A History and Future of Legal and Peer Advocacy in the Forensic System in Ontario [2023-11-15]

The rights of people found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) and Unfit are difficult to achieve politically and have few champions. Rights are most often won through the Courts, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This session will provide a history of how consistent and committed legal advocacy by Szigeti Advocates and the Empowerment Council and its forerunners has been an important avenue in exposing and addressing systemic issues within the forensic system, such as excessive detention, use of restraint and seclusion, and anti-Black and anti-Indigenous practices. The presenters will look at how advocacy can advance and expand the application of established law in other criminal law areas into Review Board Law (such as the application of Gladue principles to address over-incarceration of Indigenous persons.)

To be meaningful in the lives of people in the forensic system, case law rights have needed to be translated into institutional practices, and the Empowerment Council has sought to do so for 25 years. Institutional advancement of rights has required constant advocacy, and a strong, independent peer voice, informed by forensic patient experience. This voice can then inform legal advocacy. In this way, we incrementally advance, sometimes lose ground, and then advance again.

Presented at the 2023 HSJCC Virtual Conference on November 15, 2023.


Anita Szigeti
Law and Mental Disorder Association

Jennifer Chambers
Empowerment Council, Systemic Advocates in Addictions and Mental Health

A History and Future of Legal and Peer Advocacy in the Forensic System in Ontario – 2023-11-15 – YouTube