Ontario Ministry of Health reverses course on guardianship requirement for disabled woman
The Ontario government has reversed its decision to impose a guardianship requirement on women with severe mental illness, after a high court ruling in favour of the woman.
“We recognize that change is never easy, and that many Ontarians feel anxiety about the change to this law,” said the Ministry of Health in response to a Star request for more information about how the change to personal protection orders affects women with mental health issues.
“Changes happen all the time. We are not doing this lightly. We had hoped this change would have had a longer impact, but the need to be practical means we are removing the requirement to appoint a guardian for individuals with a mental health diagnosis.”
The change in policy is part of the ministry’s broader “possibility of re-assessment” policy for people with disabilities.
The Star reported that people such as Dorothy Jansen, whose case attracted attention last year, may now be more free to control the actions of others.
The Ontario Superior Court ruled that Jansen required a guardian to grant her access to her son, who suffers from autism, and to a home where she was living with her boyfriend.
The two-year court battle over the guardianship order followed a 2013 ruling that the law against the imposition of such orders was unconstitutional.
“This change in policy has the potential to save lives. We must never lose sight of the fact that people with a mental illness need to be treated with compassion. In our province, we have taken steps over the past five years to re-assess and re-evaluate the protections we can offer them,” said Dr. Barbara Donald, a spokesperson for the Department of Community Health.
The Ministry of Health and the ministry’s disability ministry were both reviewing the guardianship law when Jansen’s case came before the court.
In 2013, the Ministry of Health was one of only a few government departments that could have made use of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this case, but the ministry did not exercise its right to intervene after an independent appeal was made.
In June of this year, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that Jansen could not have a court-ordered guardian because her condition impaired her ability to provide consent.
In his ruling, Justice Richard Mosley wrote that Jansen had “demonstrate[d