Blog Post, May 19, 2014
Recently, Rob Ford’s brother, Doug Ford, went on public record as saying that a group residential home for those with mental health and developmental issues should not be in his neighbourhood. According to the CTV evening news on May 18, 2014, he was quoted as saying ‘…the home has lowered local property values…’ Neighbours have said that there are emergency vehicles at the home on a regular basis.
I was part of a team that helped open a place called Harrison House in Lindsay, Ontario in the late 1990s. We found ourselves opposite ratepayers who were insistent that it not be in their neighbourhood. The locals used the phrase ‘inmates’ to describe people with schizophrenia who were going to be residents in the place. After a fight which lasted over the summer, the place was finally allowed to open.
The neighbours saw it as a defeat, no doubt. But this raises a point: the stigma against those who are different by nature is still alive and well, some twenty or so years later. Even worse, that attitude that those with developmental delays are not welcome in the community is still strong, even in those who are supposed to be our leaders.
I understand that we have prejudice, and that everyone carries their attitudes with them wherever they go, but we would expect a community leader such as Doug Ford to be a little more flexible when it came to community issues. He is after all a City Councillor for Toronto. And given that his brother has addiction issues, apparently, you would think that he would be a little more understanding.
The trouble is not that Ford has said these things against those with disabilities. The trouble is not that we now have a pressure point against those with disabilities in our communities. The trouble is that when you think of the overall attitudes toward those with disabilities, this set of statements tells us that there is an undercurrent of disdain against those who are different.
My own ‘stepfather’ – I use the term in quotes because he did not raise me – tried to have me locked up for being crazy in 2005, according to my mother. I was working nights. I was seeing a counsellor to help me cope with severe depression. I was saving money and, all things considered at the time, doing well. My stepfather didn’t think so: I was to be ‘locked up for being crazy’ so my mother said.
We found out after my mother died in 2006 that he might have been abusive toward her while she was undergoing chemotherapy. I certainly know he didn’t like me and I had others who observed us ‘interacting’ saying so. So that prejudice against – in whatever form it arrives – is still strong and going well, sadly. This is something that no-one in the euthanasia enthusiasts’ camp seems to consider.
No-one seems to ask if there is an underlying prejudice at work in our society. We saw that prejudice at work in Germany in the early 20th century. I have also heard stories from the native community about that ongoing prejudice at work in their community now. We have also seen that prejudice at work against those who are different – consider the young people who have killed themselves over bullying.
We can do better than this. Unfortunately, no-one seems to have an overall big picture in mind of where we could be. We are all our own little communities, all clamouring at the same time for some scrap of attention, funding and help. This is why we must work for a larger community. I know my limits; I am looking for work, coping with diabetes and volunteering. So I am good with what I am doing.
But I can keep up to date with the issues that are happening elsewhere. Like the way there are problems – an understatement, certainly – in the Veterans’ Administration in the US. Like the way there are problems with how our veterans are treated in Canada. Like the problems we have with those who are disabled and different in both nations.
I recently got a tweet through my feed from Justin Trudeau. He is leader of the Liberal Party here in Canada. He has been working to create a following before the next election; one way is by promising legalization of marijuana. I can’t see how that can possibly go wrong. I simply tweeted back: ‘You don’t want me. I’m prolife and anti-euthanasia. I think for myself and I don’t smoke dope. Have a nice day.’
You have to know your limitations and your boundaries. Once you know those and are comfortable, you can create the base from which you can work toward goals you think are worthwhile. This is why the most important thing in our age is to be critical of what we see, read and watch. It’s about our intellectual survival, as well as our community survival.
Doug Ford does not know his boundaries. He simply sees things in terms of us versus them in community. And he is supposed to be a leader. This is why I can’t take politics seriously. But certainly, we can do better as a community, given the limited leadership choices we seem to have. As a community, we can and must do better at strengthening each other. Human lives are at stake.