Community homes coming for complainants in human rights inquiry

Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services has recently committed to finding small-options homes for two complainants at the centre of an ongoing human rights inquiry.

Beth MacLean and Joseph Delaney say province refused to move them from hospital-like settings into small homes

Beth MacLean has testified that she'd been told she could shift into a community setting one year after her admission to Emerald Hall in the fall of 2000. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services has committed to finding small-options homes for two complainants at the centre of an ongoing human rights inquiry.

The Halifax-based inquiry is considering whether the rights of Beth MacLean and Joseph Delaney were breached when the province refused to move them from hospital-like settings into small homes where assistance is provided for meals, mental health and other care.

A third complainant, Sheila Livingstone, has since died but her story is being told by family members and the complainants' lawyers.

During testimony on Monday afternoon, Jim Fagan, director of resident services at the Regional Residential Services Society, said the Community Services Department agreed to find a home for MacLean in December, after the inquiry was announced.

"It's fantastic that the province has chosen to provide her with the kind of supports that she's been asking for for decades," said Vince Calderhead, the complainants' lawyer. "The question in my mind is why wasn't it done before? Why wasn't it done 10 or 15 years ago?"

Joe Rudderham, executive director of persons with disabilities for the department, said Community Services was simply responding to the priority list of people waiting to move out of institutionalized care and into a small-options home.

Rudderham declined to elaborate on the placements, saying he couldn't speak to specific cases.

MacLean was moved into the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Waterville, N.S., in 1986 at age 14. She was moved into the Emerald Hall unit of the Nova Scotia Hospital in 2000 and then a transition facility about two years ago, after launching her complaint. 

Delaney, who cannot speak, still lives in a locked unit of Emerald Hall. He was medically discharged in 2010 but has never left due to a lack of housing options, according to advocates.

His sister testified last week that she recently received word the province had found him a spot in a small-options home.

A Department of Community Services spokesperson has previously said it is working to improve the province's Disability Support Program and to create more small-options homes. 

With files from The Canadian Press