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Inquiry into involuntary detention of vulnerable adults launched in B.C.

B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender speaks in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck) B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender speaks in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
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The British Columbia law that allows certain agencies to take over the affairs of abused, neglected or incapacitated adults is under scrutiny by the province's human rights commissioner and B.C.'s seven health agencies have been ordered to assist.

Commissioner Kasari Govender wants the agencies to provide data on detentions of vulnerable adults who have been in their care.

The Adult Guardianship Act permits organizations, including the health agencies, to give emergency assistance to adults who seem incapable of giving or refusing consent for aid.

A statement from the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner says emergency assistance can include involuntary detention in care facilities for long periods.

Govender says there is no information about who is being detained, how often such detentions happen or how long they continue.

She's hoping her inquiry will uncover the scope and usage of emergency assistance and whether any detentions comply with human rights law and standards.

“There are many unknowns about the (act),” Govender says in the statement.

“While the intent of protecting vulnerable adults is laudable and important, transparency about how agencies are exercising these powers is vital for upholding the rule of law and ensuring accountability to human rights standards.”

Agencies ordered to provide data include the Fraser, Interior, Northern, Island and Vancouver Coastal health authorities, Providence Health Care and Community Living BC.

The Public Guardian and Trustee, as well as the ministries of health and attorney general, have also been asked to provide information.

The statement says Govender will issue recommendations for compliance if the inquiry finds the Adult Guardianship Act violates human rights law or principles.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2023.

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