N.S. says it won't try to justify housing discrimination against disabled people

·2 min read

HALIFAX — A lawyer representing a disability rights group in Nova Scotia says he’s relieved the province won't try to exempt itself from a court ruling that concluded the province discriminated against people with disabilities who were seeking housing.

“We’re completely pleased and relieved that after an eight-year struggle, we can now move on to look for solutions for this systemic discrimination,” lawyer Vince Calderhead with the Disability Rights Coalition said in an interview Tuesday.

The Court of Appeal ruled last year that the government's failure to offer “meaningful'' access to housing for people with disabilities amounted to a violation of their basic rights.

Government lawyer Kevin Kindred told a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission board of inquiry hearing Tuesday that the province would not pursue Section 6 of Nova Scotia's Human Rights Act. Use of that section would have permitted the government to argue that its housing discrimination against people with disabilities is justified in a free and democratic society.

Instead, the government says it will negotiate a remedy to the problem.

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

The Human Rights Commission board of inquiry ruled that the individual rights of Joey Delaney, the late Beth MacLean and the late Sheila Livingstone were violated. It also ruled, however, against the separate claim by the Disability Rights Coalition that the system was discriminating more widely against people with disabilities.

In an emailed statement, Nova Scotia's Justice Department said the province is "ready to move to the remedy stage" and is eager to see that "begin without delay."

Hearings before the human rights board of inquiry to establish remedies for this case are scheduled to begin Oct. 3.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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