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Nova Scotia government’s reversal on appeal frustrates disabled community

Disability Rights Coalition 'disgusted' with Premier Tim Houston's decision

3 min read
caption Activists are decrying Premier Tim Houston's decision to appeal a Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruling on disability rights.
Ben Litvak

Victoria Levack is “disgusted” with the province’s decision to appeal a ruling that found disabled Nova Scotians faced systemic discrimination.

“If they are going to appeal to try to get it overturned, I am disgusted with my government,” said Levack, an activist for the disabled who is also a member of the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia.

The Oct. 6 court decision said disabled people in Nova Scotia have been subjected to human rights violations.

The court found that Beth MacLean, Sheila Livingstone and Joseph Delaney, who were living in provincial institutions, were subjected to inadequate living conditions, and that they were victims of systemic discrimination.

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The government will not challenge the three plaintiffs’ financial awards, but wants clarification on the section of the ruling that says disabled people in Nova Scotia face systemic discrimination, said Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane last week.

With the government’s appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada now has to decide if it will hear the case.

caption Vicky Levack (second from left) speaks at the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia press conference on Dec. 1.
Ben Litvak

Levack, a wheelchair user, knows firsthand the suffering of the people trapped in the system. She has been living in a long-term care facility in Halifax for several years.

She has long been concerned with Houston’s intentions on this issue and when he won the provincial election earlier this year, her misgivings grew.

“When he won I got sick to my stomach,” said Levack. “I got physically ill because I saw this coming a mile away.”

Lawyer Vince Calderhead represented MacLean, Livingstone and Delaney at the trial. In an email, he called the government’s decision “appalling.” He said Houston had already committed not to appeal the Oct. 6 ruling.

“The ‘solutionist’ premier is now choosing to fight people with disabilities in court rather than do the right thing and comply with its fundamental human rights obligations,” said Calderhead.

“This appears to be a blatant stalling tactic rather than ‘doing the right thing.’ This represents a continuation of decades of stalling on the rights of persons with disabilities.”

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