01 January 2009

BC Government Aims to Force Homeless into Shelters

Legislated paternalism is on the march.

First, we have Rona Ambrose sticking her federalist nose into municipal affairs. Regardless of the fact she has legal authority to order a vote of striking Ottawa Transit workers, the question remains whether the legislation itself - that section of the Canada Labour Code, 108.1, 1 (a) and (b) - is legal and should be challenged in court.

Now, it's the BC Minister of Housing, Rich Coleman, looking to limit the rights of people who are without bricks and mortar housing.

“There are provisions under the Mental Health Act for a committal and that sort of thing. I think we need to have some stronger provisions for this sort of situation... [W]hen someone puts their life at risk, at that level, there are probably issues with mental health and addictions... We should have the power to be able to say, ‘We have a bed for you and you're going to that bed.'”

By that logic, race car drivers, Olympic skiers, snowmobilers and snowboarders, etc. "probably have issues with mental health and addictions."

[Coleman] conceded that the challenge is to figure out what would compel people to remain in shelters after they were removed to them.

“I think, in most cases, if we had the ability to say, ‘You're going,' a lot of them would [stay],” he suggested.

Well, that demonstrates how well he knows people who are homeless, doesn't it? They/we have quite the independent streak.

Mr. Coleman said there is no timetable to advancing with the idea...

“The work is ongoing,” he suggested. “It is a pretty big process. We do have to take into account the Charter and whether these things would have a Charter challenge attached to them but, you know, I just honestly believe some people are so ill on our streets that they can't make decisions for themselves and they become a danger to themselves and the public,” he said.

“We should have the opportunity to intervene because, if we can, we can save them.”

The BC Government and Housing Minister Coleman have had the power to intervene for the past eight years, to intervene, that is, by creating conditions which would enable people who are homeless to form their own communities or to enter existing communities and be housed as others are housed. And with all their rights intact, rights such as those accorded to property owners: to keep all their possessions and their animal companions.

Kerry Jang, a councillor with the majority Vision Vancouver party on Vancouver city council, said Mr. Coleman's “heart is in the right place,” but there may be a better way to work towards the same goal.

Not all homeless people are mentally ill and so simply using the Mental Health Act won't cover all the homeless people,” he said Wednesday.

Well someone gets it at least. Or maybe not...

Instead, ... when the temperature was sufficiently cold, it should be the basis for apprehending people and putting them in shelters, [Jang] suggested.

More faulty reasoning. By that logic, EVERYONE who remains on the streets "when the temperature was sufficiently cold" would be rounded up and herded into shelters.

“We're also cognizant of civil liberties, so forcing someone against their will [into shelter] is problematic from a legal and mental-health treatment perspective,” said Dr. Jang, also a psychiatry professor at the University of British Columbia.

He said he looks forward to further discussing the idea with the minister this year.

I'm sure he does. Psychiatrists do a thriving business. After all, they get to charge for treating - and labelling -people with mental health disorders. There's no business quite like it. Well, Big Pharma might be one: create the disease, then the treatment to alleviate it.

Oh, and Surprise!, those in the lowest income quintile, the ones whose voices are the least heard or accorded respect by the powers-that-be, are disproportionately represented as being 'mentally ill'. The homeless, of course, more so. This association of homelessness and mental illness is unfounded and must stop.

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