Tedda Kaminski still clearly remembers the day she was taken to Michener Centre.
“March 22, 1955,” she recalled. “I couldn’t even ask why I was going.”
The Lethbridge woman was 15-years-old at the time. Kaminski has cerebral palsy, and over the years has spoken publicly a number of times about her 20 years at Michener.
Many details are still recalled like it was yesterday.
“They had quiet rooms. Just a room with a little window you could see out of, that’s it,” she said.
The push continues to keep the doors open to Michener Centre, an Alberta institution for developmentally disabled.
The government has said the facility will close in the fall, but while many rally on its behalf, others believe it’s time to shut down all institutions.
Kaminski was one of dozens who took part in The Freedom Tour, a 2007 documentary made by People First of Canada to raise awareness about closing institutions, including Michener Centre.
The organization believes society and treatment of developmentally disabled has changed so much over the last century, de-institutionalization is the only logical step.
“If they need medication, it’s available. If they need special housing, it’s available,” said Kevin Layton, president of People First of Canada, Lethbridge chapter.
As the support continues to keep Michener Centre open, there are those claiming the institution has created too many bad memories.
“There was beds all lined up, we slept side by side. (In the washroom) we didn’t have much privacy,” said Kaminski. “I kind of felt, what next?”
“It not only needs to be closed as a symbol, it needs to be destroyed as a symbol,” Layton said.
As Kaminski lives happily with her caregiver today, she proudly recalls her escape from Michener almost 40 years ago.
“(I was asked), would you like to get out? I said, ‘You bet your boots!'”
Associate Minister Frank Oberle released a statement last week saying Michener Centre is an outdated care model, insuring the remaining 125 residents will have a place to go prior to any move from the institution.