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‘It’s just mean’: Autism services building in Fergus, Ont., tagged with R-word

Police say an autism services building in Fergus, Ont. was tagged with a slur against people with intellectual disabilities.
Police say an autism services building in Fergus, Ont. was tagged with a slur against people with intellectual disabilities. Supplied

The owner of an autism services organization north of Guelph says whoever spray painted the R-word on her building has upset so many people.

Freya Hunter operates Autism Behavioural Services Inc. in Fergus, Ont., and says an employee found the slur against people with intellectual disabilities tagged to the building on Tuesday morning.

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“We were heartbroken. It’s disgusting and it’s ignorant,” she said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

“I think when people are using words like that, they don’t fully understand what autism is. Ignorance shouldn’t be an excuse but those are just really hurtful words.”

Whoever spray-painted the R-word also wrote a homophobic slur underneath.

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Hunter opened the office on St. George Street West in 2016 and it mostly provides what is known as Applied Behavioural Analysis therapy to those with autism under the age of 18.

She said that not only are she and her staff members upset but so are the families they work with every day.

“It’s just mean,” Hunter said. “Our families are incredibly impacted by that and disgusted and they feel hurt.”

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In a news release, Wellington County OPP said vandals tagged the building during the overnight and also hit other buildings and vehicles nearby.

Hunter believes the culprits meant to write the R-word on a building that supports people with autism.

“They didn’t write it on anything else,” she said. “Whether it was a funny thing or whether it was a real hate crime, it’s incredibly hurtful.”

The office cancelled all of their appointments on Tuesday while they cleaned off the graffiti with items purchased from a local hardware store.

“We needed those words off quicker then they were on,” Hunter said, who added that she has since received an outpouring of support and kindness, both online and in-person.

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Someone even dropped off toys for the kids to play with such as bubbles, sidewalk chalk and skipping ropes.

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Security cameras are going to be installed on the exterior of the building and Hunter hopes whoever did this is caught and faces consequences.

But she also hopes that this can be a teachable moment when those responsible are caught.

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“I think a good community service would be to come work with these guys. You come figure out who these kids are and you come learn about this because you can’t run around writing words like that without knowing what you are talking about,” she said.

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“I will do it. I will provide a whole day lesson on what is autism, what it looks like and then have a test at the end. I could do that easily.”

Anyone with information that could help police with their investigation is asked to contact 1-888-310-1122. Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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