Nova Scotia Hasn't Got a Timeline on Closing its Institutions for Disabled People

Text: Time for Change

Some things still shouldn't be happening in 2022.

A report done for the Nova Scotia government called for the closure of the province's 8 remaining residential facilities for disabled adults by 2023.

The Nova Scotia government is now saying it can't guarantee when will happen.

Buckle up. I'm about to rant.

What's Wrong With Residential Institutions?

Nothing, if you like living in denial that the Canadian government lets epically fucked-up stuff happen to specific groups of Canadians (adults and children) for reasons it can't even remotely justify.

The fact is that the era in which institutional living was thought to be the best option for disabled adults and children is a dark period in Canada's history. It's too easy to find shocking allegations from former residents of these overcrowded, chronically understaffed facilities of: 

  • All types of abuse - physical, sexual, emotional
  • Neglect and restraint use
  • Unsanitary living conditions and forced labour
Read about the histories of the Huronia Regional Centre and Manitoba Development Centre (both now closed) to find out more. (Triggers for extremely unsettling content of all kinds on these stories; please be safe.)

Of course, Nova Scotia's remaining institutions aren't like those two houses of horror were (I'm assuming. I'm hoping.) However, disabled people are still being housed in them against their will, when it's been shown again...and again...and again...that community-based homes meet people's needs in a way that much better supports their dignity, autonomy, and right to be fully-contributing members of their community. 

More importantly, institutional living as it exists today still violates people's rights. Canada ratified the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and that means that we signed on to support Article 19 of said Convention
"State Parties to the Present Convention recognize the equal rights of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment with persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:
  • Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement.
  • Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community.
  • Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with a disability and are responsive to their needs."
Say it loud for the people in the back: Nova Scotia is violating people's rights. 

Is Community-Based Housing Perfect?

No, it is not. Not by any means.

In fact, when the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals asked the Deputy Minister of the Department of Community and Social Services what the hold-up was on all this (I'm paraphrasing, of course) she had a good point when she said that it takes time to develop community-housing options that aren't going to function like mini-institutions; they just want to be sure that when people will be do get transferred into these community living placements, they will be places that they want to live and that can give them all the support that they need. 

Seriously, it's a good answer. One of my concerns about Ontario's final phase of moving residents out of institutions, as much as I supported it, was that the community supports infrastructure wasn't yet in place to the point where it could provide everything that everyone would need. Thank the God that I don't believe in that I was (mostly) wrong.

But How Long?

The thing is:
  • Ontario was asking this question about moving the last group of residents out of its 3 largest institutions in 2009, after starting plans to move people out - in the late 1970s.
  • That was about the same time that British Columbia started to think about moving people out of its institutions. Its last institution closed in 1996.
  • Nova Scotia is the last province to close its institutions, after receiving the report I mentioned earlier saying, "You should do this!" - in 2013. They've had 10 years.  
  • The Nova Scotia Court of Appeals said, "Get on this." - last year
And now they're saying, "Well, we won't be done next year, because we want to do it right."

Fan-fucking-tastic. Nova Scotia, just how much time do you think you should get to catch with the rest of the country on treating disabled people with the same basic human rights that everyone else has?

"I'm sure you understand that these things take time..."

 This is what I hate about governments and disability-related promises.

All the governments are going to change things. But accessibility/funding/housing/supports...whatever... We have to be patient, because these processes move slowly.

Bullshit. I've always suspected that government can move as quickly as it wants to when something is important enough, and as Vicky Levack, who has been hospitalized in a Nova Scotia institution against her will for the past decade, points out: the COVID response confirms that. 

Nova Scotia hasn't closed it's institutions because it's just not a priority. And we're back to my starting sentence:

Some things still shouldn't be happening in 2022.  Period.