The Brockville Mental Health Centre experienced its first protest in its entire history on February 11, something long overdue, so far as a growing number of human rights advocates are concerned. A small group of these dedicated activists gathered at the Centre and partook of a smudging ceremony, prayed together, then marched a short distance to the steps leading into the building where Marlene Carter continues to be tortured.
By Ron Zajac of Brockville’s The Recorder & Times: http://bit.ly/1TZ3UWo (and reposted by the Ottawa Sun: http://bit.ly/1TfcnnN)
By Annette Francis at APTN: http://aptn.ca/news/newscasts/
And I was interviewed for CBC Radio’s “As It Happens,” which aired on 11 Feb. My interview is from 3:18 to 10:04 of the third part of the show, take a listen here: http://bit.ly/1RzmzHQ
A Summary Of My Speech At The Rally
I pointed out the fact that Marlene Carter is not a criminal, nor is she a psychopath, nor is she a rabid animal. She is a human being stricken with a mental illness and should be treated with patience, compassion and empathy. This is what works! It worked last summer when Marlene benefitted enormously from being treated kindly. The outdoors and the smudging ceremony helped her to recover and heal.
Quotes of mine from the rally: “Whenever a human being is treated like Marlene Carter and society doesn’t do anything about it … Where’s the insanity? The insanity of the society itself is greater than anyone being confined here.” – “Marlene’s organs, her heart, her kidneys and other vital organs have deteriorated under the inhumane treatment she is receiving at a hospital, which is supposed to be a healing place but for Marlene it is nothing more than a place where human rights abuses and torture are experienced by her day after day … Her weakened organs will eventually shut down and Marlene will die because of her ordeal in Brockville.”
And on seclusion: “Within the last 4 months, Marlene has spent at least 105 days in seclusion. Whoever is making the decision to keep her there, should be made to spend one hour in the seclusion room for each day Marlene has been there (total 105 continuous hours) so they can get a dose of their own medicine. Maybe then they would finally understand what torture is.”
The day before the rally I visited with Marlene (February 10). She had undergone an electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment at 6 a.m. that morning.
To my dismay, Marlene was still in the seclusion room, tied to a bed, her wrists secured so closely to her body, she could not even hold the bottle of coca cola I brought for her as a treat. The restraints locking her to the metal bed were very tight. I asked Marlene if she was able to lay on her side. “Sort of,” she answered. “Well move from side to side as much as you can,” I told her, “or you’ll get bed sores.”
Even though she was a bit tired from the ordeal of ECT, Marlene was responsive and happy to see me again. She talked to me about the hope she had of soon having a chat with one of her sons, something she has not done in years. “I want my mind to be clear,” she said, “I don’t want to be dizzy or tired when I talk to my son.” Her sister will make arrangements for mom and son to talk when Marlene feels ready for it. We prayed together, shared some ‘Indian Humour.’ (How anyone being treated the way Marlene Carter is being treated and still be able to laugh, is beyond me.) But Marlene is Marlene, one of a kind, that’s for sure! Marlene is not allowed a one-on-one counsel with me. A male nurse sat close by listening to our every word. I must admit, this is an irritant I find hard to take.
When I returned to my home later that day, I lay in my bed with both arms tight by my side in the manner Marlene’s arms are when restrained as she was on Feb. 10. I imagined being in a small bed, my ankles tied to the bed frame. I turned onto my left side as best I could (it wasn’t easy) and understood then, why Marlene answered “sort of” when I’d asked her if it was possible for her to lay on her side. The position I found myself in was not very comfortable. I wondered how she manages to get any sleep when tied down like that. I want you to visualize it so you might understand something of what this Cree woman, far from home, is going through. If this is not a torturous existence, then tell me what is.
The dedicated activists who took the time out of their busy lives to stand for Marlene Carter on February 11th should be commended for their stamina (it was not a nice day) and for the compassion and dedication they have for her. The cold of the day (-20°C) had a ferocious bite but the protestors withstood it, warmed no doubt by the explosions of fire burning in the hearts of the good people around them. To all who read this, I want you to know how good it was to have had Tasha-Dawn Doucette sing two traditional songs for Marlene. Tasha did so without the assistance of the drum as no drum was present. She began with the song ‘Anishinabe Kwe’. It was a spiritually powerful moment that left some people in attendance teary-eyed. We ended the protest with Tasha-Dawn being joined by Julie Comber, singing the ‘Strong Woman Song.’ I doubt I’ll ever meet anyone again as strong of heart and spirit as Marlene Carter. She tells me upon every visit that she prays for me to enjoy health and healing. What a sweetheart!
As we prepared to leave, one of the protestors pointed to a window of the institution. A person was in one of the rooms, holding a sign. It read, “I want to be free.”
Thank you for your efforts to raise concern for this woman who deserves to be treated like the human being that she is. When will we respond with the humanity we claim to be a part of?
Letter For Marlene
I am writing this letter on behalf of Marlene Carter who cannot speak for herself. Where is our humanity when we allow someone to be restrained endlessly in isolation until her muscles have begun to atrophy? Where are the resources to help those who have been so damaged by our lack of concern for the plight of so many of our children? When will we fully accept responsibility for the damage we have caused to the indigenous people of this country? Marlene Carter was an abandoned and abused child whose mind has been so damaged by the treatment she received that she tries over and over to hurt herself. Her actions scream out the pain she is experiencing, yet instead of responding with compassion and finding better ways to help her she is left tied up and alone. Her treatment no better than how we would treat a rabid dog. She has been sentenced to endless isolation and we have already seen far too horribly what this did for Ashley Smith. I would have hoped we would have learned something from this. We have to respond differently to the pain of others especially when we have missed the boat and not intervened when our intervention could have done some good. Children raised in rejection and abuse do not know how to be part of a community when the very beginning of that learning never happened. Every child that is left in abuse will come back to haunt us as Marlene has. If hurt is all that is taught in one’s formative years then that is all they have learned. The only way forward is to provide what was not given. We need to love these people better. We need to provide the connection that was not made in childhood. We need to have the patience one has with a young child who is learning things for the first time. We cannot expect that cold and clinical interventions will do anything to help people who have experienced nothing but the cold rejection of this world. Mental health treatment has to include the human aspect. People cannot thrive in isolation, people cannot grow when tied down with restraints. Marlene has been let down by the world she is in. She has been one of far too many that we leave plummeting through the gaping holes in our systems. She is one of the discardable people. They usually never come to our attention unless their actions make it impossible for us to ignore them. It is only when they continually slam up against our rules and regulations do we pay any attention and then our response is punitive and swift. I am asking you to make a change and I realize that it is a huge change. I am asking you to be human and respond from a humane place. Try to imagine yourself in the life of Marlene Carter. Try to imagine all the hurt she has been through. Try to imagine all the lonely places she has survived. Now imagine yourself tied down in a room for months on end with no one. Is this a situation you would want anyone or any living thing to have to endure? Please intervene now and give this broken woman a chance to have some measure of love in a loveless life.
Very well said indeed. God bless you for your passion and for your ability to feel empathy in such a profound way for a fellow human being laying wounded and alone thousands of miles from her family and community supports. Keep her in your prayers and you will be doing greatness for her. Let us hope and pray that Marlene’s story has a happy ending.