Thursday, June 20, 2013

Betty Anne Gagnon

This week on the CBC radio show The Current, they aired a documentary called "What Happened to Betty Anne Gagnon?".  It tells the horrific story of a woman with an intellectual disability who was brutally abused, neglected, and eventually died at the hands of her own family.  The story is disturbing.  But it is also true. I wrote the following note to The Current in response to the story:

I listened with anguish, but not disbelief, to your documentary about the tragic life and death of Betty Ann Gagnon.  As well as being the parent of two boys with intellectual disabilities, I am also a long term member of L’Arche, an international federation of communities, founded by Canadian Jean Vanier, creating home and work with people who have intellectual disabilities.  After more than 20 years of involvement in the disability field, I am more convinced than ever that people with intellectual disabilities are the most devalued and voiceless in our society.  Often unable to articulate themselves using traditional means, they rely on others to speak for them, and as such have little or no power over their own message. 

In L’Arche, as in People First and CACL, we are deeply committed to advocating for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities.  Our advocacy is rooted in the passionate conviction that these individuals, often marginalized, overlooked and abused, are not a burden on the social safety net.  Rather, they are full citizens with something to say and something to offer.  And we ignore their contributions at our peril.  If we desire a more welcoming, compassionate, and creative Canadian society – and I think we do – these men and women can be our teachers and our leaders.  But as long as our systems continue to push them to sidelines their voices will remain unheard and their lessons unlearned.   And they, like Betty Ann Gagnon, will be the victims of our collective neglect.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed your article. People really do not realize the love they miss. Sitting here thinking of how a phone call with Maggie Rose can make my day so much brighter regardless of what negative is in my life. Keep up the good work.