I saw him yesterday in Barrie. Standing alone at a bus stop. Waiting to go somewhere. He attended a workshop I did several months ago for people with disabilities. Yet here he is, out on his own. During lunch at the workshop, he sat with me and told me about the days when he lived in the institution. About how, back then, if you said 'no' to staff they'd have hurt him. He talked about the place like a prisoner talks about his jailers. He is incredibly happy that they are closing all the institutions in Ontario. He says that as long as they are open, there is a chance they'll send him back. Once the doors close, he says, he will be free.
And here he is free.
We are only weeks, maybe months away from the institutions in Ontario being empty. With everyone back home again. Daily at Vita, I meet the newly free. I see them move about freedom, savouring it. Cherishing it.
And I realize, today, as I see him that soon, I will be able to sing the Canadian anthem. Something I've refused to do for years.
Because the true north may be strong, but it hasn't been free.
As long as the disabled remained captive in large facilities we have not been free.
But on the day the last captive leaves the institution here, I will sing it again. Though other provinces aren't done yet. We are here. This bit of Canada will be free.
The true north.
Strong and free at last, thank God they're free at last.