November 2020: We were disappointed to learn that the government now intends to take its fight against the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ (“CCD”) public interest standing all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Attorney General of BC has sought leave (permission) to appeal the BC Court of Appeal decision finding that CCD was wrongly denied public interest standing. It has now been over four years since CCD filed its Charter challenge to BC’s outdated laws that violate the health care and consent rights of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Rather than showing leadership by reviewing BC’s outdated laws, or even letting a judge decide whether the laws are constitutional, the BC government continues to argue that CCD should not be allowed to stand up for people who face barriers accessing the court system.
Past Case Updates
August 2020: In August 2020, the BC Court of Appeal overturned a decision that had dismissed the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ Charter challenge to the laws governing forced psychiatric treatment in BC. The Court of Appeal’s decision confirms the importance of grassroots organizations that stand up for the legal rights of people who face barriers accessing the justice system.
The decision under appeal found that CCD lacked standing (the legal right) to bring the case forward. CCD appealed, arguing that people with mental disabilities, particularly those detained under the Mental Health Act, face many challenges when trying to access the courts. Unless community groups and organizations take important issues forward, unconstitutional laws may never get reviewed. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and agreed that CCD’s case was improperly dismissed.
See our press release here.
August 2018: In August 2018, nearly two years after this case started, the BC government brought an application arguing that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (“CCD”) should not be allowed to bring the case to trial. The government said that CCD did not have “standing” – or the legal status – to stand up for the rights of people with mental disabilities in court. It is very common for non-profit organizations to file Charter challenges to laws that impact the communities they serve because marginalized individuals often face barriers to launching and sustaining lengthy court cases. However, on October 12, 2018 the BC Supreme Court decided that CCD did not have standing and dismissed the case before it went to trial (read the decision here). CCD has appealed the BC Supreme Court’s decision.
Public interest standing is an important way to improve access to justice for marginalized communities. People with mental disabilities, particularly those detained under the Mental Health Act, face many barriers to accessing the courts. Charter cases take many years and significant resources to wind through the courts. Individuals who file Charter challenges face the risk of public exposure of their identity, stigma and discrimination, a loss of privacy over confidential psychiatric records, the risk of court costs being awarded against them, potential reprisal from health care providers and personal supporters, and significant stress and upheaval in their lives. For these reasons, many important cases would never get to court unless non-profit organizations like CCD come forward to take on important Charter challenges.
It is disappointing that the government chose to challenge the ability of non-profit organizations to represent the communities they serve in court instead of coming to court to address the issues. The serious questions raised by this Charter challenge about the rights of people with mental disabilities deserve to be considered in court.