The Courage to Listen and Speak Out

An abusive relationship already indicates a painful failure to listen to the abused person’s experience, but when loved ones also do not hear the victims’ pain and distress, a double betrayal of trust occurs. This leads to even greater suffering.

Here are a few excerpts from the victim’s account which evoke this experience:

Because it wasn’t heard by those close to me,
the suffering turned against me, (…)

I withdrew inside,
trying to make myself invisible. (…)

I took on the other person’s actions,
carrying the guilt and shame like a ball chained to my ankle. 

I felt defenseless,
like I could never trust again. (…)

I would have needed to be listened to,
and welcomed in my distress, without being judged.

With utter clarity and simplicity, this account expresses the importance of being heard by caregivers and loved ones, and the need for the opportunity to own one’s voice and speak out.

In another text signed “Marie-Diane,” the same person writes about the process of speaking out:

To all the other “me too’s”
To those who said nothing
I hear your voices
Struggling to form words.

To all those who hide
In the shadows
I invite you to walk into the light

The light that will show you
That beneath this suffering
Hides your beauty

Fortunately, more and more organizations, institutions and governments are acknowledging this essential expression of truth, and are taking concrete actions to improve their capacity to listen, particularly for the benefit of women and vulnerable persons.

Listening to those who cry out for love

L’Arche’s very beginnings stem from this sort of listening, from hearing society’s buried cries of suffering. After visiting an institution for people with intellectual disabilities, Jean Vanier made the decision to welcome two of these people into his home. He responded to their call of distress.

Similarly, when he reflected on the cries and behaviours of certain core members, Vanier committed to listening to their stories and understanding how not being heard led them to call out in anguish.

This becomes even more true when the founder of L’Arche becomes a “spokesperson” for people with intellectual disabilities, initiating more and more conferences that proclaim their gifts far and wide across the planet. He thereby promotes and shares the fruits of this essential listening.

He dares to take on the public role of speaking out against prejudices, calling for us to do a better job listening to people who may be more vulnerable due to a physical or intellectual disability, or illness. He reminds us that these people play an indispensable role in building more human communities.

Working toward a culture that has listening built into its decision-making structures

Listening to the experience of persons who are bullied, vulnerable and marginalised is fundamental in both preventing and healing harm and abuse. The same quality of listening serves as a guarantee for healthy, united and lively communities, that are grounded in empathy.

History shows us that no political or organizational structure is spared from abuses of power or any other type of abuse. We need methods of listening to be solidly integrated into an organization’s culture and procedures in order to bypass the abuses of power that conventional hierarchical structures tend to perpetuate.

L’Arche Canada’s leadership and board of directors are aware of these challenges. Beyond renewing its commitment to all members, and restating its policies for the prevention of abuse and harassment, L’Arche Canada is carrying out a thorough reflection to ensure that listening is central to systems that prevent abusive behaviour.

L’Arche Canada is committed to building a strong culture of respect for each person and an organizational structure that promotes open and honest dialogue.


Watch the video “I would have needed to be listened to
English version:
French version:

L’Arche Canada’s commitment to respect all individuals, to prevent abuse, discrimination and harassment, and to provide support and intervention when required  

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:

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.