N.S. court victory may bring lasting improvement to lives of people with disabilities

·2 min read

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia advocacy group for people with disabilities says its landmark court victory is an opportunity to compel reforms that will improve their daily lives.

Claire McNeil, the lawyer for the Disability Rights Coalition, said today she will take an Appeal Court ruling declaring systemic discrimination against people with disabilities back to a human rights board of inquiry, and is hopeful a binding set of remedies will result in improved services and housing.

Premier Tim Houston said yesterday his government will not appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, and will attempt to address the long waiting lists for housing, the need to close large institutions, and the practice of moving people far from their families and friends.

Marty Wexler, the coalition's chairman, says the premier's reaction is encouraging, and the group is going to take up Houston's offer to meet and discuss remedies.

However, McNeil says the group has applied for a new human rights board of inquiry, and says if remedies are reached with the Progressive Conservative government, the improvements should be put in an enforceable legal order.

The group's court victory on Wednesday came after both the coalition and the province appealed a 2019 human rights board ruling.

The original human rights case was launched by three people with intellectual disabilities who spent years confined in a psychiatric hospital despite medical opinions they could be housed in the community.

The original decision ruled the individual rights of the three people, Beth MacLean, Joey Delaney and Sheila Livingstone, were violated, but it also ruled against the separate claim by the coalition that the system was discriminating more widely against people with disabilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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