles, right?

Ha ha. Ha ha ha.

In alphabetical order, let me show you what the YouTube auto-captioning displays when I try to watch political messages from my current or potential political representatives:

The Conservative Party of Canada:

An image description appears below

Image: Screen capture of a YouTube video, with subtitles that read “You don’t think that’s a whole group called american this country and you have to decide”

Actual quote: Voice Over: “Adopted Britain as his home. Called America his country.” Ignatieff: “You have to decide….” (This advertisement is discussing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s past.)

Here is leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May:

See below for image description

Image: Screen capture of a YouTube video, with subtitles that read “we’re on Friday evening breeze through across Canada will gather”

Actual Quote: Elizabeth May “…Where on Friday evening Greens from across Canada will gather.”

I will totally admit the Green example is not as terrible as the others. The Greens don’t have a lot of advertising at the moment. (Non-Canadians, this is in part because they’ve not got an actual member in the House. I count them as a national party because they run in all 308 Federal ridings, and May participated in the Federal Leadership Debate.)

The Liberal Party of Canada:

Description appears below the image

Image: A screen cap from a YouTube vid. Caption reads “the prime minister’s their lives for stroger’s we have a garden”.

Actual quote: “… The Prime Minister is there to inspire us to do our best, and we have a guy who….”

The New Democrats:

Image description is below.

Image: A YouTube screen capture. The caption reads “costs are skyrocketing so why does is Stephen harper dead”

Actual Quote: “Heating costs are skyrocketing. So why doesn’t Stephen Harper get it?”

This is what I wrote in one of my last emails to my MP about this issue:

I know disability and accessibility are things you care about too, Megan, so I hope that you will pass along my concerns to the NDP Leadership: Transcribing and subtitling/captioning of video and audio content is an accessibility issue. Providing both a transcript and subtitling allows for more Canadians to be able to access the message of the NDP. As well, it shows a commitment to accessibility and to including Canadians who prefer or require transcripts and subtitling, for whatever reason. As this is something I believe the NDP values, it would be helpful for the party, at all levels, to provide transcription and subtitling for all the videos that they produce.

Of course, subtitling your video (and providing a transcript) are not only for people who are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing. They’re also for people who have audio processing disorders, who have difficulties understanding spoke English, who don’t want to turn up their volume, or even don’t have speakers or headphones on their computer. They’re for people who just want a transcript or subtitling because it makes their lives easier today. (For example, I have an ear infection and subtitles are the order of the day.)

Every political party in Canada “cares” about “the disabled”. They really do. Each one has a little subsection of their website dedicated to explaining how they “care” about “the disabled”.

I think it would be awesome instead of telling me how much they cared, they’d show it. And one way of doing that would be subtitling their ads, so everyone can know what their message is.

The Challenge of Mental Illness in the Justice System Part 3: Victims

This is the third in a three-part post about a talk given by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, about the interactions between people who are mentally ill (her term) and the justice system of Canada. Part 1 briefly discussed the history of the treatment of people with mental illness in Canada, and then described the current situation with regards to the criminal court system. Part 2 discussed the interactions between people with a mental illness and the civil courts. Part 3 will discuss the mentally ill as victims of the justice system.

This post will discuss violence against people with disabilities.

All quotes are from my notes and are not verbatim.

Many Canadians will be familiar with several stories of people diagnosed with a mental health condition being killed by police officers. Byron DeBassige, 28, was shot and killed by police officers in February 2008 (Toronto). Howard Hyde, 45, was tasered and killed by police officers in November 2007 (Halifax). Ashley Smith, 19, committed suicide in jail while prison guards watched in October 2007 (Kitchener). Reyal Jensen Jardine-Douglas, 25, was shot and killed by police officers in August 2010 (Toronto). While Robert Dziekanski does not appear to have had a mental illness, his “irrational” behaviour after having been detained in the airport for 10 hours is the reason police officers gave for tasering him multiple times and leaving him to die in October 2007 (Vancouver).

The Chief Justice specifically focused on the case of Byron DeBassige, reading from the Toronto Star article I linked above. She went on to state that she believes that the police wouldn’t have shot DeBassige over two lemons and a knife had they known he was ill. In light of the other cases I’ve linked to, I don’t agree with her – in several of those cases the police were firmly and repeatedly told the person they killed was mentally ill. I don’t believe police officers as a whole have risen above the ableist prejudices that lead to psychophobia (fear of people with mental health conditions), simply because there’s been no real attempt in Canada to combat it.1

The Chief Justice went on to discuss how prejudice and fear can affect people with a mental illness: “I’d like to shift the focus to millions of mentally ill people who do not break the criminal law, who remain untreated or inadequately treated, and at liberty. Too often they are simply victims: Victims of discrimination, ignorance, societal inefficiency, and sometimes of violence that too often ends with their death.”

As a woman with a diagnosed mental health condition, I’m twice as likely as my non-disabled counterparts to be the victim of a violent crime, including rape. [Source is PDF] I’m also significantly less likely to be violent than my counterparts. And yet, even on FWD (in comments that are unapproved), it’s not rare for people to equate my diagnosis with abuse. It’s not uncommon for me to be sitting in a classroom of people who know that I campaign for disability rights and have talked a lot about the prejudices that face people with mental health conditions and have my classmates talk about how “crazy” people are violent. After learning I was going to this talk, one of my classmates told me that, should she ever murder someone, she’d claim temporary insanity and just spend a few months in care and then be released. All I could think of was Ashley Smith, who threw crab apples at the postman and died in jail.

The stark truth is too often we discriminate against the ill. We pass them lying on the street but ignore pleas for housing, reluctant to give them jobs even when they’ve struggled valiantly to overcome their illness. We marganilise them.

We need to know more if we’re going to avoid the specter of mentally ill as victims. Related to this is the lack of social coordination on behalf of the mentally ill. All who play a role in an ill person’s life must find ways to communicate and talk to each other. They fall through the cracks. There must be better communication between agencies if we are to prevent more mentally ill people from becoming victims.

This last quote is, in sum, why I felt a lot of frustration with this talk. Throughout, the Chief Justice talked about agencies, she talked about police officers, parole officers, and judges, she talked about what people can do. At no point did she quote an actual person with a mental illness. At no point did she suggest that people talk to those of us who have a mental health condition, and find out what we want and need. At no point did she talk about attempts by the justice system to include people with mental health conditions on tribunals or in the discussions about how the justice system can do better on this issue. Nothing about us without us really shouldn’t be a daring concept, but it seems it is.

Despite all of my complaining, I actually did enjoy this talk. It’s not very often that people admit that prejudice and fear play a strong part in the way people with mental illnesses are treated, by society in general and the justice system in particular. As a Canadian, it makes me happy that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is speaking about this, because her authority lends weight to what she’s speaking of, and because I know the Supreme Court is aware of the issues that she’s raising. I also appreciate that she takes the time to speak on this issue often. I was recently emailed the text of a similar talk she gave in 2005. Making law students and lawyers (as well as the general public) aware of these issues may help prevent future cases like Ashley Smith’s suicide.

I would obviously like that more awareness of these issues was addressed in a helpful and thoughtful manner in the newspapers, in classrooms, and on the internet. Chief Justice McLachlin is doing good work, and I’m very glad of the opportunity presented by Dalhousie University to see her talk in person.

Dal News wrote about this presentation as well.

  1. There is, however, an attempt to point out that “mental illness costs Canadians $51 Billion a year“. I don’t think we battle prejudice against mental health conditions by talking about how much it costs, especially since I think it would be more accurate to say “discrimination and stigma related to mental health conditions costs the economy $51 Billion a year”, but what do I know? I’m just a crazy lady.

“The Challenge of Mental Illness in the Justice System” – Part 2: Civil Court

This is the second in a three-part post about a talk given by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, about the interactions between people who are mentally ill (her term) and the justice system of Canada. Part 1 briefly discussed the history of the treatment of people with mental illness in Canada, and then described the current situation with regards to the criminal court system. This part will discuss the interactions between people with a mental illness and the civil courts. (Everything in quotes is from my notes, which are not verbatim.)

One of the anecdotes the Chief Justice opened her talk with was about an incident that occurred when she was articling. She discussed receiving a phone call from a woman who had been institutionalized, and told her that she only had two minutes to be on the phone. “I’ve been locked up, and I need to get out,” she whispered. The Chief Justice related how this woman had been forcedly institutionalized by her very respectable husband, who decided she was “overly emotionally, somewhat hysterical, had convinced the doctor to sign the papers. The authorities had come and she was taken to the mental institution.”

I got the impression – perhaps wrongly – that the Chief Justice wanted us to see this woman as someone who had been wrongfully institutionalized because she wasn’t actually mentally ill. She told the anecdote as part of the history of institutionalization, having just described it as a way “to get rid of someone you didn’t want, like a wife giving you trouble.” [s.e. smith wrote about this a bit when reviewing Fingersmith at this ain’t living.] This is a pretty common narrative when people discuss fear of institutionalization, and you’ll often see this story play out in pop culture. It gives the impression that forced institutionalization isn’t wrong, except when it’s someone who’s totally sane. The mentally ill, on the other hand, can be treated without care.

The focus of this section of her talk was on the “difficult ethical and legal problems” arising in the civil court. “On the one hand lies liberty of the individual, and the right of the individual to make decisions. On the other lies the tragic reality that the mentally ill cannot make rational decisions. Surely, their loved ones argue, we should be able to impose treatment to the point where they can have the capacity to make rational decisions about his or her treatment.”

Again, the Chief Justice focused on the change in how people with mental illness can legally be treated as a result of the Charter. She touched briefly on the history of forced hospitalisation, and how this had originally been forced treatment as well. Now, apparently, people are only forced into hospitalisation if they’re considered a danger to themselves or others. (From what I’ve gathered talking to people in Canada who have been hospitalised as a result of mental illness, there’s a lot of pressure to agree. This can vary from loved ones saying “We just want what’s best for you!” and the attendant guilt-related issues, to “if you don’t agree we’ll call the police and you can go to the asylum instead”.)

In describing “the issue being whether the person possess sufficient cognitive ability to make rational treatment decisions about his or her health”, the Chief Justice focused on the particulars of one case, referred to as the Starson Case. [There’s a brief overview of it on Wikipedia, and here are some follow-up news articles and discussion.]

Again, according to my notes:

At the time of the action Professor Starson was detained in a psychiatric hospital as a result of a finding of Not Criminally Responsible. The physicians believed he needed medication, but Professor Starson refused. His physicians found that he was not capable of making a decision with respect to his medical treatment.

He applied to the Ontario Capacity and Consent board to review that decision. The Board agreed with the doctors. He was in almost total denial of the illness (Wikipedia tells me he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder) so could not relate information to his disorder.

The matter was appealed to the courts and the lower courts in Ontario ruled he was capable of making decisions. This case then went to Supreme Court and the issue was the interpretation of the test for capacity. The majority ruled that Professor Starson had the capacity to make a choice and accordingly the Board’s order was overturned.

The story doesn’t end there. After the Supreme Court decision in 2003, his condition deteriorated. In 2005, his treating physicians found him incapable of managing his care. With his mother providing substitute consent, doctor’s began medicating. In 2007 he was discharged to outpatient status. In 2009, he was still contesting the decision to be forced into treatment.

The Chief Justice then went on to describe the debate about the treatment of people who are mentally ill as being between those that argue that the law should never permit mandatory treatment, and those who argue that mandatory treatment should be expanded to cover more instances than it does. In Canada, she said, “Liberty can be curtailed only exceptionally – when there is genuine risk of harm to his or herself or others, or when a person is cleary incapable of making decisions necessary for medical care.”

One of things I noted in this section of her talk was the very distancing language the Chief Justice used throughout. While at one point she did describe how we can feel sympathy for Professor Starson’s fight to determine his own treatment versus that of his mother’s fight to get him the treatment she felt he needed, most of the time the Chief Justice spoke as though no one in the audience would ever be touched by these decisions. As I said in the first part of this, I’m uncomfortable with a circle drawn around people with a mental health condition, and another around people who work in the legal or medical profession, with no overlap. The whole thing read a bit too much like “you can tell who’s crazy by looking at them, so I know none of you are.”

There is one more part to this discussion, which focuses on the mentally ill as victims of the justice system.

Signal Boost: British Columbia: The BCCPD invites organizations to our ‘Get Prepared’ workshop.

Via Email

Fires, storms, H1N1, floods. The BC Coalition of People with Disabilities’ Emergency Preparedness Program can help.

The Get Prepared workshop will use videos, demonstrations, personal stories, and recent Lower Mainland experiences to examine emergency preparedness. We will explore the best approaches that community organizations can use in designing emergency plans that focus on people with disabilities. Krasicki & Ward Emergency Preparedness will bring a display of emergency supplies.

Learn:
– The leading approach to emergency preparedness: Functional Needs
– How to conduct safety drills and evacuations
– Tips by and from people with disabilities on what’s needed
– How to integrate emergency planning into your organization

FREE 37-page handbook: “Workplace Emergency Planning for Workers with Disabilities”

Time and Date: 12:30 – 5:00 pm, November 25th, 2010
Location: Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 818 West 10th Avenue Vancouver BC
Cost: $65 – handbook and light refreshments included.
Hosted by the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities.
Registration Information

Registration for ‘Get Prepared’

Date: Thursday, November 25th 12:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 818 West 10th Ave, Vancouver
Cost: $65 includes light refreshments and “Workplace Emergency Planning for Workers with Disabilities”, a 37-page handbook.

Please click here to download the registration form and poster PDF.

The registration deadline is November 15th. Please contact sam@bccpd.bc.ca or 604-875-0188 for more information.

Unfortunately I cannot answer any questions about this event.

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