A human rights hearing regarding the Province’s provision of community-based supports and services for people with disabilities resumed this week.
Vince Calderhead of Pink Larkin represents three complainants who spent years in a locked wing of the Nova Scotia Hospital without any legal or medical justification. Nova Scotia largely halted the creation of additional community-based residential supports for people with disabilities in the 1990s. This has resulted in the segregation of people with disabilities in large, isolated institutions. Many people with disabilities have also been forced to live with family members well past the age at which they would prefer to live independently in the community.
The individual complainants argue that the province’s provision of social assistance for persons with disabilities is discriminatory. Nova Scotia has two parallel social assistance programs. Eligible recipients of standard social assistance receive support immediately, as of right, and in the community of their choice. Community-based residential supports and services which accommodate the needs of people with disabilities are provided by the Province through the Disability Support Program. People requiring assistance under the Province’s Disability Support Program are typically placed on waitlists for years, or may only be offered assistance if they relocate to an institution far away from their home community.
The Disability Rights Coalition is also a complainant to the proceeding. It argues that unnecessary institutionalization and segregation of people with disabilities from community is discriminatory. Claire McNeil and Donna Franey of Dalhousie Legal Aid Service represent the Disability Rights Coalition.
Hearing dates took place in February and March of this year. The Board of Inquiry broke for several weeks, then resumed on June 4th. A variety of witnesses have testified for the complainants. Individuals and families have spoken of their personal experience with the Disability Support Program. The Board has also heard from medical professionals, community-based service providers, and experts on ‘ableism’ and deinstitutionalization.
The Disability Rights Coalition will continue to present evidence when the hearing resumes on Monday (June 11th). Further hearing dates are scheduled throughout June, August, September, and into next year.
Some of the coverage from the past week of the hearing can be found here:
By: Katrin MacPhee, articling clerk