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 'mentally ill.'

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 Support Services).

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.

Sincerely yours,

Graeme Bacque

Toronto, Ontario

cc: Queen Street Patient's Council, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Toronto Disaster Relief Committee