This sitting we passed an updated Mental Health Act, which was reviewed for the first time in almost thirty years. The Mental Health Act defines at what point someone with mental health issues loses the right to make decisions for themselves. Given the harm that individuals with mental health and addictions issues cause to themselves and our communities, the question is whether this bill goes far enough to allow these individual’s rights to be suspended so they receive the help they need. The updated Mental Health Act passed with one amendment. You can view Bill 28 – Mental Health Act (unamended) here.
Please find the video and transcript below of what I said in the legislature on November 8, 2023 while debating this bill.
Hansard-8 November 2023 (PDF) – starts on page 49 of 58 (page 1776 of Hansard)
Speaker: The hon. Member from Rustico-Emerald.
B. Trivers: Thank you, Madam Speaker.
I wanted to rise and comment as well on this bill and on the words of the Member from New Haven-Rocky Point.
When I was Minister of Social Development – it was “and Housing” back then – one of the most frustrating things to me was when we had supports available to people, but they didn’t want to take them. They weren’t ready to take them; they couldn’t take them.
There’s a whole variety of reasons for that. A lot of it had to do with, frankly, their state of mind, whether that be a mental illness or being under the influence of an addiction; using, choosing to use.
The experts on the street, people like PEERS Alliance or people who’ve done a lot of work in the area – like Mike Redmond, I have spoken with him – they’re saying you just have to build a personal relationship and keep working with people until they’re ready to accept the supports.
But I definitely saw people with such severe mental illness that really, it was a harm to themselves or to others in the way they were living. It doesn’t take much to walk the streets of Charlottetown to see that, frankly. When I first saw the Mental Health Act, I was like, this is great because we’re going to make a step forward to finding a better balance between the rights of the individual and reducing harm to them and to society.
I think we’re moving in the right direction with this legislation. I think it’s extremely important to respect the rights of the individual, but I think it’s also extremely important to do what we can as a society to protect individuals from harm and also protect our communities from harm. We have to find that balance.
I have various opinions on whether this bill goes far enough in terms of finding that balance, but I tend to agree with the comments from the member that we should have some more frank discussions on this. We’ve heard in the last couple of days many, many comments about the outreach centre and whether it’s been successful or not.
It was opened in an attempt to help people, to reduce harm, to strive, to move forward. Have we made enough movement forward? You could argue no, and I think the Minister of Housing, Land and Communities has said, we need to make vast improvements. We have to reexamine our model, and I would agree.
When we opened it up, we had high hopes. We thought that the attendance might be in the neighbourhood of 40 or 50 people. I believe one of the stats I heard was 270-plus people in one month. There’s obviously a huge need out there. The Leader of the Third Party had mentioned that we need to improve the supports we can actually offer people. We’ve got these people there, they need help, they want help, but how do we give them that help?
When it comes to the Mental Health Act, I think this is a huge opportunity to find that line where we can say: “You need help.”
I wanted to say that I have constituents with children with lifetime mental health issues.They may even work with their parents and their parents can see when they start to go off the rails. They know they’re going off the rails, but they have to respect the human rights and the choice of their child – in this case, grown adults – to choose not to take their medication, to choose not to go to work, to choose to check themselves out of rehab.
These are the lines that the Mental Health Act defines, and these are the things we need to really seriously discuss because I think if we’re going to help people with mental health problems, and in many, many cases related to addictions, that’s an extremely important line that we have to find. Otherwise, it’s going to simply take too much time and resources to help the people, or they may never get the help they need. It’s a fine line, don’t get me wrong. It should not be taken lightly when you take away the rights of an individual. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an extremely important document and Charter that we have.
I just wanted to stand up and I wanted to say that because I believe this is an extremely important act and I’m not sure we have had the full discussion in that context. I think it is important to do that. Thank you for raising those concerns.
Thank you, Madam Speaker