Mom says Nova Scotia is failing people with disabilities
Brenda Hardiman knows the difficulties that face Nova Scotians living with disabilities.
Her daughter, Nichelle Benn, has a brain disorder and an intellectual disability, which sometimes causes aggressive outbursts.
Six years ago, Hardiman says the Department of Community Services told her Benn would have to be placed in an institution - or pay for the care herself.
“We had no choice of where she was to live,” Hardiman says.
Hardiman told the hearing that was no choice at all and recalled the first time she visited the institution where her daughter would eventually live.
She's testifying at a human rights commission hearing into a discrimination complaint that alleges the Nova Scotia government has failed to provide enough supportive community housing for people with disabilities.
“There was a gentleman sitting in the middle of the floor, he was a resident, and he had no clothing on, and he was dragging himself across the floor with no clothing on,” Hardiman said. “And I turned around to look at Nichelle, and this is what she sees before she's moving in?”
Benn spent nearly three years at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre.
“She used to call me and cry, ‘you have to help me get out mom, it's horrible in here,’” Hardiman said.
Hardiman says her daughter's experience got so bad, she ended up facing an assault charge in connection with an incident at the home. The charge was eventually dropped.
Hardiman spoke out about what happened - even meeting with Premier Stephen McNeil. Shortly after that, her daughter was given a placement in a small, group home setting.
She told the hearing, the change has made a world of difference for her daughter.
There are so many other people that are suffering in our institutions in Nova Scotia,” Hardiman said. “We have six, and I believe maybe even seven of them, and a lot of them don't have a voice.”
An independent review of the Quest facility was done in 2015 after a resident died there. It found Quest had taken all reasonable steps to address safety and security concerns.
CTV News reached out to Quest for comments on today's human rights hearing - but didn't hear back by airtime.
In a statement, the Department of Community Services says it monitors Quest to ensure a good standard of care.
It also says it plans to add eight small group homes by the end of next year.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission hearing will continue for several more weeks. For Hardiman's part, she says she feels cautiously optimistic that change is possible.
With files from Heidi Petracek.