In a stunning maneuver this morning, the Law Amendments Committee of the Nova Scotia Legislature voted to send to the Legislature a Bill that would fundamentally entrench denial of Charter-protected rights to life, liberty and security of people with intellectual, cognitive, and psychosocial disabilities in the province. Introduced just two weeks ago today, the Adult Capacity and Decision-Making Act provides a set of promises to Nova Scotians that the disability community has been calling for, for years:
- Promote the autonomy, independence, dignity, social inclusion, and freedom of decision-making of those who may need assistance to make decisions;
- Recognize that a person's legal capacity often involves supports;
- Require the court to impose guardianship only if less restrictive measures have been considered and were not available.
Lofty and welcome promises, but Bill 16 as drafted and now approved by the Law Amendments Committee does nothing to ensure that people with intellectual, cognitive, and psychosocial disabilities have access to the supports they need to exercise their rights.
By making guardianship not the last resort, but the first resort, Bill 16 will undermine equality and liberty rights for the growing number of Nova Scotians who need assistance to exercise power over their basic personal, health care, and financial decisions.
Many reasonable and detailed proposals to amend Bill 16 to ensure rights protections were presented by legal experts, disability community organizations, persons with disabilities, and family members. However, with almost no deliberation by the Committee this morning, these proposals were rejected and the Bill sent back to the Legislature to be adopted as is.
We urge the Honorable Mark Furey, Nova Scotia Minister of Justice, to hear the voices of Nova Scotians and to abide by the balance the
Charter and the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia requires. There is still opportunity to amend this Bill in Committee of the Whole. Further consultation could be undertaken to craft the amendments that would get the Bill right.
The Nova Scotia
Association for Community Living and the Canadian Association for Community Living (NSACL and CACL, respectively) - and many others in Nova Scotia - are asking this government to include a provision so that people can appoint others to assist them in making decisions, as an alternative to being placed under guardianship. These provisions are already in place in provincial/territorial jurisdictions across Canada.
People with disabilities, their families, and their representative organizations deserve better. We cannot stand idly by while the basic rights of people with disabilities are undermined. Without amendments, the Nova Scotia legislation will do just that.