Thursday, 21 March 2019

Joint media release by People First Canada and People First Nova Scotia tackles the decision in the recent Human Rights tribunal on warehousing of people with intellectual disabilities. “To completely dismiss the idea that people with disabilities are discriminated against in most every system in our society is not someone being ‘un-woke’ – this is someone who is completely unaware and obviously not paying attention.”

NS Human Rights Board chair Walter Thompson ruled that the Nova Scotia government has indeed discriminated against Beth MacLean, Sheila Livingstone and Joey Delaney, three people who were institutionalized against their will. When I first heard the news I thought it was a wonderful victory. Now that I have read the decision I think it mostly sucks, but it isn’t all bad.

Here is why.

A Nova Scotia Human Rights enquiry reached a crucial stage last Wednesday after closing statements were delivered by the Province of Nova Scotia, the respondent in the case. If the enquiry chair finds that the way government deals with housing needs of people with disabilities is indeed discriminatory, then, and only then, will there be a second phase, to determine  to what extent the Province must make changes in its policies and activities.

The news of the death of Joshua Evans, a young man who lived with developmental disabilities and committed suicide while on remand in the Burnside Jail, is devastating. The CBC reports that Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey now wants an investigation into Joshua’s death, including  “whether he should have been there in the first place.” That’s quite the statement, given that In Nova Scotia we lock up people like Joshua all the time. Often in prison, where health care and  mental health care needs are not sufficiently addressed. Even more frequently in prison-like institutions. And the province is just fine with that.

Day two of Community Services deputy minister’s testimony at the human rights enquiry: When it comes to community living, government inaction is the operative word, and that hasn’t substantially changed with the end of the so-called moratorium on small options homes. Individuals continue to languish in large institutions, and parents continue to worry about what will happen to their loved ones when they die.

Community Services deputy minister Lynn Hartwell testified all day today at the human rights inquiry into the lack of community living options for people living with disabilities. We learned that very little has been accomplished since the department published its disability roadmap some four years ago. She’ll be back at it tomorrow, and so will the NS Advocate.

For me, the testimony by Louise Bradley, CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, was one of the highlights of this week’s proceedings at the human rights inquiry. That’s why I was pleased when she was willing to be interviewed. We talk about mental health, the harm of living in an institution, stigma, and the benefits of community living. Louise was at one time heavily involved in the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth, and we also talk about the folks there who have been conditionally discharged but can’t get the supportive housing they need. So they just stick around, sometimes for many years.

And another day at the human rights inquiry into the lack of supportive housing for people with disabilities. Two mothers talked about the horrors of institutionalization, in particular the circumstances at Quest in Lower Sackville. Wendy Lill mostly talked about policy issues relating to the disabilities roadmap, a government policy document written at that brief point in time when community advocates had some real hopes that things would get better, only to be disappointed once again.