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walkerford

Dear Bill,

We know you are a great supporter of Mental Health Services in Grey and Bruce Counties. A few days ago you spoke at the opening of the Labyrinth by the Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce. This event also was to remind all of us that mental health issues labyrinthare not mere isolated problems of some individuals, that they impact all of us, and that we need to work together as communities to support each other. That’s why the labyrinth, a place to contemplate and to find clarity in difficult times, is such a welcome community resource to help people find their way.

We are writing to you because we have great concerns about your boss, Premier Doug Ford’s portrayal of people with mental health problems: calling a patient who had been detained at a mental health hospital for killing his roommate an "animal” and that people with mental illness who commit crimes should be in jail. Last month Ford called a man who has schizophrenia and was an inpatient at a secured forensic unit at CAMH in Toronto but failed to return from an unaccompanied trip a “nutcase”.

He said federal laws need to be tougher: “We’ve got to put these people away and if they have mental health issues they can be dealt with in jail”. The Premier obviously does not understand or support the Criminal Code of Canada and the Mental Health Act.

This language and the attitudes they reflect around mental illness are shocking, inflammatory and discriminating.

To call people nutcases and animals is dehumanizing and adds to the stigma that people with mental health issues struggle with on a daily basis. Over the last decades a lot of work has gone into overcoming such stigma and integrating people with mental health problems in our communities and working together towards positive change. For a political leader to repeatedly use such hateful words is absolutely unacceptable.

Bill, do the Premier’s words reflect plans for new policy directions in Ontario? The Premier’s words stand in total contrast to Canadian law and the policies, practices and attitudes in Grey Bruce (and everywhere in Canada) that we have worked so hard to build. Do we need to be concerned?

How will you work for your constituents and stand true to your support at the labyrinth, if your government moves forward with such policy changes?

At the very least, the Premier needs to be held accountable for calling people with mental health issues animals and nutcases in public. He needs to recognize the enormous harm such rhetoric inflicts on anyone struggling their mental health and how his words undermine years of work in communities like ours to address stigma and the isolation of people with mental health issues.

We urge you to speak directly with your leader on behalf of the many people in Grey Bruce who are concerned and directly impacted.
Thank you for your attention to this most important issue, and we look forward to your response.

Joachim Ostertag and Colleen Purdon, Owen Sound

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