672 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2020
can hinder clear communication between the parties. Brian Tate, a wellknown
Vancouver-based composer/arranger, musician, vocalist, choir
director and educator, gave sage advice at a BC Choral Federation Chorfest
rehearsal in May 2018. He said that, given the vast psychic and physical distance
between performers on a stage and the audience, stage performers
must make ten times the effort to communicate with the audience. This
means ten times more than the effort a performer would normally expect
to give when singing directly to persons sitting a few feet away, or when acting
in a film production with close-up photography. This involves ten times
more effort to articulate lyrics or lines in a play, express musical dynamics
or theatrical expression, and portray a composer or playwright’s themes or
I have found Brian Tate’s guidance to be a useful metaphor, applicable to
many of my life activities. It is also relevant to the conduct of Board teleconference
hearings. In short, when conducting teleconference hearings
involving persons with mental disorders, an adjudicative panel must
expend ten times the effort to ensure that all participants experience
respect and fairness. That is, ten times more effort is required than the
effort a panel would normally make in an oral hearing conducted in the traditional
In a teleconference, no one can see a decision maker’s body language,
such as eye contact, leaning slightly toward a witness who is speaking or
nodding one’s head in a gesture of empathic understanding. These types of
body gestures help to convey respect and responsiveness. Witnesses perceive
the decision maker has truly heard their evidence. Body language also
helps to cultivate a sense that the legal hearing is proceeding in a civil, wellorganized
way by decision makers who are carefully “taking it all in”.
In a teleconference hearing, a decision maker has none of those tools.
Instead, panel members must rely largely on tone of voice, choice of words
and courteous, considerate manners of expression in order to convey the
messages that would usually be delivered largely by body language. The
voice is the only instrument available in a teleconference. So, panel members
should train themselves to use their voices effectively in that context.
Frankly, it is an important skill for decision makers in any context: in-person
and teleconference hearings benefit from skillful use of the voice, and
reasons for decision are also better when written in the appropriate “voice”.
USING THE VOICE TO CREATE A SACRED SPACE
Assumptions and biases in medical care and in legal decision making are,
sadly, often fuelled by the worldwide stigma associated with mental illness.