Our 60th Anniversary on Canada’s 150th Birthday
This year, on Canada’s 150th birthday, Brampton Caledon Community Living marks its 60th anniversary.
On July 1st, 1867, the British Parliament passed the British North American Act and the Dominion of Canada was officially born.
In 1957, news of-Sputnik, the first artificial satellite launched into earth’s orbit by the Soviet Union, shook the world. In the same year, of no note to historians or consequence to global affairs, families in Brampton and Caledon and elsewhere throughout Ontario founded organizations dedicated to the well-being and future of people with a developmental disability.
Though the news of this humble accomplishment may not have travelled beyond the borders of Peel County at the time, the vision upon which our association and other community living associations were founded was carried far and wide and into the future by generations that followed.
It may not have been earth shaking news at the time but the notion that children with a developmental disability had the right to a public school education and that adults with developmental disability could and should be able to live, learn, work and play in their community challenged the attitudes and social policy of the day.
“If these children can be taught something at Orillia, why cannot a day school be put at their disposal? … I think it is time something was done for parents, who, from a sense of faith and hope in merciful providence want to keep [their children] at home, living a normal life.”
So wrote Mrs. Glover, using the vernacular of the day, in a letter to the Toronto Star dated September 29, 1948. It is an appeal for a compassionate and progressive regard for the sons and daughters of mothers and fathers who wished what all of us wish for our sons and daughters: a bright, productive and happy future. It is an appeal to, and grounded in, our sense of decency, fairness and compassion as Canadians.
That is the news and history made by associations across this province 60 years ago —taking the first steps of a long journey to a time and place in the distant future where people with a developmental disability are accorded the same human rights as other citizens and where all children are included in our community to live, learn, work and play alongside one another.
It is a time and place many now live and know. But for many others it is a time and place still far off, a distant mirage.
In August of 2016, the Ombudsman of Ontario released his report, Nowhere to Turn, an investigation into the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ response to situations of crisis involving adults with developmental disabilities. He wrote:
“It is often said that societies are judged on how they treat the most vulnerable of their members. The time has come to move beyond apologies and work towards a consistent, coordinated, collaborative, and responsive developmental services system, able to effectively and humanely meet the needs of individuals and families in crisis.”
No doubt, were Ms. Glover alive today she would pen a letter to the editor to call attention to the plight of young adults whose futures are placed on waiting lists after graduating from high school and the fear that grips their parents who wonder what will become of them after they are gone. And no doubt her appeal would speak to the values that help define us Canadians and as a country: a sense of fairness, decency and compassion, especially for those most vulnerable in our communities; the same values that prompt the Ombudsman of Ontario to recognize that the status quo is unacceptable and that the developmental services sector must be reformed if it is to be humane in its treatment of individuals and their families.
It didn’t make the kind of splash in the headlines Sputnik did in 1957, but what the founders of the community living movement did 60 or so years ago was profound and consequential. They helped to change many lives for the better and their work helped to enshrine the rights of the disabled in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Looking back, it’s fair to say that history was made then.
But the legacy of the community living movement is of little comfort to individuals and their families who have nowhere to turn. They are struggling to find a way forward.
If it is to continue to be relevant, if it is to continue to be of consequence to public policy and the lives of people with a developmental disability and their families in the 21st century, the community living movement must be renewed and revitalized by a new generation of Canadians.
The future is where history is made.
Arlette Brobyn, President and James Triantafilou, Executive Director
To read the Full Annual Report 2017