Class action against Ontario Government for alleged abuse at Chatham institution advances as former resident files claim

TORONTO, Feb. 17 /CNW/ - The Crown has been served with a claim alleging that severe and systemic abuse occurred at the Southwestern Regional Centre, a former government institution, near Chatham, Ontario, for people living with developmental disabilities.

The claim, submitted by Rosalind Bechard, litigation guardian for former Southwestern resident Mary Ellen Fox, is the first step towards class action approval by the court.

Kirk Baert of the law firm Koskie Minsky LLP, represents the plaintiff. He said he is pleased that this third and final class action, on behalf of Ontario's institutional survivors, is moving forward.

"As with the class actions launched by former residents at the Huronia and Rideau institutions," says Baert, "we are moving to trial to seek justice for those who suffered both physical and psychological abuse while living at these centres, and to ensure that this kind of institutional mistreatment does not happen again." 

From 1961 to 2008, the Southwestern Regional Centre, also known as Cedar Springs, provided a residential program for developmentally delayed and disabled persons. Thousands lived at the facility over the years, many of them children.

Fox alleges that residents were physically, mentally and emotionally traumatized by their experiences at Southwestern.  In her Statement of Claim, she alleges being overmedicated and subjected to shocks with a "cattle prod" like device as punishment. Only after leaving Southwestern did she learn to read and write.

In the claim, it is alleged that the Province of Ontario breached its fiduciary duties through the operation, control and management of Southwestern. In particular, it is alleged that the province's failure to care for and protect residents resulted in physical injury, psychological trauma, depression, anxiety, emotional distress and mental anguish.

A similar class proceeding with respect to the Huronia Regional Centre, in Orillia, Ontario was certified on July 30, 2010. Koskie Minsky LLP represents the plaintiffs in that action as well. Additionally, a Statement of Claim has been issued in respect of the Rideau Regional Centre near Smith Falls, Ontario.

SOURCE Koskie Minsky LLP

For further information:

visit or contact: Koskie Minsky LLP at 1-866-474-1741 or


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