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Class Action Suit Moves forward, a call to mobilize - Huronia Regional Centre

This was passed along to us by Marilyn Dolmage, a call to mobilize the community:

The class action is proceeding against the Ontario government, that we hope will benefit all those who lived in Huronia Regional Centre between the years of 1945 and 2009, when it closed.

The government is presenting related documents to our lawyers now, and we expect examinations for discovery to take place later this year, as we move forward towards trial.
 
Others are working to pursue closely-related class actions concerning systemic problems at the other 2 Ontario government institutions which closed in 2009.

I understand that people have come forward to document their experiences of abuse and neglect in Rideau Regional Centre and Southwestern Regional Centre.

However, there is a need for more information, particularly about more recent years.
 
In the Huronia class action, the affidavits of former residents, staff and family members have shown that problems persisted right up until the time it closed.

One of these people had even opposed the closure of the institution, and thus her loved one had been among the last to leave. But the many ways his life improved once he moved out convinced her it was finally safe to to speak up about all the pain he had endured there.

Unless the court can be shown that problems persisted in more recent years at Rideau and Southwestern, fewer survivors of those institutions will stand to benefit from legal action.

I wonder if you can encourage others - staff and residents - to come forward so that no one who suffered is excluded from potential benefit.
Please contact huroniaclassaction@kmlaw.ca . A lawyer can come to help people document their relevant experiences or observations in straightforward and respectful ways.

After all, do we really think the Ontario government would have closed all of its institutions, if it were possible for them to become humane places with supportive programs?
Are the people who are still forced to live in the institutions in other Canadian provinces not still experiencing harm?
Yesterday, the New York Times carried horrible stories documenting ongoing abuse of people with disabilities in New York State institutions.
There is intensive coverage - with video, and comments - at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/nyregion/abused-and-used-series-page.html
One staff person dared to speak up; families wish they had done more - these seem like the same old stories: now as then, there and here.
Unless more people come forward with information since about 1990, the government might convince the courts and the public that Rideau and Southwestern stopped being abusive places.
 
We hope that our success in having the courts recognize these class actions will assist CACL in its efforts to close institutions still operating in other provinces.
Thousands of Canadians have signed CACL's declaration to close government institutions across the country.
We were interested in the poll at  http://www.institutionwatch.ca/  , where CACL asks: "Should people with intellectual disabilities who have lived in institutions have a right to financial compensation from the Federal and/or Provincial and Territorial governments?"
Please vote "yes" now, and tell others.

We are very encouraged by recent discussions we have had with Anne Stafford - who has been an advocate for people with developmental disabilities in Ontario for about 60 years as a citizen, for 34 years in the employ of Community Living Ontario.
Annie was appalled when she first learned that parents never got to see where their sons' and daughters' lived, in Orillia. It is a fascinating story about how she got them IN, and horrifying to hear what they saw.
But this story resonates quite eerily, when you read what is still happening to children in New York State.
Annie asked me to say that she thinks it is absolutely essential to never forget about the harm institutions do to people with disabilities and to society.
Like us, she believes the public needs to know and the government needs to admit this, if we are ever to make peoples' lives better.

The class action process relating to these 3 Ontario institutions has close parallels with the First Nations Residential Schools legal process, on which our lawyers worked, coincidentally.
The settlement aboriginal people received involves both financial compensation and community development and restitution.
Especially since talking with Annie Stafford, I have been reflecting on the ways people with disabilities might benefit from similar outcomes from these class actions, should they be successful:

   1. the courts would decide whether survivors receive money. We understand that such money would not jeopardize ODSP payments or be used for otherwise-funded services. Many people will require assistance with this. 

    Just like First Nations people, most of their lives have been so impoverished - but now they might be compensated in the one way our society values.
    Annie Stafford told us about the benefits provided by the "Light Up the Future" fund she inspired, which provides bursaries for all sorts of dreams to come true - see http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf6302  .
    Institution survivors have lost the best years of their lives. Imagine how some financial compensation could both recognize that and open up new opportunities.

   1. We are attending an Awareness day this weekend at Nawash First Nation (at Cape Croker, near Owen Sound). It marks the 3rd. anniversary of the Government of Canada's official apology to aboriginal people harmed by residential schools - see http://smhuc.ca/southampton/reports/Awareness%20Day%20-%20June%2011.pdf  This is one of many events across Canada being organized where people who attended residential schools will be honoured and will have the opportunity to tell their stories. 

    Imagine the Ontario government acknowledging the systemic harm done to people in the institutions it operated.
    Imagine some creative ways those people could tell the world their stories - for "truth and reconciliation".
    What if  - just like First Nations people - people with developmental disabilities had such a public opportunity to say "Never again!"

 
Please send any questions or suggestions to Jim and I. Please share this message broadly.
We appreciate your support.
 
Marilyn Dolmage
inclusion@sympatico.ca

Comments

more info

More information about the class action lawsuits can be found on this website.
http://www.institutionalsurvivors.com/