Category Archives: Mental Health

Who Has the Right to Control Your Life?

Caught between archaic, paternalistic laws and deteriorating conditions in care homes, more and more BC seniors and their families are discovering how easy it is for the elderly to lose basic civil rights that we often take for granted. (Originally published in Focus, January 2009.)



We’re here to bust an 86-year-old woman out of a nursing home.

Kim packs Joan’s personal items (some names have been changed to protect anonymity). I survey the quaint room and ask, “Do you like it here?”

Joan replies, “I want to go home.”

Instantly, I see why Joan is in trouble. I’ll soon learn she’s smart and funny, but she looks feeble and vulnerable. Dammit, she looks old. You feel an instinct to reach an arm around and reassure her, “I’ll take care of everything.” You want to take charge.

For Joan, that’s become the problem.

We walk toward the exit. But how hard can it be for a daughter to get her own mom get out of a residential home?

“I thought I could never be shocked again,” Kim says later, while her mother meets with a lawyer. As a health care consultant, Kim thought she’d already seen the worst of health care. “But I’m continually reeling.” Continue reading

IQ Tests to Set 2009 Tax Rates?

When pseudo-scientific nonsense starts becoming law, be very afraid.


I was supposed to find the picture that didn’t fit. Studying three men walking, I circled one with an errant blotch on one shoe. Wrong: one of the men wore a hat.

In retrospect, I’d likely spotted a smudge from the school’s old carbon copier. But wasn’t I still right? In my kindergarten humiliation hatched a mute wariness of standardized, multiple choice tests.

When the BC Liberals emblazoned such tests with the authority of law this July, I could be silent no more. Continue reading

A “Patient-centred” Path towards Ignoring Patient Rights

Wipond, Rob. A “Patient-centred” Path towards Ignoring Patient Rights: A Critical Analysis of the Federal Senate Committee’s Dismissal of Concerns about Involuntary Treatment Laws and Civil Rights Abuses in the Canadian Mental Health System.

Abstract: The Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released a report on the mental health system in 2006, “Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada”. The Committee’s central recommendation was that Canada create a more patient-centred mental health system. Yet, the Committee utterly failed to address the fundamental lack of patients’ legal rights which drives the current, non-patient-centred system. Despite extensive discussions and witness testimonials that were extremely critical of routine involuntary psychiatric treatment and civil rights abuses in the Canadian mental health system, the Committee’s final report included no recommendations in this area. Through analysis of the language, arguments and rhetoric in the Committee’s writings, this paper demonstrates that the Senate Committee 1) accepted uncritically numerous erroneous or unproven claims from particular mental health professionals about the accuracy and efficacy of psychological and psychiatric science, and 2) deliberately misrepresented and ignored important civil rights issues surrounding involuntary treatment due to their uncritical faith in psychiatric science and deeply embedded prejudices against people diagnosed with mental illnesses. As a result, Canada lost an ideal opportunity to develop a more balanced national discussion of current involuntary treatment laws and point towards more progressive options.


Note: This article was originally published in 2008 in the journal Radical Psychology, Volume Seven, Issue 2. A PDF of that original online version of the complete article can be downloaded by clicking here. (Unfortunately, as of 2019, the Radical Psychology site and many of the original reference links to the Canadian government website are broken; however, the latter content can sometimes still be found elsewhere on the federal government website.)

VIHA Psychiatrists Criticize VIHA

and the Laurel House saga continues…

Laurel House is safe. It seems. For now.

Six months of closed-door negotiations between the Capital Mental Health Association, Vancouver Island Health Authority, and Laurel House users who staged a sit-in last September ended with a verbal commitment from VIHA that, “Laurel house will not be closed in the foreseeable future,” says Laurel House user-negotiator Kathleen Sumilas.

“It’s absolutely awesome,” she adds, noting that the sudden last minute agreement after six weeks of utter silence from VIHA “was quite unexpected.”

However, as of Focus’ press time, VIHA had provided no details in writing, and had pledged only that the users would be “consulted” about what Laurel House programming would look like. In light of VIHA and CMHA’s past poor record of conducting and respecting consultations, does it cause her concern? Worry? “Yes…” Sumilas responds slowly. “Yes, it does…”

Regardless of the outcome, however, one astonishing fact emerged during the process, with repercussions far beyond this individual issue. Continue reading

Will Task Force’s Plan Assault the Homeless?

Victoria’s 40-person Mayor’s Task Force on mental illness, addictions and homelessness didn’t include anyone identifying as a mental health system user, a substance user, or homeless. Though the Task Force conducted focus groups with street people and service users, none were around when the final action plan was being formed. That’s too bad because, if they’d been present, just about any street person would’ve warned that the plan, for all its good intentions, was flirting with disaster.

Instead, only the respectful principle of involving these people in decision-making sprouted up in the Task Force reports like totem poles on the legislature lawn.

“Street-involved people can and should play an important role in the development and implementation of programs…”.

“Participation of those with mental illness in reforming and improving the mental health system… must include meaningful involvement, democratic decision making…”

But street people weren’t actually in the planning meetings to protest, when the Task Force paternalistically chose to implement “Assertive Community Treatment” (ACT), a notorious program of social control recently instigated throughout Ontario.

Continue reading