In 2013, the current government committed to closing institutions and providing community based living supports for all persons with disabilities within 10 years—by the end of 2023. It was all set out in the Roadmap—a plan to community inclusion drafted jointly by the Province and disability rights advocates, and endorsed by then Premier Stephen McNeil and his government.
With just over two years left, today’s DRC report makes clear that not only has progress toward inclusion been glacial but, in several respects, there has been serious back-sliding on the Province’s commitment to the Roadmap’s vision of community inclusion for persons who have experienced decades-long segregation and discrimination in accessing the services they need to live in the community.
While the present government describes itself as the champion of ‘equity, diversity and inclusion’ for Nova Scotians (“Our Party puts equity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do.”), the 2013 commitment to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities by 2023 is now in doubt. The promise made in 2013 sounds hollow; equity and equality for people with disabilities in Nova Scotia have, once again, not only been pushed to the back burner, they are literally out of sight.
Today’s DRC Report: Call to Action: The Road to Inclusion and Equality for People with Disabilities: Government Accountability on the Roadmap—Choice, Equality and Good Lives in Inclusive Communities (https://www.disabilityrightscoalitionns.ca/road-to-inclusion-by-2023-come with-us/ ) demonstrates that since the Roadmap’s release in 2013,
• The Nova Scotia government, through its Disability Supports Program, is assisting fewer people with disabilities with residential supports right now than in 2013/14 when it committed to the Roadmap, dropping from 5,184 to 5,033 people;
• Since the Roadmap’s release in 2013, there has been a sharp increase in numbers on the Disability Supports Program waitlists, going from 1099 in 2014 to 1,915 in 2021, an increase of more than 74%.
• The official Disability Supports Program Policy Manual, which restricted all admissions to institutions to ‘temporary admissions’ in preparation for their closure has been recently (May 2021) been removed from official government policy;
Nova Scotia continues to send people with disabilities indefinitely to institutions as their only available option for accessing social assistance.
But, if there’s a real commitment to equity and community inclusion for all, there’s still time!
There is still a 30-month window for the Province to meet its Roadmap commitments. To do so, however, requires immediate and concrete government action that places ‘equity and inclusion at the heart of everything the Province does.’ Today’s DRC Report spells out what is required for the Province to keep its promise.
“The numbers in the Report tell the story in a way that cuts through the political & bureaucratic rhetoric—the Province is on a path to, once again, push people with disabilities into the shadows. That is neither equity nor inclusion. And it is certainly not respecting their human rights.”—Claire McNeil, legal counsel for the Disability Rights Coalition
“As a person with disabilities who has felt at first hand the effects of government policy that exclude me from the supports I need to live in the community and who has been segregated and excluded because of my disability I am calling on the Province to do what is right by 2023 by closing institutions and ending waitlists.”—Vicky Levack