Recounting Huronia is a community-based, participatory, arts-based project that unites a team of artist and scholars with survivors of Huronia Regional Centre (HRC) to newly inform the public record through keynote speaker and workshop presentations.
Recounting Huronia: A Participatory Arts-Based Research Project, was funded by a Social Science & Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant.
• Dr. Kate Rossiter, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford Campus
• Dr. nancy viva davis halifax, Associate Professor, York University
• Dr. David Fancy, Associate Professor, Brock University
• Dr. Jay Dolmage, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo.
Alex Tigchelaar, Liza Kim Jackson, Alisa Walton, and Dr. Jen Rinaldi are all artist/researchers who are part of the project.
Bureau speakers have been co-researchers on this project.
The Huronia Regional Centre was one of Canada’s first and largest residential facilities for people with intellectual disabilities, and was formerly known as the Orillia Asylum for Idiots.
In 2010, Huronia survivors launched a landmark class action lawsuit against the Ontario government in order to seek justice for decades of deeply inhumane treatment. This lawsuit bears national importance: Huronia was a model for institutional care in Canada (Rossiter & Clarkson, 2013; Simmons, 1982), and the suit has made important inroads for the remuneration of other institutional survivors in other provinces.
Made up of a group of researchers, co-researchers, survivors, and allies, the Recounting Huronia project has been ongoing since 2013. The group meets monthly at various locations around Toronto, and has travelled to the Huronia Regional Centre before it closed to the public in late 2014.
Central to the work of Recounting Huronia is the awareness that despite the large numbers of those diagnosed with intellectual disabilities across Canada, the lived experiences of people with intellectual disabilities has been left absent from the public record.
Recounting Huronia has sought to redress this absence in two ways:
First, through the development of innovative, participatory, arts-based methodologies that allow people with intellectual disabilities to articulate and theorize their own lived experience; and
Second, through the creation of a detailed account of the lived experience of forced institutionalization as experienced by many people with intellectual disabilities.
At monthly meetings members of the group use poetry, photography, storytelling, theatre, dance, craftwork and other forms of expression to both capture but also move beyond the experience of living at Huronia. The idea for a speakers bureau is a direct result of the wishes of survivors who believe they have a mission and a mandate to prevent institutionalization from ever happening again.