SRC Plaque Unveiling
The Parkfield Restaurant, Chatham (October 13, 2014)

Karen Chan
Assistant Deputy Minister, Community and Developmental Services Division - Ministry of Community and Social Services

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

My name is Karen Chan, and I'm the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Community and Developmental Services with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. And I’m here to emcee our event today.

So first of all, I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here with us. I know that we have some former residents of Southwestern Regional Centre in the audience as well as representatives from our kind hosts Community Living Chatham-Kent. Thank you very much for having us here today.

In other events we’ve been able to be out in the environment where the plaque is actually installed. But in this particular case the plaque is in the country on a road – and we thought it might be a little bit better here and they’re just finishing up. They have to put in the parking and some of the amenities around the plaque yet. So thank you very much for having us here today and thank you for touring us around.

Thank you very much we really do appreciate it.

I would first like to ask Lu-Ann Cowell and Darlene to come up and say a few words. They are going to come up together and say a few words on behalf of Community-Living Chatham Kent.

Darlene Clarke
Community-Living Chatham-Kent Board Member

Hello. My name is Darlene Clark. I am very excited to be speaking here today. The Parkfield was my first job and now I work at the Library Café. I have been working there for over 10 years. I am a member of the Board of Directors and have been a member for three years.

I really enjoy it.

I hope you have a great day and enjoy touring Community Living Chatham-Kent.

Lu-Ann Cowell
Executive Director, Community Living Chatham-Kent

Thanks Darlene. Wonderful.
Oh, so now you’re going to leave me up here all alone.

An interesting conversation we just had. Someone said to Darlene, “Is that your worker?” And I said, “No, that’s my boss.”

It was wonderful and it speaks to this occasion today about how people with intellectual disabilities have become so much a part of our community and have included so much of the life of the community and are part of the community. And I welcome everyone here today.

It’s just been an incredible honour to have the Minister here doing some touring and being able to talk to her about the kids of supports we offer people. And I hope that everyone here enjoys this afternoon and please stay afterwards because we have lots and lots and lots of goodies to feed you.

So thank you again for coming, for taking time out of your day. Thank you so much Minister Jaczek for being here – we really appreciate it.

Karen Chan

It's now my pleasure to welcome and introduce the Honourable Dr. Helena Jaczek who was appointed Minister of Community and Social Services just a few months ago.

She has served as MPP for Oak Ridges–Markham since 2007.

The Minister started her career as a medical doctor and spent many years as a senior health administrator before entering politics. She was actually the Chief Medical Officer of Health in York Region for many years.

The Minister will be saying a few words to mark the installation of the plaque near the former Southwestern Regional Centre in Dealtown. Next month we will be holding a similar event in Smith Falls and we’ve already had an event in Orillia for Huronia.

I certainly very much enjoy working for and with the Minister. She has a passion, she’s committed and is really interested in hearing and seeing the services that are provided and meeting individuals and talking with them. She’s a really good listener.

Thank you very much, and thank you Minister.

Dr. Helena Jaczek
Minister, Ministry of Community and Social Services

Well thank you very much Karen.

And I’d like to extend a special thank you to Lu-Ann, Ron, Brad, Betty, Myrtle, and Stephen and everyone from Community Living Chatham-Kent for hosting us here today at the Parkfield Restaurant. And thank you Darlene for your lovely introduction as well.

It’s been a great pleasure to learn about the many programs your agency offers for people with a developmental disability in the community today.

Seeing what’s being offered in the community today is especially important for me because we are gathered here to address what happened at the Southwestern Regional Centre at Cedar Springs and to commemorate the lives of the former residents of the Centre.

I had the opportunity to visit 11 Stirling Lane earlier this afternoon and to see that place. Such a wonderful home for the residents there. And to contrast it with what I saw (as I told a few of you here) as I visited Cedar Springs, the Southwestern Regional Centre at the time, in 1987.

I was a student at the time and the then Medical officer of Health for Kent-Chatham (as it was called then), Dr. Wayne Everett decided that it would be very important for my education to visit the Southwestern Regional Centre. He was an individual who was very much in favour of deinstitutionalization of those with an intellectual disability and it was certainly something that I took very much to heart when I visited some 27 years ago today. I would have never dreamed that I would be in this position all these years in the future – to be with all of you as we mark this important occasion.

Today we are honoured to have with us former residents, their families and supporters, as well as representatives from:

  • Community Living Chatham-Kent
  • Community Living Wallaceburg
  • Christian Horizons
  • Family Service Kent
  • Regional Support Associates, and
  • St. Francis Advocates.

Thank you, all, for joining us this afternoon.

Today, we officially dedicate a new plaque in Dealtown to honour the memory of those who lived at Southwestern Regional Centre. The plaque is on-site as Karen mentioned. You can see what exactly is on that plaque here today in front of us.
We want to help everyone tell their stories and ensure that the history of this time is remembered.

Ontario closed the doors to Southwestern Regional Centre, as you all know, in 2008.

The Province closed the last remaining facilities for people with a developmental disability one year later.

Earlier this year, the government took responsibility for the suffering of people who experienced harm at Southwestern – a place that was intended to provide them with support.

Premier Wynne delivered a formal apology in writing to former Southwestern residents in April, saying:

“We commit to learning from the wrongs of the past and ensuring your painful stories inspire a fairer and more inclusive society.”

That’s why we are preserving historical documents produced in the course of the litigation in the Archives of Ontario for scholarly research.

That’s why we are dedicating a plaque – represented here – to recognize the hundreds of Ontarians who lived at Southwestern Regional Centre.

While we cannot change the past, we can ensure we uphold the lessons we have learned.

Today, our vision for developmental services is completely different.

Our goal now and for the future is to do all we can so that individuals with a developmental disability are supported to live as independently as possible – and are fully included in our communities.

And we have made progress.

Today, more than 60,000 people with a developmental disability live in our cities and towns, and receive supports close to their family and friends.

Here in Chatham and the surrounding areas, many individuals receive supports at the organizations represented here today.

As we strengthen and increase those supports here in Chatham and across Ontario, it will always be with the goal to building a province where people of all abilities are full and valued members of our communities.

Thank you.