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Making ‘Mad’ Laws 1: Legal Rights, Human Rights and History

Lucy Costa.  Outreach Worker, Empowerment Council, CAMH, Toronto; Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto

Psychiatric Patient Rights and the Politics of “Progress”

Most decisions that have greatly impacted the lives of psychiatric inmates have been presided over by legal experts, politicians and intellectuals.  However, in the last ten years, Ontario has seen a rise in “rights talk” for psychiatric inmates, acknowledging and supporting the need for more patient self-determination.

While there has been more inclusion and influence by patients and ex-patients in political and legal processes, progress is often met with resistance and at times legislation that allows more state control. The introduction of community treatment orders in Ontario in 2000 is a case in point.

One of the means by which psychiatric survivors/mad activists gain status in legal playgrounds is to claim equality though “disadvantage”.  This presentation will discuss some key legal cases and “wins” for the psychiatric inmate community as well as the tensions that exist when the psychiatric survivor/mad community proceeds to intervene and negotiate legal and parliamentary combat zones.

Tina Minkowitz.  World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, Chestertown, New York

The Emergence of a User/Survivor Perspective in International Human Rights Law

The drafting and negotiation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was a unique opportunity for users and survivors of psychiatry to play a role in the creation of international human rights law.  Building on the slogan of the international disability movement, “Nothing about us without us,” we made a place for user/survivor issues in disability and human rights advocacy, found the principles that created a common bond between us and other people with disabilities, and worked to enshrine those principles in the international human rights regime.

From a non-discrimination perspective, the CRPD guarantees recognition of legal capacity, liberty, and respect for physical and mental integrity of people with disabilities on an equal basis with others (as well as free and informed consent, the right to live in the community, the right to work, parental custody, the right to vote, and in general all human rights and fundamental freedoms).  Reasonable accommodation, support measures and services are also required to make those rights effective.  The rights recognized in

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