VICTORIA, B.C. – Today the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth released Detained: Rights of Children and Youth under the Mental Health Act, highlighting the urgent need for the provincial government to better protect young people involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act.
“This report has direct connections to Bill 22, The Mental Health Amendment Act, and further underscores the serious concerns raised by the B.C. Green Caucus following its tabling by the NDP in the summer 2020 legislative session,” said Sonia Furstenau, leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Cowichan Valley.
“Over the course of several meetings with the Minister and her staff, the B.C. Green Caucus made it clear we would not vote for a bill that would harm children or lead to increased deaths.
“We flagged over 20 sections of Bill 22 that were inappropriately drafted, ranging from language that represented possible violations of the Canadian Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to a clause that would have allowed children and youth to be detained through chemical, electronic, mechanical, and physical means without limitation.
“We would not accept the added and disproportionate risk Bill 22 placed on Indigenous youth and their families, and we would not support further entrenching a coercive system when our voluntary mental health supports and services for children and youth are so tragically lacking. The bill was not called for further debate, though we were ready to publicly detail our position if it had been.”
Today’s report found that the number of children and youth receiving involuntary services in B.C.’s mental health and substance use treatment system has increased at a staggering rate, while voluntary care options remain out of reach.
As Representative Jennifer Charlesworth said in her statement, “alarmingly, the number of children and youth who are detained involuntarily under the Mental Health Act increased 162 per cent in the 10 years between 2008/09 and 2017/18, bringing into question the adequacy of the voluntary, community-based system of care and treatment.”
“As the B.C. Greens, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Chief Coroner, Health Justice, and others told the B.C. government when Bill 22 was before the House, creating involuntary stabilization units for youth in the absence of adequate voluntary community-based services to address substance use – services such as culturally appropriate, youth-specific and youth-friendly voluntary detox, intensive case management, day treatment and community residential treatment - will mean we fail to truly help the young person.
“Instead of redoubling their efforts to build such a system, as a result of the B.C. Greens’ refusal to pass Bill 22 unamended, the B.C. NDP tore down the minority government and triggered a snap election.”
On the day the snap election was called the Premier said of the B.C. Greens pushback on Bill 22: “That was really the deciding issue for me.”
Even after an alarming report detailing the prevalence of anti-Indigenous racism within the health care system, In Plain Sight, just last month, the Premier again told the Times Colonist that it was hard for him to understand how keeping a youth in hospital for a few days after an overdose was harmful, expressing hope that the proposed legislation on the matter would return in the new year. Horgan stated he had difficulty as a parent understanding how the involuntary detainment of children and youth was ‘an egregious affront to civil liberties.’
“In light of the recent report from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond on systemic racism in B.C.’s health care system, I would have hoped that Premier Horgan would recognize that it’s not just his point of view, as someone with immense privilege, that he should be considering.
“One can hope that with today’s heartbreaking report from the Representative for Children and Youth added to the pile of evidence against Bill 22, the Premier will now understand why he should not force this legislation through as written.”
B.C. Green Caucus
+1 250-882-6187 | [email protected]