"A Family Guide to the Vulnerable Persons Act" is a resource manual produced by Community Living Manitoba and widely distributed throughout Manitoba. A physical printed copy of the information contained in this course is available by contacting our office.
In order to understand the importance of the Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Act, we have to look at what came before. Prior to October 1996, we in Manitoba were legislatively instructed to see people with intellectual disabilities as incompetent and unable to make their own decisions. Even if our sons or daughters were able to make decisions, they were not allowed to do so. Services were designed for the “disabled” with little or no attention to the uniqueness of each person.
It was only a short 50 years ago when the only referral for our sons and daughters was to Manitoba institutions. We were told to turn our children over to these large structures and assured that it was the kindest place for them to live and ultimately die. We were given no hope and consequently had few expectations.
Some of us resisted these traditional attitudes and chose to raise our children at home. If they did live with us, they were bussed to special schools, special programs, special doctors and we felt isolated and frustrated. As adults, our sons and daughters had no say in where they lived, who they lived with or the kind of supports that were offered to them. Many of us fought and won small victories only to move on to the next stage of life to start the fight again.
The Vulnerable Persons Act is a breath of fresh air! It brings us words like “choice, rights, empowerment, enabling, and planning.” It inspires and challenges services. It provides them with a different direction in which to work, and us with a framework of hope. It is what we have fought for all these years. It provides the right for people to choose who they want to be, where they want to live, and how they want their lives to unfold. It states clearly “vulnerable persons are presumed to have capacity.” Our adult sons and daughters no longer have to prove what they can do. Rather, this legislation begins by announcing that Manitobans must presume that people with disabilities have skills and abilities.
Changing people’s attitudes and values can be difficult. Families, government workers, service providers, and other systems are still in a process of learning what this legislation really means for people with disabilities. We are all challenged to ensure that our actions reflect the spirit of the Vulnerable Persons Act.
We must remain vigilant and patient. It is critical that we, as parents, have a thorough understanding of what the Vulnerable Persons Act means for our sons and daughters, families, and communities, so that we can be part of that ongoing learning. Our informed voices can make a difference.
For those interested in reading it click here for the actual legislation.