LAW

Nova Scotia to ‘modernize’ Incompetent Persons Act

Landon Webb case inspires changes to Nova Scotia law written in the 1800s

Nova Scotia's justice minister, Diana Whalen, spoke with reports on Tuesday about changing the Incompetent Persons Act.
Nova Scotia’s justice minister, Diana Whalen, spoke with reporters on Tuesday about changing the Incompetent Persons Act.   Michelle Pressé

Nova Scotia will update an old law that affects people with intellectual disabilities, the justice minister announced Tuesday.

Diana Whalen said she has been reviewing the Incompetent Persons Act since December after a Kings County man challenged the law that was written in the 1800s.

Landon Webb, 25, has been declared an incompetent person by the courts. His parents claim he functions at the level of a 10- to 12-year-old, but Webb says he can live independently.

Over the past five years, 49 Nova Scotians have been declared incompetent under the act.

While Whalen declined to discuss specific cases, she said the current legislation doesn’t consider the spectrum of mental capacities.

“It’s very much an all or nothing act,” said Whalen. “You’re either assumed to have capacity or not, and we don’t believe that reflects today’s society.”

Whalen said the government is now working to “modernize the law” by appealing the existing one and replacing it, or rewriting it to address concerns from legal experts and the public.

“I think the important thing for anybody who’s currently involved as a family member is that we will be consulting and certainly making opportunities for families to have input and let us know their views,” said Whalen.

Staff members have been instructed by Whalen not to oppose an upcoming constitutional challenge  of the act, which will take place on April 29.

The new legislation is anticipated to be in place by May 2017.