Work to provide a voice for change continues
When the Woodlands Centre Block tower came down Oct. 18, it was like turning a page for people who have a disability, says posAbilities board member and self-advocate Lorie Sherritt.
The demolition of the last remnant of the former institution symbolizes “the closing of one chapter in our history and opening another,” she says.
The work continues to empower and educate to build a fully inclusive community.
“We can’t erase (the past) but we can go on,” Lorie says.
“Now it’s a distant memory but we can still go on to start anew. That’s what we want, to start anew.”
The advocacy work that Lorie has been involved with for years as a member of a number of organizations raises awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by people who have a disability and provides a voice for change.
“If no one does anything then nothing is going to change,” she says.
“People who are disabled should have the same rights as everybody else.”
Just as she does through her self-advocacy work, Lorie acted to ensure former Woodlands residents were heard when the last visible remnant of the last major institution in B.C. to close was scheduled to be torn down.
Lorie successfully lobbied for a delay of the demolition so former residents and their supporters could be at the site in New Westminster.
“I wanted to do something,” she says.
“I wanted people to realize this did happen,” says Lorie, whose cousin resided at Woodlands for 21 years.
A ceremony took place at the site on demolition day featuring song and speakers, including former residents who shared their stories.
Approximately 200 people attended the afternoon event, which was led by Lorie as president of the BC People First Society.
Representatives of posAbilities, the British Columbia Association for Community Living and other organizations involved in the inclusive movement were present as well.
Lorie says it was a very emotional day, with tears and shouts of joy and anguish expressed by witnesses of the historical event.
A number of former residents shared their thoughts, feelings and stories with local and national media who provided coverage.
“It was their day,” Lorie says of former residents.
“All we wanted was for them to have respect.”
A moment of silence was held in memory of former residents lost. Lorie also joined a small group of former residents and others in a symbolic walk away from the site.
“It’s a dark point in history that has to be brought to the forefront because they (former residents) are the ones who experienced this,” Lorie says.
She says a number of former residents expressed appreciation for the support and recognition.
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