AUPE lacks perspective on disabled

I cannot begin to describe how disgusted I was after reading the article written by AUPE president Guy Smith published in the Advocate on April 10.

I cannot begin to describe how disgusted I was after reading the article written by AUPE president Guy Smith published in the Advocate on April 10.

Besides being an unwarranted and vicious personal attack on Bruce Uditsky, who both as a parent and a professional has dedicated his life’s work to advancing the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities into regular community life, it was filled with so much erroneous and misleading information that it would take paragraphs to clarify the issues identified by Smith’s epistle.

But, I think that is exactly what Smith would like to see happen, for that would detract from the real issue here.

The real issue here is not whether union jobs will be lost; it is not whether promises made by one government are not honoured by the next; and it is not whether AACL belongs to the Alberta Council of Disability Services (ACDS) or whether someone’s home should become subject to provincial regulation.

The issue is the institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities and the end of this antiquated practice in Alberta. To suggest that Michener Centre is not an institution is ludicrous; as, by any definition applied in any other jurisdiction, Michener Centre is an institution.

As the president of the Alberta Association for Community Living, and as a parent of a young adult with developmental disabilities, I can tell you that Uditsky is not a lone voice. He is the voice of our 40-plus member associations, many of whom are also members of ACDS and he is the voice of thousands of families who every day work to ensure their sons and daughters, regardless of their perceived level of disability, live valued lives in our communities.

As families, we empathize with the anxiety the closure of Michener Centre causes for the families of the residents; however the voices of a few do not negate the voices of many.

Alberta is a progressive province. We have developed initiatives in this province to promote and ensure the inclusion of Albertans with developmental disabilities in regular community life that are the envy of both national and international jurisdictions. Yet, we are one of the last provinces to close its institutions.

The evidence of the limitations, let alone the increased risks to vulnerable individuals of institutionalization is irrefutable and commonly understood by the vast majority of Canadian provinces and, in fact, all progressive jurisdictions throughout the world.

How is it that the president of the AUPE remains ignorant of this knowledge?

Let’s talk about the real issue. The real issue is that closing institutions is simply the right thing to do for people with developmental disabilities, regardless of the impact of said closure on union jobs or any ideological debate on the merits of government versus community services.

Robin Acton

Parent and president of the Alberta Association for Community Living

Lloydminster

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