Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Apology

Yesterday I wrote about the apology to be given by Ontario's Premier to people with disabilities who suffered through institutional care. I am about to post a verbatim record of that apology but wanted to say that the Premier did something that really made a difference to me. Several people with intellectual disabilities were there, in the legislature to hear the apology. Before making the apology, Premier Wynne, walked through the gallery in order to meet those who were there, speak personally to them and shake as many hands of as many people with disabilities as she could. It was as if she wanted to say something to them personally before making the public statement. I am a little in awe of the fact that Ms Wynne make the apology more real by speaking with and honouring those who were there. Then, during the reading of the apology Premier Wynne kept looking up into the gallery so that it was clear she was directing the apology to those who were there and to the people they represented.

The apology, regarding institutional care in Ontario, given by Premier Kathleen Wynne:
Mr. Speaker:
One of a government’s foremost responsibilities is to care for its people, to make sure they are protected and safe. And therein lies a basic trust between the state and the people.
It is on that foundation of trust that everything else is built: our sense of self, our sense of community, our sense of purpose. And when that trust is broken with any one of us, we all lose something – we are all diminished.
I stand to address a matter of trust before this house and my assembled colleagues, but I am truly speaking to a group of people who have joined us this afternoon and to the many others who could not make it here today.
I am humbled to welcome to the legislature today former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre and Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls and to also address former residents of the Southwestern Regional Centre near Chatham, along with all their families and supporters.
I want to honour them for their determination and their courage and to thank them for being here to bear witness to this occasion.
Today, Mr. Speaker, we take responsibility for the suffering of these people and their families.
I offer an apology to the men, women and children of Ontario who were failed by a model of institutional care for people with developmental disabilities.
We must look in the eyes of those who have been affected, and those they leave behind, and say: “We are sorry.”
As Premier, and on behalf of all the people of Ontario, I am sorry for your pain, for your losses, and for the impact that these experiences must have had on your faith in this province, and in your government.
I am sorry for what you and your loved ones experienced, and for the pain you carry to this day.
In the case of Huronia, some residents suffered neglect and abuse within the very system that was meant to provide them care. We broke faith with them – with you – and by doing so, we diminished ourselves.
Over a period of generations, and under various governments, too many of these men, women, children and their families were deeply harmed and continue to bear the scars and the consequences of this time.
Their humanity was undermined; they were separated from their families and robbed of their potential, their comfort, safety and their dignity.
At Huronia, some of these residents were forcibly restrained, left in unbearable seclusion, exploited for their labour and crowded into unsanitary dormitories.
And while the model of care carried out by this institution is now acknowledged to have been deeply flawed, there were also cases of unchecked physical and emotional abuse by some staff and residents.
Huronia was closed in 2009 when Ontario closed the doors to its last remaining provincial institutions for people with developmental disabilities.
Today, Mr. Speaker, we no longer see people with developmental disabilities as something “other.” They are boys and girls, men and women, with hopes and dreams like all of us.
In Ontario, all individuals deserve our support, our respect and our care. We must look out for one another, take care of one another, challenge ourselves to be led by our sense of moral purpose before all else.
Today, we strive to support people with developmental disabilities so they can live as independently as possible and be more fully included in all aspects of their community.
As a society, we seek to learn from the mistakes of the past. And that process continues.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that we have more work to do.

And so we will protect the memory of all those who have suffered, help tell their stories and ensure that the lessons of this time are not lost.


Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I watched the apology with tears streaming down my face. I thought Premier Wynne's apology was a good one in many respects including the one that you me tion - she was very much speaking to the people in the gallery. However, for me, the proof of this pudding will be in the eating. What will she do to stop current desperation by parents of adult children with intellectual disabilities? What will she do to stop current institutional abuses in long term care facilities? We are still doing the things we did to people at Huronia. So the apology is meaningless unless we make sure we stop abandoning people and stop harming people in the name of care.

TMc said...

Thanks for sharing this with your neighbors to the south. It is important for us to publicly accept responsibility for our actions. The timing of this with Mandela's memorial this morning offers some interesting comparisons. Like Mandela, many people I know that survived the large institutions of the past, and are enduring the small 4 - 6 person ones of the present, appear to be better people than us. They forgive their jailors as the strive for umbatu (community).
I prefer to think of it as their increased capacity for humanity rather than stockhold syndrome. I continue to be blessed to learn more about myself and society through the example the people I work for demonstrate.
Once again, thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful day - and a beautiful statement. I hope it results in action - or it is useless.

I would love to hear a similar statement for people in the US - and worldwide - when there is an apology for the way people with 'invisible illnesses' are treated by their own governments.

We are not there to suck up taxpayers' money - the taxpayers' money is there to make us as functional to our societies as possible.

People with intellectual and other disabilities have a lot to give, even if only to themselves sometimes, and the system would pay back its investment many times over if that were the attitude.

When the potential of even a single member of society is wasted due to arrogance, greed, and mismanagement, it is a loss to us all. We are not beggars.

myrrha said...

Thank-you for posting this.
Every time the truth is brought into the light and responsibility is taken, oppression and devaluing human life is weakened.
A public apology is a significant step.
Making it a reality is up to our society; starting with the individual.

Unknown said...

The apology by the Premier of Ontario to those affected by abuse throughout the years by those who have been given power and authority to care for the less fortunate is an important moment in our province's history… I pray that we continue to learn from past mistakes, move forward and heal...May those who support individuals in the community take this as a lesson for the future care that has been instilled in each and everyone of us.... Respect your position… Respect the people you provide service and support to.... walk in to work each and every day with the understanding that you're there to provide the most gentle care and compassion.....