People First of Canada Priority – Legal Capacity
Nothing about us without us (Article 12, UNCRPD)
People First of Canada believes that all people, regardless of disability, have legal capacity. People have the right to make their own decisions and choices. The decisions and choices made by a person with an intellectual disability need to be honoured in terms of legal capacity and the authority to act. If a person has a support network or decision-making team, this needs to be honoured in terms of legal capacity and the authority to act on behalf of the person.
Legal capacity is the foundation upon which we act – when we make decisions or enter into agreements, we do so based on our legal capacity as a person and a citizen. Most people are assumed to be competent but this is not always true for people with intellectual disabilities. Unfortunately and historically, persons with intellectual disabilities have had the opposite experience with legal capacity – they have been deemed incompetent unless it has been proven otherwise. Disability should never be used as a benchmark for competence.
Persons with intellectual disabilities are at risk to have their legal capacity removed. Many provinces and territories still have outdated legislation and policies that present people with intellectual disabilities as lacking legal capacity. Other systems and institutions of life – such as banks, insurance companies, and housing corporations – make judgments about people’s capacity because of their disability. These policies and practices need to change to reflect that all citizens’ are competent, unless it has been deemed otherwise.