April 2, 2020 by Franke James, Teresa’s sister

Teresa Pocock got some fabulous news today, April 2, 2020… Canada Council approved her Arts Abroad Travel Grant for her past trip to Mexico. In November 2019 Teresa flew to Mérida to see her art exhibited in the Deep Down Arts show. Whoah! She’s lucky to have gone because she sure won’t be returning any time soon! (Teresa is following Vancouver’s Stay Home / Stay Put guidelines with me and my husband.) The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe makes us appreciate how very fortunate Teresa was to have seized the unique opportunity to travel to the opening ceremony.

The Deep Down Arts Exhibition was organized by the Macay Foundation. Teresa says, “Gracias!” to the Canada Council and Spectrum Society‘s McGill Ability Fund, for the grants to travel to the opening event in Mérida, Mexico on November 8, 2019.

Teresa was thrilled with the celebrity welcome at the Mérida airport on Nov 7, 2019!

Teresa said, “I match!” Indeed her colorful style fit in so well in Mexico!

Happening at the same time as the Deep Down Arts show there was also a global gathering of educators to discuss improving inclusion in society.

Teresa posed for pictures with delegates and speakers from the Advisory Council of the Institute for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of the State of Yucatán (IIPEDEY).

Teresa went on-stage to say hello to the crowd!

Teresa spontaneously went on-stage and introduced herself as an artist and author from Canada. “It is a beautiful design. I am a professional artist and I am on Amazon!”

The red ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of Deep Down Arts at the museum on November 8, 2019.

The dignitaries spoke about the global art exhibition and the importance of inclusion in Mexico.

Teresa gave the Director of the exhibition, Dr. Manuel Guerrero, a signed copy of her Totally Amazing book. Dr. Guerrero exclaimed, “You are totally amazing!”

The artist Teresa Pocock with me and Dr. Manuel Guerrero at the Deep Down Arts Exhibition. [Photo by Billiam James]

Teresa was delighted to meet with schoolchildren who were touring the Deep Down Arts show

An art teacher from Mérida said, “We need to teach the kids to have another type of mentality. Right here in Mexico, we don’t have this kind of art. We don’t have the diversity. We just get accustomed to the “normal” kind of art.”

Art and poem by Teresa Pocock


I’m afraid to go outside.
There’s a wind warning.
I’m afraid to get soaking wet.
I know what you mean.
I’m too chicken and the chickens are very tired.
The wind warning is in the background falling.
Don’t frighten me.
Blowing winds and showers.
Oh I see.
Now you’re afraid.
I’m afraid of…
It’s okay, don’t be scared of the showers.
You can take an umbrella.
Now that’s a brilliant idea. My coat is red.
My umbrella is red.
It’s okay to go outside. Don’t worry.
I do like to sit outside.
We see a big rainbow after the shower.
And the fireworks are beautiful. That’s it.

Teresa poses for a snapshot in front of the colorful Mérida signage

Teresa walked fearlessly amidst the throngs of pigeons. (You’ll hear me as the camera-person reacting to the birds too!)

Teresa made friends with inclusion advocates from around the world

It was a lot of fun! And truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will all treasure!

Thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts and Spectrum Society for Community Living‘s McGill Ability Fund for supporting Teresa’s Trip to Mérida, Mexico. Gracias!!

by Beverly Cramp, Galleries West Magazine
Republished with permission of the author

Gallery Gachet, which supports marginalized artists in Vancouver, helps Teresa Pocock, an artist with Down syndrome, launch her second book.

Teresa Pocock celebrates her exhibition and book launch at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver. (Photo by Billiam James)

Artist-run centre Gallery Gachet was filled recently with bright drawings and celebratory poems by Teresa Pocock, a stark contrast to the grubby and littered streets outside in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood, where many of the city’s homeless and drug-addicted citizens live.

Pocock likes primary colours and often incorporates text so exuberant it makes visitors smile. “I like the flavour of everything,” begins one of her poems. “Chocolate cake. Coke Zero. I love cranberry sauce and cranberry juice, and chicken pie.”

The four-day show [August 2-5, 2018], Pocock’s second at a space known for its work to encourage healing and empower marginalized artists, was set up to launch her second book, Totally Amazing: Free to Be Me. It’s an inspiring account of how she has fought to let her creativity blossom.

Pocock was born with Down syndrome. Her mother supported her in numerous ways, arranging for regular exercise and enrolling her in a private school that she attended for 12 years. Pocock, who lived with her parents in Ontario, flourished in this nourishing environment.

But after her mother died in 1999, her father took care of Pocock. But eventually, in 2013, when Pocock was 49, she was declared “incapable” of making her own decisions and placed briefly in a long-term care facility that houses elderly people.

“The nurses at the home told me Teresa cried every day and did almost nothing,” says her sister, Franke James, also an artist.

Teresa’s father, a retired lawyer, was in poor health, but managed to get her out of the care facility and took her to live with James. Within a year, James and her husband had moved to Vancouver with Pocock, hoping to build a better life.

Teresa Pocock poses with her sister, Franke James. (Photo by Billiam James)
Teresa Pocock poses with her sister, Franke James. (Photo by Billiam James)

As James writes in the introduction to Totally Amazing, British Columbia is better for Teresa “because it recognizes her legal right to make her own decisions.”

In Vancouver, Pocock began a regular practice of writing and making art. In addition to calling herself an artist and author, Pocock is a self-advocate. She’s not shy to speak up for herself and in 2016, she asked the Ontario government for an apology.

It was made in a statement to Global TV by Eric Hoskins, then the province’s health minister, but not directly to Pocock. So she sent a handwritten letter to the minister, asking him to write to her personally. Later that year, she received his written apology.

Teresa Pocock stands in front of the hand-written letter she sent to the Ontario government. (Photo by Billiam James)
Teresa Pocock stands in front of the hand-written letter she sent to the Ontario government. (Photo by Billiam James)

Pocock continues to draw and write every day at the dining room table. Once, when she was asked her to clear away her art supplies to make room for dinner, she joked: “But I’ll lose my job.”

Pocock is a participating artist at the Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival, a free event that runs Aug. 10 to Aug. 12 at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. The festival, organized by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, features art and performances by those who identify as outsiders for a host of reasons, including mental health issues and differences in physical abilities.

To see more of Pocock’s work, visit totallyamazing.ca. ■

Visitors check out Teresa Pocock’s art and writing at Gallery Gachet. (Photo by Melissa Newbery)
Visitors check out Teresa Pocock’s art and writing at Gallery Gachet. (Photo by Melissa Newbery)

Teresa Pocock’s “Artistic Ability” is featured in The Vancouver Foundation’s annual 2017 magazine, “Gifts of Inclusion”. This is perfect timing as November 1st to 7th is Canadian Down Syndrome Week — a week to celebrate the talents of people with Down syndrome and “See the Ability”. #CDNDownSyndromeWeek.

Read the Vancouver Foundation article by Roberta Staley below…



Terea Pocock photographed by Zack Embree at the opening of her art show at Gallery Gachet, Vancouver, BC in June 2016

Once forced to live in a senior’s

 care facility, Teresa Pocock has

 created a home, and a body of

 work, in Gastown

By Roberta Staley

VANCOUVER’S GASTOWN NEIGHBOURHOOD, abutting the Downtown Eastside, is known for its red brick 

buildings, cobblestone roadways, graffitied walls, steam

clock, Woodward’s and Dominion buildings, tech cluster

and busy restaurants and pubs. The people who navigate 

its streets are as heterogeneous as their environment:

entrepreneurs, academics, artists and activists, as well as

 those struggling with poverty and addiction.

Seated at a sturdy wooden table in a sleek, minimalist

 Gastown condo is Teresa Pocock. By way of greeting,

 she throws her arms in the air, exclaiming, “I am a self advocate!” 

– a sincere and indisputable declaration. It

 wasn’t an easy journey, but Pocock has learned to express 

herself as an artist and an activist, drawing the attention

 of thousands of people including politicians.

Pocock was inspired to become a working artist 

thanks in large part to a $1,000 Vancouver Foundation 

Downtown Eastside Small Arts Grant in 2016, which 

motivated her to create enough individual works to 

launch a solo show. “It really helped Teresa blossom into 

a professional artist,” says older sister Franke James, with 

whom she lives, along with brother-in-law Bill James, in 

the Gastown home filled with books and art.

Pocock’s inaugural exhibit premiered June 29, 2016 and

 showcased an array of richly illustrated poetry, mounted 

bus-poster size on the walls of Gastown’s Gallery Gachet. 

Opening night doubled as the book launch for Pocock’s

 self-published Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the

 Downtown Eastside, and a selection of the book’s poems and 

illustrations were part of the exhibit. The bold verse, as well as


the jewel-coloured art, show an individual who is confident 

about asserting her place in the world, writing in the poem I

 Am Alive: “Redeemed/Okay, I am reborn/In Gastown.”

“Now she can say she’s an artist and a poet,” says Bill.

 “It has given her a huge sense of purpose to her life.”

What makes these accomplishments so significant – 

extraordinary even – is that Pocock has Down syndrome.

As her book title alludes, her life has not followed a simple 

course. In early 2013, Pocock’s elderly father, with whom she

 lived in Toronto, had failing health and was about to move to 

a care home. Several siblings placed Pocock, the youngest of

 seven, in a long-term seniors care facility without their father’s

 approval. Franke and Bill, along with Pocock’s dad, spent 

four days wrangling with government officials, nursing home

 management and even the police to get her out. Pocock 

then went to live permanently with Franke and Bill.

Teresa Pocock is hugged by her sister Franke James; photo by Gerry Kahrmann/PNG for Vancouver Sun and The Province; licensed for use
That wasn’t the end, however. With the help of

 Franke and Bill – who are business partners in the 

communications firm The James Gang, Iconoclasts –

 Pocock made a campaign video for the website change.org

 protesting her confinement and demanding atonement

 while asserting the rights of the disabled. The petition, 

launched on World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, 

2014, called out the Ontario government for supporting 

her placement in an institution that was clearly unsuited to her age – she was then 49 – abilities and temperament. In

 the video, Pocock calls for an apology from the government 

for denying her human rights. “I was crying and scared,”

 Pocock says to the camera. “It’s my right to decide where 

to live … I did not want to be there.” She received 26,000

 online signatures of support.

In November 2016, as a result of public pressure and

 media attention, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-

Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins wrote a letter of apology to 

Pocock. Franke framed it and hung it in the front hallway.

That wasn’t the only time Pocock has attracted the

 attention of politicians. At the opening of her gallery 

show, a staff member of Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan

 presented Pocock with a certificate from Kwan, applauding

 her “wonderful drawing, creativity and achievement.” It is

 also framed and hangs in Pocock’s bedroom. Teresa Pocock holding the achievement certificate awarded to her by MP Jenny Kwan

Since the exhibit, Pocock has been drawing nearly

 every day in her artist’s sketchbooks. Her inspiration has 

become Gastown itself, edgy despite its gentrification, noisy

 and raw, a working harbour with cargo ships loading and 

unloading in Burrard Inlet. Pocock draws what is around 

her: the geometric pattern of windows on the Woodward’s

 building; her favourite coffee shop Prado; London Drugs;

 Nesters Market and, most endearing to Pocock, The Flying

 Pig bistro, with its homemade macaroni and cheese, and 

desserts. “I like chocolate cake,” says Pocock, who does 

yoga, plays Scrabble and reads in her spare time.

“Teresa’s art shows what she cares about, what she 

is feeling and thinking and what she’s afraid of and 

excited about,” says Franke. “She shows that she belongs 

in the world.”

Pocock has another project in the works; she is planning

 what Franke describes as “an unconventional, freewheeling 

cookbook” full of her favourite foods. “We thought the 

book could have information about the neighbourhood

 and where Teresa actually gets the food.” As with her 

first publication, it too will be filled with images and

 drawings. “And we’ll go to the Flying Pig,” Pocock adds.

Franke muses on her younger sister’s influence in

 Gastown. “In society, there is a tendency to take people 

who are different and segregate and hide them away. When

 Teresa is out in the world, it brings out good things in

 people. Like at restaurants, they will bend over backwards

 because Teresa is with us. We call it the Teresa Effect.”

To learn more about the Downtown Eastside Small Arts

Grants program visit 

vancouverfoundationsmallarts.ca. You can

 also help support this program with a donation. Call Kristin 

in Donor Services at 604.629.5186 for more information.


“ARTISTIC ABILITY” written by ROBERTA STALEY for the Vancouver Foundation.

Read The Gifts of Inclusion, Vancouver Foundation’s 2017 Annual Magazine. Also available in eReader version. Or download the Adobe Acrobat PDF


Photo by Zack Embree
Photo by Zack Embree

Photo by Gerry Kahrmann for PostMedia (licensed):
Photo by Gerry Kahrmann/PNG

Photos by Franke James:
Teresa reading and enjoying the Vancouver Foundation article October 30 2017. Photos by Franke James Photo of Teresa Pocock by Franke James Photo of Teresa Pocock by Franke James

Help open eyes and hearts to “See the Ability” of those with Down syndrome. Join in raising awareness about the abilities and unique gifts of people with Down syndrome during #CDNDownSyndromeWeek. Spread the word!

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

human rights should be for everybody
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 Be For Everybody” 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 Be For Everybody.

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.


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


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 .



Book Launch: Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside

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 Be For Everybody. 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



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 Be For Everybody— 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.


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.


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.
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

“I am alive! I am reborn in Gastown!” says author and artist Teresa Pocock.

Teresa is defying the “health care system” that wrongly labelled her “incapable” two years ago when she lived in Ontario.

In 2016, Teresa Pocock won a DTES Small Arts Grant to create her first book, Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside. The book is now available on Amazon and in Kindle and Apple iBook formats. Teresa’s book launch and solo show took place on June 29 at Gallery Gachet, in Vancouver, B.C.

Winning the arts grant inspired Teresa to focus on creating an illustrated book. Before that, she had never created a book. Or exhibited her art. Or shown people her poetry. Now, Teresa is a professional artist, poet and published author. Her achievements are impressive for anyone, regardless of I.Q. Her artistic voice is confident and bold.


It’s a wonderful testament to her artistic ability,” said her sister Franke James. “The artwork is fun and engaging. It expresses her discovery of the Downtown Eastside. It expresses a love of her life.” Teresa creates her illustrations using magic markers on fine art paper. The 4ft x 5ft posters are digital reproductions of her art printed on flexible plastic sheets (just like bus shelter posters). The posters can be rolled and transported anywhere in the world — so she may one day have an international exhibition!


Teresa stands in front of her Hastings and Abbott illustration and poem from her book, “Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside“. Teresa has mapped out the neighbourhood as she sees it. Her favourite coffee shop is Prado. She shops for groceries at Nesters and Costco. She loves to visit Gallery Gachet, London Drugs, Top of Vancouver, Woodwards and the Flying Pig. From her home in Gastown, she watches the big cargo ships, like Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd and Hyundai sailing into the Port of Vancouver. All of these elements combine to create her distinctive visual and poetic vocabulary.


Pretty Amazing! The show drew a large and lively crowd. Supporters from Inclusion BC, Spectrum Society, PLAN Institute, the BC Humanist Association, All Bodies Dance, MP Jenny Kwan’s office, the City of Vancouver and Community Living BC all came out to see Teresa’s art.

Discovering the Downtown Eastside:
Teresa draws inspiration from her surroundings. She can see the Vancouver Sun building and the Harbour Centre from her home in Gastown. Her poems originate from her self-talk. Teresa reads her poems aloud, and continues working on them until she’s happy with them.

Art builds community:
Teresa has been participating in the weekly Expressive Arts workshop at Gallery Gachet where she has met other artists in the DTES, including Laurie (above). Having her own solo show at Gallery Gachet was a big step forward for her. She was able to show everyone her art, her poetry and her video, “I am Alive.”

Those Monsters by Teresa Pocock

Art is a healing tool. Teresa continues to feel the fallout from her experience of being forced into the nursing home. She expresses her worries in her art and “self-talk” poetry. Her poems reflect the dialogue she has with herself. Often, she takes on the role of her own parent saying, “Please be nice to my daughter.” In the poem, Those Monsters, 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 wherever she goes.)

TheSchedule TeresaPocock

The Schedule is a poem that reveals how Teresa organizes her day. She plans exactly when she’s going to have breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Her drawings often incorporate numbers, which represent the times of the day. 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 recites the poem she laughs at her own cleverness.


Teresa’s sister, Franke James, speaks with author Ted Kuntz about Teresa’s exuberant art.


Gallery Gachet says “Art is a means for survival.” They have provided a supportive and very accepting community — exactly what Teresa needed to blossom as an artist and poet.


Teresa stands in front of her illustration and poem, “We Love it Here”.

Gallery visitors watched Teresa’s video, “I am Alive.”

A local artist wrote in Teresa’s Pretty Amazing Guest book, “I’ve never seen anything like this!” Others commented on her wonderful use of colour and shape. Teresa has indeed found her voice in the Downtown Eastside. It is a voice that talks about feeling “butterflies”, but still finds the courage to fly. Teresa has, in her own words, been “reborn in Gastown”.

The former secretary at Teresa’s Grade School in Ontario read about the show in the Vancouver Sun and dropped in. She wrote, “Wonderful to see all this artwork by Teresa. What a girl!”

Our local MP, Jenny Kwan, gave Teresa a congratulatory certificate which recognized her “wonderful drawing, creativity and achievement.”


Teresa gives special thanks to the Vancouver Foundation for the DTES Small Arts Grant that made her Pretty Amazing book and show possible!

Media about the show:

Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside
Artist with Down syndrome written off as ‘incapable’ blooms in the Downtown Eastside
Artist with Down syndrome, called ‘incapable’ opens solo art show
Eastside Inspiration 

About the Artist/Author

Pretty Amazing Cover KindleTeresa Pocock is an artist and poet living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In 2016, she won a DTES Small Arts Grant from the Vancouver Foundation which enabled her to create her first book, Pretty Amazing: How I found myself in the Downtown Eastside. Teresa exhibited 18 “Pretty Amazing” artworks as 4ft x 5ft posters in her first solo show at Gallery Gachet which launched on June 29, and wrapped up on July 2.

As a self-advocate with Down syndrome, Teresa presented her story, I Love My Human Rights, at the 2016 Canadian Down Syndrome Conference in Montreal. Teresa is a member of the BC Civil Liberties Association, Gallery Gachet, Inclusion BC, Family Support Institute of BC, and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. She loves chicken pie, word play and spotting the big boats in the Burrard Inlet.

Where to buy Teresa Pocock’s book:
Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside is available on Amazon and in Kindle and Apple iBook formats.

Primary event photography: Zack Embree
Some additional photos by Franke James and Billiam James
Gallery Gachet: “Art is a means for survival.”

Republished under license from Postmedia
Franke James (left) gives sister Teresa Pocock a hug at Gallery Gachet, where Pocock is mounting an exhibit of her artwork. GERRY KAHRMANN / PNG

Published on: June 29, 2016

Barely three years ago, Teresa Pocock was written off as “incapable” and banished to an old-age care home to live out the rest of her life in an institutionalized setting.

Today she is a poet and artist with a solo exhibit at Gallery Gachet that runs until Saturday.

“It’s a wonderful testament to her artistic ability,” said sister Franke James. “The artwork is fun and engaging. It expresses her discovery of the Downtown Eastside. It expresses a love of her life.”

It’s a far cry from November 2013 when Pocock, who has Down syndrome, was placed in a nursing home in Toronto against her and her father’s wishes.

James remembers seeing her younger sister “sitting on a single bed with a thin sheet hanging between her and a roommate who cannot walk, talk or feed herself.”

She was only 49, healthy and able-bodied, yet was “surrounded by people whose next stop was the grave,” recalled James, an environmental activist and artist. “She was being robbed of her future. It just broke my heart.”

Pocock had been happily living in a condo with her father. But at 91, he was starting to show early signs of cognitive decline. A family feud erupted over Pocock’s future care.

An assessment by Ontario’s community care access centre — which James said was unlawfully conducted because it went against her sister’s power-of-attorney directives — deemed Pocock incapable of deciding where she wants to live. This despite assertions she did not want to live in a care home and James’s repeated statements Pocock could come live with her and her husband.

Pocock lived in the home for four days until her dad managed to get her out. She moved in with James and James’s husband Billiam. A few months later, the family moved to a condo in Gastown.

Since then, Pocock has thrived. She’s danced in front of the White House, watched a parade in New York, helped collect trash from shorelines, made new friends and, along with James, presented at conferences in Montreal and Prince George.

“The world has opened up for her,” said James. “None of this would have happened if she stayed in a long-term care home.”

Her artistic streak was a recent discovery. After winning a $1,000 arts grant from the Vancouver Foundation, Pocock began working on an illustrated book of poems called Pretty Amazing: How I Found Myself in the Downtown Eastside.

Those works and 18 large illustrations that depict her neighbourhood are on display at the gallery.

photography by Zack Embree

James said Pocock’s story is not an isolated case. Thousands of people with developmental disabilities are being placed in inappropriate homes, such as long-term care homes, without the proper supports for them.

An online petition, asking for an apology for Pocock from the Ontario government and the Toronto Community Care Access Centre for what she still refers to as her “danger day,” has collected more than 26,000 signatures.

James said she doesn’t blame her other siblings for what happened to Pocock, saying they couldn’t have put her in a long-term care home if the authorities didn’t enable it.

She recognized their actions and the government actions came from a well-meaning place. “They wanted to ensure Teresa has a safe place, a roof over her head and food in her belly all her life, and it was going to be paid for by the government,” she said.

“But it wasn’t what she wanted. It really shortchanged her and her life.”

Material republished with the express permission of: Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.


I Don’t Belong in a Nursing Home. I have places to go. Things to do. People to meet.

Please sign Teresa Pocock’s petition

July 23, 2014

With the stroke of a pen, my disabled sister’s human right to decide where she lives was wrongly taken away.

In a heart-breaking move, Teresa who has Down syndrome, was forced against her will into an old-age nursing home, by the Toronto Central CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) and two of my siblings. Four days later, she was rescued by my 91-year old father who was “adamant” he did not want his daughter living in a nursing home. But then the nursing home called the police, in a shockingly callous and bizarre effort to force her back.

Teresa is demanding an apology from these two institutions, the CCAC and the Rekai Centre. This is a sorry mess. Her records show that the crisis list was manipulated to get Teresa to the very top, and placed in the nursing home. Her profile contained false information which made her appear to need 24/7 care. See the presentation I made with Teresa, to the Ontario Government’s Select Committee:

Teresa’s story: Crisis, Capacity and Courage

On July 22, 2014, the Ontario Government’s Select Committee published their final report. It states: “Long-term care homes are pressured to accommodate young and middle-aged people with developmental disabilities without any medical need for this type of care or any training to support this group of clients.”

By signing this petition you can help Teresa get an apology for the harm done to her. Teresa is asking the CCAC to apologize for wrongly taking away her human right to decide where she lives. Teresa is asking the Rekai Centre to apologize for calling the police in a completely unnecessary, intimidating and callous attempt to force her back into their institution.

Over three months ago we filed a 12-page complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Health. We have only heard they are “inspecting” the matter.

We need a full apology from both institutions because this is not just about one person — it’s about standing up for and protecting the human rights of all people with disabilities.

Please sign Teresa Pocock’s petition demanding an apology from the CCAC and Rekai Centre at Change.org.

Thank you.

Oh Teresa, the places you’ll go!
And the things you will do.
The people you’ll meet.
Who will cheer you and greet.
Fifty years young and your life has just begun.
You’re a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful one.

Oh Teresa, the places you’ll go!
Your head in the clouds. Your feet on the ground.
Your new life at 50 is super fun all way around.
You’ve zoomed by jet plane, you’ve flown by race-car,
Your new passport has taken you from near to far.
From New York to Washington DC,
From Muddy York to the shores of the Salish Sea,
With that sparkle in your eye and the skip in your step.
We’ve just gotta ask…
What were they thinking when they put you in a nursing home?!
It’s no place for YOU! No. No. No.
Teresa at the Rekai Centre Nov 30 2013
For a girl like you who just wants to have fun?!!
Fifty years young and your life has just begun. 
You’re a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful one.

Oh Teresa, the things you will do!
You’re power-walking and chicken-dancing,
And scootering around town!
Banking your money,
And stretching way up to the sky!

Oh Teresa, the people you’ll meet!
You have new friends who are green.
And friends who are wild it’s true!
And friends who shimmer like rainbows.

You have friends who like to spend time

Just dancing with you!

Oh Teresa, the places you’ll go!
The things you will do.
The people you’ll meet.
Fifty years young and your life has just begun.
You’re a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful one.

Congratulations Teresa!

Teresa’s Petition

It has now been more than seven months since Teresa was forced into Long-Term Care, against her wishes, and against the wishes of her father. She is still waiting for an apology from the Rekai Centre, who called the police trying to force her return. Fortunately, her Father secured her release. Teresa is also still waiting for a response from Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins and the Ontario Government Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care which is “inspecting” the matter.

Teresa needs your support. Please sign Teresa’s petition at Change.org