Field Notes

Article excerpt

The Health Law Institute has co-sponsored two mental health conferences with the Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate Office. The second such conference, titled "Giving Voice 2: Advocacy & Mental Health", took place on May 24 and enabled participants to interact with leaders in the area of mental health advocacy, government, and justice. This conference served as a forum for learning, discussion and education on recent advances in mental health and the law.

Recent history has witnessed many important moments in the development of mental health advocacy in Canada. In 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (chaired by The Honourable Michael J. L. Kirby) released the report titled "Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada" (the Report). Amongst many key recommendations and observations, section 16.1.3 of the Report affirmed the necessity of creating a Mental Health Commission of Canada (the Commission), and suggested that its creation "heralds new era in mental health in Canada". After receiving financial support from the Federal government, the Commission registered as a non-profit corporation in March 2007, and the Government of Canada named Former Senator Michael J. L. Kirby as the Commission's first Chair.

This rejuvenated effort to address mental health concerns has continued to expand. In addition to the Federal commitment to this issue, Provincial and Territorial governments across Canada are starting to act and make improved mental health care a priority. In this special edition of the Health Law Review, readers have the opportunity to experience the sort of informative and educational experience that participants in our last mental health conference enjoyed.

In "The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Beginning to Examine the Implications for Canadian Lawyers' Professional Responsibilities", Archibald Kaiser discusses how members of the legal community should self-reflect on the diverse measures contained in the Convention and consider how these obligations impact their practice. The author asserts that the complex legal system is one way in which the division between those with mental illness and those without is amplified, and suggests that by incorporating the principles from the Convention into professional regulation, the bar can assist in reducing this divide. …