A Nova Scotia man fighting a law that limits the rights of people with intellectual disabilities won some personal freedom and claimed a major victory Tuesday as the province declared its Incompetent Persons Act invalid.
Landon Webb had his “mentally incompetent” status overturned at the same hearing in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, allowing him to reclaim control over some aspects of his life that had been conferred to his parents under the Act.
“I’m just really pleased I have my life back,” Webb said outside the courtroom on Tuesday.
“Maybe this weekend I’ll just go down to the cottage at my friend’s place and just sit around the fire and look at the stars.”
The hearing opened with lawyers for the province conceding that sections of the Act are unconstitutional. Alex Cameron told the court it would be suspended for a year while new legislation is drafted.
Jeanne Desveaux, lawyer for Webb’s mother and father, then told the court her clients were revoking their guardianship in recognition of an medical assessment declaring the 25-year-old mentally competent.
“He has improved to the extent that a guardian is no longer required,” Desveaux told reporters after the hearing. “The whole purpose of Mr. Landon being transitioned to the facility … (was) so that he could successfully live in the community.”
Webb’s case attracted attention last October after he left a rehabilitation centre for several weeks, was found safe in Edmonton and returned to Nova Scotia, where he appeared in local media saying he is not incompetent.
His parents said their son functioned at the level of a 10 or 12-year-old, but Webb disagreed and filed the court challenge hoping to be free to live a normal life.
On Tuesday, Webb’s lawyers called the Act “archaic,” and in their client’s case, claimed its enforcement was so draconian that leaving the law intact amounted to legislative negligence.
“There’s probably other people out there … in a similar situation,” Webb said outside court. “They’ll be able to make decisions for themselves.”
Webb’s lawyers told the court they were seeking $25,000 in compensation from the province, arguing his treatment under the Act violated his charter rights.
“Landon Webb has been unlawfully detained and deprived of his liberty,” court-ordered litigation guardian Christine Ogaranko said. “(He) has lived under ongoing threat of misapprehension and further restrictions placed on his freedom.”
Webb was placed in the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Annapolis Valley in 2013 but after his trip to Edmonton was transferred to a transitional care facility, where he continued to live under round-the-clock supervision.
His parents, Brenda and Darrell Webb, did not attend the hearing. All parties in the courtroom agreed the couple had their son’s best interests at heart.
“Hopefully, in the near future I’ll be able to have a relationship with them,” Landon Webb said. “I don’t hold a grudge.”
© 2016 The Canadian Press