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Life Before, During, and After the Institution — Transcript

Sue: And Marie, how old were you when you started there?

Marie: I was a, I went there when I was about seven.

Sue: And how old were you when you got out?

Marie: I was 16 almost 16 going on 17. Two days before Christmas I got out. 1970.

Sue: and is that when you were sent to a group home?

Marie: I was sent to an approved home. Not a group home but an approved home. I was only there for about two and a half years and then I went to Barrie.

Sue: Oh. And when was it that you finally moved into living on your own at Community Living?

Marie: Um,

Antoinette: you were with Marilyn

Marie: I was about 21 years old when I moved on my own.

Sue: Right.

Marie: Yeah. Something like that.

Sue: And were you two separated for a period of time

Marie: Yes we were.

Antoinette: Yes, we were.

Sue: How long were you separated for?

Marie: 50 years.

Sue: 50?

Marie: Yes,

Antoinette: 50! Five Zero.

Sue: And so tell me how that happened.

Marie: I guess they took us away. And uh,

Antoinette: the Children’s Aid

Marie: Children's aid took us away and separated us.

Sue: what else do you know about why Children's Aid removed you guys in the first place from the family.

Marie: well anyway we were neglected by your parents they weren't taking care of us properly. And so they took us to Sick Children's Hospital and got us tested and that’s when based on… because I didn't know what the word India meant they judged me as being retarded.

[Text Slide: Educators and health professionals used the term mental retardation to classify learners as “backward” and “defective.” Eugenicists used the term to justify removing some children from society.]

Marie: Because of the fact that I didn't know what India was, that's what they went by. I think that's a stupid thing to go on saying I'm retarded because I didn't know what India was.

Sue: and how old are you how old are you then when I had the assessment yeah I don't know under five or something maybe maybe five or a little bit so you hadn't you hadn't been given any education so you didn't know it India was yet no like you can't trust the person returned based on not knowing what India's and

Marie: And I didn't even know Antoinette was in the institution when I was there. I didn't even know.

Sue: So you were both in the institution at the same time?

Antoinette: Yeah, but then I got out before Marie did. I went to George Brown College, to take up hairdressing.

Sue: And how was it that you guys didn't know that that was your very own sister there in the institution?

Marie: They never told us.

Sue: Your own (sister)?

Marie: I only knew i had one sister Kick and that was it. I didn't even know Karen was my sister. She came to the institution when I was about 14 years old. And I didn't know she was my sister. And somebody pointed that out to me, you know? Because my family never told me.

Sue: Oh, my gosh.

Antoinette: Yeah, we had a tough life. Very tough.

Sue: And how did you find each other again?

Marie: Through the Class Action

Sue: That was the only one you found each other?

Marie: Yeah.

Antoinette: Yeah, and how! I was so happy tears are coming from my eyes.

Marie: 2013? No… I don't know exactly when but...

Antoinette: Two thousand and thirteen. It was Marie.

Marie: Yeah. But anyway, I remember we had, Pat and I, we had a meeting to go to there. And we were speaking there, and Antoinette was there, and this was at Birchwood, in Toronto here. We had a little meeting and we were speaking. And that's when I met her.

Sue: holy, what did it feel like to realize you're at a sister that you could have for support and be with again?

Marie: wonderful.

Antoinette: I hope so.

Marie: What do you mean, you hope so?

Antoinette: I'm joking, Marie, you know, I love you.

Sue: And Antoinette

Antoinette: Yes

Sue: Do you want to share a couple things? How old were you when you started at Huronia? And what was your experience like?

Antoinette: I'm not sure. But I think I was about six years old when I went there. And I did not like it. Because it was awful. When I saw what they were doing to the kids there, I said, Oh my gosh. I don't want that to happen to me. And I was glad to get out of there. When I hurt because I was young when I got out. They lied for my age. Because they say you don't belong here. You're too smart. You know what you're doing? You know what you're talking about? You love helping people, I say sure that way my mother raised me to be nice to people.

We are very happy to be in your group, with any group that we do. We're very happy to do it and to talk about it. Because we want other people to know. And we don't want no more institution open. Write that down there too. We do not want no more institution opened the way they treated us.

Oh yeah, we've really survived! I said to Marie, thank God I'm around to tell this story. And another thing, thank God I have you. Because if I didn't have Marie, I would be alone, and I wouldn’t know any family of mine. I wouldn't know nothing. And the other thing, it made us to feel that we want… they want us to help. You know, at Baycrest, when I'm not there, well, now because of the virus, they always said to me, where are you? We miss you. Why don't you come in more days. I said, I'm sorry. I need a break too. I love doing it. I love helping people there. I go and talk to them, I help them to crochet and sew and do all kinds of nice things like that because I love doing it.

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Self Determination through Art - Transcript

Sue: So you do so much knitting. Did you learn to do any of that when you were in the institution? Or is that everything you learned to do afterwards? Can you talk a little bit about what you're knitting means to you?

Marie: Well, I learned on Bobby pins in the institution.

Sue: you learned on Bobby pins?

Marie: yeah we straightened Bobby pins and I learned how to knit that way.

Sue: And did you do that all by yourself? Or did somebody teach you?

Marie: I think somebody tried to teach me or something.

Sue: And then what did you do with the knitting that you learned in that institution? What happened to the things that you knit?

Marie: I was making small dolls clothes with it. Well anyway, when I was… when I would rip things up to a make doll’s clothes, they would put in my file that I was being destructive when I wasn't. I was just being creative. When I would rip things up they would think that I was being destructive and I wasn't.

Sue: Oh, 'cause he would rip things up to work with him creatively.

Marie: yeah

Sue: like what kind of things were you ripping up?

Marie: well, I don't know I guess old things, something like that.

Sue: And do you make any doll clothes now that you're an adult or mainly other things?

Marie: mainly other things

Sue: and you love… I'm assuming that you really like knitting right, Marie?

Marie: Yeah, and crocheting

Sue: and crocheting. Can you tell me a statement in your own words like imagining that you're talking to them right now, a whole room of them standing in front of you. Imagine they’re in front of you.

Marie: I’d say to them that what was done to us in that institution was wrong. We didn't ask to be born the way we were and you guys should have been more understanding and more kind to us. Because that could have been you or your child.

Antoinette: Don’t ever let that happen again. If I were just a nurse or whatever they call them, I would not be like that. I would be kind enough to go and talk to them and make them feel better that somebody wants them, not what they did to us like we were treated like garbage. And if you have a fight at home please do not take it out on us because we do not deserve it.

Marie: we had nothing to do with their problems at home and they should leave them at home, their problems at home, leave it there and just deal with the problems they might have with us.

Antoinette: And treat us nice.

Marie: And treat us with respect, you know?

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