The former Mental Health and the Law Advisory Committee of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) was created to pursue two main goals: 1) to study the laws that affect people with mental health problems and illnesses; and 2) to address the ways the justice system interacts with those individuals.

A vision of equality
The former Committee was guided by a vision of equality for Canadians with mental health problems. It aimed to help ensure their legal and human rights are respected; that they have the opportunity to participate in developing solutions and supports; and that they have access to the treatment, employment, housing, education and income they need to live full, productive lives. The Advisory Committee’s projects and activities focused on these and other key issues.

Sharing knowledge, fighting stigma
The former Committee contributed to the MHCC’s anti-stigma work and to the Mental Health Strategy for Canada. It has also informed the development of the MHCC’s Knowledge Exchange Centre with respect to mental health and the law.

Researching interactions with police
The Advisory Committee’s Police Project aimed to improve interactions between police and those living with mental health problems by developing guidelines for police training and education. To date the project has: identified best practices for basic training through a study of Canadian police academy programs, reviewed the ways police are trained to interact with people with mental health problems and conducted a first-of-its-kind study which invited people living with mental illness to share their perspectives on and experiences of interactions with police.

Monitoring police record checks
The former Committee also monitored the use of Mental Health Act apprehension information in police record checks. It supported the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s work in preventing such use—which it deemed to be discriminatory and stigmatizing—and has submitted a response to the Commission’s draft policy on the release of Mental Health Act apprehension information.

Ensuring human rights are upheld
Canada’s ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010 provided a new standard for mental health legislation, policies and regulations. The MHCC funded a project evaluating the extent to which legislation, policies and regulations uphold the human rights of people living with mental health problems and illnesses and created a related tool to encourage debate and discussion about mental health policy issues. The MHCC invites other organizations to build on these contributions.