LOWER SACKVILLE - Lori Watkins was amongst a small crowd protesting outside the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre on Sunday afternoon to call for community-based living for those with intellectual disabilities because she said “they all deserve better.”
About 25 people carrying signs such as “Institutions aren’t solutions” and chanting “people first” gathered in front of the Lower Sackville facility as part of a provincial protest by Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia.
Watkins said her 16-year-old daughter Alison, who was also at the protest, is on the autism spectrum and lives at home.
“She’s still a human being and she still has a right to choices in her day-to-day life,” Watkins said, adding they plan meals together while Alison likes gardening.
“Here you are told when you eat, you are told when you go to bed,” Watkins added. “Alison deserves better than that … they all deserve better.”
Brenda Hardiman, whose daughter Nichele Benn lives at Quest, said the protest was in response to the death of resident Gordon Longphee last month. Police say he was pushed by another Quest resident and they are treating the death as a homicide.
Hardiman said the government needs an “immediate action plan” to start closing “institutions” in Nova Scotia, in favour of small option homes where four or five people can live together in a community with assistance.
However not everyone agrees.
Yvonne Meuse said her “severely autistic” son loves living at the Quest facility, and the protestor’s had “got it so wrong” by calling Quest an institution.
“They work with my son everyday. My son can go into public now,” Meuse said as the group walked around her chanting on Sunday. “My son’s quality of life is so much better than it ever was.”
Meuse said the rehab centre shouldn’t be closed because staff help residents get to a point where they can move into smaller homes.
“They’re saying that people don’t have a right to put them in these rehabilitation centres, but what about the rights of my son that’s in there and he loves it?” Meuse said.