The Mental Health Act (MHA) legislation dates back to 1990 and allows individuals with mental health issues, who are at risk of causing harm to themselves or others, to be apprehended by police and detained. Most detentions last a few days and 80 percent are less than one month. However, there are rare cases (about two percent) where detentions last more than six months and individuals can be detained indefinitely as result of repeated renewals of the detention period. One stark example comes from the story of a 56-year-old deaf man, known publically as “P.S.” as his full name is under a publication ban. P.S. was originally sentenced for 45 months in 1992 after being diagnosed with pedophilia and charged with sexual assault. He received no therapy or counseling during his sentence and was given limited access to interpretation services.
After P.S’s sentence was completed, he was detained at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, a maximum-security hospital, against the recommendations of several psychiatrists and mental health experts who advised that he be placed in a less secure facility or even released into the community. Instead, P.S. was held at the facility for 19 years, as decided by the Consent and Capacity Board, where he did not receive an interpreter until 2007.
The Ontario Court of Appeal stated that this indefinite detention and lack of accommodation amounted to “prolonged and serious breaches” to the individual`s Charter rights. The December 2014 ruling changes the wording in the Mental Health Act to prevent other inmates from indefinite detention by placing a six-month limit to MHAdetentions.
P.S. remains at Waypoint Centre until a decision is made about whether the court ruling will be appealed. The Ontario Court of Appeal placed a 12-month suspension on the change to allow the provincial government an opportunity to amend the legislation.
To read the full court ruling visit the Ontario Courts website.