Legal Information Training for the Faith Community

Project Name

The Spirit of the Law: Educating the Faith Sector on Mental Health and the Law

Project Partners

Lead Agencies: Interfaith Initiatives for Civic Engagement; Halton Community Legal Clinic (Legal Partner); Islamic Chaplaincy Services Canada; Canadian Mental Health Association; Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Ryan Fritsch (Consulting Partner)

Project Summary

This project will offer cross-sectoral training that will enable faith leaders to better understand the role of the law and the protections afforded by law. As well, the project will provide participants with an overview of the duty to accommodate people with mental health issues. The project will support members of the faith sector to more effectively work with their community members.

Legal Topics for Training

This project will provide faith leaders and front-line staff with an overview of the law as it relates to: (a) consent and capacity issues; and (b) three areas of daily living: employment, housing, employment and social assistance. In addition to providing basic legal information about these areas of law, the project will train participants about how human rights law (specifically related to disability law) interrelates with these areas.

Target Audience

This is a provincial initiative targetting members from all faith groups within the faith sector with the intention to focus on immigrant communities who speak English as a second language, from newcomer faith communities such as Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism living in low-income neighborhoods.

Key Activities

The training will be delivered through in-person workshops. A toolkit will be developed to provide plain language and easily accessible information about the law and mental health that will be used as a key resource in the trainings

Need for Training

Although clergy are skilled to offer spiritual and religious care for their members, they are often ill-equipped with the knowledge and skills about secular solutions to real-world problems. In addition, leaders in faith communities are often unaware of the the protections and rights that the law affords – particularly in relation to those with disabilities. Knowing the law is the first step to being better able to deal with personal crisis – this helps solve problems and prevent future difficulties. In addition, there is a complexity in the nature of the faith sector, which presents a unique challenge to engaging members of this community in training related to mental health and the law. Often faith communities understand non-religious matters to be outside of the mandate of their organizations. As a result, there is a need to provide a forum for the faith sector to reflect on the inclusion of justice-related and other social issues within their sphere of influence.

Innovative Approach

This project is innovative in its reach to engage members of Ontario’s diverse newcomer faith communities. Notwithstanding the critically important role that faith leaders play in providing leadership to their communities and in responding to inquiries and questions from members of their community, we know that very little training has been provided for members of the faith sector to become more aware and engaged in civic society especially in justice-related matters for people with mental health issues.