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.
Hey, all chewers of fat--Happy Canada Day!
We do have cause to celebrate, but not to give up the fight for more: More freedom, more equity, more right to live unfettered by well intentioned interference and more accountability to do what should be done--be given the support to reach dreams; maybe even to realize that there are such things as dreams and that they can come true.
Whatever the obstacles; and there are a few, we have to remove them. The battle will never end to be better at honouring people who need support from others, which actually covers us all in one way or another; if not now, one day.
Dave, I agree with what you say. But I wonder if and when our society will be held accountable for the abuse of people with disabilities in the institutions (and outside them for that matter). Only when we are held accountable do we step a little closer to true freedom. We need to hear the stories of the people who have survived. We need to demand accountability.
What a lovely day that will be! I agree whole heartedly with Belinda's comments, Bravo! We will get there, I know not soon enough but someday.
If anyone get's a chance check out this article- unfortunatley it shows how much further we need to get in some places- A local school (local to me) is being sued after ignoring several girl's reports of sexual assault/ Turning the other cheeck resulted in more abuse and brutal rapes. The girls were in the schools special education program.
As I seem to say often lately...when we treat all humans as human, then will we be done with this issue. Humans shouldn't be warehoused and kept out of sight so that some people don't have look upon their disabilities and feel uncomfortable.
I feel like I'm raining on this momentous event...We just have to make sure that people are really "free"....sometimes the ways of controlling others can be more sophisticated....I've worked with women who live in abusive relationships & some of them have been prisoners in some pretty nice homes & seen folks with disabilities in group homes where there's an illusion of freedom.
Don't get me wrong, I've worked in an institution & I don't want to see that ever again. They hurt our souls.....Yes, celebrate & remember it's attitudes & values that need to go with freedom.
That truly will be a happy day for so many people, to be free of the fear that they can be rounded up like cattle with no voice, or anyone to fight their corner.
I sincerely hope that they have the back-up from social services that we sadly don't have in England. An end to institutions was a noble idea but whilst it has worked for a number of people, the system has also sadly ended up harming and abandoning so many vulnerable people who need a secure environment. I hope Canada does better ;-).
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