Community Living Ontario

Community Living Ontario
Community Living Ontario
Formation 1953
Type Charitable Organization
Purpose/focus Advocacy on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities to be fully included in all aspects of community life.
Region served Ontario, Canada
Membership 12,000
Executive Director Keith Powell
Parent organization Canadian Association for Community Living
Former name Ontario Association for Community Living

Community Living Ontario (formerly known as the Ontario Association for Community Living) is a charitable organization in Ontario, Canada which states that it "works with communities to include people who have an intellectual disability in all aspects of community life." It advocates for the rights of people who have an intellectual disability focusing on topics such as employment, schooling and housing. For many years, it has sought to move people with an intellectual disability out of institutions and into the community with appropriate supports. Its current executive director is Keith Powell[1] and current president is Debbie Rollier. Past president David Barber was awarded the prestigious Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship in 2008 for his advocacy on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities.[2]

It is a federation of more than 115 local associations, with more than 12,000 individual members,[3] and along with other provincial associations is a member of the Canadian Association for Community Living.[4]



It was founded in 1953 as the Ontario Association for Retarded Children, a government lobbying group whose efforts to secure funding, space and teachers led to the public system taking over the education of children with intellectual disabilities.[5] The first President elected for the association was Lillian Hunt, and the Ontario Association for Retarded Children is formally incorporated on April 27, 1953. Eight years later, they would air a telethon on the now-CTV-affiliate CFTO-TV in Toronto. The telethon would be the channel's first broadcast.

In 1987 the name of the organization was changed to the Ontario Association for Community Living.[6] In 1988 the Association’s logo showing a big person supporting a small person was replaced with the current abstract logo and finally, in 2002 the name changed to its current status of Community Living Ontario.[7]

2008 was a year of unprecedented growth in the modern era of the Community Living Ontario organization, adding eight new association members[8] and filling the notable void of representation that was lacking in the Ottawa area. Keenan Wellar, co-founder and CEO of LiveWorkPlay (now known alternatively as Community Living Ottawa) said the move was about communicating more effectively with the public to change attitudes around the rights of people who have an intellectual disability. “We can’t do that by ourselves. It doesn’t make sense,” Wellar said. “It only makes sense to join a bigger family that has similar values.”[9]

In 2009 Community Living Ontario and its local associations celebrated the final closure of the province of Ontario's three remaining mass institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. Local associations including those in St. Marys and Ottawa held their own ceremonies. The de-institutionalization public awareness campaign generated significant media response, such as editorials that appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen.


The organization has been noted as "one of the most influential advocacy groups in Canada" for people with intellectual disabilities.[10]

One of its key positions is to promote inclusive education so that people with intellectual disabilities can "go with their neighbourhood friends, to their neighbourhood schools where they further their growth and development together.".[11] One of its projects is to work in consultation with schools to promote inclusion and integration of people with disabilities.[12] The organization has also been involved in political advocacy on the issue of integration.[13]

Another key position was the removal of institutions. Since 1959 Community Living Ontario has been advocating for the removal of institutions when the Association successful advocated the plans for a proposed institution at Cedar Springs, reducing it from 2,400 to 1,000 beds.[14]

After that the Association advocated to close institutions in Ontario and have been successful. In 2009 Minister of Community and Social Services Madeleine Meilleur proclaimed the closure of Rideau, Huronia and the Southwest Regional Centres, the remaining opening institutions in Ontario. On April 1, 2009 Community Living held its 10th Annual Day at the Legislature, where close to 300 people – including people who have an intellectual disability, their families and friends, volunteers, and staff of Community Living associations, and other community advocates – joined together at Queen's Park to celebrate the closures and the dawning of a new era in Ontario.[15]

In advocating for de-institutionalization one of Community Living Ontario's current concerns is the trend toward placements in nursing homes. According to Professor Patricia Spindel, a senior adviser to the organization, people with intellectual disabilities are being funneled into nursing homes because the beds are "relatively cheap" as compared to more appropriate housing.[16]

Community Living Ontario was also an important contributor to Bill 77, the "Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act" of 2008. Seven of the fifteen recommendations made by the organization to the Government of Ontario were adopted. "We're very encouraged to see the concept of social inclusion named in this legislation,” said Dianne Garrels-Munro, president of Community Living Ontario.[17]

The Community Living movement is celebrated in Ontario every May with Community Living Month, highlighted by Community Living Day in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.[18]


  1. ^ Crawford, Trish. "Tory seeks 'creative' solution", Toronto Star, 2006-12-01, p. E5.
  2. ^ "Simcoe Community Services president receives citizenship award". Date: Jan 31, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  3. ^ "Community Living Ontario - What is Community Living". Retrieved 2008-11-04. [dead link]
  4. ^ "all about cacl". Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  5. ^ Gelb, Steven (December 1999). "Not Wanted in the Classroom: Parent Associations and the Education of Trainable Retarded Children in Ontario, 1947–1969", The Canadian Historical Review 80 (4): 721.
  6. ^ "Association approves changing their name", Windsor Star, 1989-06-15, p. F10.
  7. ^ Community Living Ontario. "50 Years of Community Living" 2003.
  8. ^ "Eight new organizations represent a banner year for membership expansion". May 16, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-04. [dead link]
  9. ^ "LiveWorkPlay joins Community Living Ontario to help spread inclusive values". May 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-04. [dead link]
  10. ^ Chupik, Jessa. "Fires Burning: Advocacy, Camping and Children with Learning Disabilities in Ontario 1950–1990", in Exploring Experiences of Advocacy by People with Learning Disabilities: Testimonies of Resistance, Duncan Mitchell, et al., eds. (2006). p. 121. ISBN 1843103591.
  11. ^ "Community Living Ontario - Education". Retrieved 2008-11-04. [dead link]
  12. ^ Couture, Joe. "Group promotes inclusion of everyone in schools", Regina Leader-Post, 2007-03-15, p. A10.
  13. ^ Ferguson, Derek. "A coalition representing the disabled has attacked Ontario's education ministry over a school board's refusal to allow a 15-year- old girl with cerebral palsy to attend regular classes", Toronto Star, 1989-09-15, p. A7.
  14. ^ Community Living Ontario. "03.31.09 A Time to Celebrate and Remembero 2009.
  15. ^ "Community Living Toronto - Marking the End of an Era". Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  16. ^ Crawford, Trish (2007-02-16). "Nowhere else to go". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  17. ^ "Tillsonburg News - Ontario, CA". Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  18. ^ "Yesterday at Queen's Park". Retrieved 2008-11-04. [dead link]


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