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Nova Scotia disability, accessible housing advocate passes away at age 47

Disability advocate Joanne Larade speaks at a panel discussion in Halifax.
Disability advocate Joanne Larade speaks at a panel discussion in Halifax. Jeremy Keefe / Global News

A well-known disability advocate from Cape Breton has died.

Joanne Larade passed away on Tuesday at Cobequid Community Health Centre. She was 47.

Larade had been living in long-term care for the past six years, surrounded by elderly people living with dementia, and having no one her age — other than staff members — to talk to.

She was a member of No More Warehousing, a group of Nova Scotians advocating for co-housing and community living and related supports for persons with severe physical disabilities.

“It’s basically a warehouse for the dying, and the only way I’ve found to survive that is to spend as little time there as possible,” said Larade to Global’s Jeremy Keefe in a past interview.

The day before her death, she led an event at the Halifax Public Library featuring five mothers of children with severe disabilities who talked about the supports they didn’t have, but need.

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READ MORE: Get people with disabilities out of institutions, rights groups tell Nova Scotia

She was pushing the Nova Scotia government to provide dedicated housing to people with physical disabilities rather than have them put in nursing homes.

“All she really wanted was to be in the community and have an affordable apartment that was accessible and some care provider, so that she could live in Halifax rather than outside of the city,” said Emma Cameron, co-president of No More Warehousing.

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“And so she could be close by her friends in Halifax and kind of live as much of a normal life as she could, rather than be isolated and living with people who are, you know, on average 80 or older,” she added.

WATCH: Nova Scotians with physical disabilities say long-term care homes in the province are only meeting their basic needs. Jeremy Keefe reports.

‘It’s basically a warehouse for the dying’: Nova Scotians call on government to overhaul long-term care homes
‘It’s basically a warehouse for the dying’: Nova Scotians call on government to overhaul long-term care homes

Larade was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of nine and was confined to a wheelchair at the age of 12.

“She was very healthy and doing really well,” said Emma Cameron, the co-president of No More Warehousing. “Her death was very sudden and shocking.”

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READ MORE: N.S. creates advisory panel to look for ways to improve long-term care

In early April, Larade had the opportunity to meet with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and share her story.

Cameron also said she was the panelist for the group’s very first event in February, where she talked about what it’s like to live in a nursing home as a younger adult with a disability.

“She was very feisty and I mean that in the best possible way. She was one of the most passionate people I have ever met,” Cameron said.

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Larade, Cameron and other members of the group were preparing to meet Premier Stephen McNeil next week.

READ MORE: N.S. inquiry finds that hospital violated human rights of people with disabilities

“We’re really sad that she won’t be able to come with us now. She was very excited,” said Cameron, who will highlighting the advocacy work Larade has done at the meeting.

The No More Warehousing group will continue to advocate for Larade’s cause.

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“She was very optimistic for change, even though we’ve seen so little of it,” Cameron said. “She was determined that this would be our year and that change would happen and I really hope that we can do that for her.”

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