Remembering Mel Starkman
A long time CAPA member and psychiatric survivor Mel Starkman died on Monday night, March 4th, 2019. Mel was a founding member of CAPA, a founding member of the antipsychiatry magazine Phoenix Rising, and a member of the Ontario Coalition to stop Electroshock.
“Mel was a beautiful human being—a poet, a historian, an activist, a visionary. And his presence will be sorely missed.” – Dr. Bonnie Burstow
To read Mel’s Eulogy-Tribute by Don Weitz please follow this link: https://coalitionagainstpsychiatricassault.wordpress.com/mel-starkmans-eulogy-tribute-by-don-weitz/
CAPA has joined the call to action urging the Canadian government to follow the guidelines of the UN Declaration for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Although Canada signed this convention, they added a reservation which undermines one of the convention’s most important protections!
Allowing substitute decision making means that people with disabilities, including those in the psychiatric system, are often given “treatment” they do not want because somebody else decided it was best for them.
CAPA has begun mounting a campaign against Bell’s Let’s Talk Campaign (a pro-medical model campaign which raises money, among other things, for CAMH.) For a view of our fighting back t-shirts, please see above.
CAPA members are very concerned and take a stand against what is happening to our legal clinics. Below see a statement from one of our members—Oriel Varga.
Keeping our Independent Community Legal Clinics
There is a proposal to close fourteen community legal clinics and replace them with three mega-clinics, each with a catchment area, the size of a third of Toronto. This plan, created by the GTA Transformation Group, as described in the “Vision Report” (June 2014),  was developed without wide-spread community consultation. However, following the paper-trail, large-clinics and amalgamations were proposed by Legal Aid Ontario (“LAO” – the legal clinic funder) in 2010, well before 2014.
Presently, each independent legal clinic has a staff complement of approximately eight staff at fourteen locations across Toronto. These legal clinics remain an important community resource, with long histories and deep relationships within local areas. Vital community-connections could be lost to mega-bureaucracies. In the proposed mega-clinic model, staff will travel to various “access points”, facilitated by ‘community partners’, in spaces such as community centers, libraries, shelters, and hospitals.
The “Vision Report” conceptualizes “[m]ultidiciplinary staff teams”, where lawyers will work with other professionals, such as “social workers, social service workers and mental health workers”, either within the mega-clinic or at access points.  Despite ultimately dismantling our current fourteen independent clinics, the report is extremely vague about how such access points are intended to function.
However LAO’s “Mental Health Strategy Consultation Paper” (November 2013), provides further clarity, in describing “inter-professional teams”.  LAO identifies a “strong correlation between mental illness and the demand for LAO services” and suggests similar partnerships with various agencies:
co-locating the legal aid clinic with other health and social services in “interdisciplinary hubs,” creating a “one stop shop” for clients to access a wide variety of medical, social, government and legal services
LAO also suggests: “[d]eveloping holistic needs assessment tools to identify high-needs clients, standardize definitions and eligibility criteria based on need, and to track clients across services”.
It seems however, that identifying “high-needs clients” in this manner, could significantly add to the stigma these individuals already face. Additionally, stronger relations with some “community partners”, raise serious concerns about too-close-for-comfort relationships with institutions, such as hospitals, which are at times at the forefront of the psychiatrization of low-income people.
These access points seem to be rife with confidentiality concerns and legal conflicts. In reviewing the plan to fundamentally transform our community-legal clinic system, we need to carefully consider this proposal. We must make sure legal clinics remain independent, and can when needed, defend low-income people against these institutions, rather than forge stronger relationships with them.
There other troubling aspects of the proposed Clinic Transformation Proposal, you can find out more information at the Keep Neighbourhood Legal Clinics website: https://keepneighbourhoodlegalclinics.wordpress.com.
By Oriel Varga, who is a member of Keep Neighbourhood Legal Clinics, (relying on two unpublished Osgoode Hall Law school research papers and material posted on the Keepers website).
 Public Interest, “GTA Legal Clinics Transformation Project, Vision Report” (August 2014), online: <http://www.gtaclinics.ca/uploads/2/0/7/8/20780132/gta_lctp_vision_report_-_august_2014.pdf>.
 See LAO, “Discussion Paper on Addressing Clinic Administrative Costs” (May, 2010), online: <http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/publications/downloads/clinicconsultation/2010may5_clinicconsultation.pdf> (“Amalgamation is one way clinics are increasing capacity”) at 13 & 14; Also see: LAO, “Ideas for the Future Development of Clinic Law Delivery Services in Ontario”, online: <http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/publications/downloads/1204_A%20Discussion%20Paper%20for%20the%20Strategic%20Visioning%20Process%20by%20Ontarios%20Legal%20Aid%20Clinics.pdf>.
 It is unclear where these access points will be, however the GTA transformation website notes: “Community health centres, neighbourhood centres, recreation centres, settlement services are all eager to have their clients get better access to justice closer to home”, online: <http://www.betterclinics.ca/satellite-access-points.html>.
 Public Interest, “GTA Legal Clinics Transformation Project, Vision Report” (August 2014), online: <http://www.gtaclinics.ca/uploads/2/0/7/8/20780132/gta_lctp_vision_report_-_august_2014.pdf> at 14 & 67.
 Ryan Fritsch & Gail Nyberg, “Mental Health Strategy consultation paper” (November 2013), online: <http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/policy/downloads/Mental%20Health%20Strategy%20consultation%20paper.pdf>,
(“an array of outreach programs that co-locate legal advocates in community centres, hospitals, shelters, crisis centres, youth facilities, and in other satellite offices, often holding “office hours” on a weekly or ad hoc basis”) at 15 & 21.  Ibid (i.e. “Extrapolating from these statistics, LAO can assume that a very high percentage of LAOcertificate clients have some form of mental illness”) at 9.
 Ibid at 15.
 Ibid (as recommended by “Stakeholders”) at 22.
 Ibid, “[s]uch services could be delivered on-site in hospitals, jails and drop-in centres, as well as community centres and shelter” at 15.