Yesterday marked one year of the provincial government’s announcement that Michener Centre would be closed.
“Residents, families, staff and the community felt deceived and betrayed by the announcement,” said AUPE Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Jason Heistad. “They still do. No one was consulted and no one had notice the closure was coming. It came as a complete shock.”
Former Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities, Frank Oberle, made the announcement March 11, 2013 and said full closure of the home was expected by January 2014. To date, just eight of 125 residents have been moved.
A letter from Redford to the sister of a long-time Michener Centre resident says the premier now expects Michener residents to be moved out by the end of 2014.
“The deadline change is an indication the Redford government planned the closure poorly and has no place to put these individuals if they remove them from their homes,” said Heistad. “The closure should not be delayed, it should be stopped.”
A judicial review of the decision to close Michener Centre has been granted and will be heard at Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton on Nov. 27 and 28. In the meantime, AUPE has secured legal services for residents and family members to help them apply for a legal injunction if they’re being pushed to move against their wishes.
Over the past year, community support to keep Michener Centre open has been tremendous, officials say.
Last November, Red Deer North MLA, Mary Anne Jablonski, who represents Michener residents, tabled 15,744 ‘Keep Michener Open’ petition signatures in the Alberta legislature.
The total number of Keep Michener Open petition signatures tabled stands at 24,244. Hundreds more signatures have yet to be presented in the legislature, union representatives say.
Community members have attended rallies in support of Michener Centre and many Keep Michener Open volunteers marched in Red Deer’s Westerner Days parade last July.
More than 4,000 letters have been sent to Premier Redford, Frank Oberle, Jablonski, Cal Dallas, Danielle Smith, Dr. Raj Sherman and Brian Mason urging the government to keep Michener open.
A total of 2,000 Keep Michener Open signs were placed on the lawns and windows of neighborhoods in Red Deer and area last summer.
Michener Centre has also won eight Premier’s awards of excellence for the services it provides.
Red Deer City council, the Red Deer Public School Division, the Town of Innisfail, the Town of Springbrook, the Town of Penhold, the Town of Bowden, the Town of Blackfalds, local 054 (Edmonton Catholic Teachers) and local 80 (Red Deer Catholic Teachers) of the Alberta Teachers Association, the Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre, all Alberta opposition parties and many more organizations have come out against the closure of Michener.
“It’s time for Redford to do the right thing and to listen the residents of Michener Centre, their guardians, families, the community and Michener staff. Keep Michener open,” said AUPE Vice-President Carrie-Lynn Rusznak.