Candle (BlackburnNews.com file photo)

Vigil To Honour Disabled Victims Of Violence

A candlelight vigil will be held in Victoria Park Wednesday to honour and remember disabled individuals whose lives were taken by their caregivers.

Disability rights advocates will gather in the northwest corner of the downtown park at 6pm for the national Disability Day of Mourning. The annual event began in the United States five years ago and has now expanded to include five Canadian cities.

Jacky Ellis, who helped organize the London vigil through the group London Autistics Standing Together (LAST), says it is a family friendly event, open to all.

“Their will be a couple of speakers, then we will be reading the names of victims of murder and abuse that cover the last 35 years,” said Ellis. “Following that we will have a moment of silence and finish with closing remarks.”

In preparation of the vigil, Ellis has spent the past couple of weeks making signs with powerful messages that include “just because you brought them into this world doesn’t mean you get to take them out” and “our lives are worth living.”

“There’s actually been a surprising number of people with disabilities murdered in recent years. The list only covers the last 35 years and there is already over 700 names on it,” said Ellis. “There is a really common narrative in the mainstream media and even in some disability organizations that treat these cases as mercy killings or present disability as a tragedy and that has a negative impact on our whole community.”

Disability Day of Mourning was first held by the the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in the U.S. in 2012 following the murder of George Hodgins. The 22-year-old autistic man was murdered by his mother in California. People with disabilities are twice as likely as non-disabled people to be victims of violent crime, according to ASAN.

Other Canadian cities holding vigils include Guelph, Vancouver, Halifax, and Winnipeg.