Nova Scotia

N.S. man shares testimony of 'hellish' time in institutionalized care facility

Richard Rector told a human rights board of inquiry his life was boring and regimented inside Quest

Richard Rector told a human rights board of inquiry his life was boring and regimented inside Quest

Richard Rector testified at a human rights board of inquiry about what goes on inside institutionalized care facilities in Nova Scotia. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Lawyers at a human rights board of inquiry are hoping the testimony of a former resident will shed light on what goes on inside institutionalized care facilities in the province.

Richard Rector, 32, told his story today about life inside Quest, a support and rehabilitation centre in Lower Sackville, N.S.

"It's a hellish spot," Rector testified. "Boredom. Pure boredom.

"There was nothing interesting to even think about planning to do."

The board of inquiry is hearing the case of two complainants who say the province violated their basic human rights by forcing them to live in institutionalized care instead of a smaller home with fewer residents and professional staff around the clock.

Rector is not one of those complainants. But lawyers for the Disability Rights Coalition say the testimony from both Rector and his mother illustrates the effect institutionalized care has on patients.

Claire McNeil is a lawyer for the Disability Rights Coalition, one of the complainants in the case. (CBC)

Rector was in an ATV accident when he was 18 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He moved to Quest in 2009 and lived there for nine years. He said life there was regimented.

Claire McNeil, the lawyer for the Disability Rights Coalition, asked him about the food and whether he had any choice about what he ate.

"Yes, I had a choice: Eat or don't eat," he replied.

Rector said he had a hard time remembering details about his life over the past 14 years since his accident.

He sometimes had difficulty finding the words to express himself. During his testimony he often used expletives, but would apologize for it.

Rector said during his nine years at Quest he was rarely allowed outside alone.

"I was apparently unaware of where I was going," he testified. "That means I was incompetent. I was unable to make decisions."

Rector said he was "manhandled" by staff during his time at Quest. He said he was ushered into a small, quiet room by two staff members and that he fell on his face during one such occasion.

"He used to throw me up against the solid oak doors and it really hurt my back," Rector said of one staff member.

'Mom I'm dead, I'm just dead'

Rector lived with his father in the years after his accident. His mother said they could deal with his behaviour at first, but eventually it became more difficult.

His mother earlier testified that Rector had fallen into a deep depression and had lost the will to live. She told the inquiry last week that at one point during his time at Quest, he said, "Mom I'm dead, I'm just dead."

McNeil asked him if he told anyone how badly he wanted to leave Quest. Rector said he told his family at the time, "I'll go anywhere."

Rector's been living in a community-based small home in Windsor since last fall.

His mother says the change has had an enormous effect on his life and his sense of humour.

Rector testified today that it's better than Quest, but he's less enthusiastic than his mother.

McNeil said it was important for the inquiry to hear the story of a man who lived in institutionalized care for nine years against his will.

"He spoke of one institution, but there are nine other institutions like that in Nova Scotia still operating," she said.

"I think it's a perspective on that life that would otherwise not be heard."