THUNDER BAY – LETTERS – At this time last year, a petition was hand-delivered to Premier Kathleen Wynne and MPPs Michael Gravelle and William Mauro. Over 29,000 petitioners demanded the Ontario government designate a small, 2.5-hectare parcel of publicly-owned crown land as permanently protected for use by citizens with disabilities. This land has been the site of a unique, fully-accessible recreational facility on Lake Shebandowan called Wilderness Discovery for over 30 years.
Since Handicapped Action Group, Inc. of Thunder Bay chose to abandon it after the 2015 season, Ontario now considers this surplus land. In yet another example of selling off public assets, they are entertaining the sale of this property. This facility has been one of the few places in all of North America that provides recreational equality to our disabled loved ones. It has evolved into a model for what disabled travelers could realize. The prospect of the government selling this property and bulldozing decades of progress and volunteer labour, contributions, and love is unconscionable.
Two legislative sessions at Queens Park have come and gone with the disability community’s petition having been completely ignored. MPP Mauro has said that a designation as protected property or provincial park status has its “challenges”. I would counter that Ontarians that live every day with profound disabilities face the REAL challenges.
It is said that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today. The first tree WAS planted in Shebandowan in 1984. It’s long overdue that Ontario’s elected officials plant TODAY’S TREE and show their disabled constituents a modicum of respect. This land belongs to them too. Why is it that they can’t have something nice? Able-bodied Ontarians can travel anywhere they wish. Those with disabilities cannot.
The reported price of this land is $866,000. THAT’S ALL! You’ve had a year to tell our disabled loved ones that they are worth it. AND YOU HAVE NOT! Shame on you for your disrespect and your roaring silence. MPPs from every riding and every party have been contacted numerous times regarding this issue. They have failed you in one of the worst possible manners. This is not a political issue. This is a HUMAN issue. For our disabled children, service members, seniors, families, and ALL citizens, show your Canadian pride and save Wilderness Discovery Resort For The Disabled.
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