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Human Rights Complaint Alleges Discrimination Against Man with Intellectual Disability

Long time advocate Audrey Cole and her son Ian have filed a human rights complaint against the Government of Ontario, alleging that the province discriminated against Ian by failing to provide services in the community that he would otherwise receive if he was institutionalized.

Ian, a 50-year-old Ontario man who has Down syndrome, requires catheterization services. In 2012, his doctor increased his catheterization services from four per day to five per day. Ian’s disability support funding was capped at four nursing visits per day, requiring his mother to pay the cost of the fifth service out of pocket. However, if Ian lived in an institution, he would have received the services of the fifth catheterization without his family having to pay for it.

The Coles’ complaint alleges that the regulation was discriminatory to Ian because it denied the level of service that would allow him to continue living outside an institution.

"Institutions aren't buildings, they're ways of thinking," Audrey said during her testimony, as quoted by The Whig.

Ian currently lives independently with a roommate in his community.

"I believe Ian would die," Audrey, who is 88-years-old, said in response to a question from her lawyer about the impact living in an institution would have on her son.

David Baker, the Coles’ lawyer, calls the case a question of human rights, of whether a person is entitled to remain in their community.

In 2015, the government saw the regulation change, and Ian began receiving funding for the fifth catheterization service he required. Still, Audrey and Ian are seeking a statement from the Human Rights Tribunal that Ian was discriminated against during the period when he was denied five nursing visits per day.

"If that simple statement is made, governments would think twice before institutionalizing and that is, after all, what the case is all about,” Baker said as quoted by The Whig.

The Human Rights Tribunal is scheduled to continue throughout August.