Deferral to November a positive for pro-Michener group

The judicial review many families of Michener Centre residents have been waiting for in the hopes that it would help keep their loved ones in place has been deferred to November. The review had been scheduled for March 13 in Edmonton. Those behind the action are pushing back the court appeal to take more time to better formulate their case, according to Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre president Bill Lough.

The judicial review many families of Michener Centre residents have been waiting for in the hopes that it would help keep their loved ones in place has been deferred to November.

The review had been scheduled for March 13 in Edmonton. Those behind the action are pushing back the court appeal to take more time to better formulate their case, according to Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre president Bill Lough.

“There’s actually a greater strength in us delaying the judicial review as a result of new information that came forward,” said Lough.

The new date set for the review is Nov. 24, which represented the next available opportunity for a hearing.

The group seeking the review is comprised of 22 plaintiffs who are involved with the parents society. It is hoping to show that the government decision was not the result of a suitable process and thus that it can be overruled by a judge, allowing current residents to stay in their homes at Michener Centre.

The group has examined government documents and internal correspondence in advance of the March 2013 closure announcement

The government’s plan remains to move just over half of the approximately 215 residents currently living at Michener into community group and seniors homes. Twenty-one group homes on the Michener south site and two others off site are to remain open under the auspices of Michener Services with 104 current residents allowed to stay in place.

Since the date of the judicial review hearing was announced last October, a number of families representing Michener dwellers halted all communications with the team in charge of transitions, some saying they would only reengage in the process if the review came and went without any shift from government.

Lough acknowledges that it is asking a lot of parents to hold off for another eight months, but he thinks many families will have the resolve to continue.

“They’ve dealt with this issue all their life so they’re already tough. So if they believe that there’s a chance then yeah, I believe they will stick with it.”

The parents group will meet in Red Deer on March 8 to discuss their strategy going forward.

The date change for the review will not affect the ongoing efforts of the transition team, said Alberta Human Services spokesperson Cheryl Chichak. She said even if guardians intend to continue avoiding the discussion of transition planning, those overseeing the moves will continue to reach out to them.

“They’re working to get in touch with those families and provide them with as much information as they can,” she said.

As of Friday, nine individuals had moved out of Michener since last March’s announcement that everything but the group homes at Michener would close. The most recent move saw a resident transition into a group home in Southern Alberta.

Fifty-one new group home spaces in Central Alberta — and an additional 12 in Calgary — are being created to accommodate the Michener residents who are to move into group homes. Four of the new home builds are near completion and will be ready for occupancy in the coming months, while a number of others are not expected to be complete until late 2014.

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