We are a group of people with lived experience of the mental health system researching and writing a shadow report to be submitted to the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, specifically addressing psychosocial disabilities in Canada.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) provides a way for mental health system patients, consumers, survivors and others to protect our human rights and be free of discrimination and abuse. Our group will report to the UN for the purposes of determining the extent to which Canada has complied with UN-CRPD standards since 2010 when it ratified the Convention. This report will contain recommendations for Canada going forward and serve as a baseline for monitoring its efforts.
Mad Canada Shadow Report seeks assistance from individuals and organizations for the purpose of funding and carrying out research on psychosocial disability rights in Canada. This research will be compiled into a national shadow report in response to the official governmental report published in 2014. The UN hears from human rights monitors such as ourselves in order to improve its knowledge of human rights in various nations.
Our research will utilize interviews, review portrayals in the media, and conduct legal analyses from across the country. We hope to increase the collective status of people deemed mentally ill and to aid in the realization of psychosocial disability rights in Canada.
As we contact disability and rights groups across Canada, we hope to receive: endorsements, resources, donations in kind, organizational assistance, training, outreach to networks, and participation in surveys that will help determine how Canadians think about and experience psychosocial disabilities. We invite individuals to contribute to our research in any way they can.
Elizabeth Portman (Yellowknife, NWT)
Jewelles A. Smith, MA (Revelstoke, BC)
Erick Fabris, PhD (Toronto, ON)
Growing list of interviewers, interviewees, researchers, writers, editors and others will be announced as the project unfolds.
Goals and objectives
Mad Canada Shadow Report’s core researchers are developing a research plan and enlisting contributors across Canada. Working with Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) and other organizations, we will train and organize our researchers using established ethical research protocols and practices for reporting to the UN. .
Our research will draw on existing research as well as personal experiences indicated in qualitative analysis. Using consumer and survivor research, we will touch on many issues including discrimination based on disability, financial and social barriers to health, common medical constraints (e.g., isolation and restraints, forced treatment, community treatment orders, etc.), as well as impairment and debilitation resulting from treatments. As we develop research goals and questions, we will: find interviewers and interviewees to conduct and participate in the data gathering process, transcribe and analyze interviews, conduct human rights monitoring, and write our report in a comprehensive and accessible manner.
Our goals will include: establishing CRPD as a useful document for human rights activists; connecting and informing activists, organizers, researchers, and others with psychosocial disabilities; and creating a well-designed and accessible report published online and in print. The final report will be presented to the UN’s CRPD committee and any other body that might be able to use it.
The report will address those articles that intersect with the needs and rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities, with specific attention paid to UN-CRPD Article 12: “Equal Recognition before the Law,” and Canada's obligations under such statements.
Out of scope: while the report concerns psychosocial disabilities, our interest is in human rights, not necessarily treatment alternatives, or explanations for distress.
Framework & Methods
Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) has led the way for disabled groups to report to the UN on the CRPD. DRPI is supporting us with training and guidance on research goals, practices, and ethics which are recognized by the UN. The Mad Canada group will tailor these guidelines using peer and activist knowledges and assist contributors in meeting these guidelines.
Using DRPI’s approach, our report will include sections on: (a) mental health legislation in each province and territory, (b) media representations of psychosocial disabilities (i.e., ‘madness’ or ‘mental illness’), and (c) personal experiences of such disabilities. These three areas of interest will constitute a base for the report but many other issues may be included depending upon resources and funding..
We anticipate stories of lived experiences will be a significant part of our report. We encourage contributors to report what affects them personally, including but not limited to psychosocial disabilities as they pertain to:
• Indigenous people’s experiences
• multiple disabilities
• citizenship and displacement
• gender inequity
• DisAbled parenting (parenting with a psychosocial disability diagnosis)
• poverty and class issues
• lack of safe, affordable housing
• lack of employment and education opportunities
• territorial and rural issues
• federal policies and programs
• resource management and administrative practices
• psychosocial discrimination in public institutions
• physical and sexual abuse
• denial of services
• two tiered system (paid vs. public services)
• lack of non-intrusive therapies
• prisons and “NCR” issues
• youth and elders’ issues
• warfare and military service
• access to healthy food and health care
We feel strongly that interviewers and interviewees should be paid for their contributions. Research is a time-consuming process, and any writing and editing of materials should also be supported financially. The group will create a budget for each of its goals. To that end, we are seeking support and sponsorship from consumer/survivor organizations, disability groups, rights organizations, and others. We are also seeking assistance in promoting the existence of the Mad Canada report project.