N.S. government seeks delay in housing rights hearing for people with disabilities

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's government is asking to delay a human rights case involving access to housing for people with disabilities until the country's top court rules on the matter.

The province's Court of Appeal ruled in October that the long wait-lists for community housing had created a denial of "meaningful'' access to housing and amounted to systemic discrimination.

That decision in favour of the Disabilities Rights Coalition overturned a previous human rights board finding and sent the matter back before the board.

The government could attempt to prove the discrimination is reasonable and justified, but it also has the option of accepting the finding of discrimination, which would permit the board to turn its attention toward a remedy.

Instead, Christian Deveau of the Department of Community Services said that with the province seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, it would be impractical to make representations before the human rights board.

Claire McNeil, the lawyer for the Disabilities Rights Coalition, said Monday her group will ask the human rights board to force the province to state its position and to reject the government's request for delay.

Deveau noted the province's position "in no way diminishes our commitment to move people with disabilities to communities."

"We know that we have to reform the system, and we will continue to do that. Whatever happens in the legal case — even if there’s a successful appeal — that reform is continuing and will continue."

The human rights board hearing held a teleconference with the parties on Monday, but the discussions weren't open to the public.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press