Settlement Reached in Huronia Class Action Suit

Settlement agreement reached in the Huronia Class Action Suit by Marilyn Dolmage

A settlement agreement was reached on September 17, 2013 in the class action concerning Huronia Regional Centre. The Motion for Settlement Approval in court will be heard on Tuesday December 3, 2013 for one day.  That happens to be the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (   Koskie Minsky says: "At that hearing the court will determine if the settlement reached between the parties is fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the class.  The claims process will not begin until after the court approves the settlement."

Court documents can be accessed using the following links:

We are pleased that the government of Ontario will apologize, survivors will be compensated, those who died will be remembered and formerly secret documents will become public.

All of us must find ways to use these new tools well, to listen to the stories of survivors, with more than our ears, and assist them to assert their claims. We are also very sad to again be reminded of all the pain caused by segregation.

There has been considerable media interest and stories can be accessed at the following links:

* CTV - a few photos and clips at

* Orillia Packet and Times (beware local attitudes!)

* Toronto Star: htttp://


*Barrie CTV

*Pat Seth on John Tory Newstalk Radio

* CBC Radio "Hear and Now" -

* Canada's History Magazine -

* A link to Opening Ontario’s “Saddest Chapter:” A Social History of Huronia Regional Centre - a current article in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, by Dr. Kate Rossiter, Assistant Professor of Health Studies and Annalise Clarkson, Masters Student, Social Justice and Community Engagement  at Wilfred Laurier University, Brantford, Ontario

* CBC Radio Metro Morning interviewed class member Michael Callahan and I yesterday -

I think Michael provides one of the most succinct and yet extremely poignant accounts of life in HRC that I have ever heard. It was an honour for me to follow him.

* Sun TV interviewed Pat Seth yesterday. This segment begins with a challenge to Premier Wynne - to face her responsibility to survivors -

CTV Canada A.M. interviewed lead plaintiff Marie Slark and lawyer Celeste yesterday - see

* Toronto CBC -

* Toronto Star, September 18’13- Reporters took particular interest in the institution cemetery - and continue to track down the story about unmarked graves.

Urgent: Star Reporter Tim Alamenciak would like to speak to anyone who has family buried in that cemetery, in any of the 1440 unmarked graves (whose death would have occurred prior to 1958).

Please contact him asap  via or phone Direct 416-9458631 Cell 647-926-3596


* Wee Robert, a haunting song about my brother, performed and recorded by Jim Dolmage and his band, The Kilts.  To hear the song, contact Jim Dolmage -

*Orillia Packet and Times published a very supportive editorial:

* Kingston Whig Standard, Saturday, September 21, 2013

*Pierre Berton's January 1960 article

* Literary Review Of Canada, September 13, 2013 - - contains a review of And Neither Have I Wings to Fly”: Labelled and Locked Up in Canada’s Oldest Institution by Thelma Wheatley. The review - “History from the Dark Side: Junk Science, Injustice and the Value of Public Memory” - is a powerful synopsis about HRC, history and society.

* Toronto Star,  September 22, 2013: Comments by Kevin Donovan, who wrote an investigative series in 2001, "exposing the plight of people with developmental challenges in Ontario… and their parents".

I thank Kevin for writing:

"No story has touched me more… We called it Nowhere to Go, but on reflection, that was incorrect. I remember the love and heroism of the families I met, who chose to keep their children close."

A friend told me about a legal decision this week in California which determined that "state health officials must release records of violations by caregivers at institutions for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled" - see

* The Globe and Mail could be an important avenue for Canada-wide communication. I am surprised that they have done so little since the settlement was announced. I found only this recycled Canadian Press story on-line - but found nothing in the paper delivered to my door.

I am very disheartened to hear that Christine Elliott spoke in the Ontario Legislature - this week, of all weeks - to promote an 18 "bed" institution for people with developmental disabilities, on a floor of a convent. This seems like it might be a step towards their original plan - for 36 "suites". They called it a “choice” and “innovative”.


We really need national coverage about the HRC settlement because:

  • Class members live in other provinces
  • Other provinces should agree not to claw back      social benefits for those who receive compensation
  • Other provinces still operate      institutions. (Shame on them!)

I know how much I have always missed my brother Robert and how that motivated my advocacy.

I have always hoped that people across Ontario would remember - and miss - the many others who were sent away to institutions. This week, I've been hearing about so many of those "missing people" - uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, neighbours. It is so painful to see what really happened to them, behind those institution walls, and discouraging to conclude that people with developmental disabilities have not mattered enough to Ontario.

If only our shared shock and regret could inspire some strong collective advocacy to end segregation, increase funding and create real inclusion - so that people labelled with developmental disabilities might lead truly valued lives.

I am reminded that Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is meeting now in Vancouver.

Here is part of a powerful prayer, shared by an aboriginal survivor of Residential School.

I think it inspires our work too.

Try, the Great Spirit will listen to you,

Try, the humans will respect you, 

Try, you will be at peace with yourself...

"TRY" was one of my son Matthew's favourite signs - and we thank him for that.

Lastly, I want to express my great admiration for Marie Slark and Patricia Seth, the lead plaintiffs who have experienced such fear and yet demonstrated such courage. An insightful friend has sent me this quote by Maya Angelou:

"History despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."

Marilyn Dolmage


Leave a Comment