The new Adult Capacity and Decision-Making Act has passed into law in Nova Scotia to the disappointment of a group that advocates for people with intellectual disabilities.
The law replaces the Incompetent Persons Act, but guardianship orders under that old law will remain in place unless reviewed in court.
“We believe the changes that we made (Wednesday) are ones that will be positive,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said.
After speaking to the Law Amendments Committee last week, representatives for the advocacy group People First Nova Scotia watched MLAs debate those changes.
The outcome was not what they had hoped for.
“That was surprising and somewhat sad,” said Cindy Carruthers, executive director of the group. “This is about human rights. Without some of these very needed amendments, we’re still breaching human rights.”
People First Nova Scotia wanted lawmakers to ensure all guardianship orders under the old law were reviewed automatically. The orders took away all decision-making power from a person who had been deemed incompetent.
The new law says people who are able to make some of their own decisions should do so.
“To ask them to find some way to traverse this very complicated process and request a review, I mean, that's kind of rather ludicrous,” Carruthers said. “It’s very disheartening, very sad … and it won’t stand the law because all of those guardianships are still in place.”
But the premier believes this is about balance.
“Without automatically forcing someone to go into the court system, it gives them the option of either staying with the order they have or having that order reviewed by the court,” McNeil said.
Dalhousie law professor Archie Kaiser said the law itself should be challenged in court. He also said the government's chief concern should be the vulnerable people who are under guardianship orders.
“If you are concerned about the costs and burdens on parents and others who took out orders under the old legislation, then there's a simple answer: help them with the costs,” Kaiser said.
For now, that's not going to happen. The law will be reviewed within three years.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.