[Hpn] URGENT MEMO
Wed, 26 Apr 2000 17:59:11 -0400
Graeme F. Bacque
319 Dundas St. E. #408 Toronto, Ontario M5A 2A2
V: (416) 368-3366 F: (416) 368-5984
DATE: Wednesday, April 26, 2000
TO: All MPPs
SUBJECT: The human rights travesty of 'Brian's Law'
April 25, 2000 stands as a tragic date for human rights in
Ontario, owing to the Provincial Government succumbing to the forces of
bigotry, public misinformation and medical fraud in introducing 'Brian's
Law' as a mechanism for the legally binding, medically-sanctioned
pacification of (potentially) any person who has had the unfortunate
experience of being diagnosed by a shrink.
No death - especially one that occurs as a result of violence - is
an event that should go unremarked upon or be allowed to pass from our
social consciousness without a strong lesson being learned from the
experience. For this reason the legislature is totally remiss in focusing
exclusively upon this one tragedy while totally ignoring the numerous
injuries and fatalities incurred each year from the forced psychiatric
'treatment' of (predominantly nonviolent) people who have been labeled
Worse, these interventions take place on the basis of a set of diagnostic
criteria that are unscientific in the extreme, based as they are upon a
totally subjective value-based evaluation of a persons behavior, beliefs,
way of life or perception of the world as opposed to the appropriate
assessment of the body and its functions that makes up the more
typical medical determination of actual illnesses. Given the highly
ideological motivation behind allegations of 'mental illness ' as well as
the common treatment responses to such, it comes as no surprise that this
government would find appeal in such a measure for use as a key weapon in
its ongoing assault on the victims of its earlier policies.
Attempting to medically treat someone over their objection is a horribly
violent act, akin to rape, that causes severe exacerbation of any
pre-existing emotional trauma and results yearly in any number of serious
injuries or fatalities from excessive drugging, sometimes fatal injuries
from restraints (both human and mechanical) and physical and emotional
neglect or outright abuse.
Even in a best-case scenario the common psychiatric interventions do
absolutely nothing to address the root causes of emotional or mental
crises, functioning as they do by 'numbing out' painful feelings and in
doing so, indefinitely postponing any opportunity for true healing. When it
comes to the healing of emotional wounds, violent unwanted medical
intervention is no substitute for intensive, completely voluntary emotional
support from a truly caring community of peers.
Many more psychiatric 'patients' succumb yearly to the completely
preventable ravages of poverty and homelessness; to 'treatment'-induced
suicide and violence at the hands of police (let us remember Edmond Yu, who
was murdered on board a TTC vehicle on February 20, 1997 by the Toronto
cops) or even hateful civilians. (Let us remember Joey Pace, who died in
Oshawa in November last year from a severe unprovoked beating, and Michael
Wilson, critically injured when attacked and set afire just before
Christmas 1999 by several youths while walking quietly near his Toronto home).
All three of these men had at some point been diagnosed 'paranoid
schizophrenic'. Edmond Yu was a highly intelligent, spiritual young man
with enormous human potential, who was cut down in the prime of his life by
racist cops, having been already physically and emotionally weakened by the
ravages of homelessness, psychiatric incarceration and forced drugging.
Both Joey Pace and Michael Wilson were attacked by malicious strangers who
took violent exception to the manner in which these passive, gentle souls
were living their lives. Yet the response from the Schizophrenia Society of
Ontario to all three of these heinous assaults was to suggest that the
ability to forcibly treat the victims might have prevented the violence
they suffered! This ability to pass off such an incredible stretch in logic
as 'reasonable' is unfortunately typical of the thinking of both this
government and the various facets of the 'mental health' industry.
When viewed in light of these three incidents alone, 'Brian's Law' comes
across as an insulting, dangerous farce that should be allowed to quietly
fade from consciousness before even receiving second reading.
Unfortunately the voice of reason has never played much of a role in how
this government goes about its affairs. Thus it stands to reason that the
virtually unlimited power this legislation will grant to police and medical
authorities will lead to many similar tragedies, as innocent women and men
get caught up in the net of psychiatric coercion for the 'crime' of being
homeless, or poor, or of the wrong skin color or sexual orientation... or
for daring to live their lives or express their feelings in a manner
that violates society's pointlessly narrow standards of 'normalcy.' The
relaxation of criteria for involuntary admission will in all likelihood
result in all of the above... and more.
The media's handling of this particular story also gives considerable
insight into how the legislation will likely be applied. On CTV's national
news, the 'Brian's Law' story appeared immediately following two
consecutive reports of widely separated incidents of violence involving
young people. (The stabbing incident last week at an Ottawa school, and a
shooting at the National Zoo in Washington, DC on Easter Monday).
The piece featured interviews with Ontario's Chief Coroner, an official
from the Ontario Medical Association and the widow of Brian Smith, with the
interviews consisting in part of a voiceover style while images of homeless
people were displayed on screen. All these interviewees spoke in favor of
the new legislation. (The only Psychiatric Survivor input in this report
was a brief, highly edited critical comment from Lana Frado of Sound Times
Despite Elizabeth Witmer's promise that the legislation won't be used to
'sweep' the streets of homeless persons, the natural inference from how
this story was presented by CTV was that the exact opposite can
realistically be anticipated. It is bizarre in the extreme how this
government has deliberately escalated the disaster of homelessness to such
a degree by destroying income supports and affordable housing, then
responded to the consequences of what they themselves set in motion by
persecuting the victims. Such behavior is what one would ordinarily expect
from a dictatorship. Are we to infer from this that the Government of
Ontario has completely renounced democracy?
Equally misleading is the manner in which the CTO component is presented,
as being a 'voluntary' arrangement. To suggest this when the only other
choice being offered to forced community 'treatment' is possible
indefinite confinement in a psychiatric facility, insults the intelligence
of even the most credulous among us. There is nothing 'voluntary' at all
about an arrangement entered into under duress (the threat of continued
lockup) or made by a third party not of the 'patient's' choosing (in the
form of an appointed substitute decision-maker) and which is a
legally-binding mechanism of social control that, when viewed in light of
this government's behavior in related areas, can (and will) be expected to
see vigorous enforcement by the police.
Until this government begins to actually listen to its constituents from
the Psychiatric Survivor community and renounces this legislative violence
against us, the tragedies described above will continue, and likely
multiply, as more and more people are subjected to the body-destroying,
soul-numbing forced administration of powerful psychotropic drugs.
Likewise, expanding police powers in this context is the judicial
equivalent of giving a drunk the keys to a brewery, and undoubtedly will
result in more shootings and other acts of violence by the cops.
Putting a stop to this assault on the lives of innocent people, and
restoring the vital resources destroyed when social assistance and
affordable housing were cut, should instead be the priority of this and
all future governments, as such will have a far more salutary effect on the
lives of vulnerable Ontarians than will any form of modification to the
Mental Health Act.
cc: Queen Street Patient's Council, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty,
Toronto Disaster Relief Committee