Nova Scotia

Houston pledges supports for people with disabilities following court decision

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said Thursday his government respects an Appeal Court ruling that found evidence of systemic discrimination in a case involving three people with mental and physical disabilities.

Premier says the message has been received 'loud and clear'

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston speaks to reporters after the Oct. 7 cabinet meeting. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said Thursday his government respects an Appeal Court ruling that found evidence of systemic discrimination in a case involving three people with mental and physical disabilities.

The individuals, two of whom have since died, were housed at a Halifax-area psychiatric hospital despite opinions from doctors that they could live in the community.

Houston said the courage shown by Beth MacLean, Sheila Livingstone and Joseph Delaney in pursuing the matter will leave a lasting legacy. 

"I just don't think anyone should really have to take their government to court to make their government do the right thing," Houston told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Houston said the court's message that the problem needs to be fixed has been received "loud and clear." He said his government will work with the community to "do what's possible as quickly as it can be done," though he noted the problem cannot be fixed overnight.

The premier would not say if he agreed with the court's ruling that there was evidence of systemic discrimination, but Houston said he believed people did the best they could with the support they had.

Speaking about the court ruling Thursday, Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane said 'we have to do better.' (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane said the government has been working to ensure there are more small-option community homes available for people with disabilities.

MacFarlane told reporters there has been some progress in moving individuals to community homes, and more conversations are needed with individuals looking to make that transition.

When asked if she agreed with the court's assessment that there was evidence of systemic discrimination, MacFarlane also sidestepped the question, saying she had not yet read the full ruling.

"I think people did the best they could then, but we evolve and we have to do better and we have to be a kinder society," she said.

Gary Burrill, Nova Scotia NDP leader, addresses reporters outside Province House. Burrill said he was disappointed to hear that Houston did not acknowledge that there was systemic discrimination. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Speaking outside Province House, NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the court's ruling was a "great victory" for the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia.

Burrill said he hopes Houston's statements mean the government will make the investments necessary to remove systemic discrimination, even if the premier did not acknowledge it exists.

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