Inclusion Media release

Media release: NS decision finds blatant discrimination against three persons with intellectual disabilities


HALIFAX, NS – Chairman John Walter Thompson, Q.C. found in Monday’s Human Rights Commission Board of Inquiry decision that the Province of Nova Scotia violated the rights of Beth MacLean, Sheila Livingstone, and Joseph Delaney under the Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Act. The decision is a win for MacLean, Livingstone, and Delaney as individuals, and is an important victory in ensuring full recognition of the right of persons with disabilities to live in the community and access community-based services throughout the province.

In response to the decision, Joy Bacon, President of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) declared, “The government must act immediately to address the discrimination of these three individuals as well as the other 1500 persons with intellectual disabilities still institutionalized in the province.”

The Board of Inquiry found that the complainants faced enduring discrimination while housed long-term in a locked, fenced unit of the Nova Scotia Psychiatric Hospital known as Emerald Hall despite qualifying for community arrangements. The Board of Inquiry found that the province failed to provide meaningful access to services for the complainants with intellectual disabilities.

The case acknowledges that MacLean, Livingstone, and Delaney each faced prejudice but does not go so far to claim that people who are housed in institutions as a whole are facing discrimination. The right to live independently and be included in the community is recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). However, the decision steps back from a full analysis of the systemic discrimination faced by people with intellectual disabilities who are confined to institutions and restricted from living and participating in the community on an equal basis with others.

Krista Carr, Executive Vice-President of CACL, explained, “When it comes to pursuing justice for Canadians who are or have been institutionalized, CACL will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. Even if it takes 1,500 individual complaints – as these rights are secured in the CRPD, which Canada has ratified with Nova Scotia’s agreement.”

This decision is the first in a two-stage process. The second part of the hearing will allow the province to argue whether the violations are justified. The hearing is expected to continue later this year.

– 30 –

Media Contact: Kurt Goddard, Director of Public Affairs, CACL,

CACL is a national federation of 13 provincial and territorial associations, over 400 local associations and more than 40,000 members working to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families. CACL leads the way in helping Canadians build an inclusive Canada by strengthening families, defending rights, and transforming communities into places where everyone can belong.