VICTORIA - Surely the government will now give up its wrongheaded legal fight to deny help to people whose lives will be utterly wrecked without it.
Two courts have said the government is breaking its own law by denying needed help to damaged people based on an arbitrary IQ standard.
The people - usually youths turning 19 - can have emotional and mental problems, fetal alcohol disorders, a whole load of issues, even ones that makes them a risk to the community. The government says those don't matter.
If the damaged person scores 70-plus on an IQ test then the government, through Community Living BC, cuts off help.
Neil Fahlman turned out to be the perfect test case to challenge the government's arbitrary action.
Fahlman is a huge, strong young man with lots of problems - fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder and an autism variant. As a result he often makes terrible decisions and acts impulsively. He - like a lot of people with fetal alcohol disorders - doesn't see the link between action and consequences, a disastrous disability.
Fahlman has had help all his life. His adoptive mother, a lawyer with the government here, worked hard to line up support and the children and families ministry came through.
But by the time he was 15, Fahlman was too volatile and strong for Gow and her
husband to manage. Foster homes couldn't handle his behaviour.
Then, a solution. Fahlman started living by himself in a small cabin on Vancouver Island. Community Living B.C. provided one-on-one support every day for seven hours to help him and make sure things went well.
It was expensive, about $77,000 a year. But the alternatives were all more costly or dangerous. It was the best way to handle a tough problem.
But Fahlman was going to turn 19. And because his IQ was 79, government policy said he would be cut off support on his birthday.
Community Living BC ordered a review to see if the teen qualified for support as an adult.
"Without the supports now in place Neil would be extremely vulnerable to his own aggressiveness and impulsivity," the psychologist appointed by the agency found. "He could do significant harm to himself and the community."
But Community Living BC, following the ministry's policy lead, said Fahlman's 79 IQ -placing him in the bottom 10 per cent of the population - is over the 70 cutoff. Support denied.
Gow appealed and ended up in B.C. Supreme Court, which found the government's arbitrary denial of help to Fahlman and thousands of others is wrong.
The Community Living BC legislation is clear, the court noted. It is to "promote equitable access to community living support" and "assist adults with developmental disabilities to achieve maximum independence and live full lives in their communities."
The law doesn't say it can deny support to people based on arbitrary standards.
If government wants to set those kinds of rules, it needs to amend the legislation or pass a cabinet order.
Instead, government took the fight to deny aid to the B.C. Court of Appeal - and lost again.
The three justices agreed the legislation doesn't allow the use of IQ to deny services to people who need them. They noted Liberal ministers Gordon Hogg and Linda Reid had both made comments in the legislature that suggested the cutoff was never contemplated when the law was passed.
Fahlman is one among many denied help because of the IQ standard. In too many cases the result has been damaged, lost and wasted lives. The people unable to cope without help have ended up in jail, hospital or on the streets.
All that could have been avoided, in many cases with a just a small amount of support - help with housing, with managing money, with life.
Children and Families Minister Tom Christensen said he's considering the government's next steps.
But the right decision is simple. Obey the law. Increase Community Living BC's budget so it can provide the needed help.
Keeping these people from disaster makes obvious moral and economic sense.
There's no excuse for more stalling.
Footnote: Another aspect of support for people turning 19 is likely to be contentious this year. Children in government care have been effectively pushed out on their own at 19, ready or not - often not. New Child and Youth
Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond - like her predecessor Jane Morley - will likely have harsh words for the failure to give the kids a fair chance in starting adult life.