I’ve already written more about the Ford brothers on this blog than I wish I ever had to. I’ve written specifically about the issue of Doug Ford’s appalling comments and actions in relation to The Griffin Centre. I’m volunteering for a city councillor and the election is less than 3 weeks away. My parents are coming to visit from the UK and I haven’t seen them in 2 years. It’s IEP season and both my boys’ plans need finalizing. I don’t really have time to write this but I must.
Yesterday, Doug Ford was asked to apologize for his Griffin Centre comments by Evan Carter, a young man with Asperger’s. In his response, Doug:
- Continued to claim that the minors at the Griffin Centre home were not in fact autistic. The Griffin Centre has previously confirmed that the home’s residents, “have mild to moderate developmental disabilities and mental health challenges.” Some of whom are autistic.
- Touted his own record of working with parents of autistic children
- Blamed the media for mischaracterizing his comments.
- Continued to overstate, mischaracterize and lie about the “problems” that the Griffin Centre residents were causing
- Told Evan that, “my heart goes out to you”
I went to the accessibility mayoral debate at Ryerson in the hope of addressing Mr. Ford. He didn’t attend. If I ever do have the chance to meet him I will explain why he must apologize. As that’s unlikely to ever happen, I’ll do it here.
I’ve been open on this blog about the fact that both my children are autistic. I’ve also explained that I have no issue identifying as crazy and that I come from a long line of crazies. People like myself but even more importantly, my kids, will be less safe if Doug Ford is elected Mayor of our city. It’s an outcome that scares me.
Why the diagnosis of the Griffin Centre teens is irrelevant
In saying, “My heart goes out to kids with autism. But no one told me they’d be leaving the house” Doug Ford has already shown wilful ignorance and bigotry in relation to that particular developmental disability. For this statement alone he should apologize.
Whatever the particular neurology of the residents of The Griffin Centre is, they are still residents of his Ward, people he’s supposed to represent. Vulnerable, marginalized, disabled minors with both developmental and mental or psychiatric disabilities. Instead of the support, acceptance and understanding they should have received, Doug Ford has continued to reiterate appalling statements that are at worst lies and at best horrendously stigmatizing.
He has continued to use his bully pulpit in an attempt to criminalize teenagers who are not criminals – and defended his right to do so.
Doug Ford is a proponent of an “institutional solution” rather than an inclusive society
In repeatedly stating that the Griffin Centre doesn’t belong in a residential neighbourhood and that the teens living there should be in a “proper setting like Thistletown” – something columnist Joe Warmington also advocated – Doug Ford is clearly stating that families like mine don’t belong and aren’t wanted in the community.
I’m going to write separately about this but I recently took a tour of Humber College Lake Shore. It was a history tour focused on what used to be housed there – Lake Shore Psychiatric Hospital or, as it was originally termed, the Mimico Lunatic Asylum. This is where they used to put people like me and mine, who didn’t belong in decent society.
It was a beautiful day and the campus is gorgeous. On the right hand side of the picture above you can see H building. When the building housed the neurodivergent, H building is where they performed frontal lobotomies and, right up until the facility closed in 1979, electric shock ‘therapy’.
The underground tunnels were used to transport food, supplies and patients between buildings. On the right of the picture above you can see areas which were used to lock up troublesome inmates. On the tunnel walls rust stains remain from the shackles used as restraints.
Locking up neurodivergent people has resulted in some of the most egregious episodes in Canadian history. Doug Ford and his supporters’ lack of familiarity with this history is deeply troubling.
Doug Ford views the issue through the lens of crime and punishment
Although myopic when it comes to his own family’s interactions with police, Doug Ford’s response to dealing with the neurodivergent, like his response to violence among youth, is to criminalize and punish rather than provide support and deal with systematic problems like stigma and the dearth of opportunity in employment and housing.
Interactions between the neurodivergent and police have increased significantly over the last five years and all Doug Ford wants to do is ramp that up. The outcome so far has been an awful lot of neurodivergents ending up either dead or abused. Police training and improved policies are desperately needed but we need our politicians and community to come up with an alternate solution entirely – one in which the police are not the first line of contact for mentally disabled people in crisis.
What to do?
Doug Ford’s lack of awareness that he even has a problem in how he views people with disabilities is a huge concern. This man should not be holding public office, let alone be Mayor of a city with thousands of neurodivergent residents.
If you think that disabled lives have value and that disabled people should be an integral part of our community then whoever you vote for on October 27th, do not vote for Doug Ford. Spread the word. Vote. Volunteer. Do something.