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Ontario Human Rights Survey

December 26, 2010

Here are some answers I provided to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights and Mental Health Survey.  Nothing fancy, and pretty self-explanatory.  Just something to mull over.


· Are there any other experiences related to human rights and your mental health issue or addiction that you would like to share with us?

I would love to obtain and retain gainful employment, as I feel horribly guilty receiving government assistance.  While I am a proud celebrant of Mad culture, I am certainly not “dis”-abled and wish to pull my own weight as a contributor to society.  But I despair of ever finding employment, as I feel as if the accommodations I require are unreasonable from a practical perspective.

It is easy for the government to legislate workplace equity and mandate the installation of adaptive furniture and technology geared toward physical conditions, but what mechanism is there for mental/emotional issues?  Mental health issues do not readily lend themselves to such measures as the Building Code Act of 1992, or the Corporations Tax Act.  Instead, the mentally ill depend first and foremost on good will.  Sooner or later the employee will run out of sick days, cross the line of appropriate workplace behaviour, use up benefits plan brief counseling sessions, or exhaust what’s available in terms of adapted duties, alternate scheduling or modified workload.  Even a superior who wishes to stay above board and follow all protocols and human rights regs will be confronted by situations such as mine which can’t be resolved by in-house procedure.  The result is often unemployment.

When it comes to the activities of those individuals or institutions which contravene the policies and practices of the Human Rights Code or the federal Charter, the situation is even less clear-cut.  I consider myself articulate and ardent (and I also benefit from a great CMHA team) so I am in a position to stand up for myself and others in these matters.  Many of us with mental illnesses are not so lucky, and have no knowledge that they are being wronged, let alone that there exist remedial mechanisms.  Worse, most of us suffer from “attitudinal” barriers—and though the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2.(1) mandates the elimination of these, there is no enforceable means for doing so.  Society is as society does.

And there are other issues.  In none of my hospitalizations (from the voluntary admissions to commitments complete with Code Whites) have I ever met with representatives from the PPAO.  While the PPAO may only be mandated to provide advice in very specific situations involving patient consent, status changes or diminishment of personal legal capacity, the full range of advocacy services they provide should be visibly and prominently promoted within clinical settings.

I would also wish that a special office exist to activate legally in matters of hospital-level abuses concerning overmedication and inappropriate patient restraint.  In the community sphere, the growing problem of unjustified deadly or injurious force used by the police against the mentally ill must be dealt with decisively.  These are human rights abuses of the first order, that we mentally ill consistently endure.  We ask not for wheelchair ramps or adaptive keyboards—merely not to be shot by panicky patrol officers, or tranquilized by panicky M.D.’s.



· Please suggest any other helpful communication tools or techniques.

(What follows is a list of possible dissemination tools, such as talks by experts, talks by Survivors, websites, pamphlets, videos, etc.)

These are all great techniques and modalities.  But what’s really required is some method of coordinating the lot, respecting a few caveats.  While the principal method of information dissemination nowadays is electronic, it is an unpleasant but inescapable fact that the mentally ill most in need of rights protection are frequently poor and do not have access to electronic media.  The internet is mandatory, then, but must be augmented.

Corollary to this, many of us, for whatever reason, neither wish to nor can read print publications.  For such as those in possession of media devices, CD’s would be great—but then, still only as an adjunct to human Q&A sessions.  For let’s not call them “talks”—we mentally ill are “talked at” all the time!  (Speak at me and I may listen, speak to me and I may hear, speak with me and I shall learn.)  Consider too that much of the Province is rural, with terrible access to major centres.  Mobility or adequate coverage on the part of human service deliverers would thus be appreciated.

Print documentation of varying lengths would be useful depending upon the context.  Small brochures might not be sufficiently informative, while a 60-page document would be unwieldy for the average user, but helpful as a digest.

I would thus (optimally) propose a multi-lingual rights-based peer advocacy office.  Nothing can replace individual contact, especially from someone who is One of Us; thus, public education talks should be given by “human rights experts” WHO ARE “people with lived experience.”  I am such a one, and not the only one.  I would gratefully welcome the opportunity to provide further assistance to you as a Survivor committed to social justice and positive change.

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