Due to the death of two very young British Columbians, Bill 22 – Mental Health Amendment Act (2020) has reemerged.
The Bill, introduced but not passed last summer, would seek to involuntarily restrain youth. It faced strong opposition from the Chief Coroner, the Representative of Children and Youth, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and others.
Premier Horgan said we need progress, not perfection. The BC Green Caucus has never sought perfection, however we did want to ensure the substantial concerns raised by many advocates that the legislation had the potential to cause significant harm, and disproportionately on Indigenous youth, was addressed.
Instead of bringing back Bill 22 and focusing on involuntary detention, we have consistently advocated for the provincial government to deliver on regulated safe supply, decriminalization, proactive mental health supports and a continuum of care.
In response to the death of a 12-year-old girl recently, an especially young casualty of the poisoned drug supply, this government and the official opposition are advocating to bring back a bill that would involuntarily restrain youth.
The death of this young child is tragic. No one in this province should die from a poisoned drug supply, especially a child. In the wake of this tragedy, we feel the weight of this toxic drug crisis even more. But let’s not use this tragedy as cover for inadequate policy. Restraining children against their will, as written in last summer’s Bill 22, would cause significant and disproportionate harm, especially to Indigenous youth.
Bill 22 is a reactive policy to an inadequate system of care and sets up youth for further alienation. What we should be doing is setting up a proactive mental health care system that ensures everyone can get the help when they need it. What is needed is a culturally appropriate, youth-specific, youth-friendly, voluntary detox, intensive care, management, day treatment and community residential treatment system.
My question is to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Will the minister resist calls to bring back this flawed legislation that has the potential to hurt more than it may help?
Hon. J. Horgan:
I appreciate the position of the member, but I profoundly disagree with it.
Judy Darcy, the first-ever Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in this country worked tirelessly with all corners of this House. Jane Thornthwaite, former member for North Vancouver–Seymour, former Chair of the Children and Youth Committee, worked collaboratively to bring forward something. For the Green Party, perfection is always the enemy of progress.
We had a youth die from opioid overdoses this week, and still the Green Party believes we should continue to flounder around, rather than coming together collectively and never letting this happen again.
I don’t know how you can hold that position, Member, after what we’ve just seen.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
Well, there’s a…. It reminds me of last summer, a conversation that we had. Bill 22 faced strong opposition, and yet it was politicized. It was the B.C. Greens, just as we saw here today. The B.C. Greens were the ones that were standing up against this bill — the B.C. Greens. As I said to the Premier in his office, we’re only raising the significant concerns of a wide variety of stakeholders that were speaking out against Bill 22. But yet only the B.C. Greens were the ones that were speaking out against that.
Lisa Lapointe, our chief coroner: “Serious unintended consequences, including the potential for an increase in fatalities.” The Premier won’t mention that. The chief coroner said that this bill might negatively impact the work being done to reduce fear and stigma, something we’ve been talking about in this session of the Legislature.
The Representative for Children and Youth — not being brought up in question period today. The Representative for Children and Youth…. Only the Green Party were standing in the way of it. No, the Representative for Children and Youth said they were disappointed by government’s move to create involuntary stabilization units, stating the need for more urgent, voluntary supports.
The Premier’s government not only heard from the Green Party, but they also heard from — and the chief coroner and the Representative for Children and Youth — the First Nations Leadership Council, the nurses association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs that this bill faced strong opposition, because as it was written, it was not the solution to the problems that we face and could potentially make the situation worse. That’s exactly the advocacy that we brought to the Premier’s office last summer.
My question is again to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Is her ministry focused on expanding the voluntary supports, or are they going to bring back the flawed bill that they put in front of this House last summer?
Hon. J. Horgan:
I was a 12-year-old drug user, and I wasn’t reading statutes at the time. I don’t think that anyone who’s using drugs as a youth is concerned about the debates in this Legislature. I don’t think the parents of children using drugs are particularly concerned about the debates in this Legislature. They want all of us to get our act together and protect young people.
The direction to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions is to consult, and she has been doing that. We will bring back the bill, and it may well be an improvement in his eyes. I reject his position that we have to find perfection before we step in and help people who need help.