Let’s talk about politics: Our experience with government done right

Note: I shared this on my social media the other day, and thought I’d share it on the ol’ blog as well.

Friends: I want to talk for a few minutes about politics. But not in a way I’ve heard much. I want to talk about government done right. I want to share a bit of my personal experience with the province of Ontario.

Our province has its problems, of course. Our country has its problems. I don’t want to diminish the ways our government has harmed and continues to harm certain marginalized communities. But I also want to talk about how the province of Ontario has cared for this little boy from day one.

Felix was born without a functioning immune system and with an atypical brain. Of course this was not his fault. But it means he was born incredibly vulnerable in every way possible. He was born with a body vulnerable to illness and infection, and as a disabled person, also to abuse and neglect. He was born with complex needs, and Ben and I absolutely could not have supported him through his life all on our own. Not in ten lifetimes could we have acquired all the necessary resources to care for all of his unique support needs. Thankfully, the systems in place in our province have managed to support our entire family through his first five years.

First there were the six months in the hospital, and the experimental medical treatment that gave him a functioning immune system, which came at zero cost to our family, thanks to Ontario’s health insurance plan (OHIP). We have continued to have his health monitored and supported by excellent local doctors all these years later. I have never stopped feeling awed gratitude about that.

But it didn’t stop there. When his intellectual and developmental disabilities became evident, we were immediately granted access to all the therapies he needed. When we discovered he had hearing loss, the system made it possible for us to get him hearing aids and audiology support, again at no personal cost to us. When we realized he was going to have long-term mobility issues, the system made sure he had orthotics and a wheelchair/stroller to get around. Even though he can’t walk, he can go anywhere that anyone else can go — parks, zoos, stores, forests, the beach.

We’ve seen dozens of specialists in multiple fields to make sure he has access to all the supports he needs, all paid for by the system. All his medications have been covered. And recently, we started to receive funding to employ a respite worker and housecleaner to support me as a mother, who has struggled with the added labour of caring for a medically-complex, multiply-disabled child with disordered sleep and eating.

Now he’s school-aged. The doctors and therapists taking care of him made sure he got into the necessary programs so that he got into the right classroom, where he would continue to get the support he needs. He gets picked up by an accessible bus, even though for the first few days this year he was the only kid on the bus. He’s in a wonderful classroom with caring adults who have tailor-made a curriculum just for him. He’s surrounded by other kids who love and accept him, because they’re loved and accepted, too.

I know that governments have to power to commit incredible atrocities. But they also have the power to do tremendous good. I have seen it myself.

I realize that government systems doing the right thing is not as sexy or exciting to hear about as, say, wealthy individuals volunteering to do grand acts of kindness. But I believe a strong democratic government can do infinitely more good than any individuals can, no matter their character. Vulnerable people like Felix NEED strong systems in place to protect and support them. They can’t rely on the power, wealth, or goodwill of their parents or do-gooders alone.

I used to not care that much about politics because I didn’t see what it had to do with me. I figured I could take care of myself, and others should be able to, too. But I have learned in the last five years that not everyone can take care of themselves or their own children, and no one can take care of themselves all the time, and that’s okay. Collectively, we can and should take care of each other.

We still have a long way to go in Ontario. We need to keep fighting until every vulnerable person has access to the level of care that my boy has had, regardless of age, ability, race, or sexuality. (And I hope to see humane policies spread to other countries as well. Looking at you, USA). But I have seen what we’re capable of as a community. I know what’s possible.

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Comments

  1. Hi Kathleen,

    I’ve read your blog for a while, but haven’t written a comment — just silently enjoyed your writing and posts! I recently began homeschooling my two children, due to COVID, and enjoyed looking over your schooling posts for inspiration.

    But I felt compelled to write a comment today — thanks so much, in a time of challenge and difficulty, for writing such a strong, compassionate, and important post. Democracy is so important, and a strong, functioning government is key as well. I appreciate you taking the time and demonstrating courage to share this message. All the very best, and I hope you and your family are doing well in this COVID time.

    Rebecca

  2. I’m really glad you decided to put these words on the blog, too. They belong both places :)

    I really appreciated reading this … it’s good to be reminded not just of the good government can do in a theoretical sense (which is basically all we’ve got to work with here in the US right now), but to actually SEE it in the practical sense, in your lived experience. It’s both dismaying as well as heartening — because this is what we CAN do, it’s possible!

    I’m so so glad your family has been supported in all of these ways. You deserve it, we all deserve it.

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