Ottawa

Brian's Law constitutional, province's highest court rules

The province's highest court has upheld the constitutionality of Brian's Law, which was enacted in 2000 in response to the murder of Ottawa sportscaster Brian Smith by a paranoid schizophrenic who was not receiving treatment for his condition.

Committing mentally ill people who go off court-ordered medication is not discriminatory, court say

Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Robert Sharpe disagreed with the appellants contention that Brian's law is discriminatory. (iStock)

The province's highest court has upheld the constitutionality of Brian's Law, which was enacted in 2000 in response to the murder of Ottawa sportscaster Brian Smith by a paranoid schizophrenic who was not receiving treatment for his condition.

Brian's Law introduced community treatment orders, which provide for community-based treatment and supervision for people with past psychiatric hospital admissions.

If a patient agrees to a community treatment order, but goes off their medication they can be returned to a psychiatric hospital.

The appellants argued that the law violates several provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, saying involuntary committal for non-compliance is an unjustifiable form of compulsory treatment.

In a ruling released Tuesday, the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the appeal, noting that the provisions can only be invoked following a highly individualized assessment and consideration of the patient's specific condition and treatment needs.

Justice Robert Sharpe wrote in the unanimous decision that he disagrees with the appellants' contention that the law is discriminatory because it rests upon invalid stereotypical assumptions about the lack of capacity of mental health patients to make treatment decisions for themselves.

The court ruled that the Mental Health Act and the Heath Care Consent Act "give priority to the patient's views and require an individualized assessment of the patient's capacity to make treatment decisions before the patient's views can be overridden."

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