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B.C. health agencies ordered to release data on forcibly detained adults

Human rights commissioner says inquiry will examine use of Adult Guardianship Act on vulnerable adults
B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender speaks in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. On Nov. 30, 2023 she announced an inquiry into involuntary detainment under the Adult Guardianship Act. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.’s human rights commissioner says there is too much secrecy around how vulnerable adults in the province can be forced into care facilities.

Kasari Govender announced Thursday (Nov. 30) she has launched an inquiry into involuntary detentions and is ordering seven health agencies to release data on the practise.

In B.C., the Adult Guardianship Act allows designated agencies, such as health authorities, to provide emergency assistance to adults who appear to have been abused or neglected and can’t seem to give or refuse consent to being helped. If this criteria is met and the adult appears to be at an imminent risk to themself or others, or may cause significant damage to their own property, the adult can be involuntarily detained and placed in a care facility for an extended period of time.

Govender said the act is an important piece of legislation to protect vulnerable adults, but that a lack of transparency means British Columbians know next to nothing about how and when it is used to detain people.

“There is no publicly available information on how often detentions take place, how long people have been detained or the demographics of who is being detained.”

This, Govender said, makes it difficult to ensure accountability to human rights standards.

“Something as serious as being held against one’s wishes should not be shrouded in secrecy. Freedom from arbitrary detention is a human right – one which I will seek to protect through this inquiry. I cannot understate the importance of ensuring AGA detentions strike a reasonable balance between ensuring the safety of vulnerable adults and respecting their autonomy.”

Govender has ordered seven health agencies release data, including: Fraser Health Authority, Interior Health Authority, Island Health Authority, Northern Health Authority, Vancouver Coastal Health, Community Living BC and Providence Health Care. She said she will also be requesting information from the Ministry of Attorney General, the Ministry of Health and the Public Guardian and Trustee.

Govender said the inquiry will reveal just how often vulnerable adults are being forcibly detained in B.C., what methods are being used to do so and what kinds of people are the most impacted.

She said she will be hosting a roundtable discussion in the coming months to give community organizations that work with vulnerable adults a chance to weigh in.

READ ALSO: Woman ‘held against her will’ at Penticton extended care unit

About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media.
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