People First of Canada and its provincial and territorial chapters often take on legal and political issues when they affect the lives of Canadians with intellectual disabilities. Below are some of the cases and issues PFC has been involved in.
The Eve case was about a young woman with an intellectual disability whose mother wanted to have her sterilized. The sterilization was not about Eve’s health, but to avoid any unwanted pregnancy. People First, along with other groups, thought that it was Eve’s right to decide her own health care, not her mother’s. The case went to provincial court and ultimately to the Supreme Court of Canada. Although the case took many years, Eve eventually won the right to make her own decisions and was not forced to undergo sterilization.
Names and words have always been important to the People First movement. When the movement first began, People First worked closely with other groups. One of those groups was the Canadian Association for Community Living, but their name used to be ‘Association for the Mentally Retarded.’ People First didn’t like this name and worked with the Association to try and get them to change it to a more inclusive name. After sometime of working together, the name was changed to Association for Community Living.
The Ribbon Campaign promotes the closing of institutions in Canada and returning people who have been labeled to their communities. The ribbon is black and yellow. The black is meant to remind us of all the people who have died in institutions and the yellow is meant to remind us of the people who still live in institutions, separated from a life in community.
The Latimer case, where Saskatchewan father, Robert Latimer, killed his 12 year old daughter, Tracy, was a case that polarized our nation. People First believes that Latimer should have received a longer sentence for her murder. People First worked with other national disability organizations to ensure that Tracy’s rights were upheld and to promote the rights of all persons with disabilities as being equal to those without disabilities.
The JJ v Nova Scotia case was about a woman who wanted to move out of a facility and into the community. Her wishes were supported by her husband, family, and staff at the facility. But because she was under the Adult Protection Act of Nova Scotia, the Minister of Health approved a plan for her to move into a facility that was 125 kilometres from her family and friends where she lived all her life. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court of Canada and JJ won.
Ann Hickey lived at the Manitoba Developmental Centre and strangled to death on the seatbelt of her wheelchair. People First worked with lawyers to make sure an inquest into her death was held and that procedures would be put in place to prevent anything like that from happening again. People First of Canada made a submission to the inquest with recommendations.