April 2, 2020 by Franke James, Teresa’s sister

Teresa Heartchild got some fabulous news today, April 2, 2020… Canada Council approved her Arts Abroad Travel Grant for her past trip to Mexico. In November 2019 Teresa flew to Mérida to see her art exhibited in the Deep Down Arts show. Whoah! She’s lucky to have gone because she sure won’t be returning any time soon! (Teresa is following Vancouver’s Stay Home / Stay Put guidelines with me and my husband.) The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe makes us appreciate how very fortunate Teresa was to have seized the unique opportunity to travel to the opening ceremony.

The Deep Down Arts Exhibition was organized by the Macay Foundation. Teresa says, “Gracias!” to the Canada Council and Spectrum Society‘s McGill Ability Fund, for the grants to travel to the opening event in Mérida, Mexico on November 8, 2019.

Teresa was thrilled with the celebrity welcome at the Mérida airport on Nov 7, 2019!

Teresa said, “I match!” Indeed her colorful style fit in so well in Mexico!

Happening at the same time as the Deep Down Arts show there was also a global gathering of educators to discuss improving inclusion in society.

Teresa posed for pictures with delegates and speakers from the Advisory Council of the Institute for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of the State of Yucatán (IIPEDEY).

Teresa went on-stage to say hello to the crowd!

Teresa spontaneously went on-stage and introduced herself as an artist and author from Canada. “It is a beautiful design. I am a professional artist and I am on Amazon!”

The red ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of Deep Down Arts at the museum on November 8, 2019.

The dignitaries spoke about the global art exhibition and the importance of inclusion in Mexico.

Teresa gave the Director of the exhibition, Dr. Manuel Guerrero, a signed copy of her Totally Amazing book. Dr. Guerrero exclaimed, “You are totally amazing!”

The artist Teresa Heartchild with me and Dr. Manuel Guerrero at the Deep Down Arts Exhibition. [Photo by Billiam James]

Teresa was delighted to meet with schoolchildren who were touring the Deep Down Arts show

An art teacher from Mérida said, “We need to teach the kids to have another type of mentality. Right here in Mexico, we don’t have this kind of art. We don’t have the diversity. We just get accustomed to the “normal” kind of art.”

Art and poem by Teresa Heartchild


I’m afraid to go outside.
There’s a wind warning.
I’m afraid to get soaking wet.
I know what you mean.
I’m too chicken and the chickens are very tired.
The wind warning is in the background falling.
Don’t frighten me.
Blowing winds and showers.
Oh I see.
Now you’re afraid.
I’m afraid of…
It’s okay, don’t be scared of the showers.
You can take an umbrella.
Now that’s a brilliant idea. My coat is red.
My umbrella is red.
It’s okay to go outside. Don’t worry.
I do like to sit outside.
We see a big rainbow after the shower.
And the fireworks are beautiful. That’s it.

Teresa poses for a snapshot in front of the colorful Mérida signage

Teresa walked fearlessly amidst the throngs of pigeons. (You’ll hear me as the camera-person reacting to the birds too!)

Teresa made friends with inclusion advocates from around the world

It was a lot of fun! And truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will all treasure!

Thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts and Spectrum Society for Community Living‘s McGill Ability Fund for supporting Teresa’s Trip to Mérida, Mexico. Gracias!!

Teresa Heartchild’s “Artistic Ability” is featured in The Vancouver Foundation’s annual 2017 magazine, “Gifts of Inclusion”. This is perfect timing as November 1st to 7th is Canadian Down Syndrome Week — a week to celebrate the talents of people with Down syndrome and “See the Ability”. #CDNDownSyndromeWeek.

Read the Vancouver Foundation article by Roberta Staley below…



Terea Pocock photographed by Zack Embree at the opening of her art show at Gallery Gachet, Vancouver, BC in June 2016

Once forced to live in a senior’s

 care facility, Teresa Heartchild has

 created a home, and a body of

 work, in Gastown

By Roberta Staley

VANCOUVER’S GASTOWN NEIGHBOURHOOD, abutting the Downtown Eastside, is known for its red brick 

buildings, cobblestone roadways, graffitied walls, steam

clock, Woodward’s and Dominion buildings, tech cluster

and busy restaurants and pubs. The people who navigate 

its streets are as heterogeneous as their environment:

entrepreneurs, academics, artists and activists, as well as

 those struggling with poverty and addiction.

Seated at a sturdy wooden table in a sleek, minimalist

 Gastown condo is Teresa Heartchild. By way of greeting,

 she throws her arms in the air, exclaiming, “I am a self advocate!” 

– a sincere and indisputable declaration. It

 wasn’t an easy journey, but Pocock has learned to express 

herself as an artist and an activist, drawing the attention

 of thousands of people including politicians.

Pocock was inspired to become a working artist 

thanks in large part to a $1,000 Vancouver Foundation 

Downtown Eastside Small Arts Grant in 2016, which 

motivated her to create enough individual works to 

launch a solo show. “It really helped Teresa blossom into 

a professional artist,” says older sister Franke James, with 

whom she lives, along with brother-in-law Bill James, in 

the Gastown home filled with books and art.

Pocock’s inaugural exhibit premiered June 29, 2016 and

 showcased an array of richly illustrated poetry, mounted 

bus-poster size on the walls of Gastown’s Gallery Gachet. 

Opening night doubled as the book launch for Pocock’s

 self-published Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the

 Downtown Eastside, and a selection of the book’s poems and 

illustrations were part of the exhibit. The bold verse, as well as


the jewel-coloured art, show an individual who is confident 

about asserting her place in the world, writing in the poem I

 Am Alive: “Redeemed/Okay, I am reborn/In Gastown.”

“Now she can say she’s an artist and a poet,” says Bill.

 “It has given her a huge sense of purpose to her life.”

What makes these accomplishments so significant – 

extraordinary even – is that Pocock has Down syndrome.

As her book title alludes, her life has not followed a simple 

course. In early 2013, Pocock’s elderly father, with whom she

 lived in Toronto, had failing health and was about to move to 

a care home. Several siblings placed Pocock, the youngest of

 seven, in a long-term seniors care facility without their father’s

 approval. Franke and Bill, along with Pocock’s dad, spent 

four days wrangling with government officials, nursing home

 management and even the police to get her out. Pocock 

then went to live permanently with Franke and Bill.

Teresa Heartchild is hugged by her sister Franke James; photo by Gerry Kahrmann/PNG for Vancouver Sun and The Province; licensed for use
That wasn’t the end, however. With the help of

 Franke and Bill – who are business partners in the 

communications firm The James Gang, Iconoclasts –

 Pocock made a campaign video for the website change.org

 protesting her confinement and demanding atonement

 while asserting the rights of the disabled. The petition, 

launched on World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, 

2014, called out the Ontario government for supporting 

her placement in an institution that was clearly unsuited to her age – she was then 49 – abilities and temperament. In

 the video, Pocock calls for an apology from the government 

for denying her human rights. “I was crying and scared,”

 Pocock says to the camera. “It’s my right to decide where 

to live … I did not want to be there.” She received 26,000

 online signatures of support.

In November 2016, as a result of public pressure and

 media attention, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-

Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins wrote a letter of apology to 

Pocock. Franke framed it and hung it in the front hallway.

That wasn’t the only time Pocock has attracted the

 attention of politicians. At the opening of her gallery 

show, a staff member of Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan

 presented Pocock with a certificate from Kwan, applauding

 her “wonderful drawing, creativity and achievement.” It is

 also framed and hangs in Pocock’s bedroom. Teresa Heartchild holding the achievement certificate awarded to her by MP Jenny Kwan

Since the exhibit, Pocock has been drawing nearly

 every day in her artist’s sketchbooks. Her inspiration has 

become Gastown itself, edgy despite its gentrification, noisy

 and raw, a working harbour with cargo ships loading and 

unloading in Burrard Inlet. Pocock draws what is around 

her: the geometric pattern of windows on the Woodward’s

 building; her favourite coffee shop Prado; London Drugs;

 Nesters Market and, most endearing to Pocock, The Flying

 Pig bistro, with its homemade macaroni and cheese, and 

desserts. “I like chocolate cake,” says Pocock, who does 

yoga, plays Scrabble and reads in her spare time.

“Teresa’s art shows what she cares about, what she 

is feeling and thinking and what she’s afraid of and 

excited about,” says Franke. “She shows that she belongs 

in the world.”

Pocock has another project in the works; she is planning

 what Franke describes as “an unconventional, freewheeling 

cookbook” full of her favourite foods. “We thought the 

book could have information about the neighbourhood

 and where Teresa actually gets the food.” As with her 

first publication, it too will be filled with images and

 drawings. “And we’ll go to the Flying Pig,” Pocock adds.

Franke muses on her younger sister’s influence in

 Gastown. “In society, there is a tendency to take people 

who are different and segregate and hide them away. When

 Teresa is out in the world, it brings out good things in

 people. Like at restaurants, they will bend over backwards

 because Teresa is with us. We call it the Teresa Effect.”

To learn more about the Downtown Eastside Small Arts

Grants program visit 

vancouverfoundationsmallarts.ca. You can

 also help support this program with a donation. Call Kristin 

in Donor Services at 604.629.5186 for more information.


“ARTISTIC ABILITY” written by ROBERTA STALEY for the Vancouver Foundation.

Read The Gifts of Inclusion, Vancouver Foundation’s 2017 Annual Magazine. Also available in eReader version. Or download the Adobe Acrobat PDF


Photo by Zack Embree
Photo by Zack Embree

Photo by Gerry Kahrmann for PostMedia (licensed):
Photo by Gerry Kahrmann/PNG

Photos by Franke James:
Teresa reading and enjoying the Vancouver Foundation article October 30 2017. Photos by Franke James Photo of Teresa Heartchild by Franke James Photo of Teresa Heartchild by Franke James

Help open eyes and hearts to “See the Ability” of those with Down syndrome. Join in raising awareness about the abilities and unique gifts of people with Down syndrome during #CDNDownSyndromeWeek. Spread the word!

“I am alive! I am reborn in Gastown!” says author and artist Teresa Heartchild.

Teresa is defying the “health care system” that wrongly labelled her “incapable” two years ago when she lived in Ontario.

In 2016, Teresa Heartchild won a DTES Small Arts Grant to create her first book, Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside. The book is now available on Amazon and in Kindle and Apple iBook formats. Teresa’s book launch and solo show took place on June 29 at Gallery Gachet, in Vancouver, B.C.

Winning the arts grant inspired Teresa to focus on creating an illustrated book. Before that, she had never created a book. Or exhibited her art. Or shown people her poetry. Now, Teresa is a professional artist, poet and published author. Her achievements are impressive for anyone, regardless of I.Q. Her artistic voice is confident and bold.


It’s a wonderful testament to her artistic ability,” said her sister Franke James. “The artwork is fun and engaging. It expresses her discovery of the Downtown Eastside. It expresses a love of her life.” Teresa creates her illustrations using magic markers on fine art paper. The 4ft x 5ft posters are digital reproductions of her art printed on flexible plastic sheets (just like bus shelter posters). The posters can be rolled and transported anywhere in the world — so she may one day have an international exhibition!


Teresa stands in front of her Hastings and Abbott illustration and poem from her book, “Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside“. Teresa has mapped out the neighbourhood as she sees it. Her favourite coffee shop is Prado. She shops for groceries at Nesters and Costco. She loves to visit Gallery Gachet, London Drugs, Top of Vancouver, Woodwards and the Flying Pig. From her home in Gastown, she watches the big cargo ships, like Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd and Hyundai sailing into the Port of Vancouver. All of these elements combine to create her distinctive visual and poetic vocabulary.


Pretty Amazing! The show drew a large and lively crowd. Supporters from Inclusion BC, Spectrum Society, PLAN Institute, the BC Humanist Association, All Bodies Dance, MP Jenny Kwan’s office, the City of Vancouver and Community Living BC all came out to see Teresa’s art.

Discovering the Downtown Eastside:
Teresa draws inspiration from her surroundings. She can see the Vancouver Sun building and the Harbour Centre from her home in Gastown. Her poems originate from her self-talk. Teresa reads her poems aloud, and continues working on them until she’s happy with them.

Art builds community:
Teresa has been participating in the weekly Expressive Arts workshop at Gallery Gachet where she has met other artists in the DTES, including Laurie (above). Having her own solo show at Gallery Gachet was a big step forward for her. She was able to show everyone her art, her poetry and her video, “I am Alive.”

Those Monsters by Teresa Heartchild

Art is a healing tool. Teresa continues to feel the fallout from her experience of being forced into the nursing home. She expresses her worries in her art and “self-talk” poetry. Her poems reflect the dialogue she has with herself. Often, she takes on the role of her own parent saying, “Please be nice to my daughter.” In the poem, Those Monsters, she encourages herself, “you’re not afraid of those monsters. you have the power of attorney.” (Her power of attorney document helped win her release from the nursing home. to this day, Teresa carries the updated document with her wherever she goes.)

TheSchedule TeresaPocock

The Schedule is a poem that reveals how Teresa organizes her day. She plans exactly when she’s going to have breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Her drawings often incorporate numbers, which represent the times of the day. We hear her sense of humour and wordplay when she writes, “We are quite a pair. eat your pears at Nesters. I love Perrier.” When she recites the poem she laughs at her own cleverness.


Teresa’s sister, Franke James, speaks with author Ted Kuntz about Teresa’s exuberant art.


Gallery Gachet says “Art is a means for survival.” They have provided a supportive and very accepting community — exactly what Teresa needed to blossom as an artist and poet.


Teresa stands in front of her illustration and poem, “We Love it Here”.

Gallery visitors watched Teresa’s video, “I am Alive.”

A local artist wrote in Teresa’s Pretty Amazing Guest book, “I’ve never seen anything like this!” Others commented on her wonderful use of colour and shape. Teresa has indeed found her voice in the Downtown Eastside. It is a voice that talks about feeling “butterflies”, but still finds the courage to fly. Teresa has, in her own words, been “reborn in Gastown”.

The former secretary at Teresa’s Grade School in Ontario read about the show in the Vancouver Sun and dropped in. She wrote, “Wonderful to see all this artwork by Teresa. What a girl!”

Our local MP, Jenny Kwan, gave Teresa a congratulatory certificate which recognized her “wonderful drawing, creativity and achievement.”


Teresa gives special thanks to the Vancouver Foundation for the DTES Small Arts Grant that made her Pretty Amazing book and show possible!

Media about the show:

Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside
Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside
Artist with Down syndrome, called ‘incapable’ opens solo art show
Eastside Inspiration 

About the Artist/Author

Pretty Amazing Cover KindleTeresa Heartchild is an artist and poet living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In 2016, she won a DTES Small Arts Grant from the Vancouver Foundation which enabled her to create her first book, Pretty Amazing: How I found myself in the Downtown Eastside. Teresa exhibited 18 “Pretty Amazing” artworks as 4ft x 5ft posters in her first solo show at Gallery Gachet which launched on June 29, and wrapped up on July 2.

As a self-advocate with Down syndrome, Teresa presented her story, I Love My Human Rights, at the 2016 Canadian Down Syndrome Conference in Montreal. Teresa is a member of the BC Civil Liberties Association, Gallery Gachet, Inclusion BC, Family Support Institute of BC, and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. She loves chicken pie, word play and spotting the big boats in the Burrard Inlet.

Where to buy Teresa Heartchild’s book:
Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside is available on Amazon and in Kindle and Apple iBook formats.

Primary event photography: Zack Embree
Some additional photos by Franke James and Billiam James
Gallery Gachet: “Art is a means for survival.”

Please sign Teresa’s petition at Change.org

Teresa Power Walks: Forced into a Nursing Home at 49. Now She’s Free!

Watch Teresa Heartchild ‘power walk’ — and ask yourself how anyone could think she belongs in a nursing home! It is crazy! Who would deny Teresa her freedom?

Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened last November. Teresa who has Down syndrome, was forced against her will into an old-age nursing home, by the CCAC and two of my siblings. Four days later, she was rescued by my 91-year old father who was “adamant” he did not want his daughter living in a nursing home.

But then the nursing home called the police, in a shockingly callous and bizarre effort to force her back.

By signing the petition you can help Teresa get an apology for the harm done to her. Teresa is asking the CCAC to apologize for wrongly taking away her human right to decide where she lives. Teresa is asking the Rekai Centre to apologize for calling the police in a completely unnecessary, intimidating and callous attempt to force her back into their institution. We need to stand strong to protect the rights of developmentally disabled people so that what Teresa experienced does not happen to anyone else.

Please sign Teresa’s petition, because human rights should be for everybody. Thank you in advance for your support!

Hi I’m Teresa Heartchild

Forced into a Nursing Home at age 49.
Now she’s free.

Much better.

Hi I’m Teresa Heartchild, I’m 49.

Fighting the system
For human rights.

I’m having fun.

I’m power walking.
I’m power walking.
I’m power walking.

It’s my right.
It’s my right.
It’s my right to decide where I live.

For all the people with disabilities

Please sign my petition at
Please sign my petition at

Please visit me on the online at

Much better.

Music Credit: Dan-O at http://danosongs.com/
Song Title: Book of the Monkey

Great story in the Toronto Star by Antonia Zerbisias about Teresa and her adventures “power-walking” toward independent living!

Toronto Star: Teresa Heartchild’s passport to a new life with Down syndrome

Teresa’s passport to a new life with Down syndrome

March 29, 2014

Antonia Zerbisias
Posted with permission from Toronto Star

Teresa Heartchild is in the dining room, flashing her new Visa card.

She’s proud she can take her brother-in-law, Bill James, out for coffee and doughnuts after they power-walk through their Bedford Park neighbourhood.

On the other side of the table, her older sister, Franke James, props up her iPad, which is playing a video of Teresa applying for that card at the bank.

Asked to share her PIN, Teresa is shocked: “It’s personal. I’m not supposed to tell.”

At 49, Teresa is finally handling money. For the first time ever, she knows the price of orange juice. She can distinguish between bills and coins.

“She just never had any training,” Franke explains, adding that Teresa has, despite attending many day programs, been “cocooned” all her life.

Now that she’s living with Franke and Bill, Teresa has been getting lessons on independent living. Not that she will ever be on her own. She was born with Down syndrome and, despite her boast that she “can walk faster than a speeding bullet,” she faces mobility as well as other challenges.

But not nearly as many challenges as Teresa and Franke’s four other older siblings — all but one have asked not to be named in this story — believed she had when their elderly father Joseph could no longer care for her in the condo they shared. Teresa had lived with him since her mother died in 1999.

That’s why, on Nov. 27, and against her father’s wishes, those siblings had Teresa admitted to Toronto’s Rekai Centre, a long-term care facility filled mostly by people much older and less able than she is.

Franke and Bill believe Teresa was made out to be less capable than she is now proving to be. They charge that Teresa’s siblings worked to get her on a “crisis list” that would move her into “a nursing home.”

They claim the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), which deemed her eligible for long-term care, “ignored” its own positive observations about Teresa’s behaviour. They say the system that moved her into the Rekai Centre so quickly was “manipulated” to manufacture a crisis that didn’t exist.

“The fact is, Teresa’s human rights were taken away,” insists Bill. “We want to share her story because we want people to know the truth about how the system works.”

Bill and Franke, both writers and artists who work at home, are angry — angry at the social service agencies that assessed Teresa as showing signs of dementia, angry that she was placed in “a nursing home,” angry at Teresa’s family.

Now they want apologies on Teresa’s behalf — and last week they got one. Toronto Central CCAC CEO Stacey Daub posted one on a petition Teresa and Franke put online.

“My siblings were desperate, but they didn’t have to be because we had offered to take care of Teresa for the rest of her life,” says Franke, producing a stack of emails between her and the rest of the family.

“If you had asked me a year ago to take her, I would have said, ‘No, let’s look at other options,’” she continues. “But once I got the sense that they were serious about putting Teresa in a nursing home, we stepped in.”

In January, Franke took Teresa’s case to the provincial Select Committee on Developmental Services, where she testified that the consent and capacity laws are “easily abused” and that “disabled and disadvantaged people are getting hurt.” She has even filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.

None of this is a knock on Teresa’s other siblings, who have doted on her all her life, taking her to their cottages, making sure she makes it to medical appointments, having her over for meals and holidays. In fact, every year, her two dozen nieces and nephews make a “Christmas calendar” for her, marking off the days they will each take her to a movie, or shopping, a hockey game or on some other outing.

But now the anger and resentment — on both sides — are palpable.

A misunderstanding? Miscommunication? “Manipulation?”

Depends on whom you talk to.

Three of Teresa’s siblings would communicate solely by email. Only her sister Joanne Mills spoke on the record with the Star. She maintains that the Rekai Centre was just a temporary stop for Teresa, until a suitable group home could be found.

“The real story here is that there should be more group homes,” she insists in a brief interview, adding that the family acted out of concern both for Teresa and their father. “Because no family member stepped forward to say that they would take her — we truly did not know that (Franke) and her husband would take Teresa — and no group homes were available, there was nowhere else for Teresa to go.”

It’s an all-too-common situation when parents of adult children with Down syndrome grow too old, or too ill, to care for them, despite government supports, community programs and social services. That’s because people with Down syndrome are living longer — so much longer that even their siblings are themselves ailing or otherwise unable to take them in.

“We have an aging population of Down syndrome clients,” notes Julia Oosterman, director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations at Toronto CCAC. “Appropriate housing — supported living, group homes etc. — is an area that we need to plan for as our population ages. Long-term care, while it may be the only available option, may not be suitable, and the health-care sector needs to consider how we plan for this.”

For her part, Mary Hoare, chief executive officer of the Rekai Centres, writes in an email: “It may not be ideal, but the top priority is always to ensure that, if someone is in urgent need and we have the space and capability to take them in, we will do so, and they will be safe and well cared for.”

But Bill and Franke say there was no urgency for Teresa.

“We offered four times to take Teresa, but the CCAC was never informed,” Franke said.

According to Dr. Terri Hewitt, vice president of community programs and adult services at Surrey Place Centre, the need for group homes is urgent. She counts 215 adults in Toronto on the waiting list. Of those, 102 are “ready” for placement now, while 59 are considered urgent and high-priority.

“If you’re in long-term care because you don’t have somewhere to live, then you become high priority,” Hewitt explains, avoiding the specifics of Teresa’s case. “If you’ve been transferred temporarily to long-term care placement to keep you safe, you would be escalated on our priority list. We would be actively looking for something. The more high priority you are, the more you are identified when vacancies come up.”

Hewitt can’t provide figures for how many adults with Down syndrome end up, at least temporarily, in nursing homes — but many do. Some for good.

“Even the most caring of families can have differences of opinion on how to proceed,” she admits. “It’s a difficult road to follow and preparation is the best thing that you can do.”

This particular story has a happy ending.

Unaware of the storm around her, Teresa is thriving in her airy new home. Since Dec. 1, when her father, Bill and Franke removed her from the Rekai Centre, she has been learning photography. She loves to play Scrabble. She cooks and she’s been hitting the road.

A new capacity assessment in January found Teresa to be “capable” enough for things like granting Franke and Bill her power of attorney for personal care. In February, she accompanied them to Washington, D.C., and all this month, she’s been on the West Coast, where she met David Suzuki.

“We’re really enjoying her,” says Franke. “It’s been an eye-opener.”

And for Teresa, it’s a wide new world.

Toronto Star

Reprinted from Toronto Star, in the “com.smg.cq.components.page.SectionImpl@1b838653” section.

[iCopyright]2014 Torstar Syndication Services. All rights reserved. Licensed by Mrs Franke James on March 29, 2014. You may obtain additional permissions to reuse this article at the following iCopyright license record: http://license.icopyright.net/3.7212-51078. Torstar Syndication Services and Toronto Star logos are trademarks of Torstar Syndication Services. The iCopyright logo is a registered trademark of iCopyright, Inc.

See the Toronto Star: Teresa’s passport to a new life with Down syndrome