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Close Institutions in Canada

Today in Canada, thousands of Canadians with intellectual disabilities remain trapped in large, segregated institutions — inappropriately and unjustifiably segregated from society. They remain, for the most part, hidden and removed from mainstream society despite a collective knowledge, based on research and practice over the past 30 years, that with proper community based supports all persons with intellectual disabilities thrive in the community. They remain in these institutions as a result of inaction by governments and communities.


People First of Canada (PFC) and Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) Task Force was formed in 2002. The Task Force held its first meeting in Halifax (June 15 – 16, 2002) during a CACL Board Retreat. Through the establishment of this Task Force, People First of Canada, the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), and their provincial and territorial associations, commit to highlighting the continued and unacceptable incarceration of persons with intellectual disabilities in institutions throughout this country.


  • To get deinstitutionalisation back on the national agenda
  • To develop a plan to make deinstitutionalisation a national priority
  • To develop the relationship between CACL and People First of Canada, and agree to keep working together


The Task Force has adopted several objectives that guide its ongoing work:

  • Develop a framework for a National Plan on Deinstitutionalisation,
  • Develop a working definition of "institution",
  • Identify actions that can be taken by People First and CACL to more actively oppose the continued institutionalization or re-institutionalization of persons with intellectual disabilities in this country.
  • Provide leadership and coordination to the CACL Federation Action Planning process, and
  • Establish appropriate linkages with other Federation Action Planning Committees.

Guiding Values and Beliefs

The Task Force believes it is essential, in order to ensure positive outcomes within a deinstitutionalisation initiative, that persons with intellectual disabilities have:

  • The right to choose where they will live, and with whom;
  • Services/programs that are directed and controlled by the person and that are respectful of their right to make choices, and take risks;
  • The right to individualized living arrangements and control over the required individualized funding;
  • The necessary disability related supports needed to fully participate in the community;
  • Recognition of the supported decision making model and support from friends/family/advocates necessary to ensure an appropriate planning process;

The Task Force believes that deinstitutionalisation must be about more than simply closing large institutions, about more than simply replacing large institutions with smaller ones, about more than creating networks of group homes, and ultimately about more than substituting isolation outside the community for isolation within the community.

Task Force Membership

We believe that institutionalization of persons with intellectual disabilities is a denial of their basic right of citizenship and participation in community; a removal of rights protected by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, human rights legislation and many other international agreements that Canada has signed.

The institutionalization of persons with intellectual disabilities in Canada remains as a major barrier to full inclusion and citizenship, both for those individuals who remain in these facilities as well as the many thousands of Canadians who are at risk of future institutionalization. We know that:

  • More than 900 persons remain trapped in institutional facilities designed specifically to house persons with intellectual disabilities.
  • Over 12,000 Canadian citizens are living in health related institutions such as Seniors facilities, Nursing Hones, acute care hospitals, Long Term Care facilities and Personal Care Homes, as opposed to ordinary homes in the community.
  • Many Provinces and Territories are beginning to move away from earlier commitments made to complete institutional closures; while others have yet to indicate plans to close facilities.
  • In at least two areas new institutions are being built that will house persons with intellectual disabilities.
  • Current government policy in many provinces and territories restrict access to required funding and to the disability supports and community services necessary to community living.
  • More and more, individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families are presented with options that do not support lifestyles of choice but rather entry into group home programs and/or other places where people are congregated.
  • In many provinces and territories persons with intellectual disabilities are being admitted on a routine basis to institutions, directly violating a stated policy of deinstitutionalisation.