Ontario Update

All / Ontario

September 10, 2007

Ontario is continuing with the process of closing its final 3 large institutions for people who have an intellectual disability.  The decision to close all institutions in Ontario was made by the government in 1987.

The closure process has been done in stages through a series of multi-year initiatives to downsize or close each institution.  Between the late 1980's and 2000, more than 6000 people were supported to return to the community and 14 of 17 institutions have successfully closed. Following a 4-year delay in further closure, the government announced the last stage of the closures in September 2004.  At that time there were 3 large institutions left in the province with approximately 1000 residents.  As of June 30, 2007 479 people remained in the 3 facilities.  As of July 30, 2007 460 people remained. We are now a little over half-way through moving people out of the facilities and planning processes are completed or are underway for the remaining people.

During this past summer, the sector that provides community supports to people who have an intellectual disabilities in Ontario was rocked by a series of strikes stemming from workers long-standing concern about wages paid in the sector.  More than 80 collective agreements came due this year in our developmental services sector and seven strikes occurred during the summer.  The government has responded with an influx of new resources to the sector to enhance wages.  The seven strikes have now been settled and the labour unrest in the province has reduced considerably.  There were concerns leading into this period, that the labour unrest would interfere with the ability of local Associations to plan for and welcome people home from the institutions and would therefore slow the closure process.  There were in fact a few delays as some of the Associations embroiled in labour disruptions concluded that it would not be in the interest of the people returning to the community to be welcomed into a residence that might become the target of labour action. Fortunately, these delays were not widespread and we are now back on track.

Ontario is currently in a provincial election.  Over the past year Community Living Ontario has expressed some concerns about the commitment of the official opposition to the closure process based on comments reported to have been made by the leader of the opposition.  The Association has since met with the leader and has received assurances of his commitment to closure as long has he can be confident that everyone leaving the facilities can have their needs met in the community.  We are now confident that the closure will not be disrupted by the outcome of the election on October 11.

All three institutions are scheduled to be closed by April 1, 2009 and it appears that we remain on target to achieve that goal.  In fact, the institution in the southwest region of the province is well along in its process and we anticipate that facility might close before the end of 2008.