Friday, April 20, 2012

Michener nomination for TC writers well-deserved

Very exciting news to discover that Paul and I, riding on the extensive coattails of Times Colonist reporter Lindsay Kines, have been nominated for a Michener Award along with TC columnist Les Leyne. But I wish the nomination also came with the power to roll back all the damage done to B.C. families whose devastating circumstances were the subject of that series of articles.
The Michener Award is given each year to a Canadian newspaper that can demonstrate that its coverage of an important issue in its community or province led to real change. Lindsay's dogged reporting last year on the closure of group homes for people with developmental disabilities did exactly that. By the time the dust settled this past January, the cabinet minister responsible for Community Living B.C. had resigned, the CEO of the agency had been fired, $40 million in new money had been found and the B.C. government had pledged to stop closing group homes.
Happy ending? More or less. But dozens of people lost their group homes before the government backed down, and they're not going to get their placements back. For better or worse, they're in private homes now. Some are no doubt very happy with that, because they didn't need the structure of a group home and will thrive in more of an independent setting. But others had been very happy where they were living, and it's damn cruel that they and their families had to endure the trauma of being wrenched away from familiar places and faces in homes that some of them had lived in for 20 years or more. Here's an archive of my blogs from 2010-2011 on this subject, and you can find Lindsay's stories and more here.
Still, let's celebrate the moment. Lindsay did a heck of a job by staying on this story for more than a year. The Times Colonist was the first B.C. newspaper to give significant publicity to the issue of group-home closures, and the only one that provided prolonged coverage. And the Michener judges noticed. Credit is also due to the plucky activist group MOMS, which worked hard to keep this issue alive and helped identify many families willing to talk to media.
Given the up-and-down history of community living supports in B.C. over the last five decades, I fear this won't be the last time a public campaign will need to be waged on behalf of families and advocates of people with developmental disabilities. But at least the good guys won this time. 

1 comment:

Eleanor Gregory said...

Very pleased to hear about your nomination. As a mother of an adult son who has benefited from living in a group home I appreciate what you and others at the TC have done to shine a light on government policy changes. Too bad, of course, that time can't be reversed on this one.