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PPAO vs CMHA: Response from NDP Aspirant Karen Gventer

July 15, 2011
I informed Karen Gventer, who is seeking the NDP nomination to represent Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in the upcoming Provincial election, of our crisis.  I reproduce, with her permission, part of the exchange.

Dear Richard,

Let me se if I understand this.  The PPAO is a (government-supported, arm-length) watchdog organization, which ensures that institutionalized psychiatric patients are treated fairly.  CMHA provides services to people (who live outside of institutions) with mental health issues.  The current government plans on moving the PPAO to be under the control of the CMHA.

Is that basically correct?

If it is, I don’t understand why they would do this.  I like the CMHA, and think they provide a good service.  However, what gives an organization which provides services any expertise in being an advocate or watchdog?  For that matter, would they not possibly be too close to some issues to be able to deal with them objectively?

In other words, if I understand the situation correctly, then I think your concerns are fully justified.

I look forward to hearing from you to confirm that I understand, or to provide more clarity on the issue.

Karen Gventer
My reply is as follows:

You are correct.  We are fortunate in Ontario that we have a separate, publicly funded and publicly accountable organization which monitors the activities in psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric wards, and in the community (people under Community Treatment Orders).  This is unique to our Province.  The PPAO ensures that patient rights — in other words, a patient’s human rights — are protected.

It holds the medical establishment to maintain its legally established standards of care, and to not summarily use restraints (chemical and physical) nor resort to medical procedures or administer medication without the subject’s consent.  Note that in conventional hospitals, unlike forensic medical facilities or prisons, official inquests in the event of patient deaths are at the Coroner’s discretion.  The PPAO is working to make these inquests mandatory.

It advises in a vast number of legal areas, including police complaints, hospital complaints, Mental Health Act violations, records and disclosure, review board decisions, consent and capacity, searches and privacy, and more.  The PPAO also advocates publicly for reform on numerous allied issues (viz., deployment of tasers, mental health crisis training for police forces).

For the patient, caregiver, family member or person with power of attorney, it can be the primary recourse for information and the last resort for action.

The CMHA is a charitable service delivery organization.  It is answerable to its board of directors.  They would be fully in a conflict of interest position, and the PPAO would be hamstrung.  The reasons offered by the Ministry are bureaucratic (essentially, agency streamlining) and justified under the terms of assuring “continuity of care” — in other words, they confuse and conflate rights protection and agency monitoring with treatment delivery!

The Ministry’s decision to make this announcement during the summer break, privately, without consultation, is unconscionable.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2011 6:57 pm


    There are things going on that are so despicable, you have no idea. This is just the beginning. It’s going to get worse. We’re among the weakest links, so, like children and old folks, we’re getting hit hard. Who listens to us.

    We need to get to Jack Layton. This is a reflection of the Harper mentality and if the Conservatives get into power in the next Ontario provincial election, the bloodletting will get worse. Between Rob Ford, Tim Hudak and Stephen Harper, say good bye to Toronto, Ontario and Canada.

    If you need my help, I’m here. Thank God for The Toronto Star, the only sane voice left.

  2. Zappu Zazzu permalink
    August 5, 2011 7:37 pm

    If Torstar is the only sane voice left, kill me now. That said, save the PPAO .

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