“And so I think there’s a gap in the system of those people who have been identified as being capable of making their own decisions, yet they have some severe type of behavioural problems,” Denise Peterson-Rafuse said, in an interview with the Truro Daily News.
“So we need to talk about that and address that.”
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Peterson-Rafuse was responding to questions surrounding the 25-year-old daughter of a Truro woman who was recently convicted of assault and placed on probation following an incident in the adult rehabilitation system where she resides, despite the fact the woman has medically diagnosed intellectual disabilities.
“When these situations happen, they come to the forefront and as a person in my position, it’s my duty to do the due diligence in terms of looking at that and to say, yes, there is a gap in the system here. And I need to be talking to the minister of justice … about that,” Peterson-Rafuse said.
“We have to be looking at when a situation arises that we are willing to look at the family members, the individuals themselves, and to look at, how do we go forward so we can avoid this in the future and not have people go through what has happened here.”
Brenda Hardiman is the mother of Nichele Benn, the woman in question. Given her daughter’s physical and intellectual disabilities, Hardiman does not believe her daughter should have been processed through the criminal justice system.
She also believes Benn should be permitted to live in a properly serviced community setting, as she once was, and as opposed to the institutional facility where she was placed by Community Services.
Following a recent meeting with the minister, Hardiman said she did not believe that Peterson-Rafuse had taken her concerns seriously. However, the minister, who has just returned to work following a month-long sick leave, said that prior to her departure, she instructed her staff to set up a meeting between herself and the Justice Department minister to discuss the overall situation.
And while she said each case has to be looked at individually and dealt with on its own merits, Peterson-Rafuse acknowleged that improvements do need to be made and she expressed a desire to make that happen.
“We want to move towards community living but … “there’s been such little investment in services for people with disabilities, along with the infrastructure for community living, she said. “We have a great need and … we need to work towards how do we develop that infrastructure to have more options for people … who have an intellectual disability.”