News

Joe Clayton: Art, faith, and community allowed me to heal

By Ron Laroche, Community Living Ontario

Joe Clayton is a successful artist who runs an art gallery in his home with his wife, Christina, in South River, not far from Algonquin Park. The Nature Natives Art Gallery features their original art and photography.

Well over 1,000 people from around the world have been through the front door of their home to see their artwork. “We’ve only been here four years, and look at what we’ve created,” he said, excitedly. The visitors have come from different countries throughout Europe, Mexico, China, and Nunavut. He also recalls a woman from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, who found them by chance. “When they come to the door, I say, ‘Welcome. This is my home, and this is your home too.’ It’s more like a gallery where people get together, and we share different things.”

When he’s not in the studio, he and his wife enjoy camping, fishing, and photographing wildlife. During this time of year, you can find them snowshoeing and skiing in northern Ontario.

Collage and photos of Joe by Christina Kearns

Joe is also a survivor. When he was twelve, the now 66-year-old man was sent to Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls back in 1966. “Two weeks after being in the institution, I was put in a Ward 3D with 25 other patients. Men who were 18 to 30-years old.” Over the five years that Joe was at Rideau, he was subjected to repeated physical and sexual abuse. Joe said he felt “ashamed and that no one cared because of how I was treated.”

He was placed in a prison for no other reason than having been labelled with having a disability. “The doors were always locked and the only time I got to get out was with a staff member to go for walks, showers, and go to school,” he recalled, and he also remembered what happened when he didn’t follow some staff members’ rules.

“I was put in a dark room, and the door was locked. This room was called ‘the side room,’ and I was made to sit naked on the cold floor. I remember men looking through the window and laughing at me.”

The many incidents of abuse by staff and residents would last for five years. He ran away from Rideau Regional Centre twice during that time. He left the institution for good on May 16, 1971, and went to live at Silver Spring Farm in Ottawa. “The farm was to help me get out in the community when I left the institution,” said Clayton.

For many years, Joe shared his experiences with college and university students with the goal of ensuring that what took place at Rideau Regional Centre didn’t “happen again to any human being.” He also feels a sense of obligation to talk about what happened at the facility for the survivors who cannot do so for themselves or who have passed away. “I believe that sharing such hardships in life is a big part of the healing process,” said Clayton. “I hope sharing my story will change the way people see others with disabilities.”

For many years, he found it difficult to move forward with his life, because he felt his time at the institution was blocking his path. Understandably, Joe also carried a lot of resentment towards the province for not doing anything to prevent the abuses that were committed at Rideau Regional Centre.

He also demonstrated courage by telling his story to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and he was awarded $35,000 in 2009 for the injuries he sustained. He received another $42,000 in 2016 as part of the class-action settlement involving survivors. “You know the Ontario government destroyed our lives. I was a normal child before I went into an institution. When I left, I had a lot of problems with nightmares and still deal with depression.”

The depression was compounded in 2013, when he lost his wife, Cindy, to cancer. Despite the help he received, he had given up on life. “Many people offered to support me, but they could not get through to me because the institution was holding me back.”

Those feelings began to melt away when he was introduced to Christina in 2014. When they met, the windows in Joe’s home were blacked out. She encouraged him to let the light in, to remove the clutter in his home, and to not focus so much on the negative aspects of life. “The day I met Christina, I decided not to let the past take me down but to live and be free from my past.

Christina also shared homeopathy with Joe, natural medicines from plants and minerals to heal the body. “[I introduced him] to natural ways of being in life rather than staying in the house,” she said. “It just seemed like a natural thing that we got out in nature and became closer to wildlife and started to do more art, which Joe had always done in his life, but he didn’t realize how passionate he was about it.”

Joe also felt it was essential to learn to love himself and to forgive the many people who had hurt him. Like other survivors, art, faith, and his community have played a role in the healing process. “Taking photos, creating art and meditation are some of the ways that have brought me to a healing place, which also heals humanity… Art is my passion, and when I create, I'm in another dimension. My faith in God, the universe, and my Native culture have helped me tremendously in my life. I have great friends in this community.”

They moved from Sharbot Lake four years ago, really by chance. A year earlier, they discovered South River because they had become lost while on a month-long photography trip through northern Ontario. They loved the area, and it would soon become their new home. “We’re welcome everywhere, and we have other couples that are here that are our friends, and Joe’s recognized everywhere in the community. Everybody knows Joe’s name, more than they recognize my name,” said Christina.

Joe said he doesn’t feel afraid anymore. “I feel more welcome, and I feel more loved by everybody around me.” Joe has also found a profound sense of freedom.


Ron Laroche is the Director of Communications, Marketing and Fund Development at Community Living Ontario.

 


Announcing a major investment in L’Arche Canada

The Social Development Partnerships Program – Disability Issues – Grant

Good News on Bill C-81 from Minister Qualtrough

The Government intends to accept all of the amendments made by the Senate.

Program on the abuse of religious women in the Church airs in Canada

L’Arche Canada reiterates our deep compassion for the victims of abuse and our commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and abuse.

L’Arche Greater Vancouver launches ‘We All Belong’ campaign

The $30 million project to build a fully-accessible, three-story building is the organization’s most ambitious dream in its 45-year history.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities visits Canada

Ms Devandas Aguilar was invited by the Government of Canada and visited 5 cities across Canada looking at themes related to the articles of the CRPD.

Jordan Hart introduces “L’Arche Sundays” to his 100-day busking challenge

“I have never learned how to love more purely and profoundly than through people with intellectual disabilities.”

Dr Pamela Cushing, friend of L’Arche, to receive Tanis Doe Award

This award honours an individual who dares to “speak the unspeakable” in advancing the study and culture of disability, and who has enriched through research, teaching, or activism the lives of Canadians with disabilities.

Accidental Friends: Stories from My Life in Community

This book by Beth Porter, long-time member of L’Arche Daybreak, will be available soon in North America.

Families in Canada Conference 2019

The Vanier Institute of the Family held the Families in Canada Conference 2019, gathering leaders to deepen understanding of family diversity, expedite research to practise and enhance family well-being.

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

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.

Zoom Media produces the official video for the Quebec week of intellectual disabilities 2019

It was Zoom Media’s inclusive team that prepared the content, filmed the video clip and edited it, accompanied by the Approprimage team.

Conference on love and inclusion

L’Arche Agapè will host a public conference on inclusion at the Université du Québec en Outaouais on March 21, 2019.

Federal Budget continues Ready, Willing, and Able Across Canada

“This investment allows RWA to continue working toward the vision of an inclusive and effective labour market with an employment rate for people with intellectual disabilities and ASD on par with the national average.”

Québec Recruitment Campaign

New recruitment video online!

BROKEN: Institutions, Families, and the Construction Intellectual Disability

A new book by Madeline Burghardt, long-time member and former assistant of L’Arche Toronto and L’Arche Daybreak.

Mon Ami Gil returns!

Following the success of Mon Ami Gil in the spring of 2018, a new series of short videos will delve more deeply into the story of Gil Frois – how he came to be the man he is today, sharing his life and gifts within L’Arche Agapè in Gatineau, QC, and in the other places where he belongs in the wider community.

Michael McDonald Speaking Tour

In four L’Arche communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the next two weeks

Bringing the VPS into 2019

From the Vulnerable Persons Secretariat

L’Arche Tova Café in the News

L’Arche Tova Café is featured in a review of 27 cafes that are social purpose businesses employing persons with disabilities across Canada.

L’Arche Beloeil becomes L’Arche Montérégie

On December 10, L’Arche Beloeil announced that it was becoming L’Arche Montérégie. The choice to make this big change was made to educate people across the region about their cause.

Measuring the Impact of Federal Legislation to Promote Inclusion

On December 3, the International Day of Person with Disabilities, L’Arche Canada participated in the 9th annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion hosted by the Canadian Association of Community Living and People First of Canada.

Canada accedes to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Accession to the Optional Protocol means that Canadians will have additional recourse to make a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated.

I Believe in You

“This book brings something new and surprising (...) I hope each reader can discover in a new way what it means to be human.” – Jean Vanier, from the foreword

Accessible Canada Act passed third reading

L’Arche Canada has joined the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA) and supports its recommended changes.

Le Sacrement de la Tendresse (the Sacrament of Tenderness) a new film about Jean Vanier

One of the film’s assets is the enthusiasm of the director, whose strength of conviction is real.

Letter from Jean, October 2018

“90 years old! My God, I can scarcely believe it. I have such a desire to shout out my thanks!”

Louis Pilotte, new National Leader

“From my very first days in L’Arche, I was convinced that I was living an experience that was part of a project for society, part of a vision of the world.”

New Community Leaders in Saint John and Wolfville

… and celebrating Homefires Community Leader Ingrid Blais

Second Reading for Accessible Canada Act

The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) legislation to ensure a barrier-free Canada

L’Arche Canada Foundation’s Fall 2018 Impact Bulletin

Top Story: Support for L’Arche Lithuania

Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Regulations Fall Short

September 6, 2018 – L’Arche Canada supports the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) in urging the federal government to strengthen the system of monitoring Medical Assistance in Dying.

A new Community Leader for L’Arche Daybreak

L’Arche Canada and the Board of Directors present Trish Glennon, as the new Community Leader for L’Arche Daybreak

L’Arche Saskatoon’s 10th Anniversary video is amazing!

To celebrate their first ten years, L’Arche Saskatoon produced a wonderful 8-min video on “What is community?”

Third Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada

The Government of Canada has released the third Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in Canada (July 1 to December 31, 2017)

Minister Duncan introduces the proposed Accessible Canada Act

June 20, 2018 – This historic legislation would enable the Government of Canada to take a proactive approach to end systemic discrimination of people with disabilities.

L’Arche Canada Newsletter Summer 2018

“Community is built as we become interdependent, humbly recognizing and welcoming our need of one another.”

Letter from Jean, May 2018

“Every day, I take a walk in my little garden, with my eyes looking down because I have to be careful where I walk: this means I notice the primroses.”

L’Arche Canada Foundation’s Spring 2018 Impact Bulletin

Top Story: L’Arche Toronto’s Trying It On For Size (TIFS) project for young people with intellectual disabilities

Summer in the Forest is coming to Canada

“Summer in the Forest is an extraordinarily tender documentary that asks what it means to be human. Here, even the most gentle scenes raise mighty questions.” (New York Times)

The Courage to Listen and Speak Out

As part of the campaign on fundamental values, the L’Arche Canada communications team recently published an online, illustrated account of a person who has lived through abuse. In very simple words, the account expresses a universal reality, the truth that not being heard is a source of immense suffering.

Jean Vanier Interview on CNN

Christiane Amanpour interviews Jean Vanier following the release of Summer in the Forest

First Nations – The Courage to Meet Face to Face

At L’Arche, we are all experimenting with what it means to find “the courage to truly meet difference.” We are on this journey whether we’re encountering a new person, or group, or any culture other than our own.

“Nineteen Paper Cranes”, a Film in Homage to the victims of Sagamihara, Japan

L’Arche International is launching the 9th film in its #AsIAm web series, filmed at L’Arche in Japan, in homage to the 19 victims of the Sagamihara massacre.

Growing as we Learn: The L’Arche Canada Growth Initiative

“A learning organization is an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.” – Harvard Business Review

Leadership Spring Trainings take off

The L’Arche Canada leadership development has entered a major new phase. After years introducing a model based on the core values of L’Arche and tools for reviews and team building, a comprehensive formation and training program – through over 100 online training modules – is being delivered across the country.

Communicating the Work of Outreach and Communications

It has been a challenging year of transition in the L’Arche Canada Outreach and Communications team and its work. As we move forward, new initiatives and new partnerships are emerging that promise increased impact in this important work.

Contributing Our Voices

On February 8, members of L’Arche attended an “in person” session of the accessibility consultation, as several L’Arche folk from other communities had done in their cities.

Meeting with the Minister

On April 6, 2017, representatives of L’Arche Canada met with the Hon. Qualtrough, Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, to share our hopes and concerns – and express our gratitude and support – for new federal, accessibility legislation.

Revelations of Abuse in Trosly, France

In a letter dated March 24, 2015, the Leaders of L’Arche International informed the communities of L’Arche around the world of the results of a canonical (Church) inquiry into accounts of sexual abuse by Père Thomas Philippe who was involved in the beginnings of the first community of L’Arche in Trosly. (Père Thomas died in 1993 so there was no trial.)

Love at Second Sight

AboutFace, an organization providing supports to individuals with facial differences and their families, as well as public awareness and education to increase understanding and acceptance, recently hosted the Toronto premiere of this powerful film that transforms attitudes about appearance and encourages students to accept themselves and others. It’s about difference and belonging, judgment and inclusion.

What does an Accessible Canada mean to you?

The Government of Canada has launched a consultation process that will be open until February 2017. Canadians are encouraged to participate in the consultation by visiting: Canada.ca/Accessible-Canada.

L’Arche Canada response to Bill C-14’s

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Physician-Assisted Dying, and as the Federal Government works on drafting legislation on this issue, L’Arche in Canada has re-committed itself to providing the best possible supports for the people with intellectual disabilities in our communities, both in life and as they approach death.

Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart

An excellent new book on Jean Vanier by Michael W. Higgins is available from Novalis.