Closing arguments heard at N.S. inquiry as people with disabilities allege housing discrimination

A lengthy inquiry which is considering whether the Nova Scotia government violated human rights by housing people with disabilities in a hospital for over a decade is hearing closing arguments Tuesday.

Beth MacLean and Joseph Delaney have testified the Department of Community Services violated the province’s Human Rights Act by forcing them to remain at the Emerald Hall psychiatric ward in Halifax even though they had been medically discharged.

The human rights complaint, laid in 2014, argued they should have been provided housing in a “small options” home after psychiatrists medically discharged them.

Small-options homes are small housing units, with usually three or four residents, where day-to-day support is provided to people with intellectual disabilities.

In their closing submissions, the applicants and counsel for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission wrote that inquiry chairman Walter Thompson has enough evidence to find that discrimination against people with disabilities occurred.

The province’s lawyers have written that problems like waiting lists and the lack of suitable homes may not be “ideal,” but do not constitute discrimination.

If Thompson rules in favour of the applicants, the case would still go to a second set of hearings, where the province can argue that the discrimination is defensible under existing laws.

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