Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!
Advertisement

It is sick in there, and people are incarcerated

Parents and self advocates want accelerated closure of institutions

by Robert Devet

Between 30 and 40 people rallied at Lower Sackville's Quest Rehabilitation Centre to call for the speedy closure of institutions for people with intellectual disabilities.  Rallies like this one occurred all over Nova Scotia. Photo Robert Devet
Between 30 and 40 people rallied at Lower Sackville's Quest Rehabilitation Centre to call for the speedy closure of institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. Rallies like this one occurred all over Nova Scotia. Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Between 30 and 40 parents, siblings and self-advocates rallied in front of the Quest Rehabilitation Centre in Lower Sackville, to demand an accellerated closure of institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. Similar rallies occurred across Nova Scotia today.

"This is not an environment for healing, it is sick in there, and people are incarcerated," Barbara Gillis, one of the people at the rally, tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Gillis is the mother of a 23-year old son who has lived at Quest for five years.

In February her son, who is diagnosed with autism, was beaten up by another Quest resident, she says.

The immediate trigger for the rallies was the recent death of Gordon James Longphee, result of an alleged assault by a fellow resident of Quest.

Gillis believes that Longphee's death, the second such death in four years, is clear evidence that Quest simply cannot provide the individualized care that her son needs, no matter how well-intentioned staff may be.

"My son is anxious in there," says Gillis, "so in order to cope they medicate him, call the police, there's handcuffs."

"This is incarceration, [residents] are locked up in there, they can't freely go outside and pet a dog or a cat, it's as if life stopped. And my life stopped too. I take this home everyday."

Not everybody agreed. Three people showed up to argue in favour of places such as Quest.

"Don't call this an institution when it says right on the door that it is a rehabilitation centre," the mother of a Quest resident angrily told the demonstrators. "We are happy that my son stays at this place."

Matthew McCarthy was one of the people caught up in the argument.

"I am sure some of the nursing and the care [at Quest] is wonderful, but I am deeply concerned about situations that involve deaths, arrests," says McCarthy.

"As a whole the large centres, where people are often housed against their will, creates that kind of situation."

McCarthy points to a Canada-wide trend away from institutions and towards individualized care.

"I want people to decide for themselves where would be the best place to live. That could be a matter of the type of care [that is provided], the size of the place, the kind of community, and where it is located. And I would like to see the community at large involved in that," says McCarthy.

Indeed, the Department of Community Services (DCS) has announced a move away from institutions and towards a more individualized approach.

Today's province-wide rallies were organized by Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia (APNS), a support organization for parents of children with intellectual disabilities, together with Nova Scotia's chapter of People First, a group of self advocates whose motto is "Nothing about us without us.".

Brenda Hardiman, co-founder of APNS, believes that the Community Services roadmap is a good document, but that it lacks a sense of urgency.

"Community Services are looking at a ten year plan. We want referrals to stop immediately,and we want to see a plan where institutions are closed in short order," Hardiman tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

Gillis agrees.

"All I can say is that my son has been here for five years. I can't wait for another five or ten years for something to come around. Damage is being done. Mentally physically, emotionally it is very damaging to live in a place like this. You and I couldn't do it."

See also:

Community Services Transition Roadmap hits speedbump

Parents argue that their children should not face jail

Rallies throughout Nova Scotia call for end to criminalization

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 


Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
609 words

Advertisement

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!