Landon Webb case prompts change to N.S. law affecting people with intellectual disabilities

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The lawyer for a man who is fighting a Nova Scotia law that limits the rights of people with intellectual disabilities is welcoming word the province has waved the white flag.

Susanne Litke, the lawyer for Landon Webb, said an announcement Tuesday by the provincial justice minister that her department would not oppose next month’s constitutional challenge of the Incompetent Persons Act was “very good news.”

“I think it’s a very important move and I’m very pleased with the response of the minister to our application,” said Litke.

READ MORE: Landon Webb found safe, but on other side of the country: family

Webb, 25, has been trying to overturn his “mentally incompetent” status, and says the act infringes on his rights and freedoms.

His case made headlines last October after he left the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre in the Annapolis Valley for several weeks.

His parents, Brenda and Darrell Webb, went public with concerns about their son, who they said functions at the level of a 10 or 12-year-old. They said he had been diagnosed with autism, has developmental disabilities and can have severe anxiety and mood swings.

Webb was found safe in Edmonton last November and returned to Nova Scotia, where he has since appeared in local media saying he is not incompetent and wants to be free to live a normal life.

“The law needs to be overhauled”

Litke said Tuesday she was pleased with Justice Minister Diana Whalen’s promise to finally change a law that should have been revamped following recommendations from a law reform commission report released 20 years ago.

“The law needs to be overhauled in every way,” said Litke. “It doesn’t include any of the modern methods of working with persons with disabilities.”

However, Litke said Webb would still seek a legal remedy to his situation when he goes to court April 29 because any changes to the law won’t be made for another year.

Whalen, whose department is conducting an ongoing review of the law, said those changes would involve either amending the current act or repealing it in favour of a new law.

READ MORE: Landon Webb case handled properly: minister

The minister promised the review in December after publicity generated by Webb’s case.

On Tuesday she said it’s clear some form of change is needed for a law that is too uniform in its approach.

“You either are considered to have capacity or not to have capacity,” Whalen said. “What we realize in today’s society is that there is a range of abilities that people have and a range of ability to make your own decisions and to have some control in your life.”

She said the province plans to have any changes in place by spring 2017 following consultations with families and the legal community.


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