Advocacy Groups Seek to Intervene before Human Rights Tribunal

TORONTO – June 9, 2005 – The Mental Health Legal Committee (MHLC) and the Empowerment Council, Systemic Advocates in Addiction and Mental Health (Empowerment Council) have sought standing in an upcoming hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario considering Ontario's Coroners Act. Appearing today before retired Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory sitting as the Tribunal, the groups asked permission to call and cross-examine witnesses and to make submissions.

The Tribunal is scheduled in January 2006 to hear the complaints of Renata Braithwaite, who lost her mother, and Robert Illingworth, who lost his brother, in two of the many fatal incidents that occur in Ontario's psychiatric hospitals each year. When Ms. Braithwaite and Mr. Illingworth asked that coroners inquests be held into the deaths of their family members, both of whom were held involuntarily in hospital, the Office of the Chief Coroner refused.

Inquests are mandatory in respect of the deaths of all persons detained in custody, including persons held by police or in correctional facilities. Deaths of persons held in psychiatric facilities are not the subject of mandatory inquests. This is alleged to contravene Ontario's Human Rights Code by providing differential treatment in respect of persons receiving services on the basis of disability.

Following argument, Justice Cory reserved his decision respecting intervention. MHLC and Empowerment Council are represented by Marshall Swadron and Kelley Bryan of Swadron Associates.