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Justice Services

Although the majority of people with mental health conditions rarely come into contact with the criminal justice system, mental health-related emergencies do occur. In most cases, 911 is dialed and police, by virtue of their role as emergency responders, are called upon to assist in the crisis. Criminal and non-criminal situations can arise from these police interactions. There are a range of services available to individuals with mental health and addictions conditions who come into contact with the criminal justice system.


In Ontario, the Mental Health Act permits police officers to apprehend individuals if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person is acting in a disorderly manner and is a threat or at risk of causing harm to themselves or others.  Once the apprehension is made, the officer escorts the individual to an examination by a physician, typically to a hospital emergency department.  In many areas across the province, police-mental health crisis teams, such as the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST), assist individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.  These teams are comprised of a police officer and a mental health worker (a nurse, social worker, etc.) that arrive on the scene and provide support to the individual in crisis.

Court Support

Court support programs provide advocacy and support for people with mental health conditions and their families who are involved with the courts, the police and other legal situations. Mental health diversion and mental health courts offer a process where alternatives to criminal sanctions are made available to people with mental health and addictions conditions who have come into contact with the law for minor offenses. The objective is to help individuals to access community support and treatment.  The Mental Health Helpline can provide information about the court support programs in your area.

Forensic Services

The Criminal Code of Canada, Section 672, identifies a specific process for individuals with mental health conditions who are in conflict with the law. According to the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee’s Police & Mental Health Report (2011), a “forensic client” refers to an individual who has a major mental disorder, is in conflict with the law, and is being dealt with by the courts or the Ontario Review Board (ORB) under Section 672 of the Criminal Code.  The ORB annually reviews the status of every person who has been found to be not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial for criminal offences on account of a mental disorder. The Board is made up of judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists and public members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has developed an information guide for navigating the Forensic Mental Health System.

Consent and Capacity

The Consent and Capacity Board is an independent body of the provincial government. It conducts hearings and reviews decisions about an individual’s capacity to consent to treatment; admission to a facility for care or for personal assistance services; involuntary status; a Community Treatment Order; statutory guardianships for property and other matters falling under the Mental Health Act, the Health Care Consent Act, and the Substitute Decisions Act.

Human Rights

In Ontario, the Human Rights System is made up of three different components: the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.  All claims of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code are addressed through the Tribunal.  The purpose of the Tribunal is to provide an expeditious and accessible process to assist parties to resolve applications through mediation, and to decide those applications where the parties are unable to reach a resolution through settlement.


Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto supports and advocates for the Aboriginal community.

Advocacy Centre for the Elderly is a community-based legal clinic for low-income senior citizens.

ARCH Disability Law Centre is a community-based not-for-profit legal clinic and legal resource centre in Ontario dedicated to advancing the equality rights of persons with disabilities.

Community Legal Education Ontario is a community legal clinic that produces clear language material for people with low incomes and other disadvantaged groups, including immigrants and refugees, seniors, women and injured workers. See also CLEONet, a collection of legal resources from organizations across Ontario.

DisAbled Women’s Network Ontario advocates for the inclusion and equality of women with disabilities.

The Ontario Hospital Association has published A Practical Guide to Mental Health and the Law in Ontario (October 2012). This toolkit was developed to assist health service providers in complying with the legislative and regulatory provisions and legal principles governing the delivery of mental health care services in Ontario.

Related Documents

Forensic Mental Health: Pathways to Justice for the Mentally Disordered Accused.

Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee report Police & Mental Health: A Critical Review of Joint Police and Mental Health Collaborations in Ontario.