Community Living Ontario was pleased to be in Orillia to attend the unveiling of the Survivors Memorial Monument this past Saturday at the Huronia Regional Centre cemetery.

>A group of survivors spoke to the crowd. The emcee, Betty Ann Bond, introduced Jill Duncan MPP, representing Simcoe North, who reminded the crowd that we are all responsible for assisting survivors as they reclaim their dignity.  Norm Miller MPP, representing the riding of Parry Sound, also addressed the crowd in an official capacity to present a letter to the organizing committee, confirming the legitimacy of the installment. Brian Logie, a survivor, spoke about those who lost their lives and how the installation was a way to honour them.

The commemorative sculpture, designed in collaboration with survivors and created by noted metal sculptor Hilary Clark Cole, tells a dark story, with a sprinkle of hope.

On one side, two stone pillars surround a twisted metal tree. You can read in large letters “Remember Every Name”.  On the other side, engraved words dance up and down the pillars. They vary from dark emotions such as “Injustice”, “Locked away and forgotten” to more optimistic thoughts like “We will be heard” and “Never give up” to finally “Freedom”, “Trust” and Power”.

These words were chosen to honour those who died while in the care of the Centre and to celebrate the freedom of survivors. Funding was granted through the Huronia Regional Centre class action settlement.

Debbie Vernon, Bev Link, Betty Ann Bond, Cindy Scott, and Harold Dougall, members of the organizing committee, spent over a year getting approvals for the installation of the monument.

The location was important too. The HRC was the last institution of its kind to close in Ontario in March of 2009. The cemetery is a place of historic injustice. People were buried on the grounds without proper funerals. Hundreds of burials have only numbers, no names. Hundreds more have no markers at all. Many markers were removed and repurposed on the grounds and were never returned to their rightful resting place. Still to this day, the new markers carry misleading and inaccurate information.

Despite several bureaucratic setbacks, the group pushed on. “So many people were lost and forgotten,” said Debbie Vernon, one of the volunteer members spearheading the installment, “but Saturday was a celebration to remember every name”.

Moving forward, Debbie told Community Living Ontario that the organizing committee will continue to fundraise to build an accessible walkway to the monument, include benches and probe an investigation into where the septic pipes were installed. They would like to know if any burials were disturbed in this process. She would also like to see a marquette on display at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg.