MLAs debate involuntary care bill

In the B.C. legislature on Wednesday, the death of 12-year-old Allayah Thomas and the services, supports and laws that might have protected her were again the subject of debate.

Adam Olsen, Green MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, criticized Premier John Horgan over his suggestion that the government will bring back Bill 22 after consultation.

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Introduced last year, the legislation would allow doctors to involuntarily hospitalize youth who overdose for up to seven days while they are stabilized, parents are contacted and a harm-reduction or treatment plan is put in place.

“No one in this province should die from a poisoned drug supply, especially a child,” said Olsen. “But let’s not use this tragedy as cover for inadequate policy.

“Restraining children against their will, as written in last summer’s Bill 22, would cause significant and disproportionate harm, especially to Indigenous youth.”

Olsen called instead for proactive mental-health care that includes voluntary detox, day treatment and community residential treatment.

Horgan, who represents Langford-Juan de Fuca, said the B.C. Greens wouldn’t support the legislation and now want to “continue to flounder around, rather than coming together collectively and never letting this happen again.”

The province’s chief coroner, child and youth watchdog, and B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs also raised concerns about potential harms of involuntary hospitalization, and the lack of residential treatment facilities for youth once they are discharged.

“The direction to the minister of mental health and addictions is to consult, and she has been doing that,” said Horgan. “We will bring back the bill, and it may well be an improvement, [but] I reject [Olsen’s] position that we have to find perfection before we step in and help people who need help.”

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