Professor Emmanuelle Bernheim explores the use coercive psychiatric practices in Black and Indigenous communities in Quebec and Ontario

Faculty of Law - Civil Law Section
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Communication, Faculty of law

Emannuelle Bernheim set against backdrop of dark hospital corridor
Involuntary hospitalization; isolation; physical, mechanical or chemical restraints: the use of coercive practices in psychiatry is on the rise in Canada. While debates about the ethics of such practices are ongoing, a new project from Professor Emmanuelle Bernheim seeks to expose data on how these measures are used against Black and Indigenous communities.

Professor Bernheim has received an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for a project entitled “Usages et expériences des pratiques psychiatriques coercitives dans les communautés noires et autochtones en Ontario et au Québec : premier état des lieux” (“Uses and experiences of coercive psychiatric practices in Black and Indigenous communities in Ontario and Quebec: an initial overview”). Data on coercive psychiatric practices is not made public in Canada, but recent studies have shown that it is typically people from socioeconomically disadvantaged groups that are most likely to experience such measures. International research has shown that members of Black and Indigenous communities are more likely than white people to be subjected to these kinds of coercive practices. Professor Bernheim seeks to document the use of such practices against Black and Indigenous communities in Ontario and Quebec, providing the first Canadian-based research on the topic.  

In documenting the experiences of these vulnerable groups, the project will further illuminate how racialized populations face systemic discrimination within public services. While inequalities experienced by racialized groups in access to mental health services have been well documented, the use of coercive psychiatric measures – which many believe constitute a violation of fundamental human rights – against these populations have yet to be explored in the Canadian context. Professor Bernheim’s new project, which she is undertaking with a team of ten researchers, represents an important step towards understanding the different dimensions of systemic discrimination and state coercion. Coercive psychiatric practices will be analyzed in relation to practices in the criminal justice and youth protection systems. 

SSHRC’s Insight Grants aim to support and foster excellence in social sciences and humanities research that aims to deepen, widen and increase our collective understanding of individuals and societies, as well as to inform the search for solutions to societal challenges.  

Congratulations to Professor Bernheim on launching this important project!