By Franke James, Teresa’s sister

Vancouver, B.C., December 5, 2016
How does a Canadian with an intellectual disability fight back when their rights are violated? Four recent developments have me thinking optimistically about signs of change for Canadians with intellectual disabilities, and my sister in particular…

Dear Ms. Pocock: Thank you for writing to me and for sending me a copy of your delightful book, Pretty Amazing. I would like to apologize to you and your family for your unsatisfactory placement experience. Your sister, Ms. Franke James, also wrote to me on your behalf in February 2016. Her passion and commitment to your well-being is evident in the extensive materials she had prepared, as well as the photos she provided of you enjoying life in British Columbia. I can appreciate that your experience was challenging for you and your family. We continually strive to improve people's experience in Ontario's health care system to ensure that the right care is provided to Ontarians when and where they need it. Issues raised by your experience that your sister brought to my attention, as well as to the attention of the Select Committee on Developmental Services in January 2014, are very important. Thank you again for taking the time to write and for your wonderful gift. Yours sincerely,Dr Eric Hoskins, Minister

The first sign of change…

Raise your voice and shout out a cheer for this great news! The Ontario government has formally apologized to my sister Teresa Pocock who was “placed” against her will in a long-term care home in November 2013 at the age of 49. (The fallout of that experience compelled us to move with Teresa from Ontario to British Columbia, where we have lived since March 1, 2014.)

Ontario’s Health Minister Dr Eric Hoskins recently wrote, “Dear Ms. Pocock, Thank you for writing to me… I would like to apologize to you…”

Teresa Pocock's letter to Minister Hoskins Sept 23, 2016: Dear Minister Dr. Hoskins, It was nice that you apologized on TV for putting me into a nursing home. But it's weird that you have not sent me the apology in writing. Did you forget? Please send me a letter. I did not want to live in a nursing home. I am capable. I am an artist and a poet. My book is “Pretty Amazing” and totally amazing. Sincerely,Teresa Pocock. Minister Hoskins Letter - Dear Ms. Pocock: Thank you for writing to me and for sending me a copy of your delightful book, Pretty Amazing. I would like to apologize to you and your family for your unsatisfactory placement experience. Your sister, Ms. Franke James, also wrote to me on your behalf in February 2016. Her passion and commitment to your well-being is evident in the extensive materials she had prepared, as well as the photos she provided of you enjoying life in British Columbia. I can appreciate that your experience was challenging for you and your family. We continually strive to improve people's experience in Ontario's health care system to ensure that the right care is provided to Ontarians when and where they need it. Issues raised by your experience that your sister brought to my attention, as well as to the attention of the Select Committee on Developmental Services in January 2014, are very important. Thank you again for taking the time to write and for your wonderful gift. Yours sincerely,Dr Eric Hoskins, Minister
 

Global News shone the spotlight on Teresa: “Ontario woman forced into long-term care wants apology from provincial government”

hoskinsThe driving force for this written apology came from Global News Journalist Christina Stevens who was determined to get answers on how this travesty happened to Teresa.

Stevens did a two-part news story about Teresa: “Ontario woman forced into long-term care wants apology from provincial government.” She did some remarkable digging to find out how many other people with developmental disabilities are in long-term care. She discovered that Teresa is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more than 2,900 “Teresas” living in Ontario long-term care facilities.

Stevens pressed Minister Hoskins for an apology for Teresa. Minister Hoskins sent a statement that was aired on Global News on July 22, 2016: “I would like to apologize to Ms. Pocock and her family for her being placed in a seniors residence…”

The Minister’s apology on television on July 22 was great news. But no letter of apology was sent to Teresa. So two months later Teresa wrote to the Ontario Health Minister and told him, “I did not want to live in a nursing home. I am capable.” See her reading her letter aloud…

Getting an apology from any government is a rare feat. The apology is a victory for Teresa and all people with intellectual disabilities. It is good to see that in Teresa’s case the Ontario government has finally admitted a mistake was made. It is good that Minister Hoskins showed respect to Teresa by writing to her personally.

Most Canadians do not realize — and I did not know until it happened to my sister — that nursing homes have become the new dumping ground for the intellectually disabled. I now see this segregation as an insidious form of discrimination. The Canadian Association for Community Living writes, “Today in Canada, thousands of Canadians with intellectual disabilities remain trapped in large, segregated institutions — inappropriately and unjustifiably segregated from society. They remain, for the most part, hidden and removed from mainstream society despite a collective knowledge, based on research and practice over the past 30 years, that with proper community based supports all persons with intellectual disabilities thrive in the community. They remain in these institutions as a result of inaction by governments and communities.”

Second Sign: New Federal Law

The second sign of change is that the Canadian government is drafting legislation for a federal “accessibility law” to protect the rights of people with disabilities. It is long overdue. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Persons with Disabilities herself said, “Right now, within our current legal framework, the rights of those of us with disabilities don’t kick in… until our rights have been violated. The current system unfairly burdens Canadians to ever defend our rights.”

If the new Canadian law has teeth half as sharp as the 1990 Americans with Disability Act and their 1999 Supreme Court “Olmstead” ruling, it could make a revolutionary difference in Canada.

Third Sign: Canada in consultation to sign enforcement protocol

UN Flag by Stockbyte licensed from Getty Images. Photo of Teresa Pocock by Franke James Which brings me to my third sign of change. Canada has just announced that it is in consultations to safeguard disability rights by signing the enforcement mechanism for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I am proud to say that my sister Teresa Pocock is the self-advocate prominently featured on the campaign poster driving that change. Teresa earned the distinction as a result of her traumatic experience being “placed” in an Ontario long-term care home against her will in November 2013. Teresa and I presented testimony about her forced placement to Ontario’s Select Committee on Developmental Disabilities in January 2014. Vice-Chair MPP Christine Elliott called Teresa’s experience “truly shocking”.

ntt-cover-enThe Ontario government is facing a big crisis regarding adults with developmental disabilities. The Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dubé, recently completed a multi-year investigation into Ontario’s treatment and care of people with developmental disabilities. On August 24, 2016, Mr. Dubé published Nowhere to Turn,” a highly critical report on the Ontario government’s handling of the crisis, calling it a “systemic failure”.

The Ombudsman’s report detailed many heartbreaking cases, including those which amount to “a modern-day version of institutionalization.” Mr. Dubé also acknowledged that long-term care homes are providing institutional care to adults with developmental disabilities, “despite the fact that such settings can be wholly unsuitable.”
“In my opinion, the Ministry’s response to urgent situations involving adults with developmental disabilities and its administration of the process to address crisis cases has been unreasonable and wrong. I have made 60 recommendations for reform, including a requirement that the Ministry [of Community and Social Services] report back on its progress in implementing necessary changes.” The Ombudsman’s report “Nowhere To Turn” includes 6 recommendations on the inappropriate admission to long-term care homes of people with developmental disabilities. This one recommendation could have derailed the train that was determined to put my sister into the long-term care home…

21. The Ministry of Community and Social Services should actively work with local agencies to ensure that placement of young adults with developmental disabilities in long-term care homes is considered a last resort and that alternative solutions are vigorously pursued.

 
But despite sounding the alarm, the Ombudsman also struck an optimistic, upbeat note. He cited a new “culture change” and better leadership.

We appreciate Minister Hoskins’ apology to Teresa and accept it as a positive sign that the Ontario government wants to do better in its treatment of people with developmental disabilities. He has his work cut out for him. As Nowhere to Turn shows, and Global News’ Christina Stevens reported there are thousands of young and middle-aged people with developmental disabilities warehoused in Ontario long-term care homes.
 

Fourth Sign: Whistleblowers Wanted!

I could have used this… The Ontario government has just opened a whistleblower hotline to report abuse of people with developmental disabilities.

The news that Ontario’s abuse hotline has been expanded is timely. Is it a result of the pressure from the Ombudsman’s report “Nowhere to Turn” and the new Federal Accessibility law?

The Government of Ontario is expanding ReportON, a new service for reporting suspected or witnessed abuse of adults with developmental disabilities.

The 24/7 phone line and email service is the latest step taken by the Ministry of Community and Social Services to further improve the safety of adults with developmental disabilities.

Abuse is often hard to identify. Examples can include being denied basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing or medicine. Even if you are unsure, but suspect abuse or neglect of an adult with a developmental disability, you should contact ReportON. Each call will be investigated and the appropriate action will be taken. People can access ReportON by calling 1-800-575-2222 or emailing reportONdisability@ontario.ca.

If the Ontario government had listened to us it would not have taken three years, 26,000 people on Change.org, the BC Civil Liberties Association, Global News coverage, disability-rights lawyers, and scores of other efforts to finally get the Ontario Minister’s attention. But then we’d never have created the campaign to raise awareness of this human rights abuse…

Highlights from Teresa Pocock’s Campaign 2014-2016

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It has taken a determined campaign over three years to assert Teresa’s rights to choose freedom over segregation. Teresa’s Change.org petition, “Tell the Ontario Government Human Rights should Never Be Disabled” launched on March 21, 2014, World Down Syndrome Day. It has now amassed over 26,000 supporters and more than 2,400 comments.

Watch Teresa speaking up for herself in this video from Spring 2014:

Teresa Pocock’s Change.org Petition: Tell the Ontario Government, Human Rights Should Never Be Disabled.

Over 26,000 people signed Teresa’s petition, and 2,400 left comments. Here are a few…

“I’m signing because I want my daughter’s rights protected. She has Down syndrome and I too have seen people with Down syndrome in nursing homes before their time.” Lorna Aberdein, Waterloo, Canada

“I am shocked by the treatment this lady received in the name of “protection” Clearly her rights were abused and she deserves an apology for the archaic way her life was being dictated. Shame on the people involved.” Christine Bearpark, Steinbach, Canada

“I worked in a long term care home for 10 years and this young woman certainly does not belong in one. An apology would be the least the government could do for this young woman.” Mrs. Dale Pond, Markdale, Canada

Teresa is very grateful to the 26,000 Change.org supporters and the organizations who stepped forward to help her assert her rights.

On July 12, 2016, the BC Civil Liberties Association sent a letter in support of Teresa.

“We believe and support Ms. Pocock’s statements that she did not want to be put into a nursing home.”

The letter was co-signed by the Canadian Association for Community Living, Inclusion BC, Plan Institute, People First of Canada, Spectrum Society for Community Living, Vickie Cammack, and Al Etmanski.

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Teresa had a life to live. So many places to go! Things to do! People to meet!

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Photo of Teress Pocock by Zack Embree June 29 2016

Teresa Pocock: ‘Pretty Amazing’ Artist, Poet and Author

On June 29, 2016, the Vancouver Sun did a feature article on Teresa’s budding art and writing career in the Downtown Eastside. The Sun headline aptly summed up the incongruous absurdity of Ontario’s treatment of Teresa: Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside .

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Book Launch: Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside
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PrettyAmazingCover_postTeresa Pocock’s book: Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside.

Amazon Reviews and Comments

Absolute Pleasure – My Coffee Table Favorite
“Teresa Pocock’s honest writing and spontaneous word play make this book a delightful read from cover to cover. Just add in her personal illustrations, and we get an opportunity to see the world from her point of view. Her sister prefaced the book with Teresa’s astounding story of how she triumphed over systemic erasure and mistreatment to take back her rights and empowerment.”

Art, Poetry, Human Rights and Emergence
“Teresa Pocock is an artist/poet living in the downtown east side of Vancouver. Her words and visual creations are unfiltered expressions of her self in the moment. The poems show up in the form of inner dialogue, a kind of call and response thing. There’s poignancy, exuberance and freshness to these works. The visual art are boldly done in the colours and forms of her environment, the locations of Teresa’s emergence as an artist. The human rights dimension of Teresa Pocock’s life is outlined by the touching, loving introduction written by her sister, Franke James. What a story! What a book! Place yourself in touch with this adventure in becoming.”

The book cheers me up
“I was very delighted when Teresa gave me a copy of her book and signed it for me.
Once I got home and found some time to look at it I was extremely surprised by the uplifting effect the book had on me. It cheers me up every time I open it and look at the paintings or read a poem. It has a special magic to it.”

“I Am Alive” by Teresa Pocock on Vimeo.

Megaphone Magazine September 2016: A Pretty Amazing Story

Spring 2016: Human Rights Should Never Be Disabled. Published in the Family Support newsletter, and the Institution Watch newsletter.

March 2016: Down Syndrome Victory! Teresa Pocock wins an Arts Grant in Vancouver

July 1, 2015: How many times can the Minister of Health turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see?

March 2015: My sister, Teresa, Just Wants To Have Fun — Outside of an Ontario Nursing Home! #humanrights –

November 30, 2014: Dear Minister of Health, How Do You Measure One Year?

April 2014 – This Easter, Teresa Egg-spects Apology from CEO of the Rekai Centre

April 2014 – Rock On! Teresa Power Walks for her Freedom

photo of teresa Pocock by Zack Embree October 2014

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By Franke James for Megaphone Magazine
Photo of Teresa Pocock by Zack Embree

“Freedom” describes Teresa Pocock’s awakening as an artist and poet in the Downtown Eastside. When she draws, she is free. There is no filter. She doesn’t second guess herself or say her drawing isn’t “good enough”. She is confident. She lets whatever is on her mind come out, freely.

But the freedom to make her own decisions and choices—where she lives, what she does, and how she expresses herself—is new to her. Teresa has Down syndrome. It’s been very difficult for her to assert her rights and be her own person. For much of her life, she’s been wrapped in a cocoon, where other people made decisions for her. This was made evident in 2013, when Teresa was forced into a nursing home in Ontario at age 49.

Against her wishes, Teresa was placed in a long-term care home that specialized in dementia and palliative care. It was absolutely the wrong place for her. When Teresa said she didn’t want to live there, no one listened. Fortunately, Teresa’s father, a retired lawyer, was able to get her released after four days. The next day, Teresa came to live with me and my husband. Three months later, we moved from Ontario to British Columbia and eventually settled in Gastown in the Downtown Eastside.

Finding her voice
Settling in the Downtown Eastside turned out to be a great stroke of luck for Teresa and her budding career as an artist. She applied for a DTES Small Arts Grant to create an illustrated book about her new neighbourhood. The grant was approved in February, and Teresa got to work.

Over the next four months, Teresa created about 100 illustrations in large spiral-bound sketchbooks using vibrant hues of magic markers. She also wrote 10 poems for the book. My husband and I helped Teresa design and self-publish her book.

Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside is a collection of Teresa’s art and poetry. In her opening poem, I Am Alive, she shares her upbeat philosophy on life: “Be nice to everyone.” And she says she feels “redeemed. Okay, I am reborn. In Gastown.”

Her natural ability to express herself through art is important. In her art and poetry, she can freely express her worries and her joys. Her poems reflect the dialogues she has with herself. Often, she takes on the role of her own parent, saying, “Please be nice to my daughter.” And she encourages herself: “You’re not afraid of those monsters. You have the power of attorney.” Her power of attorney document helped win her release from the nursing home. To this day, Teresa carries the updated document with her.

In her poem “The Schedule,” Teresa shows how she organizes her day. She carefully plans the times for her breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. She includes these detailed times in her drawings and often scratches the numbers out as the hours pass. We hear her sense of humour and wordplay when she writes, “We are quite a pair. Eat your pears at Nesters. I love Perrier.” When she reads the poem aloud she laughs at her own cleverness.

The unexpected
Teresa is enjoying her new identity as an artist and author. This past summer, she launched her book and art show at Gallery Gachet. And then something amazing happened. For almost three years now, Teresa has been asking the Ontario government to apologize. Her Change.org petition—Human Rights Should Never Be Disabled— garnered more than 26,000 signatures. Last month, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and seven other signatories sent a letter to the Ontario government stating, “We are gravely concerned that the government, through its actions, appears to condone the forced placement and mistreatment of developmentally disabled adults.”

The letter caught the attention of Christina Stevens at Global News, who did a story on Teresa. On July 22, Minister Eric Hoskins apologized to Teresa on Global News for “placing” her in a “seniors’ residence,” saying it was not appropriate. The apology was a welcome surprise, but the Global News story exposed the fact that Teresa is just one of thousands who have been deprived of their liberty, as 2,900-plus people in that province are living in such facilities.

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Teresa’s pretty amazing journey that brought her to the Downtown Eastside is still unfolding. She has just turned 52. She is now free to make her own decisions. Free to colour outside the lines. And free to make a difference for all people with disabilities simply by being who she is: a self-advocate and artist in the Downtown Eastside.

I AM ALIVE

Hello.
Be nice to everyone.
Look, I am alive.
You have to be nice.
I am doing fine.
Thank goodness.
I have to be nice to them.
And to the others.
That’s a brilliant idea!
You’re thinking.
And I’m thinking too.
I think we need to make a list of the things we need.
Right. I’m alive. Nesters. Flying Pig. Prado.
We love it here.
Everybody loves me.
You guys are alright, I know.
You guys, I am born. I am alive.
Redeemed.
Okay, I am reborn.
In Gastown

"I Am Alive" by Teresa Pocock on Vimeo.

Related Links:

“A Pretty Amazing Story”, Megaphone Magazine, September 2016

Global News: Ontario woman forced into long-term care wants apology from provincial government

Global News: More than 2,900 Ontarians with developmental disabilities live in long-term care facilities

BC Civil Liberties letter to the Ontario Government: Teresa Pocock’s forced admission to an Ontario long-term care home violated her human rights

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Who is willing to stand up to defend and assert the human rights of the intellectually disabled?

A tragic wrong occurred when Teresa Pocock was forced into an Ontario long-term care home in 2013 against her will. Despite Teresa’s many remarkable achievements since her release, the Ontario government has refused to admit they made a mistake in declaring her “incapable” and forcing her into a long-term care home. The violation of Teresa’s human rights is critically important because there are many, many “Teresas” all across Canada and in the United States. The National Task Force on Living in the Community stated that over 12,000 Canadian citizens (with developmental disabilities) are living in health related institutions such as senior’s facilities, nursing homes, acute care hospitals, long term care facilities and personal care homes, as opposed to ordinary homes in the community.

Thankfully, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, (BCCLA) and seven signatories are standing with Teresa.

“We believe and support Ms. Pocock’s statements that she did not want to be put into a nursing home.”

In an open letter sent to the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-term Care, the BCCLA is requesting a formal apology to Teresa from the Honourable Eric Hoskins.

“We are gravely concerned that the government, through its actions, appears to condone the forced placement and mistreatment of developmentally-disabled adults.”

The BCCLA, Canadian Association for Community Living, Inclusion BC, Plan Institute, People First of Canada, Spectrum Society for Community Living, Vickie Cammack, and Al Etmanski have all joined together to send a clear message to the Ontario Government: Teresa Pocock’s forced admission to an Ontario long-term care home violated her human rights.

Please join us in calling for an official apology from the Ontario government by signing Teresa’s Change.org Petition and sharing this letter.

July 12, 2016

The Honourable Eric Hoskins, MPP
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
10th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2C4

Dear Minister Hoskins:

Re: Teresa Pocock’s forced admission to an Ontario long-term care home violated her human rights

At age 49, Teresa Pocock was forced against her will into an Ontario Long-term Care Home. The traumatic experience shattered her trust and created psychological distress. These events compelled her to leave her home province of Ontario where she was living at the time. She moved to B.C. where she is flourishing as an emerging artist and is also a BCCLA member.

We believe and support Ms. Pocock’s statements that she did not want to be put into a nursing home.

The BC Civil Liberties Association is concerned that the Ministry has violated Ms. Pocock’s rights, which are protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Ontario law.

We are gravely concerned that the government, through its actions, appears to condone the forced placement and mistreatment of developmentally-disabled adults. We understand that your ministry conducted a 14-month long investigation into Ms. Pocock’s treatment. We understand that, despite uncovering evidence of institutional wrongdoing, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care produced a report that concluded that government agencies had done nothing wrong. However, Ministry documents obtained under a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FOIPPA”) request suggest that the investigation found indications that the law may have been broken in Ms. Pocock’s case, resulting in a violation of her rights.

The information that has been provided to us about Ms. Pocock’s case strongly suggests that Ms. Pocock’s rights under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated when she was forced into long-term care against her will.

Ms. Pocock’s right to decide where she lives under Article 19 of the Convention was violated when an Ontario social worker conducted her Capacity Assessment without proper consent and against Ms. Pocock’s written legal directions in her 1995 Power of Attorney. Moreover, the evidence that has been provided to us suggests that the social worker falsely indicated on the consent form that he had reviewed Ms. Pocock’s Power of Attorney when in fact he had not done so.

We are deeply troubled by the findings of the Ministry’s investigation. The documents provided to us through the FOIPPA request that were obtained from your Ministry, in our view, support Ms. Pocock’s assertions that she was wrongly deprived of her liberty.

We urge you to issue a formal apology to Ms. Pocock without further delay.

The following individuals and organizations join the BCCLA in calling on the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care to uphold the laws of Ontario and Canada to defend Ms. Pocock’s human rights and liberty.

Sincerely,

Josh Paterson
Executive Director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association

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Michael Bach

Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Community Living

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Faith Bodnar
Executive Director of Inclusion BC

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Tim Ames
Executive Director of Plan Institute

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Kory Earle
President of People First of Canada

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Ernie Baatz
Executive Director, Spectrum Society for Community Living

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Vickie Cammack

 

Al Etmanski

See the PDF copy of the BCCLA letter to Hon. Eric Hoskins:

“Teresa Pocock’s forced admission to an Ontario long-term care home violated her human rights”