CityNews 1130 – BC Child and Youth Advocate report “Detained: Rights of Children and Youth under the Mental Health Act” found involuntary detentions of B.C. youth rose 162 per cent between 2008 and 2018. In fact, B.C. is the only province in Canada where a capable, involuntary patient has no right to make psychiatric treatment decisions. The unique significance of how First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous people experience mental health detentions is also considered in this report, given the multitude of ways in which the rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples have been limited and interfered with throughout colonization, residential schools and the child welfare system. Although the involuntary detention of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous children and youth under the Mental Health Act may be intended for their safety and protection, it can be seen and experienced as another link in a long chain of oppression imposed by the state on Indigenous peoples. Of concern to the Representative is the racism experienced by First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous children and youth in hospitals, as documented in the recent report In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care, and the absence of culturally safe and relevant services and supports.
This report found that the number of children and youth who are receiving involuntary mental health services has increased alarmingly. In the 10 years between 2008/09 and 2017/18, these admissions rose from 973 to 2,545 – or 162 per cent. This raises troubling questions about the adequacy of the voluntary, community-based system of care and treatment and its ability to avoid unnecessary involuntary detention. Clearly, the time has come for government to devote special attention to how the Mental Health Act can be improved in its operation and administration to better protect and respect the voice and the interests of children and youth it affects in such profound ways.
The report identifies 14 specific recommendations, a number of which apply specifically to First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and youth.