Excerpted from the Toronto Star, article by Alex Ballingall, Published on Wed Feb 10 2016
More than two years after the lawsuit launched by Patricia Seth and Marie Slark ended with a $35-million settlement for survivors of the infamous Huronia institute, the former residents have joined a new speakers’ series to try to ensure no one forgets — and people understand — the horrors they endured there.
Marie Slark, 62, was institutionalized at the Huronia facility in the late 1950s, at age 7.
The premier apologized. The government forked over $35 million. But Marie Slark says nothing can fully right the wrongs committed against her and thousands of others at the Huronia centre for people with developmental disabilities.
“No amount of money could pay for what the government did,” she said.
“We need to have justice for people with disabilities.”
Slark, 62, was institutionalized at the Huronia facility in the late 1950s, at age 7. She doesn’t remember much from those early years, but knows doctors told her family she was different from other kids and should be put away at the institution in Orillia. She stayed there until adulthood, age 20 or 21, she said.
She remembers being roughly woken up, sometimes actually dragged out of bed, at 6 a.m. each morning, and made to stand in rigid lines for meals and medicine.
The government later admitted widespread abuse at Huronia, as well as other facilities for people with developmental disabilities in the province. At Huronia some people were forcibly restrained, secluded, and had to sleep in crowded, unsanitary dormitories. Some — including Slark — have also claimed they were physically and sexually abused.
In an effort to keep the horrors of the experience from fading from public memory, Slark is part of the new touring seminar called the Huronia Speakers Bureau. Slark said her goal is to not only share her story but make people understand how poorly she and others were treated in such facilities in Ontario.