3 national organizations granted intervener status in disabilities human rights appeal

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WATCH: The appeal was launched by the Disability Rights coalition after the human rights board of inquiry found the province had violated the human rights of three people with disabilities. Alicia Draus reports – Jun 20, 2019

Three national organizations have been granted intervener status for an appeal of a human rights complaint.

In March, the Human Rights Board of Inquiry 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.

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

“The problem was that the board said it wasn’t in a position to make any general statement about the state of affairs, that people need to come one by one to the human rights commission to seek a remedy for that,” said Claire McNeil, the lawyer representing the Disability Rights Coalition.

“That creates a huge problem for people in this province because there aren’t enough resources, there aren’t enough lawyers, access to legal aid.

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“And even once you get to the human rights commission, you’re not entitled to a hearing — the commission only approves a few number of complaints for a hearing every year.”

The Disability Rights Coalition launched the appeal and on Thursday, the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and People First of Canada (PFC) sought leave to intervene at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

Lawyer Byron Williams is representing all three organizations and said they asked for intervener status because there are national issues of law relating to systemic discrimination and access to justice.

“This case from our clients’ perspective is really important. We’ve struggled for the last 20 years in Canada in dealing with issues relating to disabilities to address systemic barriers so our clients see this as having national significance in terms of the law and how we look at systemic discrimination,” he said.

READ MORE: Mothers of disabled adult children meet in Halifax to call for an increase in supportive housing

Their motion to seek intervener status was supported by the Disability Rights Coalition, and was not opposed by the Human Rights Commission. The province did not take a stance. The judge granted the order saying that he “accepted an additional perspective would be offered.”

A court date for the appeal has not yet been set as the parties are still waiting on the transcripts from the original hearing.

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McNeil raised the issue in court, saying that they were told by the human rights commission the transcripts would not be ready until December 2020.

“That spells huge delay in getting our appeal heard and I think it’s an access to justice issue,” she said.

The commission told the court that because the hearing went for 43 days, there was a lot to transcribe and it was a costly process. While the original estimate was December 2020, they could rush it for a cost of $50,000 for May 2020.

The judge acknowledged there is a shortage of court reports but said that is a long time for transcripts that he did not find to be acceptable.

He asked all parties to work to have the transcripts sooner and to meet again at the end of July to determine dates for the appeal.

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