Nova Scotia

Mother fights to keep disabled son on N.S. reserve

The federal government won't pay for Jeremy Meawasige's care unless he moves off the reserve, and into a special care unit far from home.

Supporters demand federal government pay for Jeremy Meawasige's care at home

Maurina Beadle is taking the federal government to court over her son's care. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A mother from the Pictou Landing First Nation says it's unacceptable the federal government wants her disabled son to move in order to receive care.

Jeremy Meawasige, 17, has hydrocephalus - a brain condition, cerebral palsy and autism, but the federal government won't pay for his care unless he moves off the reserve and into a special care unit outside the community.

He's severely disabled and lives with his mother Maurina Beadle.

"That's over my dead body. That's never going to happen cause I'd prefer to be dead first before my son gets moved anywhere," she said.

While the courts battle over who should pay for Meawasige's care, his mother is dealing with her own health problems. She suffered a stroke recently, and since then, Beadle has needed extra help to look after her son.

Dozens of supporters made their way Monday from the Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre in north end Halifax to the provincial court on Upper Water Street.

"I'd say that that might be part of the federal government's game here," said Paul Champ, lawyer for Meawasige.

"If they provide, if they officiate or if they strangle the bands with lower levels of funding, then people move off reserve so they can access the services they need."

That saves the federal government money, but it tears apart first nation's communities and that's part of what we're fighting for today."

Lawyers are asking the court to invoke a section of the charter that would force Ottawa to keep paying for Meawasige's care until the jurisdictional issues are settled.

The organizer of Monday's march said the federal government's tactics are cruel.

"Well because they want to take children off reserves," said David Ledouceur. "Take them away from their home life. Take them away from their family so that they become someone else's problem."

Beadle said she won't give up on her son.

"With me and him, we're just like this," Beadle said. "I know when there's something wrong with him, and probably he knows when there's something wrong with me."