N.S. premier says he won't appeal ruling on discrimination against disabled people

·2 min read

HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia government won't be appealing a recent court decision that found there was discrimination against people with disabilities who had sought services and housing in the community.

Following a cabinet meeting Thursday, Premier Tim Houston said he doesn't believe anyone should have to take government to court to make it "do the right thing."

Houston said his government has heard the Court of Appeal's message "loud and clear."

"We will work with the community to make sure the supports are in place," he told reporters.

And although he termed it a challenge, Houston said the province will also work as quickly as it can to provide more housing options for people with disabilities.

"I can't fix this overnight, nobody can," Houston said.

In a landmark decision issued Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal said the provincial government's failure to offer people with disabilities "meaningful" access to housing and care is demonstrated by long wait-lists. The court also said the situation amounted to a violation of their basic rights.

But Houston sidestepped that finding by the court, saying he believes that in the past, people were doing "the best they could" to provide adequate supports.

"Maybe there needed to be more direction on doing whatever was necessary," he said. "As we stand here right now, we know we need to take a different path as a government and we are prepared to take that path."

The court appeal was launched by the Disability Rights Coalition. During a hearing last November, its lawyer Claire McNeil argued the mistreatment of people with disabilities included unnecessary institutionalization, lengthy wait times, and forced removal to remote areas of the province far from family and friends.

Following the court's decision on Wednesday, the coalition urged the government not to launch an appeal and to respect the equality of people living with disabilities.

In a news release, coalition member Marty Wexler said there is a "human rights emergency."

“Equality for people with disabilities needs to start with taking immediate, concrete steps to close all institutions for people with disabilities, provide meaningful access to community-based supports and services, and ensure that people receive access to services in the community of their choice,” said Wexler.

The coalition pointed to a report it released in July that called on the province to "make good" on a promise to implement the recommendations of another report released in 2013 known as "The Roadmap."

It called for phasing out institutional facilities and replacing them with small options homes by 2023. Small options homes are defined by the province as homes in residential neighbourhoods for up to four people with disabilities, where they receive care and other support.

The coalition noted since making the promise the government hasn't closed a single institution for people with disabilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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