I have some mixed emotions on the subject of closure of the Michener Centre. I appreciate the apprehension families are expressing about displacement of loved ones who remain as residents in Michener Centre into unfamiliar surroundings.
Were Alberta to have a reputation for honouring promises, my reservation may not be so honed.
However, it is deeply concerning that individualized care presently assured may not actually surface.
Review the case of “Marie” — a single Alberta mother with multiple sclerosis who approached government for assistance with the care of her young children as disease progressed — and how she was denied support; instead threatened with adoption of her children.
As the situation emerged in news articles, the public became outraged and demanded support be made available for the solid, loving mother.
Initially, government retracted their decision, insisting that a misunderstanding transpired. Supports were put in place, but this was short lived; as media attention subsided, the mother was informed once again that help was no longer available.
Rather than risk the loss of her children, the mother was forced to flee the province altogether.
Aside from this, I feel that the premise of eradicating institutions merits honour. I have met two victims of the sterilization movement that was ongoing in Alberta until 1972 — where many such individuals were housed at Michener Centre — and I am appalled that society permitted the mutilation of vulnerable persons in the first place.
Instead of supporting families in times of crisis, facing extraordinary circumstances by direct provision of medical and developmental needs, institutionalism was encouraged.
Frankly, foster custody is today’s equivalent to institutionalism of children with disability; hiding those with diversity out of sight instead of supporting natural families.
I am not well-versed enough about the Michener Centre as it functions in present day to formulate an opinion; but, listening to the voices of those whose families are directly impacted, it appears that the facility is no longer considered an institution. Rather, the centre seems to function more as a treatment placement/group-home setting (which, essentially is the direction being pursued for displaced residents).
Some of the residents have resided in group home settings previously and the results were so disastrous that no help was available and the centre has been the sole support.
So, yes, there is cause to be concerned; the harm has been done and now those who were most severely impacted potentially face secondary failure should promises of optimal care be reneged.
I honestly don’t know what the correct/least damaging solution is, but I do know that history must never be repeated and that begins with education, valuing all persons equally and honouring promises.
No matter how one views the situation, the ramifications of past decisions are heart-wrenching and continue to adversely plague lives.
Spokesperson for Protecting Canadian Children
Founder of Samantha’s Law