Supported decision-making documents need legal recognition, coalition argues

CBC News Posted: Mar 21, 2014 8:15 AM AT Last Updated: Mar 21, 2014 11:34 AM AT


A P.E.I. man is asking the province for law that would allow people with intellectual disabilities to have more control over their lives.Jeremy MacDonald is the first Islander to have what’s called a supported decision-making document, but it’s not recognized in legislation yet.

‘Dignity is born when people have control of their own decisions.’– Rosaline Waters

MacDonald and his mother, Terri, have shared a Charlottetown apartment for years. But when his mother had to be admitted to hospital, 33-year-old Jeremy was moved into a group home, and he didn’t like it.

“Nobody likes group homes for anything. They’re disrespectful,” he said.

To make sure Jeremy wouldn’t go there again, he and his mother reached out to Rosalind Waters, who is with the P.E.I. Citizens Advocacy Group. Between them, they created the supported decision-making agreement. It outlines how Jeremy can work with a specified group of family and friends to help him make decisions about things like housing or health, in the event that his mother can’t.

Waters said people with intellectual disabilities need to have some independence.

“Dignity is born when people have control of their own decisions,” she said.

But the document isn’t currently legally recognized on P.E.I. Groups like the P.E.I. Citizens Advocacy Group are currently working with the province to pass legislation so it will be.

Waters said there are thousands of Islanders who could benefit from a supported decision-making agreement, including senior citizens, people with cerebral palsy, and those suffering from dementia.

Michelle Harris-Genge of the provincial Department of Community Services said the province is trying to maintain a difficult balance.

“The goal is to increase autonomy, but you have to ensure that we’re not increasing vulnerability,” said Harris-Genge.

Advocates for Jeremy MacDonald and others like him hope to have this legislation passed by fall of 2015.

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