Surviving Huronia

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, 7:00-9:00pm
Opening remarks 7:30pm (from Huronia Regional Centre
Class Action Leaders Marie Slark and Patricia Seth)
Urbanspace Gallery, room 111 at 401 Richmond Street

Surviving Huronia is an event that tells a story of the experience of Huronia through first-hand accounts by some of the people who survived it. Surviving Huronia will showcase textile art, woodwork, photographs, audio-recordings, and stories by former HRC residents including Marie Slark, Patricia Seth, and Brian Logie. This show will also feature a film about Slark’s textile practice, a video of Wynne’s apology and survivors’ responses to it one year later, and a print-out of the names of those who died at Huronia, as well as some interactive activities for all ages. At 7:30PM, Marie Slark and Pat Seth will speak to the question, ‘how can art help to bring justice for survivors of Huronia?’


Background Information:
From 1876 to 2009, the Huronia Regional Centre (once called the Asylum for Idiots), located in Orillia, ON, contained people who were deemed to have cognitive and other types of developmental disabilities. Some staff of HRC perpetuated systemic physical, sexual, and emotional abuse against its residents. When Toronto Star reporter Pierre Berton visited in 1960, he reported on the abhorrent conditions of HRC, including severe overcrowding, gross neglect, and dilapidation in an article titled “What’s Wrong at Orillia: Out of Sight, Out of Mind” (6, January 1960), writing, “[p]risoners in reformatories have better facilities.” Berton also wrote, “But Orillia’s real problem is one of public neglect. […]. Do not blame present Department of Public Health for Orillia’s condition. Blame yourselves.”

In 2010, Marie Slark and Patricia Seth launched a class action lawsuit against the government titled Dolmage v. The Queen representing over 5000 former residents, and on December 3, 2013, a settlement was approved. Along with a financial compensation, came a public apology by the Ontario government delivered by Premier Kathleen Wynne on December 9, 2013 (to watch this apology, click here).

For more information on life at Huronia and the background to the class action suit, please listen to the radio documentary The Gristle in the Stew. Please note that this was first broadcast November 27, 2011, before the class action suit had been won. The event commemorates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as well as the first anniversary of Premier Wynne’s apology.

There will be difficult, but important, themes of institutional life, including institutional violence and abuse, discussed and represented at this event. This event is in a barrier-free location. We will have ASL interpreters, attendant care, and supportive listeners. We request that you help us to make this a scent-free environment. For any other accessibility arrangements or questions about accessibility, please contact Eliza at [email protected] by November 25, 2014. This is a child-friendly event and a sober space. Closest Accessible Subway Stations: Spadina Station via the accessible Spadina streetcar and the University Station. Some of the art will be for sale, so please bring cash! This event is a starting place for future programming.

If you are a survivor of the Huronia Regional Centre or an institution like it and are interested in making art or storytelling, please be in touch with Eliza at [email protected]. This event is presented by the Surviving Huronia Curatorial Collective and sponsored by Tangled Art + Disability, the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University, and Project Re•Vision.