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Court to set appeal dates for finding of Nova Scotia human rights board inquiry

Beth MacLean, the woman at the centre of a human rights case dealing with persons with disabilities and their attempts to move out of institutions, testifies at the inquiry in Halifax on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
Beth MacLean, the woman at the centre of a human rights case dealing with persons with disabilities and their attempts to move out of institutions, testifies at the inquiry in Halifax on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal will set dates for an appeal of a decision by the province’s human rights board of inquiry.

That decision found the province had violated the human rights of three people with disabilities when it confined them to a hospital ward for three years — but did not determine that systemic discrimination against people with disabilities had occurred.

Dates for the appeal will be set on Thursday while the court will also hear an application from three national disability rights groups to intervene in the appeal, the Disability Rights Coalition (DRC) announced on Tuesday.

The DRC had filed its original human rights complaint in August 2014 and the decision by the board of inquiry was released on March 4, 2019.

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

The coalition, along with Beth MacLean, Joseph Delaney and the late Sheila Livingstone, had argued before the board of inquiry that the province should have provided them with small homes in the community with suitable care and support.

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The board agreed, finding that confining the three complainants to the Emerald Hall ward of the Nova Scotia Hospital had an “adverse impact” on their lives.

“Each was confined, against almost all medical advice, for long periods of time in an acute-care unit of a psychiatric clinic awaiting a placement in some other care facility,” Walter Thompson, chairman of the board of inquiry wrote in the decision.

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In addition, he found the province knew it should not hold people in Emerald Hall who were not mentally ill.

WATCH: Decision reached following human rights complaint against N.S.

Decision reached following human rights complaint against N.S.
Decision reached following human rights complaint against N.S.

Thompson rejected the province’s argument that it had no options for the three, saying there was evidence from multiple government officials and experts that suitable housing and care could have been provided.

He also did not find that the province discriminated against persons with disabilities who reside in institutions generally or who are on a waiting list for placement in a small-options home.

He concluded that each disabled person’s circumstances must be assessed individually and then a decision made as to whether they had meaningful access to services.

READ MORE: Woman with intellectual disability details 15-year quest for release from N.S. hospital

The DRC says that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Canadian Association for Community Living and People First Canada are applying to intervene.

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“For hundreds of people with disabilities who have no choice but to live in remote, segregated, outdated institutions, this appeal will determine whether… the government should be held accountable for discrimination on a systemic scale,” the coalition wrote in a press release.

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The Nova Scotia government has filed their own cross-appeal against the board of inquiry decision.

Both parties have indicated that they plan to take part in the appeal.

The Court of the Appeal will hear the application and set dates at The Law Courts on Thursday at 10 a.m. AT.