Thursday, March 14, 2019

How does having a disabled neighbour 'dash your dreams?'

Families protest the Weyburn, Sask. decision to keep a small group home out. This photo is from CBC News

By Louise Kinross

I’m embarrassed.

This isn’t the Canada I know and love. But apparently, according to two recent news stories, it is.

Last night I read about how the city council of Weyburn, Sask. rejected a home for four adults with disabilities in a new subdivision called The Creeks.

Four people!

According to this Toronto Star story, there was “tremendous pushback” from residents who’d bought expensive homes in the neighbourhood. “It kind of dashes the dreams and hopes of the people that live there currently,” said Coun. Brad Wheeler at a council meeting on Monday.

Just how, exactly, does having a person with a disability living on your street dash your dreams?

Oddly, the Star story includes a photo of the Weyburn sign welcoming people to what it calls “the opportunity city”—just not for the people waiting for the small group home that was tossed.

The developer of The Creeks supports the home.

This story played out as Ryerson disability scholars spoke to CBC Radio about a Nova Scotia human rights inquiry that found the government discriminated against three people with intellectual disabilities by locking them away in hospital psychiatric wards, for no medical reason, for years. When the complaint was launched in 2014 they were still living in hospitals.

“The conditions of their life were described as soul-destroying,” said Esther Ignagni, an associate professor in Ryerson’s disability studies program. For example, one person was locked in a room with a television for 23 hours a day.

The Nova Scotia applicants argued that the province should have provided them with the supports to live in the kind of small group home that Weyburn, Sask. residents just snubbed.

However, Walter Thompson, chairman of the Nova Scotia inquiry board, rejected the argument that timely placement in a small group home is a human right.

According to the CBC radio interview, there are 1,500 other disabled Nova Scotians waiting for such a home.

He also rejected the idea that ableism was behind the lack of community options.

Ableism is the “idea that disabled people are not valuable or vital parts of our society and it’s permissible to send disabled people away and …lock them up,” said Eliza Chandler, also an assistant professor in Ryerson's disability studies program.

Doesn’t the first half of that description perfectly mirror the attitudes and actions we see in Weyburn, Sask.? 

“These people have invested a lot of money into their dream homes, their retirement homes and to have the provincial government come in and pick a lot directly across from them, I don’t think that was the best choice,” Wheeler was quoted saying.

Chandler was asked what a world without ableism would look like. It would be “accessible and inclusive of disabled people and would value us as citizens and want us in your cities, in your town and as your neighbours,” she said.

Meanwhile, here in Ontario we're told the wait for a group home placement for adults with intellectual disabilities is over 20 years. I have been told, by a person at the end of the Developmental Services Ontario line, that it doesn't happen until someone in an existing home dies. 

I think Canadian kids need a new word on their spelling tests: ableism.


It is an utter disgrace that anyone should be rejected for a disability
Here in the UK it just isn't allowed!

Fabulous update!!! After local protests, Weyburn reversed its decision, so the group home will be included.