Transcript: Chronicling Ontario's Residential Institutions | Nov 28, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, checkered shirt, and black tie.

A caption on screen reads "Chronicling Ontario's residential institutions. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says TEN YEARS AGO, THE
DOORS OF ONTARIO'S LAST
RESIDENTIAL INSTITUTION CLOSED.
IT WAS THE FINAL CHAPTER IN
DECADES OF PUBLIC POLICY THAT
SAW PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL
DISABILITIES ISOLATED FROM THE
COMMUNITY, AND WHERE SOME
EXPERIENCED ABUSE AND NEGLECT.
CATHERINE McKERCHER'S BROTHER
BILL WAS A RESIDENT OF ONE OF
THOSE INSTITUTIONS.
SHE DETAILS THE WORLD HE AND SO
MANY OTHERS FACED IN HER NEW
BOOK, "SHUT AWAY: WHEN DOWN
SYNDROME WAS A LIFE SENTENCE."
CATHERINE McKERCHER IS A
PROFESSOR EMERITA AT CARLETON
UNIVERSITY AND SHE JOINS US NOW
FOR MORE.

Catherine is in her sixties, with straight gray hair in a short bob. She's wearing red-framed glasses, a black shirt, and silver necklaces.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a picture of a woman whose face is out of frame, holding a toddler by their hands.

Steve continues IT'S SO GOOD TO MEET YOU.

Catherine says NICE TO MEET YOU.

Steve says THIS IS A VERY HEAVY
BOOK AND A VERY HEAVY SUBJECT,
I'M GOING TO PUT THAT OUT THERE
AT THE TOP, BUT YOU'VE MADE A
BETTER CONTRIBUTION TO
UNDERSTAND A REALLY TROUBLING
TIME IN OUR HISTORY HERE.
LET'S START WITH BILL.
TELL US ABOUT BILL, YOUR BROTHER
BILL.

The caption changes to "Catherine McKercher. Author, 'Shut away.'"
Then, it changes again to "Gone but not forgotten."

The picture from the cover of the book appears in close-up. Then, a black and white picture shows the same toddler sitting on a couch next to two older girls with dark hair, one of whom is holding a baby in her arms.
In another picture, Bill and the girls sit on the floor in a room with an older boy.

Catherine says WELL, BILL WAS BORN IN SEPTEMBER 1956,
WITH DOWN SYNDROME, AND IT WAS
VISIBLE FROM THE MOMENT HE WAS
BORN.
MY MOTHER GOT THE NEWS AS SOON
AS SHE CAME OUT OF THE
ANAESTHETIC FROM THE
PRE-DELIVERY ANAESTHETIC.
AND HE LIVED WITH US UNTIL HE
WAS TWO AND A HALF, IN LARGE
PART BECAUSE HE WAS UNABLE TO
MOVE TO THE INSTITUTION UNTIL
THEN.
MY FATHER CALLED THE ONTARIO
HOSPITAL SCHOOL AT SMITHS FALLS
WHEN HE WAS STILL A NEWBORN TO
SEE IF HE COULD BE MOVED
DIRECTLY TO THE INSTITUTION.

Steve says RIGHT FROM BIRTH?

Catherine says RIGHT FROM BIRTH.
THE ANSWER WAS, NO, THEY
COULDN'T TAKE NEWBORNS SO MY
PARENTS BROUGHT BILL HOME AND HE
LIVED WITH US FOR A COUPLE OF
YEARS.
HE WAS THE FOURTH IN A FAMILY OF
FOUR.
AND WHEN HE WAS TWO AND A HALF,
MY PARENTS MOVED HIM TO THE
ONTARIO HOSPITAL SCHOOL AND HE
NEVER CAME HOME AGAIN.

Steve says HOW MUCH
APPRECIATION WAS THERE AMONG THE
OTHER SIBLINGS THAT BILLY WAS BORN?

Catherine says WELL, WE WERE TOLD HE WAS
DIFFERENT RIGHT FROM THE GET-GO
AND WE WERE TOLD HE WAS
DIFFERENT IN A NEGATIVE WAY, NOT
IN A GOOD WAY.
BUT REALLY, AT 4, DO YOU PAY
MUCH ATTENTION TO THE NUANCES OF
DOWN SYNDROME?
NO.
WE JUST SAW HIM AS ANOTHER BABY.

Steve says WOULD HIS
TREATMENT... IN OTHER WORDS,
MOVING TO AN INSTITUTION AT THE
AGE OF TWO AND A HALF... HAVE
BEEN DIFFERENT FROM THE WAY IT
WAS TYPICALLY DONE AT THIS TIME?

Catherine says ACTUALLY, IT WAS QUITE COMMON FOR KIDS WITH DOWN SYNDROME TO
MOVE INTO THESE INSTITUTIONS AT
A YOUNGER AGE THAN MOST OTHER
KIDS WHO LIVED IN THE INSTITUTION.

Steve says WHAT KIND OF
PRESSURE DID YOUR PARENTS FEEL
THAT THEY WERE UNDER TO MAKE A
DECISION ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
ABOUT THIS?

The caption changes to "Catherine McKercher, @CMckercher."

Catherine says THE ENTIRE SOCIETY WAS BUILT IN SUCH A WAY THAT THERE WAS NO
ROOM IN THE COMMUNITY FOR KIDS LIKE BILL.
HE WAS BARRED FROM GOING TO THE
LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL AT THE TIME
BECAUSE HIS IQ WOULD HAVE BASIS
POINT TOO LOW.
HE COULDN'T TAKE SWIMMING
LESSONS AT THE MUNICIPAL POOL.
THERE WERE NO PROGRAMS, NO
SUPPORTS, NO NOTHING.
AND IN ADDITION, THERE WAS
PRESSURE FROM THE HEALTH SIDE OF
THINGS, THAT THE INSTITUTION
WOULD OFFER BILL HIS BEST CHANCE
FOR PROGRESS AND HAPPINESS
BECAUSE IT WAS THE ONLY PLACE HE
COULD GET SOME SORT OF
EDUCATION, AND HE WOULD BE ABLE
TO LIVE, AS THEY SAID, WITH HIS
OWN KIND RATHER THAN WITH THE
REST OF US.
THERE WAS FAMILY PRESSURE AS
WELL TOO.
IN SHORT, MY PARENTS HEARD THIS
FROM ALL DIRECTIONS.

Steve says LET'S ACKNOWLEDGE,
THIS IS FIVE AND A HALF DECADES AGO.

Catherine says YES.

Steve says AT A TIME WHEN... I
THINK I REMEMBER READING THIS IN
THE BOOK... MANY PEOPLE WOULD
HAVE SEEN BILL'S BIRTH AS
SOMEHOW EVIDENCE THAT YOUR
PARENTS HAD DONE SOMETHING WRONG.

Catherine says YES.

Steve says OR SOMETHING EVIL
WAS BEING VISITED UPON THE
FAMILY... RIGHT?

Catherine says THIS WAS FROM THE EUGENICS ERA AND THERE WAS KIND OF A
RELIGIOUS OVERTONE TO IT AS
WELL, AND THE IDEA, THE OLD
TESTAMENT IDEA, THAT THE SINS OF
THE FATHER SHALL BE VISITED UPON
THE CHILD.
SO THERE WAS SOMETHING KIND OF
SHAMEFUL ABOUT HAVING A CHILD
WITH A DISABILITY.

Steve says AND YOURS WAS A
CHURCH EVERY SUNDAY FAMILY, WAS
IT NOT?

Catherine says ABSOLUTELY.

Steve says SO YOUR PARENTS FELT
THIS MESSAGE QUITE KEENLY, I
GUESS.

Catherine says I THINK THEY FELT IT MOSTLY
FROM FAMILY, NOT SO MUCH THE
CHURCH.
ONE OF MY OLD BITTY GREAT AUNTS
USED TO COME UP WITH THAT PHRASE
NOW AND THEN, AND SHE ALSO
BLAMED... THIS IS MY FATHER'S
AUNT... SHE BLAMED MY MOTHER,
SAYING THAT MY MOTHER'S FAMILY
MUST HAVE HAD TAINTED BLOOD TO
PASS ON SOMETHING LIKE THIS TO A
CHILD.

Steve says WHAT A THING FOR
YOUR MOTHER TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH.

Catherine says TERRIBLE.

Steve says OKAY.
BILLIE IS SENT AWAY.
HOW LONG DID YOU SEE HIM AFTER
THAT?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Catherine says WE COULDN'T SEE HIM FOR THE
FIRST MONTH OR TWO TO GIVE HIM
TIME TO SETTLE IN.
AFTER THAT WE WENT TO VISIT HIM
EVERY MONTH FAITHFULLY.
ONE SATURDAY A MONTH WE'D PILE
INTO DAD'S CAR AND DRIVE TO
SMITHS FALLS, WHICH WAS ABOUT AN
HOUR'S DRIVE AWAY.
WE NEVER GOT TO SEE WHERE HE
ACTUALLY LIVED.

Steve says HIS ROOM.

Catherine says NO, WE DIDN'T SEE HIS WARD, NOT HIS ROOM.
WE NEVER SAW THOSE WHEN WE WERE
KIDS.
THEY WOULD BRING HIM DOWN TO THE
VISITING ROOM AND HE WOULD
ALWAYS BE WELL-DRESSED AND LOOK
GOOD, AND WE'D TAKE HIM OUT TO
THE PARK FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS,
HAVE A PICNIC, DROP HIM OFF,
DRIVE BACK HOME, AND AFTER MOST
OF THOSE VISITS, MY MOTHER WOULD
DISAPPEAR INTO THE BEDROOM AND
CLOSE THE DOOR.
IT WAS VERY, VERY HARD ON HER.

Steve says WHAT DO YOU THINK
HAPPENED BEHIND THAT CLOSED
DOOR?

Catherine says OH, I THIS I A LOT OF TEARS.

Steve says DID BILLY EVER
RETURN HOME?

Catherine says NO.

Steve says SO THE INSTITUTION
WAS HIS HOME FOR THE REMAINDER
OF HIS LIFE?

Catherine says YES.
NOW, I ASSUMED AS A CHILD THAT
WE WEREN'T ALLOWED TO BRING HIM
HOME.
IT TURNS OUT THAT WAS NOT THE
CASE.
IT WAS A DECISION THAT MY FATHER
MADE, THAT THIS WOULD BE HIS
HOME AND THAT BRINGING HIM HOME
TO STAY WITH US WOULD ONLY
CONFUSE HIM OR WOULD NOT BE A
GOOD IDEA.

Steve says NOW, LET'S REMEMBER,
AGAIN, FIVE AND A HALF DECADES
AGO.
WAS IT REASONABLE FOR YOUR
PARENTS TO BELIEVE THAT BILLY'S
BEST INTERESTS WOULD HAVE BEEN
SERVED BY BEING IN THAT
INSTITUTION?

Catherine says THIS WAS WHAT THEY WERE TOLD,
AND THE FACT THE INSTITUTION WAS
A HOSPITAL SCHOOL, I THINK THEY
FOUND REASSURING.
MY DAD WAS AN EAR, NOSE, AND
THROAT DOCTOR, MY MOTHER WAS A
NURSE, AND THE ROUTINES OF THE
HOSPITAL IS SOMETHING THEY FOUND
QUITE COMFORTING.
THE INFORMATION FROM THE
GOVERNMENT AS WELL WAS THAT,
YES, THIS WAS THE BEST PLACE FOR
THESE CHILDREN, AND THERE WERE
THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN AT
SMITHS FALLS, AT HURONIA, AND
LATER A SMALLER NUMBER AT.

Steve says RIDEAU?

Catherine says SOUTHWESTERN.
THE ONTARIO HOSPITAL SCHOOL
BECAME RIDEAU REGIONAL.

Steve says OKAY.
THIS NOTION THAT PEOPLE WITH
DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES
NEEDED TO BE SOMEHOW
INSTITUTIONALIZED AND TAKEN AWAY
FROM THEIR FAMILIES, WHERE DID
THAT COME FROM IN THE FIRST
PLACE?

The caption changes to "Isolated from the world."

Catherine says OH, THAT GOES BACK TO THE
19TH CENTURY.
IN THE 19TH CENTURY, THERE WAS
NOTHING... I MEAN, THERE WAS
LESS FOR PEOPLE WITH
DISABILITIES THAN THERE WAS IN
THE 20TH CENTURY, AND MANY OF
THEM JUST ENDED UP IN THE COUNTY
JAIL.
SO STARTING IN THE LAST HALF OF
THE 19TH CENTURY, PEOPLE STARTED
THINKING, WELL, THERE SHOULD BE
ANOTHER WAY WE CAN DO THIS.
IN THE U.S. AND BRITAIN, A WHOLE
BUNCH OF BOARDING SCHOOLS SHOWED
UP FOR KIDS WITH DISABILITIES,
AND THEY WERE REAL BOARDING
SCHOOLS, SO THE KIDS WOULD GO,
THEY'D LIVE THERE, THEY'D COME
HOME FOR SUMMERS, THEY'D COME
HOME AT CHRISTMAS, AND THE HOPE
WAS THAT THEY COULD BE IMPROVED,
AND SOME SCHOOLS EVEN SUGGESTED
THEY COULD CURE CHILDREN WITH
DISABILITIES.
THAT DIDN'T REALLY CATCH ON IN
CANADA.
IN CANADA, WE HAD... THE IDEA
WAS THAT INTELLECTUAL
DISABILITIES WERE ACTUALLY A
FORM OF WHAT THEY USED TO CALL
LUNACY.
SO THEY WERE LUMPED TOGETHER
WITH WHAT WE SEE NOW AS
PSYCHIATRIC ILLNESS.

Steve says THE NAMES ON SOME OF
THESE INSTITUTIONS WERE
BIZARRE... DO YOU WANT TO SHARE
SOME OF THEM?

Catherine says THE ASYLUM FOR IDIOTS.

Steve says THAT'S ACTUALLY WHAT
THEY CALLED THEM.

Catherine says YEAH.
SO FOR A TIME, BOTH GROUPS WERE
LIVING IN THE SAME PLACE, WHICH
REALLY WASN'T HELPFUL FOR
EITHER.
SO THEY SET UP THE INSTITUTION
AT ORILLIA, IN THE LAST QUARTER
OF THE 19TH CENTURY.

Steve says SO MOST OF OUR
INSTITUTIONS THEN HERE IN THE
PROVINCE OF ONTARIO WOULD HAVE
DATED TO THAT TIME?

Catherine says YES.

Steve says WHEN DID WE SEE THE
BEGINNINGS OF A PUSHBACK OVER
THAT WAY TO TREAT PEOPLE?

The caption changes to "Bad public policy."

Catherine says I THINK THAT STARTED IN THE '60s AND GATHERED STEAM IN THE '70s.
ALTHOUGH THERE WERE HINTS BEFORE THEN.
THERE WERE A COUPLE OF EXPOSES
OF SOME OF THE BIG AMERICAN
INSTITUTIONS THAT WERE DREADFUL,
BUT REALLY, I THINK IT STARTED
IN THE '60s.
MY BROTHER CAME ALONG JUST
BEFORE THAT HAPPENED.

Steve says NOW, I'VE GOT TO
TELL YOU, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
MAKES THIS STORY SO FASCINATING
ON THE ONE HAPPENED AND
GUT-WRENCHING ON THE OTHER HAND,
FASCINATING BECAUSE YOU'RE A
FORMER JOURNALIST AND YOU TAUGHT
JOURNALISM.

Catherine says YEAH.

Steve says YOU'RE IDEALLY
SUITED TO DO THE RESEARCH THAT'S
REQUIRED, YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO TO
GET A STORY OUT.
BUT THIS IS YOUR LIFE.
THIS IS A VERY PERSONAL STORY.
AND AT SOME POINT I GATHER YOU
HAD TO FILE A LAWSUIT TO GET
BILL'S INFORMATION...

Catherine says ACCESS TO INFORMATION, NOT A LAWSUIT.

Steve says OKAY.

The caption changes to "Life inside."

Catherine says IT WAS A LAWSUIT THAT ENABLED
ME TO DO THIS.
AFTER THE INSTITUTIONS CLOSED,
THERE WERE THREE CLASS ACTION
LAWSUITS FILED ON BEHALF OF THE
RESIDENTS OF THE THREE BIGGEST.
SO THAT WAS THE ONE BILL WAS AT,
HURONIA, AND THE ONE IN
CHATHAM-KENT.
AND IT TOOK A LONG TIME FOR
THOSE SUITS TO WORK THEIR WAY
THROUGH, BUT THE SETTLEMENT
ENABLED FORMER RESIDENTS OR
THEIR SURVIVING FAMILY MEMBERS
TO APPLY FOR THEIR RESIDENT
FILE.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says YOU DIDN'T GET ANY
OF THAT, DID YOU?

Catherine says OH, NO, I DID.

Steve says YOU DID.

Catherine says YEAH.
I WAS ABLE TO GET THAT.
SOME DIDN'T.
THIS TO ME IS ONE OF THE MOST
HEARTBREAKING THINGS.
THERE WERE SOME FORMER RESIDENTS
WHO APPLIED FOR THEIR FILE AND
WERE TOLD, NO, WE DON'T HAVE ANY
RECORD OF YOU BEING THERE.
HOW BAD CAN THAT BE?
I WAS ABLE TO APPLY FOR IT AND
IT LANDED IN MY MAILBOX A COUPLE
OF WEEKS LATER.
IT WAS 1200 PAGES LONG, WHICH IS
QUITE A BIT LONGER THAN MOST OF
THE FILES.
AND THEN, IN ADDITION, AS A
RESULT OF THE LAWSUIT, THE
PROVINCE AGREED TO PUT SOMETHING
LIKE 65,000 DOCUMENTS IN AN
ELECTRONIC ARCHIVE AT THE
ARCHIVES OF ONTARIO.
AND SO IT WAS THOSE TWO SETS OF
DOCUMENTS... BILL'S FILE AND THE
ONES IN THE ARCHIVES... THAT
WERE THE THINGS I PROBED MOST
DEEPLY.

Steve says WHAT WAS THE MOST...
OR WHAT WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT
AND SALIENT FACTS THAT YOU
LEARNED FROM HAVING ACCESS TO
BILL'S FILES?

Catherine says WELL, THERE WERE JUST SO MANY
MOMENTS WHEN I WENT THROUGH AND
WOULD HAVE TO PUT IT DOWN AND
PICK MY JAW BACK UP AGAIN.
THE FIRST I THINK WAS WHEN HE
WAS 5.
THERE WAS A NOTE IN HIS FILE,
JUST VERY CASUALLY, THAT SAID:
"MAY HAVE RESTRAINT JACKET,
PRN," WHICH MEANS WHEN THE STAFF
THINKS IT'S NECESSARY.
BILL WAS 5 AND HE WAS A LITTLE
GUY.
HE WAS UNDERSIZED ALWAYS.
AS AN ADULT, HE WAS MAYBE FOUR
ELEVEN.
AND I'M TRYING TO IMAGINE WHAT
CIRCUMSTANCE WOULD THERE BE THAT
YOU WOULD WANT TO PUT A LITTLE,
SHY 5-YEAR-OLD GUY LIKE THIS IN
A RESTRAINT JACKET.

Steve says IN YOUR EXPERIENCE
WITH HIM, HE HAD NEVER SHOWN
SIGNS OF VIOLENCE OR TEMPER, HAD HE?

Catherine says NO, HE WAS ACTUALLY A
CHEERFUL AND HAPPY LITTLE GUY
AND PHYSICALLY SHY AND NOT BOLD.
SO THIS KIND OF SHOCKED ME.

Steve says DID YOU EVER SEE ANY
EVIDENCE IN THE FILES THAT HE
HAD BEEN NEGLECTED OR ABUSED?

Catherine says HIS ENTIRE FILE WAS A STORY,
REALLY, OF NEGLECT, UP UNTIL THE
LATE '80s AND THE '90s.
HE HAD... WHEN HE WAS ABOUT 9 OR
10, HE STARTED PULLING OUT HIS
HAIR.
HE STARTED WITH HIS EYELASHES
AND MOVED TO AN EYEBROW AND THEN
THE OTHER EYEBROW AND THEN
PATCHES ON HIS HEAD.
AND THAT'S I THINK PRETTY
WELL-RECOGNIZED AS AN ANXIETY
DISORDER OR A SYMPTOM OF MAYBE
SOME OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE
BEHAVIOUR.
THEY SENT HIM TO THE DOCTOR IN
THE INSTITUTION WHO LOOKED TO
SEE WHETHER HE HAD RINGWORM OR
SOME OTHER FUNGUS THAT WAS
POSSIBLY CONTAGIOUS.
WITHOUT THAT, THEY SAID, HE WAS
PULLING IT OUT HIMSELF.
THAT WAS THAT.
FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE THAT
WAS KIND OF DISMISSED AS, OH,
WELL, IT'S JUST ONE OF HIS QUIRKS.

Steve says WE'RE GOING TO BRING
A PICTURE UP OF BILL RIGHT NOW.
FOR THOSE LISTENING ON PODCAST,
I WANT TO DESCRIBE IT A BIT,
BECAUSE THE HAPPY-GO-LUCKY KID
THAT YOU REMEMBERED NOW HAS LOST
MUCH OF HIS HAIR AND DOESN'T
LOOK VERY HAPPY IN THAT PICTURE,
I HAVE TO SAY.
WHEN WAS THIS TAKEN?

A picture shows Bill as an adult, with a solemn expression on his face, lying in a hospital bed. He has no facial hair, most of his eyebrows are gone and he has very little hair on his head.

Catherine says THAT WAS TAKEN ABOUT TWO DAYS
BEFORE HE DIED.
YOU CAN SEE THE EYEBROW, HE'S
ONLY GOT HALF OF ONE EYEBROW.

Steve says AS YOU LOOK AT THAT
PICTURE, WHAT COMES INTO YOUR HEAD?

Catherine says WHAT A SMALL AND CONSTRAINED
LIFE HE LED.
HOW LITTLE WE GOT TO ENJOY HIM.
HOW LITTLE HE GOT TO SEE OF THE
WIDER WORLD.

Steve says BECAUSE HIS WORLD
WAS ESSENTIALLY THAT
INSTITUTION, WASN'T IT?

Catherine says MM-HMM.

Steve says THAT WAS PRETTY MUCH
IT EXCEPT THAT THE TIMES THAT
YOU WOULD HAVE VISITED HIM.
HOW OLD WAS BILLY WHEN HE DIED?

Catherine says HE WAS 38.

Steve says WHAT DID HE DIE OF?

Catherine says HE DIED OF LIVER FAILURE THAT WAS CAUSED BY CHRONIC HEPATITIS
B, WHICH HE PICKED UP AT THE
INSTITUTION AT SOME POINT, AND
WE HAVE NO IDEA WHEN.
THE FIRST TEST THAT HE HAD, THAT
I COULD FIND IN HIS FILE, WAS
DONE IN 1975, AND AT THAT POINT
HE HAD A CHRONIC FORM OF THE
DISEASE.

Steve says NOW, THEY SHARED
NEEDLES IN THE INSTITUTIONS BACK
THEN, DIDN'T THEY?

Catherine says AS FAR AS WE KNOW, YES, THEY DID.

Steve says HE MIGHT HAVE PICKED
IT UP THAT WAY.

Catherine says MY FATHER WAS CONVINCED HE GOT IT FROM BADLY DONE CHILDHOOD
INOCULATIONS.
SOMEONE JUST LOADING UP A
SYRINGE, POKING A KID, LOADING
IT UP AND POKING THE NEXT.
IN FACT, AMONG RESIDENTS WITH
DOWN SYNDROME IN THESE
INSTITUTIONS, AT HURONIA AND
RIDEAU REGIONAL AS WELL,
SOMETHING LIKE 25 percent OF DOWN
SYNDROME RESIDENTS HAD CHRONIC
FORMS OF A DISEASE.
AND THE YOUNGER YOU ARE WHEN YOU
GET IT, THE MORE LIKELY IT IS TO
BECOME CHRONIC.
SO MY DAD'S THINKING ACTUALLY
MAKES SOME SENSE, ALTHOUGH I
FOUND NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT
THAT.

Steve says OKAY, CATHERINE.
WE'VE GOT TO ASK THE HEAVY
QUESTION HERE NOW.

Catherine says OKAY.

Steve says AT WHAT POINT DID
YOU BEGIN TO HAVE SOME VERY
DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS WITH
YOUR PARENTS ABOUT THE DECISIONS
THEY MADE IN THE LATE 1950s
ABOUT YOUR BROTHER?

The caption changes to "Questions and answers."

Catherine says YOU KNOW, I'LL CLAIM
COWARDICE HERE.
I REALLY DID NOT HAVE MANY
DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS WITH
THEM.
MY FATHER WAS NOT THE KIND OF
GUY WHO LIKED TO TALK ABOUT
EMOTIONAL THINGS, AND HE WAS A
VERY CLOSED OFF KIND OF
PERSON... WARM AND LOVING, BUT
DID NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT SOME
THINGS.
AND MY MOTHER SUFFERED FROM
GUILT AND REMORSE ABOUT THIS ALL
HER LIFE.
AND SO PRESSING HER ON IT WOULD
HAVE BEEN VERY PAINFUL FOR HER.
SO WE WOULD TALK ABOUT BILL... I
WOULD ASK ABOUT HIM, YOU KNOW,
WHEN I WAS AN ADULT AND WASN'T
SEEING HIM REGULARLY.
I'D TALK TO HER AFTER EVERY
VISIT AND WE'D CHAT, BUT WE
REALLY DIDN'T GET INTO THE HARD
STUFF.
AND MY MOTHER DIED 8 MONTHS
AFTER BILL.

Steve says THE GUILT THAT YOUR
MOTHER FELT, DID SHE EVER GIVE
HERSELF A BREAK GIVEN HER OWN
BAD HEALTH?

Catherine says NOT REALLY.
I THINK SHE JUST CARRIED THIS
WITH HER FOREVER.
THAT'S SAD.
YOU KNOW, IN THIS DAY AND AGE, I
THINK ALL OF US WOULD HAVE HAD
SOME COUNSELLING OR SOMEBODY TO
TALK TO TO HELP US WORK THROUGH
THESE THINGS, BUT AT THE TIME,
WE DID NOT.
SO MY FATHER JUST KIND OF
EXPECTED THAT WE'D ALL JUST SUCK
IT UP, SUPPRESS THE EMOTION, AND
CARRY ON.

Steve says WERE THERE SO-CALLED
HORROR STORIES COMING OUT OF
THAT INSTITUTION WHILE BILL WAS
THERE?

Catherine says OH, YES.
OH, YES, THERE WERE.

Steve says BUT IT NEVER MADE
YOUR PARENTS RECONSIDER THEIR
DECISION?

Catherine says THAT'S THE FUNNY THING.
THEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, IF THEY
HAD BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO THE
NEWS, WHAT WAS GOING ON.
BUT THEY DIDN'T.
THEY VISITED HIM, THEY WOULD...
NOW, EVERY TIME WE'D SEE BILL
WHEN HE WAS A CHILD, HE HAD CUTS
AND BRUISES.
I REMEMBER, YOU KNOW, THOSE
KINDS OF GOUGES YOU GET FROM A
FINGERNAIL.
HE HAD LOTS OF THOSE.
HE HAD SCARS ALL OVER HIS HEAD
BY THE TIME HE WAS AN ADULT.
AND MY PARENTS WOULD ASK ABOUT
THESE THINGS, AND THEY WERE
TOLD, NO, IT'S JUST NORMAL WEAR
AND TEAR.
HE'S LIVING IN A ROOM WITH 50,
60 OTHER BOYS.
THERE'S A LOT OF ROUGHHOUSING,
NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.
SO IT'S NOT THAT THEY WERE
COMPLETELY NEGLIGENT.
MY OTHER ALSO TRIED TO KEEP
TRACK OF HIS MEDICATIONS AND
INTERVENED AT ONE POINT WHEN SHE
DISCOVERED HE WAS ON AN
ANTISEIZURE DRUG FOR FIVE YEARS
AT THAT POINT AFTER SOMETHING
THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AN
EPILEPTIC SEIZURE.

Steve says YOUR PARENTS ARE GONE.

Catherine says YES.

Steve says YOUR SIBLINGS ARE AROUND.

Catherine says YES.

Steve says THE OTHER SIBLINGS
BESIDES BILL.
HAVE THEY READ THE BOOK?

Catherine says THEY HAVE.
ACTUALLY I BROUGHT THEM INTO THE
PROJECT RIGHT FROM THE
BEGINNING.
IT'S THEIR STORY AS MUCH AS IT
IS MINE, AND THEIR MEMORIES ARE
DIFFERENT FROM MINE.
THEY REMEMBERED THINGS THAT I
DIDN'T KNOW.
SO, YES, I BROUGHT THEM IN.

Steve says I WANT TO READ AN
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Hindsight and regrets." The quote reads "Mom said her biggest regret was that she and Dad didn't bring him home for visits. Mine is that I let them make all the decisions about Bill, even though I had less and less faith in their judgements as the years went by. I challenged them on a lot of things in life, including how I would raise my own children, but when it came to Bill I gave them a pass. I know that means I gave myself one, too. I let him be their son, their responsibility. In doing that, I became yet another in a long series of people who failed him. He deserved better."
Quoted from Catherine McKercher, "Shut Away." 2019.

Steve says YOU'RE PRETTY TOUGH
ON YOURSELF THERE, CATHERINE.
ARE YOU REALLY PUTTING YOURSELF
ON A LIST WITH ALL OF THOSE WHO
FAILED BILL?

The caption changes to "Making peace."

Catherine says YES, I AM.
I... I SHOULD HAVE BEEN AN ADVOCATE FOR HIM.
I COULD HAVE BEEN AN ADVOCATE
FOR HIM.
AND IN THE INTERESTS OF KEEPING
PEACE WITHIN MY FAMILY, I CHOSE
TO BACK OFF.
SO, YES, I DO TAKE SOME
RESPONSIBILITY.
AND, YOU KNOW, IF ANYTHING WILL
MAKE YOU AN ADVOCATE FOR PEOPLE
LIKE BILL, IT'S READING THE
MATERIAL THAT I READ TO DO THE
RESEARCH FOR THIS BOOK.

Steve says KEEPING PEACE IN THE
HOME IS NOT A BAD MISSION AT THE
END OF THE DAY.

Catherine says NO, IT'S NOT.

Steve says BUT YOU THINK BILL
HAD TO PAY THE ULTIMATE PRICE
FOR THAT PEACE.

Catherine says HE DID, YEAH.

Steve says WAS THIS... I DON'T
WANT TO GET TOO HEAVY HERE...
BUT WAS THIS BOOK IN SOME
RESPECTS A WAY TO MAKE YOUR
PEACE WITH ALL OF THIS?

Catherine says ABSOLUTELY.

Steve says IT WAS.
DID IT WORK?

Catherine says I THINK I'M GETTING THERE.
YOU KNOW, IT'S FUNNY.
I KIND OF SWITCHED INTO REPORTER
MODE WHEN I WAS DOING THE
RESEARCH ON THIS.
YOU KNOW, IT'S LIKE YOU SET YOUR
EMOTIONS ASIDE, YOU LOOK AT
THIS, YOU ANALIZE. YOU ASSESS,
YOU WEIGH, AND THEN YOU WRITE.
AND THEN AFTER IT WAS WRITTEN
AND I WAS LOOKING OVER THE COPY
EDITED VERSION, THAT WAS WHEN
THE EMOTIONS HIT.
SO I THINK IT WAS HELPFUL THAT
WAY.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says DID YOU HAVE A GOOD
CRY OVER IT?

Catherine says OH, SEVERAL.

Steve says SEVERAL.
CAUSE US REPORTERS ARE TOLD
NEVER TO... EMOTIONS HAVE TO
STAY IN CHECK ALL THE TIME RIGHT
IT'S JUST THE FACTS.

Catherine says WELL, THAT'S TRUE.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME WE CAN'T
BE ROBOTS, WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO
FEEL.
WE JUST HAVE TO BE...
A PHRASE I HEARD.
YOU HAVE TO BE OBJECTIVE ABOUT
YOUR OWN SUBJECTIVITY.

Steve says OBJECTIVE ABOUT YOUR
OWN SUBJECTIVITY.
THAT'S GOOD.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE READERS
ULTIMATELY TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?

Catherine says I'D LIKE THEM TO TAKE AWAY A
SENSE OF HOW MUCH THINGS HAVE
CHANGED FOR THE BETTER FOR THE
CURRENT GENERATION OF PEOPLE
WITH DOWN SYNDROME.
YOU KNOW, THIS KIND OF LIFE THAT
MY BROTHER HAD WAS, UNTIL HIS
FULL TIME YEARS, WAS SOMETHING
THAT WE NEVER WANT TO DO AGAIN.
THE INSTITUTIONS, I HAVE TO SAY,
DID IMPROVE AT THE END OF MY
BROTHER'S TIME THERE.
THEY WENT FROM BEING HOSPITAL
SCHOOLS TO REGIONAL CENTRES, AND
I WAS GLAD TO SEE THAT BILL'S
LAST FEW YEARS WERE ACTUALLY
PRETTY HAPPY.
BUT THAT'S BECAUSE, EVEN THOUGH
HE WAS ON THE INSTITUTION, HE
LIVED CLOSER TO A NORMAL LIFE
THAN HE HAD BEFORE.
SO HE ACTUALLY LIVED IN A GROUP
HOME WITH ONE ROOMMATE AND SOME
HOUSEMATES INSTEAD OF IN A WARD
WITH 70 KIDS CHEEK BY JOWL.
HE HAD A JOB.
AND FINDING SOMETHING IMPORTANT
TO DO, INTERESTING TO DO DURING
THE DAY, MATTERS A LOT FOR
EVERYBODY.
SO HE WORKED IN THE WOOD SHOP.
HE HAD THE RUN OF THE PLACE.
HE KNEW EVERYBODY THERE.
AND HE WAS, IN HIS FINAL DAYS, A
PRETTY HAPPY GUY, ALTHOUGH THE
SAD PART ABOUT THAT IS, THE
CLOCK WAS TICKING ON HIS LIVER
DURING THOSE DAYS, AND HE DIDN'T
HAVE MANY GOOD YEARS.
BUT THE LAST ONES WEREN'T SO
BAD.

Steve says IF MEMORY SERVES, AT
SOME POINT PREMIER KATHLEEN
WYNNE AND BOTH OPPOSITION
LEADERS, TIM HUDAK AND ANDREA
HORWATH, MADE QUITE FULSOME
APOLOGIES ON BEHALF OF THE
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO.

Catherine says YES.

Steve says FOR THIS HAVING
HAPPENED.
WHAT DID YOU TAKE FROM THAT?

Catherine says WELL, I THINK THAT WAS THE
FIRST TIME I TIERED UP.
I WATCHED IT FROM MY HOME IN
OTTAWA.
AND I WAS SO RELIEVED AND SO
HAPPY TO SEE THEM ACKNOWLEDGING
JUST WHAT A BAD IDEA... WHAT BAD
POLICY COULD DO TO PEOPLE LIKE
MY BROTHER BILL.

The caption changes to "Producer: Katie O'Connor, @KA_OConnor."

Steve says ALL THE PAIN
NOTWITHSTANDING TO WRITE THIS
BOOK, I'M GLAD YOU DID, BECAUSE
IT REALLY PEELS BACK THE CURTAIN
ON A TIME WE NEED TO KNOW MORE
ABOUT.
AND THANK YOU FOR DOING IT.

Catherine says THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says "SHUT AWAY: WHEN
DOWN SYNDROME WAS A LIFE
SENTENCE."
CATHERINE McKERCHER.
THANKS, CATHERINE.

Catherine says THANK YOU.

Watch: Chronicling Ontario's Residential Institutions