02/05/2018 07:09 EST | Updated 02/05/2018 11:22 EST

Nova Scotia argues that supported housing for disabled is not a right

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's government says it's not necessarily a human rights violation for the province to refuse to fund supported housing in the community for people with disabilities.

The province and complainants made opening arguments today in a potentially ground-breaking human rights case where two people with disabilities are arguing they have the right to live in supported housing in the community, rather than being kept in institutions with restrictions and locked doors.

Forty-five-year-old Joseph Delaney and 46-year-old Beth MacLean say they should be permitted to move from the hospital-like settings into small homes where assistance is provided in areas such as meals and personal care.

A third complainant, Sheila Livingstone, died as the case wound its way through various delays, but her story will be told by family members and the complainants' lawyer, Vince Calderhead.

Kevin Kindred, a solicitor with the Justice Department, told inquiry board chairperson John Walter Thompson that he'll argue that individual cases and the reasons for refusing transfers into community settings may be complex and are not necessarily acts of discrimination.

He also said it's incorrect for the complainants to liken their situation to non-disabled people who receive welfare and public housing, as this is "not comparing apples to apples."