FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MAY 27, 1999
40 Join Demonstration over Harris Government's Betrayal of Disabled
Minister of Disabilities Bassett also does not have an accessible Campaign office
Just as both the Harris Tories and Disabilities Minister Isabel Bassett have ducked the issue of disabled rights during their four years in power, the Tories in campaign mode proved no more accessible today, locking the doors to Bassett's campaign office as some 40 people &endash;some in wheelchairs&endash; joined a demonstration outside the Yonge Street office today at noon.
The demonstration was held to mark four years since Harris promised an effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and to protest the fact that the promise to pass such an act was not fulfilled. Friends and family of Gabriel West organized the protest because funding to care for West, a 22-year-old man with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, has been cut more than 30% by the Tories, with further cuts to come.
After some 20 minutes, Martha Eleen wheeled her son, Gabe, to the front door and knocked. Apprehensive staff finally relented and allowed Gabe, Martha and Martha's mother into the office, only to find that the campaign office of the Disabilities Minister is not accessible. Once inside, they asked to see or speak with Bassett, asking that the Minister for Disabilities intercede on behalf of Gabriel to secure the man's "rights as a citizen of Ontario to live in dignity," rights currently being denied due to massive cutbacks. "I wanted a commitment that Gabriel will have the supports he needs to continue to live in the community," Eleen said.
Staff insisted they could not contact Bassett (an oddity in this age of cellphones for most candidates). Demonstrators wondered why the Disabilities Minister made no effort to welcome Gabe and his family, particularly since the presence of three Metro Police on the scene indicated the office knew about the demonstration.
West's family has been trying for over a year to secure an adequate level of care funding, but continues to face an uphill battle. For more information call the Gabriel West Support Circle at 423-8713 or 534-0899.
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