"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Interesting Tidbit Look at Physician-Assisted Suicide

In Canada, suicide is not a crime. However, assisting someone to commit suicide is.
Or, at least, it was.

In a June, 2012 decision out of British Columbia, the British Columbia Supreme Court (BCSC) found that these Criminal Code prohibitions violated the Charter rights of the plaintiffs (a woman with a fatal neurodegenerative disease and the relatives of another woman who had terminated her life in Switzerland with their assistance).

Some of you might recall the issue of physician-assisted suicide being dealt with many years ago; in 1993, to be exact. In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) found that although the prohibition on doctor-assisted death engaged the s. 7 rights of liberty and security of the person, the law should be upheld based on the importance of the objective behind it; namely, the protection of the vulnerable. This policy is part of our fundamental concept of the sanctity of life and it was noted that blanket prohibitions on assisted suicide is the norm among Western democracies.

The government's repeal of the offence of attempted suicide was not a recognition that suicide was to be accepted within Canadian society but merely reflected the recognition that the criminal law is an ineffectual and inappropriate tool for dealing with suicide attempts. Given the concerns about abuse and the great difficulty in creating appropriate safeguards, the SCC found that the blanket prohibition on assisted suicide was neither arbitrary nor unfair.

But the law has developed since then, particularly as to what exactly is encompassed in the term "principles of fundamental justice" (as found in s. 7).  Further, the Rodriguez case had not dealt with the issue of s. 15 equality rights.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Financial and Estate Planning Tool

We've talked at length, on various occasions, about the challenges involved in planning for your child's future security, be it personal or financial.

In that vein, although no longer exactly *new*, I've been meaning to share NBACL's financial and estate planning resource.

From Ken Pike, NBACL Director of Social Policy:
There are many issue to consider when making financial and estate plans for your family member with a disability. NBACL's new online resource, Financial and Estate Planning for a Family Member with a Disability, provides information on a number of important topics as well as links to other resources that may be useful. The on-line module has information about
  • The key elements of good financial planning;
  • The tax system, including credits, benefits and deductions relevant to people with disabilities and their families;
  • Registered Disability Savings Plans;
  • Estate planning considerations and options for a family member with a disability;
  • Establishing a financial trust for a loved one with a disability;
  • The impact of provincial social assistance laws and rules on financial and estate planning [See Below]; and
  • Planning for a home for a family member with a disability.
The module also contains a series of family financial and estate planning scenarios that offer some guidance from a qualified financial planner and a lawyer that address the situations presented.
As Ken notes, although the law in this area is often changing, NBACL has committed itself to keeping the information current.

Which is where the one BIG CAVEAT comes in - the site is based on New Brunswick law, not Nova Scotia law.

Although, fortunately, that is not quite as big of a problem as you might first think as, in many respects, the law is similar in both provinces around these issues. However, one area where the law does substantially differ between the provinces is how income* and assets* are treated with regard to social assistance payments.

Speaking of which, it's essential to remember that in Nova Scotia any trust you create for a loved one with a disability must be a so-called "Henson Trust" (referred to in the NB Resource as an  absolute discretionary trust) in order to ensure that social assistance payments are not affected.

* NOTE: Although you can find the Employment Support and Income Assistance policy manual here, I would strongly suggest that you always double check what you read in any policy document to make sure it complies with the regulations made under the applicable Act.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

June 2012 Services for Persons with Disabilities Policy


Some of you might recall our previous discussions around the various programs offered under the Services for Persons with Disabilities (SPD) umbrella.

The policy documents  for each of those individual programs (Independent Living Support, Alternative Family and Direct Family Support) can be accessed by clicking on the relevant link on this page and then looking for the policy link on each program page.

But, lo and behold, the Department of Community Services (DCS) has now provided the policy document for the entire SPD Policy (dated June, 2012) online. The document covers both financial eligibility for the programs under the SPD umbrella and the "Basic and Special Needs Policy". 

Which, this is big news, because although you may want to first read the policy document for the individual program you are dealing with, you will definitely want to become familiar with the SPD policy itself.

And although it's next on my own personal "to do list", a little birdy has told me that if you find yourself in a dispute with the DCS (be it for yourself or a family member) around the SPD program, this new policy document might just be well worth the read.

H/T to my *little birdy*

Thursday, August 2, 2012

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Very interesting situation going on in Minnesota at the moment - apparently, the law there as it now stands provides that persons subject to a guardianship order retain the right to vote unless a judge explicitly takes it away.

Some are trying to get that changed to provide that a person subject to guardianship cannot vote unless a judge orders otherwise. They fear that the votes of some persons with disabilities are being manipulated. The article refers to "guardianship voting" - I'm not sure exactly what that means but they also speak about group home workers taking their "charges" to vote and possibly influencing their votes - although I have to wonder how many of those group home residents are actually subject to guardianship. My guess is that most aren't.

In Nova Scotia (which easily has the most archaic guardianship system in the country), many rights are automatically taken away from a person subject to a guardianship order, including the right to vote.

Although I think I know what my readership will say, what do you think?

Should people who have been declared incompetent still be allowed to vote? If so, what (if any) measures should be put in place to ensure that their votes aren't being illegally manipulated?