By Franke James
“Dear Minister Hoskins, It was nice that you apologized on TV for putting me into a nursing home. But it’s weird that you have not sent me the apology in writing. Did you forget? Please send me a letter. I did not want to live in a nursing home. I am capable…”
For over two months, Teresa has been waiting — and waiting — and WAITING — to hear from Minister Hoskins. Because two months ago, on July 22, the Minister apologized on Global News TV for Ontario’s placement of Teresa in a “seniors residence” in 2013. I think most Canadians would be shocked that Teresa — at 49-years of age — was placed in a nursing home which specialized in dementia and palliative care.
The Minister’s statement of apology on TV was good news. But confusingly, there was no follow up by him, or any Ministry staff!
Teresa herself calls it “weird” that he has not sent her the apology in writing. I agree. Most people would expect that the Minister would have contacted Teresa afterwards. Most people would expect that at the very least he would have sent a letter to Teresa. More than two months has elapsed, and there has been NO letter expressing regret. NO phone call to say sorry. Nothing. It sends a message that they don’t really care.
So Teresa wrote this letter to Minister Hoskins…
As Teresa herself writes, she did not want to live in a nursing home. Her “placement” in 2013 was done against her wishes and was very traumatic. It changed her life. Global News Journalist, Christina Stevens did a two-part news story about Teresa’s experience: “Ontario woman forced into long-term care wants apology from provincial government.” Stevens interviewed Minister Hoskins, but he refused to answer any questions about Teresa’s file citing “privacy” reasons. Teresa and I then gave permission for the Minister to speak with Stevens for the second part of the news story.
Stevens did some remarkable digging to find out how many other people with developmental disabilities are in long-term care. She discovered that Teresa is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more than two thousand, nine hundred “Teresas” living in Ontario long-term care facilities. Stevens pressed Minister Hoskins for an apology for Teresa. He did not appear on air, but sent a statement to Global News: “I would like to apologize to Ms. Pocock and her family for her being placed in a seniors residence.”
The Minister’s statement of apology on television was good news. But confusingly, there was no follow up by him, or any Ministry staff! Why has there not been any follow up?
Most Canadians do not realize — and I did not know until it happened to my sister — that nursing homes have become the new dumping ground for the intellectually disabled. I now see this segregation as an insidious form of discrimination. The Canadian Association for Community Living writes, “Today in Canada, thousands of Canadians with intellectual disabilities remain trapped in large, segregated institutions — inappropriately and unjustifiably segregated from society. They remain, for the most part, hidden and removed from mainstream society despite a collective knowledge, based on research and practice over the past 30 years, that with proper community based supports all persons with intellectual disabilities thrive in the community. They remain in these institutions as a result of inaction by governments and communities.”
The Ontario government is facing a big crisis regarding adults with developmental disabilities. The Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dubé, has just completed a multi-year investigation into Ontario’s treatment and care of people with developmental disabilities. On August 24, Mr. Dubé published “Nowhere to Turn,” a highly critical report on the Ontario government’s handling of the crisis, calling it a “systemic failure”. I read the 182-page report in full, as well as numerous media reports and editorials on it.
The Ombudsman’s report detailed many heartbreaking cases, including those which amount to “a modern-day version of institutionalization.” Mr. Dubé also acknowledged that long-term care homes are providing institutional care to adults with developmental disabilities, “despite the fact that such settings can be wholly unsuitable.”
“In my opinion, the Ministry’s response to urgent situations involving adults with developmental disabilities and its administration of the process to address crisis cases has been unreasonable and wrong. I have made 60 recommendations for reform, including a requirement that the Ministry [of Community and Social Services] report back on its progress in implementing necessary changes.”
But despite sounding the alarm, the Ombudsman also struck an optimistic, upbeat note. He cited a new “culture change” and better leadership!
“What really made the difference is leadership, and attitudinal changes at the Ministry, from the top down. Officials are no longer aloof and are more willing to engage directly in resolving individual crisis cases. They are no longer on the defensive when dealing with our Office and see the value we can add in helping them maximize service to Ontarians.”
I would like to believe Mr. Dubé. I hope that the Ontario government has turned over a new leaf — and sincerely wants to do better in its treatment of people with developmental disabilities. I believe that the Ombudsman, Paul Dubé, would want — indeed expect — Minister Hoskins to show some respect and kindness to Teresa by sending her a letter.
If I had Minister Hoskins‘ ear, I would tell him that this is a golden opportunity for him to show the Ontario Ombudsman that there really has been a “culture change” in Ontario’s treatment of people with developmental disabilities. And that by sending a sincere letter of apology to my sister Teresa he will demonstrate that he is part of the change (and his apology was not just done to please the TV audience).
“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
~Hubert H. Humphrey
Teresa has sent her letter to Minister Hoskins — along with an autographed hardcover copy of her new book, Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside. We hope the Minister replies.
Teresa Heartchild’s book: Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside.
Teresa Heartchild’s Change.org Petition: Tell the Ontario Government, Human Rights Should Be For Everybody.
Human Rights Letter: BC Civil Liberty Association‘s July 12, 2016 letter in support of Teresa, was co-signed by the Canadian Association for Community Living, Inclusion BC, Plan Institute, People First of Canada, Spectrum Society for Community Living, Vickie Cammack, and Al Etmanski.