Community Living Mississauga applauds Community Living Ontario, People First of Canada and the Canadian Association for Community Living National Task Force on the Right to Live in the Community on their stance denouncing attempts to re-institutionalize Ontarians who have an intellectual disability and its call for greater collaboration and investment in the Developmental Services sector.

The issue arose when Angel Oak Communities proposed converting the former Saint Stanislaus Novitiate Jesuit College at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph into a 70-unit residence for people who have intellectual and physical disabilities and seniors.

The proposed project in Guelph and other similar models elsewhere in Ontario are indicative of a systemic housing crisis in Ontario, where there is a lack of appropriate housing, creative solutions and vision for people who have an intellectual disability and their families.

“Families are desperate and lack inclusive options for their sons and daughters. For years we have been advocating for the government to remedy a system which is failing to support people who have an intellectual disability,” said Keith Tansley, Executive Director at Community Living Mississauga. “However, recreating new institutionalized models is a huge step backwards.”

Chris Beesley, Chief Executive Office of Community Living Ontario, agrees with Tansley’s sentiments.

“Once upon a time, each of the institutions in Ontario was new, considered innovative and a best practice. Yet, the physical, sexual and emotional abuse committed against thousands of former residents of government-run facilities are painful reminders of the harm and negative impact that can take place when people live in large, congregated and segregated-type settings apart from the community,” said Beesley, “Collectively, we must condemn all forms of institutionalization and, instead, empower people, families and communities to plan and seek out more inclusive and flexible residential options that will result in far more positive outcomes.”

Community Living Ontario and the National Task Force on the Right to Live in the Community have requested a meeting with the Jesuit Province of Canada to share their concerns regarding the proposal from Angel Oak Communities.

They are also actively engaging with the Government of Ontario and its related ministries for a formal response and a request for genuine, meaningful consultations with people who have lived experiences, families and communities across the province on the importance of thoughtful, intentional and inclusive communities.

“It is a proven fact that institutional living is not healthy or safe for us. We have a right to live in the community, with the same choices and freedoms as everyone else,” said Kory Earle, President of People First of Canada.

The Jesuit College proposal follows the construction of 14-unit housing project for adults who have Autism Spectrum Disorder in London and a failed attempt to make 18 units available to people who have an intellectual disability inside unused space at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton convent in Dundas.

The Government of Ontario continues to explore different housing options through the Developmental Services Housing Task Force, and has embarked on its Basic Income Pilot Project and other initiatives to try and address the 15,000-person wait list.

“The province clearly needs to be much more responsive in providing resources and a clear multi-year plan on how it intends to achieve a more inclusive Ontario,” added Beesley.

Community Living Ontario and the National Task Force on the Right to Live in the Community also intend to make affordable and accessible housing for all an election issue in 2018.