Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Closure of the Institutions in Ontario

Posted 2019-03-28

Flying to Freedom was presented by institutional survivors, People First of Ontario, the Council of Community Living Ontario, Community Living Ontario, the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, and L’Arche Toronto.

On March 19, 2019, people from across Ontario gathered in Toronto for a program to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the closure of the last institutions for persons with intellectual disabilities in Ontario: Huronia, Rideau, and Southwestern Regional Centres. Flying to Freedom was presented by institutional survivors, People First of Ontario, the Council of Community Living Ontario, Community Living Ontario, the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, and L’Arche Toronto.

The afternoon included talks and panels that helped remember the past and look at “how we can assist survivors and people labeled with a disability to move past institutional practices that are preventing them from exercising all their rights as citizens.” While the institutions closed, other forms of segregation, isolation, and discrimination of persons with intellectual disabilities remain and must be fought.

The panels presented projects funded through Investing in Justice (IIJ). The court ordered that these remaining funds (over $7 million) support projects that benefit survivors. L’Arche Toronto and L’Arche London are leading or participating in 6 of these projects. Some of the projects address these areas:

  • Listening to and sharing the stories of survivors and their families. Joe Clayton shared his powerful story. Family Alliance Ontario, various branches of Community Living, and L’Arche Toronto’s Listen to my Story project are recording these stories to help individuals heal, ensure a record of what happened and its impact, and create educational resources. Madeline Burghardt’s Broken is a valuable contribution.
  • Honouring people buried in the graveyard at Huronia Regional by identifying who is buried in the graves that only have serial numbers (Remember Every Name is supported by L’Arche Toronto) and creating a major art piece designed with survivors that will be placed in the cemetery.
  • Supporting Healing Therapies for survivors and other trauma survivors. L’Arche London is participating in Healing Through The Arts visual and performing art studios led by instructors from the London Arts Council, organized by a collective of agencies. Two members of L’Arche Toronto are participating in From Trauma to Trust, a free clinics run by Vita Community Services, offering a range of individual therapy and counselling including expressive art therapy.
  • Advocating for choice and legal rights including the end of institutional practices for persons with disabilities: Respecting Rights is a self-advocate driven project for rights education and law reform supported by ARCH Disability Law Centre. People First received a major grant to increase their capacity as the voice of persons labeled with an intellectual disability promoting “freedom, choice, and equality for all.”

The evening featured a sold-out performance of Birds Make Me Think About Freedom, a multi-media reflection on the stories of survivors, family members, and allies created by L’Arche Toronto’s Sol Express with Victoria Freeman in collaboration with Jumblies Theatre.


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