I got the email and started crying.
I'm still crying. I can't seem to stop.
After 133 years of captivity, the institutions of Ontario are closed. The last person moved home yesterday. The hallways echo empty.
I worked briefly in institutional care. I know the smell of captivity. I have heard footsteps resound down long corridors. I have tasted food cooked without spice. And I knew it was wrong.
The first day I worked in a facility, I wondered, aloud - to others present, why wards were necessary. My questioning shocked even me. There was no such concept of 'community living'. There was no such imagining. We looked outside institution windows and did not understand what we saw.
Walking down a hallway with keys in your pocket was an experience vastly different from those who lived behind the doors that the keys fit into. Everything was structured to keep 'them' them and 'us' us. Everything was manufactured to keep the keepers from discovering the humanity of the kept. Everything was done to ensure that heirarchies made connection impossible.
But something happened.
I guess the call of 'home' is a strong one.
I guess the desire for 'freedom' is a powerful one.
I guess the longing for 'justice' is an overwhelming one.
And they started coming home. Slowly at first. They moved into neighbourhoods. They moved into communities. They moved into real life. And they succeeded brilliantly. Beyond expectation. Beyond possibility.
This moment in history.
I am part of it.
But it does not belong to me.
It belongs to those who came home. It belongs to those who claimed home. It belongs to those who made home.
To those self advocates who first braved the streets of freedom. We salute you. To those self advocates who laid claim on justice. We honour you. To those who died waiting. We mourn you.
Oh, my, oh, my ... I can't stop crying.