What is The Vulnerable Persons Act?

On October 4, 1996, a law came into force in Manitoba called The Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Act (The Act).

The Act was developed to promote and protect the rights of adults living with a mental disability who need assistance to meet their basic needs. The legislation recognizes these Manitobans as vulnerable persons.

For more information see the brochure on The Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Act.

The Five Guiding Principles:

The Act is based on the following five guiding principles:

  1. Vulnerable persons are presumed to have the capacity to make decisions affecting themselves, unless demonstrated otherwise.
  2. Vulnerable persons should be encouraged to make their own decisions.
  3. The vulnerable person’s support network should be encouraged to assist the vulnerable person in making decisions so as to enhance his or her independence and self-determination.
  4. Assistance with decision making should be provided in a manner which respects the privacy and dignity of the person and should be the least restrictive and lease intrusive form of assistance that is appropriate in the circumstances.
  5. Substitute decision making should be invoked only as a last resort when a vulnerable person need decisions to be made and is unable to make these decisions by himself or herself or with the involvement of members of his or her support network.


Five Guiding Principles Poster

The Five Guiding Principles Poster
Publication by Community Living – Manitoba

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Key Provisions of the Act

There are three key areas of The Act – support services, protection from abuse and neglect, and substitute decision making.

Support Services – The Act states that the Department of Manitoba Family Services may provide support services for a vulnerable person and that an individual plan shall be developed for each person receiving such services. 

Examples of support services are: residential services, counselling, vocational training, and lifeskills programs.

For more information on support services please go to the Community Living disABILITY Services Program or Part 2 of The Vulnerable Persons Living with A Mental Disability Act.

Protection from Abuse and Neglect – The Act provides for the protection of vulnerable persons from abuse or neglect.  All persons who have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is or is likely to be abused or neglected are obligated to report these suspicions to the Department of Family Services. 

For more information on protection from abuse and neglect please go to the Community Living disABILITY Services Program or Part 3 of The Vulnerable Persons Living with A Mental Disability Act.

Substitute Decision Making – If a vulnerable person is not able to make decisions even with help, a person known as a “substitute decision maker” may be appointed to make decisions on his or her behalf. The Act sets out provisions for the appointment of substitute decision makers.

For more information on substitute decision making please go to The Office of the Vulnerable Persons’ Commissioner or Part 4 of The Vulnerable Persons Living with A Mental Disability Act.

Key Definitions and Terminology

Who is considered to be a vulnerable person?

According to The Act a vulnerable person is defined as "an adult living with a mental disability who is in need of assistance to meet his or her basic needs with regard to personal care and/or management of his or her property."

What is the definition of mental disability?

For an individual to be considered mentally disabled, the individual must have significantly impaired intellectual functioning existing concurrently with impaired adaptive behavior and manifested prior to the age of 18 years (excludes a mental disability due exclusively to a mental disorder as defined in section 1 of The Mental Health Act).

What is a support network?

The Act defines a support network “as one or more persons who provide advice, support or assistance to a vulnerable person and may include (a) the vulnerable person’s spouse or common-law partner, (b) other members of the person’s family and (c) others chosen by the vulnerable person”.  Those chosen can include friends and past or present service providers.

What does the term incapacity mean?

The Act defines a person as being incapable when that person is not able to understand information that is relevant to making the decision that is before him or her, or is not able to appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of the decision or lack of making a decision.

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Supported Decision Making vs. Substitute Decision Making:

Supported decision making is the process whereby a vulnerable person is enabled to make and communicate decisions and in which advice, support or assistance is provided to the vulnerable person by members of his or her support network.

In substitute decision making, the formally appointed substitute decision maker (SDM) steps in to make the decision(s) in the place of the vulnerable person.

However, substitute decision making should only occur where supported decision-making is not working. A substitute decision maker formally appointed to make a decision(s) in a certain area on behalf of the vulnerable person has an obligation to continue the process of supported decision-making to the extent possible.

For more information see A Fact Sheet on Supported Decision Making and Support Networks

A Video about The Law for Adults Living with a Mental Disability

To help vulnerable persons understand The Act and how it may be applied, the attached is a link to a 12-minute video called The Law for Adults Living with a Mental Disability. The video outlines important aspects of the legislation and is intended to promote discussion among viewers. A copy of this video can also be made available by contacting our office.

Attached is a guidebook that can be used by a family member or a friend or a support worker to help facilitate discussion with the individual while watching the video.

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