Manitoba to close large institution for people with intellectual disabilities

·2 min read

PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — The Manitoba government is shutting down a controversial institution for people with intellectual disabilities that has been in operation for more than a century.

The province says the Manitoba Development Centre in Portage la Prairie will close as its remaining residents are transferred to smaller facilities such as group homes over the next three years.

Families Minister Rochelle Squires says around the world there is a trend away from institutional care toward having people live as members of communities.

The centre was the subject of a human rights complaint in 2006 that was filed by a group that said the large institutional setting was an affront to human dignity.

As part of a settlement in the case, the NDP government of the day agreed to move dozens of residents out but maintained that others had high needs that could not be met in facilities such as group homes.

Ontario closed down its last such facility in 2009.

"As a society, we must guarantee future generations of people with intellectual disabilities, and their families, that we will never create institutions again," Janet Forbes, executive director of Inclusion Winnipeg Inc., said in a press release Friday. The group is a charity that advocates for people with intellectual disabilities.

The number of residents at the centre has dropped steadily over the years. By 2011, 250 people lived there. There are now 133.

The NDP Opposition said the government must ensure a smooth transition for the remaining residents, many of whom have lived there for much of their lives.

Danielle Adams, NDP critic for persons with disabilities, also noted that the facility provides good jobs to hundreds of Manitobans in Portage la Prairie and the surrounding region.

"The premier should ensure every laid-off worker has access to an equally good, new job close to home," she said in a release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2021

The Canadian Press