Will the Minister review the Mental Health Act?

Nov 3, 2022 | 42-3, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Sessions, Video | 0 comments

The Minister of Mental Health and Addictions has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a broken system of mental health services.

At the centre of that is an outdated Mental Health Act. Several organizations such the Representative for Children and Families, the Ombudsperson, and several other community organizations, have called for the BC NDP to undertake a full review of the Act.

Instead, the provincial government continues to invest in an outdated, incoherent system.

I have asked the Minister about this before, I ask her again. Unfortunately, we get the same response. Instead of making sure we are investing in a system informed by a modern law, the Minister continues to invest in the outdated system.



A. Olsen:

Yesterday the Legislature’s own committee on drug toxicity recommended a full review of the Mental Health Act. They call it outdated. We’ve heard this before. The committee that I sat on, the committee reviewing the Police Act, also called for a full review of the Mental Health Act.

[2:15 p.m.]

It’s clear that we need to change the mental health services in this province. But instead of looking at the system as a whole, what we’ve seen this government and this minister do is invest in a system that’s clearly broken. It’s a band-aid solution. It’s not working. And the Legislature has heard that time and again.

In fact, members of this House have come together twice now and implored the government to change and to review the Mental Health Act. So when can the public expect a full review of the Mental Health Act?

Hon. S. Malcolmson:

The system of care that we are working hard to build is what I hear families and people on the front line call for. They say it’s decades overdue. And while we are fighting two public health emergencies, we are working with health authorities and with partners from every sector of our province and with people, particularly with lived and living experience, about what they need right now.

Our very first priority is getting the crisis supports, getting the mental health counselling, getting the programs in schools. So that’s why our first priority was not reviewing the Mental Health Act; it was providing the services that people need.


Deputy Speaker:

Members, please.

Hon. S. Malcolmson:

We are considering all the recommendations of the Select Standing Committee on Health and its review of my ministry’s response to the toxic drug overdose crisis — reviewing all their recommendations with gratitude to the hundreds and hundreds of people across the province that put their personal experiences and their lives on the line. That’s what I’m focused on, what people with lived experience….


Deputy Speaker:

Members. Members, if you want to ask a question, you have to give it time for an answer.

Please continue.

Hon. S. Malcolmson:

My very first focus is building up the voluntary system of care and the supports that people are asking for. A review of the Mental Health Act is something that our government certainly has under consideration and we’ll get to.

Deputy Speaker:

Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

While this minister and other ministers are reviewing the recommendations that have come now from two committees made up of colleagues of this Legislative Assembly imploring the government to review the Mental Health Act — one as late as just yesterday, a report, was put on the table — the reality of it is that we have known that this has been a problem for a long time.

They’re reviewing the recommendations, and we’re investing millions of dollars in a system that is fragmented and broken. That is what we’re hearing time and time again from those people that are coming and submitting their feedback to these committees.

The Mental Health Act is actually overseen by the Minister of Health. So what we have here is we have a Mental Health Act. We have two ministers that oversee this.

This law that we have is working against creating a better system of mental health. No amount of money that this minister and this government are going to invest in it will change that. It’s like trying to eat soup with a fork.

The Police Act Committee and the Health Committee have both said to review the Mental Health Act. It echoes the representative for children and families, the Ombudsperson and several community organizations.

My question is to the Minister of Health. Will he commit to reviewing the Mental Health Act?

Hon. S. Malcolmson:

I will say again, in a time of two public health emergencies, our focus, very first of all, is on standing up the supports that save people’s lives right now, the work that needs to be done right now.

We’ve created 100 new positions, funding early psychosis intervention. Those interventions early can save young people from a lifetime of struggling with psychosis.

We’ve added almost 50,000 new positions or places where people can connect with mental health counselling. We’re funding the health authorities to offer culturally informed Indigenous healing service provision. And in time, we will, I’m sure together, review the Mental Health Act.

[2:20 p.m.]

But I’ll point to where we do, in a surgical way, the interventions that advocates and people with lived experience ask us for right now. It was just this spring that in this chamber, an amendment to the Mental Health Act to provide rights advice service was introduced and initiated by the Premier-designate, the incoming Premier.

For the first time in British Columbia’s history, providing rights advice service for people who are admitted involuntarily under the Mental Health Act — that is the kind of immediate work that our government has proved again and again. We will intervene and make changes where people ask us to in the way that actually affects lives right now.


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