After 133 years of operation, the 2009 closure of Ontario's government-run institutions for people with intellectual disabilities has allowed accounts of those affected to emerge. Madeline Burghardt draws from narratives of institutional survivors, their siblings, and their parents to examine the far-reaching consequences of institutionalization due to intellectual difference. Beginning with a thorough history of the rise of institutions as a system to manage difference, Broken provides an overview of the development of institutions in Ontario and examines the socio-political conditions leading to families' decisions to institutionalize their children. Through this exploration, other themes emerge, including the historical and arbitrary construction of intellectual disability and the resulting segregation of those considered a threat to the well-being of the family and society; the overlap between institutionalization and the workings of capitalism; and contemporaneous practices of segregation in Canadian history, such as Indian residential schools. Drawing from people's direct, lived experiences, the second half of the book gathers poignant accounts of institutionalization's cascading effects on family relationships and understandings of disability, ranging from stories of personal loss and confusion to family breakage. Adding to a growing body of work addressing Canada's treatment of historically marginalized peoples, Broken exposes the consequences of policy based on socio-political constructions of disability and difference, and of the fundamentally unjust premise of institutionalization.
"This is an excellent book on an important topic. The writing is clear and approachable, the research is comprehensive, and the analysis insightful. Burghardt presents a compelling narrative, bringing in broader social contexts and themes." Deborah Stienstra, University of Guelph
"Burghardt illuminates the vastly divergent perspectives of those who experienced institutionalization, and the role of power in shaping these experiences, ultimately finding that those with the least power suffered the most extensive negative effects and experienced institutionalization as an oppressive force. A thoughtful and well-developed study." Allison Carey, Shippensburg University
About the Author:
Madeline C. Burghardt teaches disability studies at King's College at the University of Western Ontario.