Our day of protest was a freezing one to be sure (-27°C). But I can tell you, the frigidness of the day had a ways to sink in its gauge to find the depth of the cold-heartedness the mental healthcare system has for Canadians suffering severe mental illness. Thank goodness the biting cold, nor anything else for that matter, will ever stop a dedicated activist from expressing his/her contempt at what is happening to our citizens in the country’s mental health institutions from marching to make things right. Over 50 people (wow!) including my daughter Jessica and my granddaughter Kyrstin were present. I am so proud of them and for all of us.
We marched from Westgate Mall to The Royal behind our Anishinabe Kwe (First People’s women) drummers who were assisted by young role model and mentor Brock Lewis. The ‘Strong Woman Song’ rang out as we went along. And I might add, very beautifully! Kichi Migwech to Joyce Bouthiette, Gabrielle Fayant, Hummingbird Woman, Michele Penney and Brock Lewis for leading us.
It’s sad when we feel we have no choice but to rally and protest human rights violations occurring around us but when we don’t, we signal only that we don’t care about them. When the day arrives that people no longer speak up for others who do not have a voice, it will spell the beginning of the end of humanity, so far as I am concerned.
I asked recently at the Brockville hospital, “Why are you denying Marlene Carter a TV or radio in the seclusion room?” I was told, “We can’t make it too comfortable for her in there or she’ll never want to leave it!” So for four months she did without these things and was still (according to them) attempting to kick and punch staff around her. (Marlene denies at least one attempt to kick ever happened.) Clearly, their ‘reasoning’ for not allowing her something to help her pass away long countless hours of boredom (if reasoning is what it’s supposed to be), is out of whack with what defines ‘common sense’. They need to be told in plain simple English, “It is not working.” My advice to the doctors, when Plan A sucks, develop Plan B. Add a spoonful of sugar. Be nice! Marlene reacts very well to kindness. I can prove it!
I asked, “Why can’t Marlene go outside or smudge?” I was told, “She might assault staff who attempt to put on or take off her restraints and we can’t risk it.” Why can’t they at least consider the possibility that smudging and the outdoors could be the biggest and most powerful of all medicines for Marlene, to bring calmness and peace to her troubled mind and thus, the use of restraints would no longer be required, period.
But, dear friends, we do have something to celebrate. Marlene is presently OUT of seclusion for two hours each day. I have been assured that she will be allowed now to walk for a period of time for exercise sake each day. She will be allowed now to watch TV or listen to music for a bit of time at least, at some point during the course of her day. I am so pleased to hear it!
When she is allowed to smudge each day is when we will be at peace with how Marlene Carter is being treated at the Brockville Mental Health Centre Forensic Treatment Unit and all objections into how she is being cared for will end. A room should be set aside in hospitals where people like Marlene, regardless of colour or cultural background, can go into to smudge, pray on their knees holy book in hand, meditate, whatever it is they must do to help them calm down and heal. They are human beings after all. Let us never lose sight of it.
PS – Click here for the Citizen article on the march and rally.