Disability rights advocate challenges government’s decision to require a doctor’s note

Ontario Ministry of Health reverses course on guardianship requirement for disabled woman

A new ruling will allow a disabled woman to give up her guardianship over her son, according to a new report from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

The ruling announced on Wednesday is expected to be significant, because it reverses the government’s most recent decision on whether to require blind and other disabled residents who live alone to pass a “medical examination” before they can be deemed to be the resident’s legal guardian.

The previous government introduced that requirement in July 2005, when they considered the issue of “parental responsibility,” which is legal in some provinces. (In Ontario, it is also known as “guardianship.”) It was intended to stop parents from transferring their rights to their children if they were physically, mentally, or emotionally incapable of caring for them.

However, the decision made since 2005 has resulted in a growing backlash against the government, with critics saying it is being used as an excuse to cut services for the disabled.

“The government is trying to reduce access to services for our residents because they have made the choice to do so,” said one of the people leading the movement against the ruling, Susan-Marie Haines, a lawyer and a long-time advocate.

In her capacity as legal representative for a disabled woman who has been living in a group home since she was a teenager, Haines has challenged the requirement to show a doctor’s note. In her court action, she argued that the judge lacked the ability to understand the complex issues surrounding disability services, including the fact that many people with disabilities cannot take care of themselves, let alone their own children.

“The fact that one person has a disability does not mean they don’t have the ability to take care of themselves,” Haines said in a telephone interview.

Haines believes an examination can be a major impediment to the process of legal guardianship. It also prevents a person from passing on their power to their child, she says, and prevents a judge from understanding why they might be unwilling to

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