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July 23, 2021

The Disability Rights Coalition Campaign - Being More Acadian

Once disembarked in new lands, the exiles continued to behave as if they were much more than just a body of refugees, or victims of war, and began to act with considerable political acumen.  As soon as the Acadians had made even a minimal adaptation to their new situation, they gathered their wits and wrote, or employed the local talent to write, petitions which set forth the totally unjustified nature of the punishment they had suffered and requested a variety of alterations in their situation.
The Contexts of Acadian History
Exile Surmounted
Naomi Griffiths
Guest Opinion
Chronicle Herald July 23, 2021

For generations, people with disabilities in Nova Scotia — often living at the intersections of disability, poverty and other markers of disadvantage and domination such as race, Indigeneity and gender — have been shuttled from systems of inadequate community-based social supports through to institutional detentions, even lifelong institutionalization.

Yet in June 2013, people with disabilities found hope in the report of a joint community-government task force that came to be known as the Roadmap. The Roadmap pointed the way to a new era of community inclusion and equality. It was pragmatic and achievable. The three main parties all endorsed it and pledged to implement its recommendations within 10 years, by 2023.

The problem the Roadmap sought to address was the gridlock experienced by people with disabilities in accessing supports needed to live in the community. Today, as then, hundreds of people who are being needlessly institutionalized, sometimes for decades, find themselves on a never-ending waitlist and many more are struggling in poverty in situations in which their basic needs go unmet.

The problem started in 1995 with a government-imposed moratorium on the creation of new small option homes and then was allowed to grow unabated. In the decades since, in the name of balanced budgets and capacity building, people with disabilities in need have borne a disproportionate burden and had their needs ignored or discounted.

The Roadmap proposed some common-sense solutions: creating more inclusive communities through increasing access to community-based supports and services, ending wait times and closing all institutions — bringing an end to the cruel and discriminatory practice of segregating persons with disabilities in warehouse-like facilities.

Fast-forward to 2021: as election day approaches, what is the state of the new, more just world promised by government in its commitment to the Roadmap?

The Disability Rights Coalition’s Report released this week shows where the government’s promises to implement the Roadmap within 10 years now stand. The number of eligible applicants waiting for services has been allowed to grow: 1,915 people are on the waitlist compared with 1,099 in 2014.

Yet despite the growing waitlist, there are fewer people receiving assistance from the Disability Supports Program now than when the Roadmap was released.

Pressure is mounting as more people seeking assistance are told there is no room in the programs they need. In the meantime, they are detained in institutions, or receiving services that the department admits are inappropriate, or in the case of 536 people, no services at all.

Nova Scotia stands out shamefully from the rest of Canada (as well as the U.S.) for its continued reliance on institutional warehousing of people with disabilities, decades after the recognized brutality of such systems brought the closure of disability institutions elsewhere.

This is ableism at work. Ableism means systematically discounting the humanity and interests of people with disabilities while privileging the interests of others. It operates in ways that often track and deepen racist, gendered and class inequalities.

The province’s ever-delayed closure of institutions and failure to create responsive community supports marks a refusal to share with disabled people and a violation of their human rights.

Does it have to be this way? No — the path forward is clear: end waitlists for people desperate to leave institutions and others by expanding access to inclusive community-based options; close institutions by the Roadmap commitment of 2023; and increase funding and support for staff training and capacity to promote choice, equality and good lives in the community.

It will take political will, though — the will to deliver on the current government’s promise to keep inclusion and equality at the heart of its mission. A three-year budget commitment is all that is needed to undo decades of discriminatory treatment and freezes on services that have brought us to where we are now.

The way to disability justice, which is indivisible from justice for all, lies in keeping these promises. Will Nova Scotia’s elected representatives honour their commitment to fulfil the Roadmap within 10 years, by 2023?


Helping Out

The Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia asks you to send the following email to:

Premier Iain Rankin premier@novascotia.ca or info@iainrankin.ca
Gary Burrill, MLA, NDP Leader for Nova Scotia: gary.burrill@nsndp.ca
Tim Houston, Leader of the Opposition, the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia: pictoueastamanda@gmail.com
Optional: Cc us at: DisabilityRightsNS@gmail.com.

If you have designated a default email, clicking Send mail should bring up an email ready for your signature.  Otherwise cut and paste this suggested language :

Dear Premier Rankin:

Call to Action: The Road to Inclusion for People with Disabilities

I support equality in inclusive communities for people with disabilities. I call on you to publicly commit to take action now to meet the 2013 historic commitment to people with disabilities, endorsed by all parties:

  1. Commit to a firm, 3 year budget, on an immediate basis, in order to end wait times so that all eligible Disability Supports Program applicants will receive immediate access to appropriate supports and services to meet their needs under the Social Assistance Act, in accordance with the Roadmap, including 806 new independent living options in the community by December 31, 2023;
  2. Provide all persons with disabilities in need who are financially eligible meaningful access to community based services within three years and end the discriminatory practice of excluding some people with disabilities from access to independent living options in the community;
  3. End institutionalization of people with disabilities now and close all institutions for people with disabilities by 2023;
  4. As it has in other priority areas, provide funding for enhanced, ongoing, training and education, professional development and employment for residential care workers to further build sufficient community based capacity and ensure that wages and benefits are adequate to recruit and retain workers.


[Replace this line with Your Name]

July 19, 2021

A Seat at the Table

If there is any truth to the somewhat disjointed article Unraveling the Colonialist Myths of Nova Scotia in Smithsonian Magazine, it is that Nova Scotia has been a palimpsest, written on by colonialists, loyalists, government, even by 20th century Buddhists and anti-Trumpists. 

The fantasies are as contagious as the Delta variant; invoking the label 'world class' in what Tim Bousquet of The Coast called "a sad need for outside validation, a craving for attention from the wider world coupled perhaps paradoxically with a suspicion of actual Come From Aways."  Now the mantra is "Equity, Diversity and Inclusion"

Reality intrudes, and events like Boat Harbour, abuse of children, the deforestation, the careless disposal of toxic waste, Africville, the murder of 20 people and the undoing of cult leader Trungpa bring disillusion.  Romantics return to Toronto.  'Restorative Justice' is invoked to hide the evidence.  Apologies abound.

In 2016, along came Bill 59; what the government thought of as a simple promise to make Nova Scotia Equitable, Inclusive and Diverse.  Not as easy as it appeared........

People with disabilities were outraged, they wanted self determination and rights, not condescension and vague promises.  A series of hearings led to considerable improvement.

As a result, public sector bodies are charged with developing accessibility plans.  
  • Develop Nova Scotia, Events East, Innovacorp, Nova Scotia Business Inc. and Tourism Nova Scotia are seeking Nova Scotians with lived and learned accessibility experience to join a new Crown Accessibility Advisory Committee.
  • Working together with members from each corporation, the Crown Accessibility Advisory Committee will work to identify, prevent and eliminate barriers to people with disabilities in their programs, services, initiatives and facilities.

The five corporations have 50 directors.  I don't know a thing about them, but their short biographies lead me to this summary:

    • 22 women
    • 28 men
    • 44 white
    • 3 indigenous
    • 1 African Nova Scotian
    • 2 of Unguessable ethnicity 
    • 0 People with Disabilities
The 50 are appointed through something called Agencies, Boards and Commissions, a creature of the Executive Council, which advertises thusly:

Employment Equity Policy
The Government of Nova Scotia has an employment equity policy and we encourage people from diverse communities to apply. Applicants are invited to self-identify to help us increase diversity on our ABCs.

 This report

Moving Toward Equity
Employment Equity and Diversity in the Nova Scotia Public Service 

lists the following statistics:

Designated GroupNova Scotia’s
Labour Force
Nova Scotia Public Service
Indigenous People5.6%3.6%
Visible Minority (including Black)2.4%8.6%
Persons with Disabilities (ages 15-64)9.9%11.8%

Relying on self reporting is dubious and the lack of criteria leads to miscategorization.  Does 'Aboriginal' mean one is in the Indian Register?  What does 'Racially Visible' mean?  Does your depression make you disabled?

Recognizing shortcomings, the Executive Council put together a new plan.  It promises progress and measurement.

Here is the key sentence:
There is growing evidence that ties diversity and inclusion to better business practices. As an employer with a focus on providing quality services to our changing demographic, the Nova Scotia Public Service needs to ensure that we have the best knowledge and understanding of what Nova Scotians need. 

But it contains no timeline - only more resonant language and vague promises.  Certainly there is no recruitment plan.  Reference is made to adopting 'Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks'.  There are no progress reports.  

The Crown Accessibility Advisory Committee meets the requirements of Bill 59, but does not give people a seat at the table.  It is decisions and projects that can profit immensely from diversity.

The chair of Nova Scotia Business and CEO of Credit Union Atlantic needs to sit at the same table with a person with a Registered Disability Savings Plan and learn the potential of the $250,000.000 the province is busy throwing away.  She needs to get that quarter of a billion invested in the province and addressing homelessness.

The chair of Tourism Nova Scotia needs to learn firsthand about accessible tourism.  She'll learn the difference between a roll-in shower and a tub with a chair.  She'll figure out why tourists expect accessible rooms to be saved for those who need them.  Maybe she'll even figure out why people like to wash their hands before eating.

The chair of Innovacorp, needs to hear from a rural person with a mobility disability about the virtues of home monitoring through cellular technology and how it could save millions of dollars in personal visits while giving better service.

The chair of Develop Nova Scotia may have learned a lot from their misadventure at the Stubborn Goat.  But still the flagship property in Lunenburg, the Bluenose itself, has a "No Disabled Allowed" step.

The chair of Events East, needs to sit with a person, a Nova Scotian, with an intellectual disability and explain why minimum wage laws don't apply.

That's diversity of ideas.  That's why we need a seat at the table, not a place at the take-out window.

June 29, 2021

There is no Hierarchy of Oppressions

I ineptly said "Those who are fond of listing their preferred pronouns or acknowledging that we occupy unceded lands of the Mi'kmaq perpetuate the error of focusing on the victim rather than the crime."

What I meant to say is that acknowledging a problem is a lot easier than fixing it.

There is an excellent article in Newsweek that references this remarkable essay:

What is the difference between:
  • Paying people with Down syndrome less than minimum wage and the fact that full-time working women earn 76.8 cents for every dollar men make?
  • "Irish need not apply" and no ramp at the Bluenose?
  • The forcible relocation and internment in the name of national security of 22,000 Japanese Canadians during WW II and the expulsion of the Acadians?
  • Locating a toxic asbestos dump in remotest Annapolis County and Boat Harbour or Grassy Narrows?
  • Emerald Hall and Residential Schools?
When will we ever learn?

"I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only."