An anonymous letter sent to the Ontario family of a 13-year-old boy with autism has sparked a backlash against the person who wrote it, suggesting the family “euthanize” the child due to the sounds he makes and the bother he causes his neighbours.
The letter was released publicly on Monday and local police confirmed they were looking into its contents. Among the comments made were suggestions that the family move the “wild animal kid” out of the woman’s neighbourhood, that the boy was a nuisance to the writer’s own “normal” child, and the suggestion that the child be euthanized.
[ More Brew: Police investigate letter to family of autistic child ]
The article upset thousands of Yahoo! Canada News readers, many of whom wrote in to share their thoughts on the letter, and the person who wrote it.
"I have a little one at home and my heart broke when I read your story. I would like to see justice be done so that the wonderful boy you wrote of in your article is protected and not harmed from the horrible person who wrote the letter," one woman wrote in an email to Yahoo! Canada News.
Another reader wrote in to express outrage that a child with autism would be considered less important, urging the letter-writer to watch a video of a French boy with autism who sings when he wants to talk.
Judy, a teacher, said she had experience with parents who wanted their children removed from classes that included those with learning disabilities. Reader Jacqueline responded by sharing her experience as a child with learning disabilities. She is now pursuing a university degree.
"My parents supported me all the way through this process and I'm very glad they did. This woman that wrote that letter doesn't know a thing about autism or learning disabilities," she wrote.
More readers chimed in with experiences of their own.
Brooke Taylor noted that something could happen to the writer's own child that would leave him or her suffering a mental disability. "Will she stop loving her child then?" she asks.
"My niece is autistic and has slight MR but she has the same dreams and aspirations that any other child would have," she goes on to write. "The longing to go to college, make a difference in this world for the better. Never has she ever had a mean word to say about anyone! No one asks to be born with something 'wrong' with themselves but God puts us here for a reason, he put her here for a reason."
In an online comment, "Linda" wrote, "My mother used to say, 'Everything you bring into the lives of others will come back in your own.' The writer of this letter is an awful person and is probably miserable with his/her life. Perhaps they should consider moving to a 'normal' neighborhood, whatever that is."
[ Yesterday's Pulse of Canada: Is Target too American? ]
Not all were willing to cast the anonymous letter writer as entirely out of touch. Yahoo! reader "Marine1952" offered a rational defence of the woman's intentions, although not her actions.
"First of all the woman that wrote the letter is an insensitive individual. On the other hand if the autistic child really is that disruptive, the family may take measures to insure the child is not that disruptive to the community," the post reads.
"The child has rights as well as the community. With all of this being said the letter is in poor taste and insensitive. This would have been better with a face to face conversation about any disruptive behavior that was occurring. A realistic compromise would have been the answer."
Jim L. similarly weighs in, agreeing the writer should have spoken to the family directly.
"However, this letter had little to do with the annoyance and lots to do with cruel thoughts! Also, to say this child should be put down is scary! Who is this person? The police need to come over and tell this neighbor that this is hate speech and if anything happens to this child, the neighbor will be the first person arrested as a suspect! "
Durham Regional Police continue to investigate the letter and are considering the possibility of laying charges against the person who wrote it. Without doubt, the least the writer can be accused of is being a poor neighbour, either unwilling or uninterested in dealing with her complaint rationally and instead spewing anonymous insults at the family.
Does the letter represent NIMBYism at its worst?
"Given the choice between living next to the woman who wrote the letter and the autistic kid, I'd pick the kid," adds Yahoo! reader Mark. "The letter writer is the one who should move, preferably to a place without neighbors to bother her, like the middle of the Australian Outback or Sahara desert."
Do you agree? Have your say in the comments area below.