New BC Children and Youth’s Report Raises Eyebrows

Victoria – Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement regarding the report by the representative for children and youth titled Detained: Rights of Children and Youth under the Mental Health Act:

“Thank you to the representative and the young people and youth advocates who added their voices to this report. It is never easy to tell your story and I thank you for sharing your experiences. We welcome this important input and accept the recommendations in principle. We will be working with our partner ministries to review and develop a plan with Indigenous partners to address the recommendations and reflect them in ongoing work as we continue building a co-ordinated mental health and addictions system from the ground up.

“As part of that work, we are going to keep listening to advocates, experts, families and young people with lived experience. Our main focus continues to be on boosting the voluntary system of care so young people can get help early on, before smaller problems become larger ones. At the same time, we’re committed to ensuring that safeguards and culturally appropriate care are in place in more acute situations when involuntary admissions are necessary.

That was the official statement from the Province, but the criticism came quick:

The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) said in a release that they were shocked and disturbed by the findings released by the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) Tuesday morning in her most recent report “Detained: Rights of children and youth under the Mental Health Act,” and is calling upon the provincial government to take immediate urgent action to ensure a comprehensive, community-based, and culturally safe system of care and legislative regime for children and youth requiring mental health services.

The RCY’s report found that the use of involuntary detentions for youth under the Mental Health Act rose by 162% over a nine-year period, while adult detentions have consistently decreased over the same period of time. Availability of rights information and enforcement mechanisms for youth who are detained was found to be limited, if at all, and there were severe gaps in oversight and regulations to guide the use of restraint and confinement measures.

“To see the number of youth detained under the Mental Health Act increase by 162%, while at the same time having more than 2,500 of them waitlisted for community-based services is completely unacceptable,” stated Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit Political Executive. “These statistics unfortunately are indicative of a system that is consistently failing our young people – creating a mental health crisis rather than resourcing a system of holistic wraparound care and early intervention. A drop in the bucket funding-wise is not enough. We demand an immediate redirection of resources to see young people supported by a community-based, and voluntary system of wellness and expect to see this reflected in the next budget.”

“I have significant concerns around the lack of data regarding the exact number of First Nations youth who are being involuntarily detained under this Act, especially with the Ministry of Health indicating they are disproportionately represented, and the blatant human rights violations that are being imposed upon these young people through the removal of their freedom and basic liberties,” stated Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Immediate action to align this dated legislation with the Declaration Act on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be undertaken, including provisions that ensure Indigenous communities are notified and involved in planning for our youth members and distinctions-based data regarding the number of involuntary admissions under the Mental Health Act.

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