After essentially toying with us for better than two years our Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Elizabeth Witmer finally has made the announcement we have all been dreading. Speaking from the office of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario in Toronto's north end, Ms. Witmer announced the Government of Ontario's intention to overhaul the Mental Health Act and possibly other legislation during the spring session in order to introduce community treatment orders and potentially other measures that will have the effect of seriously abrogating the rights of anyone who has received a psychiatric diagnosis.
CTOs (Community Treatment Orders) commonly referred to as outpatient committal or 'leash laws' are a legal mechanism which can be used to enforce compliance with prescribed medical treatment and appointments. Under such laws, the response to non-cooperation with a psychiatrist's orders usually involves forced re-admission to a psychiatric facility. In many U.S. states, release from an institution hinges on acceptance of such legally-binding invasions into peoples' lives, bodies, minds and spirits.
Having slashed anything which might actually benefit people to the absolute bone, the Ontario Government under Premier Mike Harris is now moving rapidly ahead with the next stage of its agenda - namely, the systematic attempt to remove from view the visible victims of its earlier policy initiatives, and any other people that the wealthier strata of Ontario society deem 'undesirable.'
A law banning attempts to survive through panhandling or washing car windshields at intersections came into effect on January 31 this year, and as of the first of April anyone convicted of 'defrauding' the social assistance system will face a lifetime ban from receiving benefits. (This extends to disability benefits as well).
In addition, summertime campaigns of Gestapo-like 'targeted policing' on Toronto's streets have left most homeless persons terrified for their safety. Witmer's legislation (likely to be introduced in June) will likely provide the legal glue to bind many of these other measures together into a terrifyingly cohesive whole, in addition to specifically targeting persons who have previously been labeled by psychiatrists.
Demonstrations, letter-writing and petitioning have already taken place in advance of this anticipated announcement - a rally outside the Legislature drew more than a hundred Survivors and advocates on November 3, 1999 despite frigid weather conditions. A downloadable petition in PDF format is available for printing and circulation at www.tao.ca/~pact/Noforce.html (the return address/fax is on the bottom). Please download, print and circulate this document widely!
Other downloadable literature debunking the 'violent mental patient' myth and the supposed 'wonder drugs' are available through the same site. New pamphlets on ECT (electroshock) and exploding the myth of the 'hopelessness' of psychiatric diagnoses will soon be available. This material has been developed entirely by Psychiatric Survivors.
The No Force! Coalition's campaign against repressive outpatient treatment legislation has received endorsement from dozens of agencies and organizations in Canada, the United States and several other countries. If you or your organization wish to endorse this campaign you can send an e-mail of support to <email@example.com>.More information on our campaign against coercion is available at www.icomm.ca/patientsco.
Letters of protest need to be sent in numbers to the key legislative players listed below. Further actions will likely be announced as more information becomes available or when the legislation is actually introduced later this spring.
In addition, the Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care has indicated that it is planning ‘public consultations’ in the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, London, Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Sudbury. Please stay tuned** for news of the session in your region (they will likely be taking place in April) and mobilize in order to ensure the Survivor voice is heard!
The first 'public consultation' has been scheduled for Toronto on Thursday,
March 30 @ the Central YMCA, 20 Grosvenor St. (2 blocks N. of College St.
W. of Yonge) 9 AM - noon and 1 PM to 4 PM. Call
*A full index of
MPP’s mailing addresses, phone #’s and faxes is available online at
profiles and e-mails for all MPPs are available online at
**M.O.H. & L.T.C. website: <http://www.gov.on.ca/health/index.html>