'Brian's Law' gets hearing in Ottawa

All day Wednesday a provincial committee heard both support and condemnation of a proposed law which would make it easier to force the mentally ill to get treatment.

The proposed law is named 'Brian's Law' after Brian Smith, the Ottawa sportscaster who was shot dead by a mentally ill attacker.

On Wednesday afternoon Alana Kainz appeared in Ottawa before the provincial committee reviewing the proposed legislation.

She still finds it difficult recalling the day her husband Brian Smith was shot dead in the parking lot of his work. She broke down recounting how Smith was killed.

After Smith's death Kainz promised to try to make sure no one else died a similar death.

Her efforts appear to be paying off.

This past April the provincial government introduced 'Brian's Law.'

The law would make it easier to commit dangerous patients to hospital. It would also force some mentally ill patients to take medication.

"I believe 'Brian's Law' is Brian's greatest legacy and will save lives," Kainz says.

But the new law is controversial.

Several groups oppose it, including the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Sonja Cronhite is with Psychiatric Survivors Of Ottawa. She told the committee the mentally ill may be afraid to get treatment if the new law is passed.

"When faced with a system where they may not have control of their own care, they may decide to take their chances on their own," said Cronhite.

Dr. Marve Lange told the committee the Royal Ottawa Hospital supports the new law. He feels it will allow mentally ill patients to be diagnosed and treated earlier.

"If we treat people earlier on in their mental illness it's easier to treat them than if we wait until well on into their illness," said Lange.

The committee also heard from Ian Chovil. He has schizophrenia and supports the new law.

"People who object to this legislation generally seem to have little medical training. ... (They) don't know what schizophrenia is and I object to them speaking on my behalf."

Despite the objections, it appears this new law has all party support. It's expected to become law within a few months.