The Mental Health Act has not been substantially updated since 1964. Our understanding of mental health and substance use disorders has changed since the last century. Our laws need to reflect that. I asked Premier David Eby if he’d commit to a full review. He refused to stand up and answer.
Instead Minister Jennifer Whiteside provided a non-answer. We need to increase access to mental healthcare, but spending billions of dollars on a broken framework and expecting to get better health outcomes for British Columbians is ridiculous.
Stakeholders, advocates, experts, officers of the Legislature, including the Ombudsperson and the Representative for Children and Youth, and two Committees of this House have tasked this government with updating the Mental Health Act. This government ignores them.
We can’t expect to treat modern mental health issues based on best practices from the 1960s. By refusing to initiate a full review of the Mental Health Act, the BC NDP is willing to put people through a system that causes more harm than good.
My question is to the Premier. Will he commit to a full, comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act?
Hon. J. Whiteside:
I thank the member for the question. When it comes to the role of the Mental Health Act in our province, we know that there have been a number of recommendations that have come forward to ensure that the operation of the Mental Health Act works in a better way for people who are involuntarily committed under the act as well as those clinicians who are also working under the Mental Health Act.
We have brought in a rights advice process, as was as was recommended, in order to ensure that individuals who are receiving that care have appropriate rights advice.
Hon. J. Whiteside:
We are working, following the recommendations of the Ombudsperson’s report in 2019, to develop, in collaboration with Health Justice, education and curriculum for clinicians working on the front lines to better improve their ability to work under the framework of that act.
That is work that we’re doing. We’ll continue to work with front-line clinicians to ensure that that act is operating correctly.
Members, when one person has the floor, I ask that we listen to that person.
I was listening to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and that was a long way of not saying no. The reality is that the two committees that have made recommendations didn’t make recommendations to ensure the operation of the act. Those two committees called for a full review of the Mental Health Act. The language was very clear. It had nothing to do with ensuring the operation of the act.
In fact, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General chose to talk about how effective that committee process was on a variety of other issues around policing. So what we have is a government that is picking and choosing the recommendations that suit their purpose, rather than listening to the good work that’s done by members from all sides of this House.
We’re expanding access to mental health care, investing billions of dollars in an outdated act. Our understanding of mental health and substance use disorders has changed drastically in the last decade, yet B.C.’s Mental Health Act hasn’t been substantially updated for 60 years.
We can’t rely on a broken legislative framework while trying to tackle a modern mental health crisis. Stakeholders, advocates, experts, officers of the Legislature, including the Ombudsperson and the Representative for Children and Youth, and two committees of this House have tasked this government with updating the Mental Health Act. The most recent recommended a comprehensive review within six months of the report’s release — that was the Health Committee — meaning Monday, May 1, of this year.
My question is again to the Premier. Will this government heed the advice of the stakeholders, the experts, the all-party committees and urgently initiate a full review of B.C.’s Mental Health Act?
Hon. J. Whiteside:
Again, I’m grateful for the member’s question and for the advocacy and for all of the work that has been done by the select standing committee, by experts, by all of the clinicians and advocates out in community and in our health authorities, who provide input, who provide recommendations, around work that we know is necessary to do in terms of improving how people who are experiencing mental health distress, who are struggling with addictions, are receiving care in our health care system.
We are doing the work to make improvements across the system. We have brought in the rights advisor. We are working with Health Justice on providing better support for clinicians. We know there is much more work to do, and we are doing that work.