On July 25, 2017, survivors of shuttered Ontario institutions and their supporters from Remember Every Name received a letter from the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The letter stated the ministry was proceeding with plans to do what Remember Every Name calls a superficial facelift to the Huronia Regional Centre cemetery in the fall. The letter also thanked the group for their ‘valuable recommendations’ on which the site plan for the cemetery is based.
The trouble is that no such recommendations were ever made, according to Remember Every Name. Click here to read the letter. According to the letter, the Ministry of Community and Social Services “has been working with Remember Every Name for some time now on how to beautify the Huronia Regional Centre cemetery to ensure that it is maintained in a thoughtful and respectful manner that will preserve the site’s important historical legacy and the memory of those interred there.” Remember Every Name has written to Premier Kathleen Wynne, wanting to make it clear to her that there was no consultation, partnership, or respect from the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The group stated that survivors of Huronia Regional Centre wanted a voice in these plans, but were not asked to be involved when the government contracted a consultant to draw up the concept or design of the cemetery.
Remember Every Name has asked for full disclosure and transparency from the Ministry of Community and Social Services on documents that have not been made public and for which their requests have been repeatedly denied. The letter Remember Every Name received is an insult to survivors, the group said. Those involved are asking for the Premier’s help to halt the beautification of the Huronia Regional Centre cemetery until their goal of discovering and communicating the truth of how people were carelessly interred there is reached. They also want to know if any graves were disturbed when a septic system was installed through the cemetery in 1952.
“We owe that to the survivors as part of the truth and healing, to the ones laid to rest there, to their families who seek them out and to society as a whole,” stated Remember Every Name Communication Coordinator Debbie Vernon.
“The survivors of Huronia Regional Centre want a voice in these plans. They also want full disclosure from the Ministry of Community and Social Services of documents that have not been made public.”
Survivors also want people’s names on the graves, but they are concerned the cemetery beautification will result in the wrong names being placed on the row end markers. Remember Every Name reminded Premier Wynne that she has yet to respond to a letter from Cindy Scott, former resident of Huronia Regional Centre, who reached out to her in July of 2015. Survivors are starting to think the Premier’s 2013 apology to the former residents of Ontario’s institutions was a hollow one, because of the ministry’s actions concerning the cemetery. The survivors now feel disrespected and diminished. Remember Every Name remains hopeful the Premier will do the right thing and help them.
Daniel Share-Strom, Community Living Ontario