One morning last week I did something I don’t normally do — I wrote an angry letter.
Usually I just vent my frustrations, such as with various levels of government or provincial issues, on Twitter. That didn’t feel like enough, for once. I needed to tell some people directly exactly how I felt.
At issue is a group home in Weyburn, one that would house a maximum of four individuals with mental or physical disabilities. The problem for some Weyburn residents, however, is the fact the group home is planned for a community in their city called The Creeks.
Apparently if you live in The Creeks, you are incredibly special. You are so special, in fact, that you cannot bear the notion of having people, even just four of them, who may look, sound or act differently living within your sight lines.
A letter signed by “Residents of The Creeks subdivision” was sent to Weyburn city council in response to their request for feedback on the proposed group home. This is standard stuff — part of the process for approving discretionary-use developments in pretty much any municipality. What isn’t standard, however, is how these particular residents handled this process.
“It is important to note that there are many children and young families in the neighbourhood who wish to maintain the character of the neighbourhood and who have safety concerns,” said the residents’ letter. It wasn’t signed. When they’re this bad, they rarely are.
You’ll note the thinly-veiled sentiment regarding the “character” of the neighbourhood. At least they tried to veil it at all. Weyburn city councillor Brad Wheeler did not.
“It kind of dashes the dreams and hopes of the people that live there currently. It will probably impede the development of that immediate area going forward,” Wheeler said about the proposed group home at a March 11 city council meeting.
That’s right — four people with mental or physical disabilities living next door would “dash the dreams and hopes” of the people in this neighbourhood, apparently. And it didn’t stop there.
“I know it’s not politically correct to say there’s a stigma attached to (people with disabilities), but there is. You have to be honest with yourself. I feel bad that that’s the case, but these people have invested a lot of money into their dream homes, their retirement homes,” he said.
I was reading about all this over my morning coffee; it probably took me a good half hour to quit choking on it.
The backlash was swift and unequivocal probably thanks, at least in part, to my tweets, because of course I also tweeted about it. But I did also send an open letter to Weyburn city council, and I’ll share it here.
I suspect you’ll receive a lot of these today, so I’m not going to waste my time or yours with a lengthy note detailing how horrified and disgusted I am with the reasons you four rejected a group home in The Creeks.
When I read the CBC story this morning, I had to check the date on it, as I was certain it was written in 1955. Alas no, it appears only the attitude and quotes, especially of Coun. Wheeler, reflect that era.
I sincerely hope that after the backlash of this fiasco plays out, all seven of you sit down and “be honest with yourself” about who you are as leaders, and how you’re shaping today and tomorrow in your city. Hopefully you’ll be joined by “Residents of The Creeks subdivision,” who, terrifyingly, sound like they’re raising children, and doing so in a neighbourhood free from common sense, kindness, compassion and empathy.
You’ve embarrassed yourselves, your city and our beautiful province. I’ve no doubt you’ll be scrambling soon, if not already, to walk back this appalling decision and apologize profusely — all necessary actions but meaningless without change for the better. My sincere hope for your city is that this blight on its reputation, and yours, sparks just that.”
Predictably, the apologies and walk-backs did start, right on cue. The change for the better part is key, however, and we’ll have to watch Weyburn and see. And we will.