You can only be kept at the hospital against your will if you are a danger to yourself or to others because of your mental state. If your mental state improves and you aren’t a danger anymore, you must be released from the hospital.
You can ask to be released from the hospital in these ways:
- speaking to your doctor
- going to the Court of Québec and speaking to a judge
- appealing (challenging) the Court of Québec’s decision
- sending a letter to the Tribunal administratif du Québec (administrative tribunal of Quebec)
- applying for habeas corpus at the Superior Court of Québec
These steps are explained below. You can get help from a lawyer or a community organization (website in French only).
For help finding a lawyer, contact the Barreau du Quebec’s referral service (website in French only).
You might be able to get a lawyer for free through legal aid. To apply for legal aid, make an appointment with your local legal aid office.
Court of Québec
When the hospital or someone else asks the court for permission to keep you against your will, you can speak to the judge and ask to be released.
Before going to court
The hospital must usually send you a copy of its request and any psychiatric exam reports at least two days before the judge will hear the case. If the situation is urgent, or if it would be harmful to you or another person, the judge can decide you shouldn’t be notified. The hospital must also send you a document explaining the your rights and obligations, including the right to have a lawyer. A bailiff (an official messenger) must deliver these documents directly to you.
The hospital must also notify these people that the judge will hear the case:
- if you’re under 18, your parent or the person acting as your parent, and your tutor
- if you’re an adult, your legal representative (mandatary, tutor or curator), if you have one
- if you don’t have a legal representative, a member of your family, the person caring for you, or someone concerned about you
- if this isn’t possible, the Public Curator.
You can be represented in court by a lawyer. The hospital can also be represented by a lawyer.
To protect your dignity and privacy, the judge can decide not to allow members of the public in the courtroom.
The hospital must prove to the judge that you are a danger to yourself or others because of your mental state.
The hospital can ask people (witnesses) to speak to the judge. For example, the hospital can ask the psychiatrists who examined you to explain why you’re a danger. You or your lawyer can ask the witnesses questions.
Before making a decision, the judge must hear your version of the situation. The judge and the hospital’s lawyer can ask you questions. If needed, you can speak to the judge from a distance, for example by videoconference.
If you’re under 18 or have been found incapable by the court, another person can help and reassure you while you speak to the judge. The judge can also speak to you at the hospital or any other suitable place.
If it’s impossible for you to speak to the judge, if speaking to the judge could harm the health or safety of you or someone else, or if the situation is urgent, the judge can make a decision without hearing you.
You can also invite people (witnesses) to speak to the judge. For example, you can invite a relative, friend or doctor to explain why you don’t need to be hospitalized. The hospital’s lawyer and the judge can ask these people questions.
After hearing all the witnesses and arguments, the judge makes a decision. If the judge has serious reasons to believe you’re a danger to yourself or others and need to stay at the hospital, the judge can order you to stay at the hospital. The judge must set the maximum amount of time you can be kept at the hospital against your will.
Court of Appeal
If you disagree with the Court of Québec’s decision, you can appeal (challenge) the decision at the Québec Court of Appeal. You must file a document called a notice of appeal within five days of the Court of Québec’s decision. To learn more, visit the Quebec Court of Appeal website.
Tribunal administratif du Québec (administrative tribunal of Quebec)
You can also ask to be released from the hospital by sending a letter to the Tribunal administratif du Québec (administrative tribunal of Quebec). This is a special kind of court.
Letters should be sent to the Social Affairs Division of the Tribunal as soon as possible. They must explain why you should be released from the hospital. The Tribunal’s staff can help you prepare your letter. Someone else can also send a letter to the Tribunal for you. The hospital should give you any needed assistance.
Three members of the Tribunal (a lawyer, a psychiatrist, and a social worker or psychologist) will meet with you to review your case. The Tribunal must tell you when and where the meeting will take place. Meetings usually take place at the hospital.
The Tribunal must also tell you that you can be represented by a lawyer. At the meeting, the Tribunal must make sure you’ve had the chance to speak with a lawyer.
The Tribunal must decide whether you still need to stay at the hospital because you’re a danger to yourself or to others on the day of the meeting. Your mental state may have evolved since the hearing at the Court of Québec. So, you may no longer be a danger.
To learn more, visit the website of the Tribunal administratif du Québec.
You and the hospital present your versions of the situation to the Tribunal at the meeting.
Your doctor speaks to the Tribunal and explains why you should stay at the hospital. The hospital can also invite other people to speak to the Tribunal. For example, the hospital can invite other doctors who have examined you. You can ask these people questions.
You can also invite people (witnesses) to speak to the Tribunal. For example, you can invite relatives or friends to explain why you should be released from the hospital. The hospital and the Tribunal can ask these people questions.
After hearing all the witnesses and arguments, the Tribunal decides whether to release you. The Tribunal usually decides right away. The Tribunal can release you in these situations:
- You’re no longer a danger to yourself or to others because of your mental state
- The hospital hasn’t done a psychiatric exam after 21 days and every three months after that
After the meeting, the Tribunal sends you and the hospital a copy of its decision.
If a hospital has kept you for longer than it is allowed to without getting the court’s permission, you can ask the Superior Court to review the situation through a process called habeas corpus. You must notify the Attorney General when you apply for habeas corpus. The court must hear this type of application right away. If this isn’t possible, the court can order that you be released from the hospital.