Day after day the news continues to remind us of abusive and violent situations, often targeted toward people with intellectual disabilities. Although unfortunately, there are many other victims, this population certainly constitutes some of our most vulnerable and at risk.
Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly evident that home and work settings provide a space where caregivers and volunteers can either thrive or suffer. This has a major impact on the quality of life and services. Healthy spaces rely on management practices based on respect, equality, work-life balance, reducing sources of stress and violence, eliminating discrimination, promoting autonomy, growth and training opportunities and organizational justice, whatever this may require. A commitment to maintaining these priorities is essential.
In accordance with its identity and mission, L’Arche Canada as an organization is committed to transforming people’s lives, transforming our society, and making a significant contribution to creating a more inclusive society. As a movement, L’Arche is devoted to promoting the respect and protection of all people. Here in lies the purpose and meaning of this web page.
Specifically, what have we accomplished so far and what are we doing?
Several explicit actions are either already in place or else the necessary initiatives are in progress.
Considering the significant degree of vulnerability experienced by these people and/or by people in vulnerable situations, several years ago, we implemented a number of initiatives to specifically address the issue of abuse. Adopted in June of 2008 and revised in June of 2015, the Guiding Principles for the Establishment and Review of Abuse Policies states:
Ten communities provided their abuse policies for review by the legal affairs committee in the Spring of 2006. The purpose of the review was to assist communities in dealing with the difficult area of abuse. After presenting this at the L'Arche Canada Board meeting September 2007, useful input was received by the committee. Because this input was not part of the original review it will be prefaced with the word "input" where it appears in this report.
In 2014 the L’Arche Canada Risk Management Committee reviewed these guidelines and proposed a revised version to the L’Arche Canada Board that was adopted in June 2015. These up-dated guidelines for the establishment and review of abuse policies provide a framework to communities which allows them to ensure that their abuse policies are up to date.
The second section points to the reflection that led to important decisions:
Communities struggled in various ways with this. Some communities had separate policies for sexual, physical and psychological abuse, but the policies' contents were identical. Some communities had detailed definitions, but then failed to use a general term like "abuse" throughout the body of the policy, limiting the application of the policy, unfortunately, to the term used. Some communities included a positive duty to protect, (which this committee supports) but made it too onerous, by using words like "ensure" rather than "strive" or actually have a failure to protect to be itself abuse. (considering the consequences in the policy for a finding of abuse, one must be careful of this leap).
Recommendations: It is possible to include physical, sexual, psychological and neglect abuse into one policy, but there will have to be discretion in the leadership in the investigation of the allegations. Every allegation may not demand a full investigation. Because of the heightened concern around sexual abuse, separate provisions to guide witnesses and leadership in responding to these allegations may be necessary. Separate policies may make this easier to address reporting, but there is a lot of overlap. (eg. physical abuse [causing injury], psychological abuse of a repetitive nature, [or causing harm], and sexual abuse [at any level] all would demand the same kind of care around reporting and investigation.
Lastly, the third section, entitled Orientations, stressed the following:
A fundamental principal is named and required: the protection of vulnerable individuals is fundamental.
If they hadn’t already, all L’Arche communities committed to the adoption of the guiding principles related to abusive situations while respecting the applicable requirements and parameters for each province. These policies consider preventative and intervention strategies to be as important as assistance and supportive measures, preparing for all scenarios as required.
Developed in 2011, the Servant Leadership Program also places significant importance on our values, particularly respecting and listening to the other. This constitutes a fundamental component of promoting rights and respect.
Respect is defined as follows:
“Meet, appreciate, accept and affirm people as they are. Value one another as equal and special. Respect one another’s independence and freedom to choose. Build dignity and confidence. Find the good in one another. Hear one another’s voices and preferences. Remember friends who are no longer with us.” 5
It is further clarified here:
“Help one another get a high quality of physical, medical, emotional and personal support. Be attentive to each person’s needs. Listen to and respect each person’s wishes and preferences. Provide support in a spirit of “doing with” rather than “doing for.” Maintain a sense of dignity, respect and privacy. Be available when your presence is needed. Walk with one another in times of sickness, sadness, challenge and grief...” 6
Additionally, in 2015, at the time of adoption of the Leadership Services Program, it was specifically noted that:
« This program will have to be improved and made more explicit within 24 months, especially with regard to the following specific points, which are aspects of protection: the development of people’s competencies and capabilities, and actions that support engagement in society (and its associated strategies), which is one of the priorities in the current mandate»7
Through its initiatives with partners, L’Arche Canada has dedicated itself to promoting and advocating for the rights and inherent value of each person. In the spring of 2016, the federal Bill C 14-1 on physician-assisted dying inspired a collaboration that illustrated L’Arche’s commitment to these values:
« We applaud the Government for affirming “the inherent and equal value of every person’s life,” discouraging “negative perceptions of the quality of life of persons who are elderly, ill or disabled” and clearly stating that “vulnerable persons must be protected from being induced, in moments of weakness, to end their lives.” The legislation is rightly focused on medical assistance only to people who are dying.
However, these statements will be meaningless unless mechanisms are developed to provide vigorous safeguards as called for in the ‘Vulnerable Persons Standard.’ With the Canadian Association for Community Living and our other partners, we seek to ensure that these safeguards are incorporated so that the Government lives up to the values stated in the Preamble.
In addition to these safeguards, we must also develop the resources necessary to ensure that access to palliative care becomes a universally available health care service, and to expand supports and services for vulnerable Canadians and their families. We encourage the Government to invest in proactive supports that respond to many of the concerns raised in the Vulnerable Persons Standard »8
These elements clearly demonstrate the commitments and actions that L’Arche Canada and its communities have upheld for several years.
Included in these elements and actions are the many local, and often innovative initiatives, undertaken by communities in their respective milieu that advocate for people. One example is the video Pareil, pas pareil9produced by l’Association des Arches du Québec in partnership with L’Arche Canada. Another one is L’Arche Winnipeg’s project, Tova Café. Both examples represent activities that aim to dispel taboos and reveal the value of each person, and ensure that they are recognized as citizens in an unlimited capacity.
Concretely, what is left to do?
A great deal. Specifically, we must continue to pursue and promote respect. We must raise awareness on the issues of abuse and all forms of discrimination and harassment.
We must make a sincere and concerted effort to prevent this abuse, discrimination and harassment, both within our communities and in the larger society we participate in. This means including:
- those we serve;
- our colleagues;
- the community groups or endeavours we are involved in and those who support us;
- our Federation and the International Federation of L’Arche Communities;
- our growth and personal journey.
Why do this? Because unfortunately, the news keeps reminding us of the prevalence of abusive situations. And because we are aware of the breadth and impact of such situations, and their ensuing suffering. Many members of our own L’Arche communities are victims and survivors of abuse.
While revising the guiding principles, we agreed to propose and adopt a global, integrated framework for abuse, discrimination and harassment. This endeavour constitutes a work in progress and the approval process is underway.
Events that have recently appeared to the public eye serve as a reminder of the importance of breaking the silence, not remaining quiet, and ensuring that no one feels isolated.
In collaboration with our partners, we must also pursue the actions needed for making an active contribution to an inclusive society.
This web page allows L’Arche Canada to highlight initiatives in a new way; both those carried out by its regions and communities and those undertaken by other partners. This endeavour constitutes an integral component of a strategy that affirms our commitment to promoting rights and respect for all people and to preventing abuse, discrimination and harassment.
L’Arche Canada and/or its communities’ actions:
- Guiding Principles for the Establishment and Review of Abuse Policies;
- Servant Leadership Program.
- Pareil, pas pareil (Alike (but) not Alike) : https://pareilpaspareilenpartage.org/
- Tova Café : http://larchetovacafe.com/
Some references that allow for greater understanding (not exhaustive) :
- Scope of the problem
http://www.crditedmcq.qc.ca/download.asp?id=18180 et le protocole
5 Servant Leadership Model, 2016, p.5.
6 Servant Leadership Model, 2016, p.5.
7 General Assembly 2015, resolution for the adoption of the Servant Leadership Program.