TORONTO – The Ontario government’s decision to close Thistletown Regional Centre in Toronto will have a profound impact on some of Ontario’s most vulnerable children, a move the Ontario Public Service Employees Union calls “heartless.” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the McGuinty government’s latest attack on Ontario families proves that this government will stoop to any level in the name of fiscal austerity.
“Dalton McGuinty has just proven that nothing is sacred when it comes to the almighty deficit,” Thomas said. “Hundreds of children with mental health and developmental challenges will now be without readily accessible services. This is a heartless move that will be devastating to these children, their families and the professional, caring workers who provide support.”
OPSEU is also condemning the Ministry of Children and Youth Services for its apparent lack of planning when it comes to any alternatives to providing care for the affected children and their families. The Ministry says programs will be “gradually” moved to the community over the next two years, resulting in a great deal of stress and uncertainty.
Glenna Caldwell, elected provincial representative for OPSEU members working the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, said there aren’t enough community resources to replace the programs provided at Thistletown.
“Once again, the Ministry shuts down a facility with only vague suggestions that these services can be provided by community agencies,” Caldwell said. “These are the same agencies that the government is underfunding, and they are already stretched to the breaking point trying to provide services.”
The government attempted to close Thistletown in 1995, which was thwarted when the community and the affected families fought to keep the Centre open.
Thomas says that job loss will also have a huge impact. “The Ministry is putting 240 professional, experienced program providers out of work, staff who have a close relationship with these children and their families. This will further traumatize the children who are dealing with problems most of us can’t even imagine. This shows how badly out of touch the Premier is with what a caring society is really all about.”