Does Nova Scotia's guardianship legislation needs a MAJOR overhaul? Absolutely.
Is it appropriate to throw out the baby with the bathwater and remove the option of guardianship completely from provincial law? While some in the disability community might respond in the affirmative to that question, you will find me on the side of those strongly shaking their heads, NO.
I'm not naive. I realize that many take the view that guardianship should never be a legal option because it “discriminates”against challenged individuals and takes away their right to make choices
In fact, the Canadian Association of Community Living (CACL) has characterized guardianship as "an ancient mechanism that was constructed without consulting people with disabilities" and takes the position that "supported decision-making" is not only preferable to guardianship, but given that "guardianship laws assume that some people do not have the capacity to make legally binding decisions" has invited us to "adopt a paradigm shift in which everyone has an equal legal capacity, without distinction based on disability."
What is Supported Decision Making (SDM)?
SDM means that a person can accept help in making decisions without relinquishing the right to make those decisions. With SDM, freedom of choice is never violated. The wisdom of a person’s choices is not challenged, allowing everyone the dignity of risk.
In theory, SDM helps a person to understand information and make decisions based on his or her own preferences. The feeling is that while guardianship laws theoretically protect people with disabilities from abuse, in practice they open the door to abuse. Some believe that guardianship facilitates institutionalization; the guardian can easily give consent even when the person opposes being institutionalized. One decision by the authorities and a person loses the right to decide where to live, loses the right to vote, the right to choose who to marry, the right to start a business. This results in living in a humiliating and degrading way.
We are told that the fact that others might view a decision as foolish or ill-advised doesn't mean a person in incompetent. The courts speak of the right to be KNOWINGLY foolish and the right to VOLUNTARILY assume risks; some case law speaks of the right to live life on the edge. Which is all well and good.
Let me say that I agree with a lot of the concerns set out above. In fact, speaking only as a parent, I love the concept of SDM in the abstract. My adult child being given that the information she needs to make responsible adult decisions.
What's not to love?
* In Part IV, I will explain my concerns with SDM in the real world.