Freedom Tour challenging institutional care in Nova Scotia

A filmmaker is riding his bike 800 kilometres across Nova Scotia to raise awareness of institutionalized people with intellectual disabilities in the province.

People with intellectual disabilities focus of documentary that inspired bike tour

A filmmaker is riding his bike 800 kilometres across Nova Scotia to raise awareness of institutionalized people with intellectual disabilities in the province.

Brad Rivers left Yarmouth Friday to start his trip. He’s showing the documentary Freedom Tour Nova Scotia in towns and villages as he goes.

Rivers says while other provinces have closed their large-scale institutions in favour of community living, many people still live in institutions here.

“Nova Scotia is about 20 years behind in its services for people with disabilities,” he says.

He hopes Freedom Tour Nova Scotia will spread his message of integration by bringing together people with intellectual disabilities and those from the wider community.

The film was made by and with people with intellectual disabilities through the People First organization.

Barred from marriage

One story in the movie features Bonnie and Harold MacDonald. The MacDonalds are married today and have been together for three decades.

But the institution they were kept in as young people barred them from marrying because of their intellectual disabilities.

“When you're in the institution, you could not get out of the institution to do what you want to do. You had to do things their way. Not our way. That made it tough for me,” she said.

The powerlessness had her fearing for Harold’s health.

“They were giving him a lot of medications. If it hadn't been for me getting him the medications half off him, he wouldn't be here with me today. They had him so doped up; it was not good,” she said.

The MacDonalds live independently now. They advocate for people like themselves in the group People First. 

Rivers is riding along the Annapolis Valley to Cape Breton. You can see the full schedule here

Bonnie and Harold MacDonald tell their story in the film. (CBC)