Canada Reconsiders Mandatory Mental Health Laws

Though there are many people both within the mental health professions and within the general public who are adverse to the idea of involuntary mental health treatment, there are scores of legislators, professionals, and concerned people in favor of requiring that some people receive help. Such help might take the form of psychotherapy or other modern types of treatment, with a principal goal of preventing potential harm inflicted against the client or others. In Canada, a recent incident allegedly involving a Mountie officer has sparked debate over how mandatory mental health treatment should be employed.

While the police department retains the ability to insist that officers on its force receive appropriate care in certain situations involving the potential for loss of job performance, or of damage, the department is not legally able to require that suspended officers receive such treatment. Following a murder case in which a Mountie with a record of mental health symptoms has been implicated, the department suspended the officer, and is now unable to ensure the man receives adequate care, as he has expressed a disdain for treatment. The man has refused help, citing that his ability to manipulate mental health practitioners renders him immune to healing.

Critics of laws enabling involuntary therapy and other types of care might suggest that an unwillingness to approach treatment alone may signal a lack of receptivity to care, bound to result in negative outcomes. Yet others in favor of allotting greater control to the state for mental health care may argue that without more strict measures to protect people in need and those around them, needless tragedies are likely to occur. As Canada reacts to its case, the global discussion on involuntary care proves contentious.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Cal


    January 9th, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Not really sure how I feel about this- he is a grown man and should be able to make this kind of health care decision without having the govt looking over his shoulder.

  • Bryan Knight

    Bryan Knight

    January 9th, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    No-one should be forced into treatment except in rare instances when the person might be a danger to herself or others. In the Mountie’s case, since he refuses treatment (which is hardly a proven science anyway) and has allegedly murdered a police officer, let him rot in jail.

  • Georgia


    January 10th, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    Sometimes there are those out there who DO need someone else looking out for their best welfare. Isn’t this simply what the Canadian government is trying to do? I know that there are some people who see this as an invasion of privacy, but hey I kinds like knowing that there is always someone out there who is trying to keep me and my health in my best interest.

  • miley


    January 10th, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    i do not think anyvody but the person himself has any right todecide whether he needs mental healthcare or not… it should be left to the person himdelf. in any case, if the person does something outward, regular legal procedure is followed!

  • Ross Taylor

    Ross Taylor

    January 11th, 2010 at 4:08 AM

    If it has been proved that the person can be a danger to others, then the involuntary treatment should definitely be implemented.Even if he hurts a family member, a human life is a human life and care should be taken to try and protect it as much as possible.

  • Faye


    January 11th, 2010 at 6:32 AM

    The government in reality is probably trying to do a good thing by trying to make care mandatory but to me this is a major violation of my personal rights to make my own health care decisions. So like it or not I think they need to stay out of my medical business and let me and my family handle all of those decisions ourselves. It might be a fine line in Canada since the government there is in charge of health care, but you know that kind of thing would never fly here in the US.

  • richard louis

    richard louis

    January 11th, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    Well I just think it is a very sensitive issue and therefore should be left to the family of the person to decide. It is very important that the family’s word is taken in this.

  • orlando jordan

    orlando jordan

    January 11th, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Well I just think it is a violation of personal space and rights if the government, no matter in what country, enforces involuntary mental health care. After all, it could be used to corner someone and use this rule against them…

  • Bethany H

    Bethany H

    January 12th, 2010 at 5:49 AM

    mandatory- I never like that word anyway

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