Nova Scotia

Disability rights group ‘severely disappointed’ after province misses deadline

The Nova Scotia government has failed to meet the first deadline in a landmark human rights agreement that is supposed to end the practice of housing people with disabilities in large institutions.

In a release Wednesday, the province’s Disability Rights Coalition said it is “severely disappointed” by the missed deadline.

Under the terms of a plan worked out through a human rights board of inquiry, the province was supposed to have a ban on new admissions to large institutions in place by the end of March.

Instead, a spokesperson for the province said the ban will now be imposed by Jan. 1 of next year.

“We’re supportive and I see it as a critical component of closing institutions,” said Maria Medioli, executive director of the disability support program with the Department of Community Services.

“But we just need a bit more time to put the resources in place to ensure that it’s successful and the people that need to be supported in community have those resources. It’s as simple as that.”

Maria Medioli is the executive director of the Disability Support Program for the province of Nova Scotia’s Department of Community Services. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Vicky Levack of the disability rights coalition said the delay is unacceptable.

“Our people have waited for decades and this is something they agreed to jointly … and it’s not good enough,” Levack said.

She questions whether the province consulted with anyone about missing the deadline, which she describes as a “slap in the face.”

But Medioli said the province is on track to meet the other deadlines of the agreement

“We are to decrease the occupancy in those facilities by 30 per cent this year, which would represent about 240, and then take it down to another 75 per cent the year after,” Medioli said.

“But the intent is to move everybody out.”

Next deadline looms

The agreement was part of a landmark legal case that was settled last year after three people with disabilities who spent most of their lives in institutions took the province to court.

The agreement laid out a five-year plan.

There is another deadline at the end of the month. The government must submit a progress report to an expert assigned to monitor the program’s implementation.

Levack said the coalition will be watching closely to make sure that deadline is met.

Medioli is confident.

“We see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, a generational change opportunity, and we are 100 per cent committed to it,” she said. “And I would say that the government is committed as well.”

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