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Stories of life in an institution
and the voices that closed them

Leanne Hinch

My brother, Warren, was 7 or 8 years old when he went to live at Rideau Regional Centre. I was 5 years old. Doctors had advised our parents to put Warren into RRC for my sake. They said that I wasn’t progressing normally because I was following Warren around. They said RRC was a much better place for Warren to live. Warren told us that he felt that “when the new baby came, they sent me away”.


Everyone in the family, even our grandmas, were heartbroken, but we listened to our family doctor who had recommended RRC. It left a big hole in everyone’s life when Warren left. We felt we had no choice. I remember hearing my parents yelling on the phone, trying to get help with Warren, but there was none available. 


I didn’t go there to visit much but Warren came home a lot. He would be at the cottage all summer long, home for 2 weeks at Christmas, and home for every holiday. 


Warren said there was constant fighting at RRC. He said, “They beat me, smacked me, pushed me, kicked me. Freddy always beat me up.” Nobody ever stopped Freddy or punished him. Warren said that staff would encourage Freddy. They would pit them against each other for their own entertainment.

 

When we asked if there was anything Warren liked at RRC he said, “pop and chips”. Our parents would give him money to buy things. Warren liked school and liked drawing pictures there. He said his teacher was good but that he was taught naughty words at school by the teacher and the other kids. 


Warren did not have any friends at RRC. He was hurt a lot by Freddy. At the bowling alley, Warren had his head smashed in by a bowling ball and was in a coma for a few weeks. He had 3 fingers severed in a door and had to have them surgically reattached. Warren had his head smashed through a plate glass window. There was no supervision, and no attempt to stop this constant abuse from happening. 


Warren moved to Prince Edward Heights at the age of 12 or 13. He said it was a little bit good and he had some fun. He remembers going to school, where he learned to write. Warren said when he was bad he would have to clean the chalkboard erasers by banging them together, or sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap. While he was at school they would go bowling and he was also in a singing group. He used to go to the canteen at school where he paid for coffee, chips, cracker jacks and Sprite. He had his own money that was kept locked in a box and handed to him by staff. 


Outside of school, Warren remembers playing on the playground. They had swings and slides, a merry go round, and a barrel that he could run around in. He didn’t like going to the Rec Hall because they would push and trample him and knock him over. Warren didn’t have any friends at PEH. He had a girlfriend named Theresa and they would sometimes go to the dances. He said he wouldn’t go to visit anyone at PEH. They screamed in his face. Women would hit him in the face with their purses, or men would punch him in the face. 


He said the food was bad. The truck would deliver it and sometimes it was frozen and sometimes it was burnt. I remember that Warren would get very skinny at PEH and mom would try to fatten him up when he was at home. Mom was worried about his weight. Our parents would take food back for Warren and stock the cupboards and fridge. It would all disappear. They started doing surprise visits to PEH and were shocked at the conditions they found. There was no food in the house, no sheets on the bed, all of Warren’s possessions were stolen, including a new bike. In the winter, Warren was found in someone else’s house with no socks or coat on. 


There was no supervision at Prince Edward Heights. All the staff would sit in 1 house drinking coffee. It was a constant battle in Picton. It was very hard on our parents.


There were terrible things in the report for Warren’s class action law suit. He was in the top tier of the settlement, having suffered every type of abuse possible, mental, emotional, physical and sexual. I remember reading that Warren and others were eating roadkill because there was no food in the house. Basically it was crap, my parents always had an underlying desperation. 


Warren moved to Kingston, with Community Living Kingston and District, in his early 20’s. He likes where he is living, and the people he lives with. Warren says, “I like lots of food, good friends, good buddies, and good trips.”


I am very happy with where Warren lives now. I am most happy because I know he is safe. CLKD has firewalls built in to keep him safe and prevent problems. I realize he is not immune. There were 3 staff that were bad or abusive but they were fired. On a percentage scale it has gone from -20% at PEH to 90% at CLK. 


I am happy with his involvement in the community (although I am still not happy about some of the community attitudes still prevalent). I know he is safe, and lives with security and love.


I truly believe that institutions were dehumanizing and demoralizing. They had small niceties and some good humans worked there but it was overshadowed by all of the negative.

 

Warren’s message to everyone is, “Be kind, no stealing, don’t be so nasty. I’m a good man and I want peace on earth”.

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