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Field notes.

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.

Ivan Zinger from the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, in "Mental Health in Federal Corrections: Reflections and Future Directions", examines the prevalence of, and lack of treatment for, mental illness in Federal corrections facilities. This article explains how the provision of health services to inmates falls to Corrections Services Canada, and that the Office of the Correctional Investigator has been raising concerns about mental health services since 2004-2005. In the prescriptive portion of this article, the author contends it is possible to address these concerns with appropriate actions, and sees the Mental Health Commission of Canada as being instrumental in any successful reform.

The final two articles in this edition address the emergence of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) in Alberta (a relatively new approach to managing individuals in the community that have mental illnesses, implemented as a result of legislative amendment to Alberta's Mental Health Act). In "Alberta's Community Treatment Orders: Canadian and International Comparisons", authors John Gray, Margaret Shone and Dr. Richard O'Reilly survey the use of CTOs in other jurisdictions (including other countries and other Canadian provinces) and compare these experiences to the use of CTOs in Alberta. Further, this article defends the use of CTOs and supports their continued use in Alberta. Finally, in "Alberta's Community Treatment Order Legislation and Implementation: The First 18 Months in Review", authors Fay Orr, Dr. Doug Watson, and Aggy King-Smith detail the early days of CTOs in Alberta, noting early successes and the obstacles that must be overcome to experience continued success, noting in conclusion that an official evaluation of Alberta's CTOs will not be available for at least another year.

Cameron Jefferies, BSc, LLB, LLM, SJD Candidate (Virginia)

Tracey Bailey, BA, LLB

Health Law Institute, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta
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Author:Jefferies, Cameron
Publication:Health Law Review
Date:Mar 22, 2012
Previous Article:When is a custodian not a custodian?
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