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Survivors of HRC stage sombre Mother's Day ceremony

Plans unveiled for new 11-foot tall 'If These Walls Could Talk sculpture' set to be unveiled in August

Brian Logie comes to Orillia every year to pay respect to his friends buried at the Huronia Regional Centre (HRC) Cemetery.

“I was here (HRC) for six years and then they transferred me to another place in Toronto,” said the Campbellford resident, talking about the time he spent at the facility.

He was at the Mother’s Day ceremony today with about two dozen others, half of whom were survivors.

“I would like to see the building torn down for what my captors did to me,” he said. “I can't point at them and say he did it, she did it. I wasn't allowed to do that.”

But Logie said he has become greater than those people who mistreated him and hundreds of others.

“I am well to-do,” he said. “I'm not as angry as I was before.”

Logie had good reason to be angry, owing to the rapes, the beatings, and the disrespect he and many others suffered at the hands of the employees at the HRC.

“And who do I blame? The government? The employees?” he said. “My back still has the scars where they beat me. I still wear scars inside from the rape, which happened every week. They made me push a big block up and down the hallway for three days.”

Logie said he can’t confront those who perpetrated the crimes, but as a survivor, he wants acknowledgement that it did happen.

“These were human beings; they were not numbers,” he said. “People don't care. To me, every life matters, no matter how insignificant it is.”

The ceremony began at the Leon’s parking lot, from where a procession carrying a coffin walked up to the cemetery. After a prayer was offered, survivors were given a chance to speak about their experiences.

“Listen to these stories as they are true,” said Betty Ann Bond, addressing those gathered. “We were left at this facility, given labels, like idiots, morons, and retards.

“People died of abuse, rapes, murder,” continued the Bracebridge resident. “It was a dumping grounds for Children’s Aid (Society) and families that didn’t accept mental disability in their families.”

These are people lost, but not forgotten, she said pointing to the hundreds of flags that now carry names for the graves previously only numbered.

Orillia survivors Harold Dougall and Cindy Scott echoed the sentiments and stories shared by Bond and Logie.

At the end of the ceremony, a special announcement was made about a memorial sculpture that is set to go up in August, said Debbie Vernon, of Bracebridge.

“I think other people when they see it may interpret it as being strong, sturdy and determined,” she said. “I think they will be able to identify that the survivors have the strength, the will, and the determination to live free.”

The 11-foot tall “If These Walls Could Talk” sculpture has been designed and is being built by Muskoka artist Hilary Clark Cole.

“I went to a number of meetings and met with a few of the survivors so I could hear from them about their experiences,” she said. “The first thing I asked the groups was do you want it to be about suffering or do you want to say success and achievement and rising above the painful times?”

They chose to go with hope, said Cole.

“Trees signify growth and survival, so it made sense to include that,” she said. “The roots of the tree are going to sit slightly above ground because many of these survivors feel they don't have roots.”

The branches of the tree sort of struggle as they go up, and and then they break through a black granite wall to become birds in flight on the other side, said Cole.

“They chose crows because they said that there were always crows flying around that building,” she said. “They felt that the crows were the only ones that knew what was really happening inside.”

On the other side, Cole said, she will carve some of the words and phrases the survivors gave her during the meetings, such as freedom, hope, never give up, peace, and love.

“I hope they’re thrilled when it finally happens,” she said.

Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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