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Global Perspective: The Gristle in the Stew

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The Huronia Regional Centre closed in 2009.  It opened in 1876 and was then known as the Orillia Asylum for Idiots.
Government of Ontario archives
The Huronia Regional Centre closed in 2009.  It opened in 1876 and was then known as the Orillia Asylum for Idiots.


In November 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Patrick Moore set a trial date for the first of a series of class actions suits against three, now shuttered, Ontario institutions for the developmentally disabled.

Former residents, many of them now middle-aged, are alleging abuse and systemic mistreatment during the years in which they were institutionalized, often as children, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. They are asking for three billion dollars in damages to be split among 12,000 former residents and their families. It is the largest legal action on behalf of the intellectually disabled every undertaken in Canada.

Canadian government lawyers say institutions like the former Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia, were managed “in accordance with the standard of care” of the time. 

This documentary shares the story of the two women whose childhood stories sparked the class action suit, Patsy Seth and Marie Slark. Today they live - independently - in downtown Toronto. But they grew up at Huronia, the oldest and biggest Ontario institution for the intellectually impaired, in Orillia a couple of hours north of Toronto.

“The Gristle in the Stew” was produced and presented for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation by David Gutnick. Photo of Patsy Seth and Marie Slark courtesy of David Gutnick. Photo of Huronia courtesy of the Government of Ontario archives.


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