Thursday, April 24, 2014

Premier apologizes for Huronia abuses

TORONTO—Ontario failed to protect some of its most vulnerable residents from neglect, abuse, and exploitation at a provincial facility for the developmentally-disabled, Premier Kathleen Wynne said yesterday in addressing what she called a “painful chapter” in the province’s history.
Wynne formally apologized in the provincial legislature for the pain and loss that have permanently marked hundreds of former residents of the now-shuttered Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia, Ont.—a moment long awaited by those who lived at the facility.

The apology is part of a $35-million settlement that was approved last week in a class-action suit against the province over the treatment at Huronia.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they believe it’s the first time a government has been made to say it’s sorry through such an agreement.
“Over a period of generations, and under various governments, too many of these men, women, children, and their families were deeply harmed and continue to bear the scars and the consequences of this time,” Wynne said.
“Their humanity was undermined,” she added. “They were separated from their families and robbed of their potential, their comfort, safety, and their dignity.”
The province “broke faith” with them, Wynne said, and while there has been a radical shift in how developmentally-disabled people are treated, more still needs to be done.
Her words set off a wave of applause in the legislature and in the public galleries, where dozens of former Huronia residents watched side-by-side with some who lived at two other similar Ontario facilities.
Some gave a standing ovation while others wiped tears from their eyes.
Earlier, the premier walked through the galleries to shake hands with some former Huronia residents—a gesture some valued even more than her expression of regret.
“I thought [the apology] was marvellous, but I think what impressed me more today was the fact that she came up into the gallery to shake our hands,” said Betty Ann Bond, who spent three years at Huronia after children’s aid brought her there.
Patricia Seth, who was one of the lead plaintiffs in the suit, said she couldn’t help but tear up at the premier’s “heartfelt” speech.
“It means a lot, it means that I can go forward, that we can go forward now,” she said outside the legislature.
The province now must ensure that the horrors of Huronia are never repeated again, the Opposition parties said yesterday.

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