Those who know me at all (or have been to any of my presentations) know how I feel about Nova Scotia's guardianship legislation, the Incompetent Persons Act. To call it old or out-of-date would be more than flattering and undeserved. In fact, antiquated would be a much better word. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that
You see, although most other provinces provide for the appointment of a guardian of the person (to make personal care
decisions for the adult) and a guardian of the estate (to make financial decisions for the adult), in Nova Scotia full powers for both personal and financial decisions are given to the guardian, even if the adult is only in need of one type of decision-making assistance. It’s an all or nothing, one size most definitely does not fit all, take it or leave it kind of deal.
There's nothing new here; in fact, this is very old news. As far back as 1993, the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia publicly recognized that the Incompetent Persons Act was no longer appropriate and suggested that a new law be passed that would reflect certain fundamental principles, like
- not imposing guardianship simply because a person makes a decision that others do not understand or agree with;
- presuming everyone to be competent to make their own decisions unless it is proven they are not;
- inquiring whether other less restrictive alternatives have been exhausted;
- focusing on the adult’s abilities, allowing them to participate in decision-making as fully as possible in as many areas as possible; and
- taking into account the wishes of the adult (with the court deciding how much weight, in the circumstances, should be given to those wishes).
Two years later the Law Reform Commission actually drafted a new proposed Adult Guardianship Act. The heavy lifting was done for the government of the day. The legislation had been drafted. Cue the applause.
However, instead of a new Act, in 2007 the legislation was amended to remove terms like “lunatics” and “insane persons” and replace them with the somewhat more politically correct “incompetent person”, which some might find, in and of itself,to be rather ironic.
And yet, that is not the irony I am referring to.