Keep Michener open

For good reason, residents, families, guardians, staff, community members, all three Alberta opposition parties, the Red Deer Public Schools board, Red Deer city council and others have come out against Premier Alison Redford and her government’s abrupt decision to close Michener Centre.

For good reason, residents, families, guardians, staff, community members, all three Alberta opposition parties, the Red Deer Public Schools board, Red Deer city council and others have come out against Premier Alison Redford and her government’s abrupt decision to close Michener Centre.

The single persistent voice advocating for the government’s poor decision is Bruce Uditsky of the Alberta Association of Community Living (AACL). What most people don’t know is Uditsky and the AACL is the one group also advocating for no government involvement in community living at all.

In fact, last year Uditsky’s organization challenged the government’s right to implement accommodation standards for two- and three-person group homes. The AACL believes group homes should not be subject to any government oversight. Currently, there are 130 service providers in Alberta that are members of the Alberta Council of Disability Services. Mr. Uditsky’s organization is not.

The AACL’s philosophy is risky because third-party regulation and inspection helps ensure proper, quality care and safety standards do not take a back seat to the self-interest of private operators. It’s the same philosophy that caused Wall Street to crash in 2008. The only difference here is Uditsky is playing with peoples’ lives instead of their life savings.

Mr. Uditsky is simply cheerleading the government spin by calling Michener an institution.

The fact is Michener is not an institution at all. Michener is the preferred home for 125 vulnerable Albertans with high needs that can’t be met in the community. Uditsky fails to mention that there are a number of cases where individuals have returned to Michener after other placements were unable to meet those needs.

He also doesn’t mention the eight Premier’s Awards of Excellence Michener has received since 1999, or that Michener has been awarded the highest level of accreditation under the Alberta Council of Disability Services audit.

He also doesn’t point out that in 2008, the government promised in the Moving Ahead — It’s My Life report that “No one currently living at Michener Centre will be forced to move away from Michener Centre.” This promise was made after residents, families and guardians made the choice to stay at their Michener Centre home. This broken promise by the government is an infringement of the basic human rights of Michener residents and families and it’s wrong.

Michener is an award-winning, high-quality facility that serves as a model for care and must remain open for the individuals who have called it home for decades.

For Uditsky, Redford and MLAs Mary Anne Jablonski and Cal Dallas to suggest Michener is not a real home or community for people with developmental disabilities is an unfortunate display of lofty elitism based in ideology rather than in truth and morality.

Guy Smith is president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

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