Dalhousie Law Journal


Nova Scotia Psychiatric Facilities Review Board, mental illness, Hospitals Act, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, psychology, jurisprudence, social welfare


The Nova Scotia Psychiatric Facilities Review Board, appointed under s. 53 of the Hospitals Act1, fulfils many vital functions affecting the treatment and liberty of the patient involuntarily confined in the psychiatric hospitals of the Province.2 Although its proceedings are held in camera,3 the Board fortunately publishes an Annual Report which is tabled in the House of Assembly.4 Neither lay persons aor lawyers are likely to scrutinize these documents and this Comment is intended in part to redress this regrettable disregard as well as to offer some critical remarks. They contain material which will both hearten and disturb the reader, the character and extent of one's reactions likely varying widely according to such complicated variables as one's outlook on the causation of mental illness and on the primacy of constitutionally enshrined rights and freedoms. None the less, the Reports present an important, if only partial, record of the attention accorded the mentally ill in Nova Scotia by the legal system. The Reports are also worthy of examination in that many of the recommendations contained therein may have a major influence on the future of mental health law in Nova Scotia. As discussed in Part C (infra), current Ministerial proposals closely resemble some of the Board's propositions. As the courts are empowered under the Hospitals Acts or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the prerogative writs to review some mental health issues, one might have expected to see cases appearing regularly, but the Board would seem to be the only place of significant legal activity for the civilly committed in the Province outside the Legislature.