As It Happens

Landon Webb case prompts Nova Scotia to review Incompetent Persons Act

Twenty-five-year-old Landon Webb says he's capable of living on his own -- but his parents say he should continue to be under their care. His case has Nova Scotia's Justice Minister re-examining the province's laws on "mental competence".
Brenda Webb and her husband Darrell in Halifax on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. At the time, her son Landon Webb, declared legally incompetent by the courts, hadn't been seen since Oct. 15, when he left a rehabilitation centre in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Nova Scotia's Justice Minister Diana Whalen says it's time to rethink the province's Incompetent Persons Act. 

The move comes after Landon Webb threatened to challenge the law in court. The 25-year-old has been declared incompetent under the act and placed under the guardianship of his parents. But Webb says the law is a violation of his most fundamental rights. He wants to live on his own.

Webb's parents insist that their son needs their help. They went public alerting police with their concerns for Landon back in October, when he left the facility where he was living to find work in Alberta. Webb has since returned to Nova Scotia and is reportedly in a locked facility in the Halifax area.

Twenty-five-year-old Landon Webb says he's capable of living on his own -- but his parents say he should continue to be under their care. His case has Nova Scotia's Justice Minister re-examining the province's laws on "mental competence". 2:38

Webb's mother, Brenda and her lawyer Jeanne Desveaux, spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about her son
and his challenge against the Incompetent Persons Act.

Carol Off: Ms. Webb, your son has said that he believes he has a right as a person to choose where and how he will live. Why do you disagree?

Brenda Webb: I don't disagree. Landon has a range of disabilities and disorders and some affect him more than others. Based on them, we basically make those decisions with him and we support him, and other decisions we have to make more on our own. There is a framework of almost like a triangle, which is Landon, ourselves and community service, and then fourth providers being service providers of where he would actually live within a home.

CO: Landon has said that he resents that he has been described as having the intellectual capacity of a 10 or 12-year-old. In your view does he have that limitation?

BW: Well it's technically not an intellectual disability of a 10 and 12-year-old. Basically we're talking about his functioning level. His abilities like for being able to brush his teeth, live in the community, how his general functioning and his ability to decipher when an environment becomes troubling or worrisome. That kind of way. Not cognitively, we're talking about his functioning, his general role.

Landon Webb (Submitted by RCMP)

CO: And yet he's had a number of jobs. He worked in a car lot. He said it was a job he really loved. He has picked fruit. He went out west to work in construction before he returned home. He has a girlfriend. He has children. All of these things indicate that he believes that he's capable of having a life on his own...

BW: Part of the issues here that cause problems is the inaccurate information that happens because people don't understand the complexity of certain individuals like Landon. Landon's verbal skills are stronger than his cognitive skills which causes problems a lot of times. That's a loaded question with a lot of complex questions within complexities of issues.

CO: But you don't think that he can live on his own?

BW: Of course not. No, we don't believe that. No.

CO: But he argues he can, he says he's proven he can. From your point of view, is what you're worried about that he is vulnerable to criminals, to outsiders who might exploit him, or take advantage of him, or corrupt him?

BW: That has already been shown and proven. That has often been the case and it's not just our concern. It's community services concern as well. It's been documented. It's a known fact.

CO: But he wants to be on his own. All the things you're saying, indicate the strong love of a mother for her son. That can't be disputed. What you're coming across as, is as a mother who is trying to do the best for her son. And he's saying, to others in authority as well and to reporters, that he wants to be on his own. He wants to be independent. How can you protect your son and allow for him to have the freedom he's craving?

BW: As parents we just don't make those decisions on our own. You wouldn't let somebody walk out in front of a transfer truck or train would you? If you love them. So if you had a two or three-year-old, wanting to walk across a set of train tracks would you let them go? Just because they wanted to...if that was their desire? If it wasn't feasibly safe for them?

CO: But he's 25...

BW: It doesn't matter how old they are. What matters is if it's done safely and if it's not then it needs to be done with support and that's our goal as well as the professionals right now. For the best interests of Landon, is that things be done safely for him.

Finance Minister Diana Whalen fields a question as she presents the Nova Scotia fiscal update in Halifax on Thursday, Dec.19, 2013. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

CO: I just need to understand a bit more if you can tell us, who are the threats? When you describe people who want to get at Landon and use him as a pawn, can you tell us who you mean?

BW: I'm more interested in discussing the fact that we live in a day and age where there's individuals that weren't in societal roles like back in the 1970s and 1980s where things were safe for individuals like Landon to live safely in communities. Today, society is not like it was in the 1970s. So we didn't have to worry about things that we have to worry about now that leaves people at risk and prey to individuals.

He isn't able to do things that people don't think about normally doing. Like being able to look after his finances. Being able to do everyday things that we might take for granted but Landon doesn't have the daily ability to do. And those assessments didn't take place by us. They took place by professionals. Those aren't assessments that take place by parents like us. There are things that take place by people who are professionally trained.

CO: What is this like for you, your efforts to help your son when your son's response to that is so public?

BW: Well, tearing families apart on any level shouldn't be anyone's goal here. Individuals can become victim to any others' own agenda. Our son's life, pure and simple, we love him and we want the best for him. We want him to live in communities safely without risk and because Landon deserves nothing but the best, that's what we've always wanted for Landon and we continue to want for him.

It's indescribable. There's no dictionary that can describe the heartwrenching-ness [sic] of raising a child with a special needs. Because unless you've had one yourself, you can't describe that to anyone. Unless you walk it, you can't experience or explain that to anyone.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full interview, including comment from Webb's lawyer, please select the Listen audio link above.

As mentioned, Nova Scotia's Justice Minister has responded to the Webbs' story by announcing she will review the province's Incompetent Persons Act. We spoke to Archie Kaiser, professor of law at Dalhousie University, who thinks the review of the law is long overdue. Take a listen to our interview:

Archie Kaiser, professor of law at Dalhousie University, welcomes the Nova Scotia Justice Minister's review of the outdated Incompetent Persons Act. 5:58


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?