After more than a century, a former resident of a Manitoba institution for people with intellectual disabilities is happy to close after he claims he experienced severe abuse there.
David Weremy, who lived at the Manitoba Developmental Centre in Portage la Prairie, Man. for 18 years said that “I feel happy.”
The province revealed on Friday that the facility would close after its remaining 133 residents move over the next three years to community living.
After he started living there in 1958, Weremy says he experienced years of trauma at the facility, which included sexual abuse, physical assault, and being confined naked in a room.
He said that “Bad things happened every day and every night.”
In a $50 million lawsuit against the province, which was filed in October 2018, Weremy is the representative plaintiff.
The suit was approved last May as a class-action. The certification was appealed by the province last October. There is a pending ruling on the appeal.
The province said it could not comment about its contents when the lawsuit was filed because it was before the courts.
Weremy has happily lived independently for the last number of years.
He said that “Living at home is better. I can go anywhere I want — go out somewhere, go to the casino.”
He has dedicated much of his life to serving on a task force with People First of Canada to help eradicate institutions that segregate people with intellectual disabilities. He wants to ensure that people can live and exercise control over their own lives in the community.
Of the current 133 residents, Weremy says, “I hope they all find homes quick.”
Janet Forbes, Inclusion Winnipeg’s executive director, says she is “thrilled” to hear that the facility was closing after nearly three decades of supporting its closure.
She said that “It was a long time coming that we had been hoping we would get that announcement. People have the right to live in the community and institutional care is a very old model that never worked for people. It congregated them, it segregated them — they basically were living as second class citizens.”
Forbes says that the transition of those who are still living at the MDC might be a bit of a struggle because their families might think it’s the best place for them.
Inclusion Winnipeg, however, which aims to help people with intellectual disabilities and their families, has met families who have supported their loved ones when they moved into the community from the MDC.
She said that “Typically, once the person has moved, they’re very happy about their family member being in the community and being in a place that they enjoy because they can see the happiness that their family member is experiencing. It doesn’t matter how long somebody has been there. With good, thoughtful planning, they can have lives in the community where they really thrive.”