Revisiting Clark v. Clark

  • December 5, 2018
  • Anoop Kalsi

In 1982, surrounding talks around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Justin Clark began a battle for what would ultimately become a pivotal movement for Canadian disability rights. 26 years ago, on November 25, 1982, Judge John Ross Matheson rendered his historical ruling which determined that Justin Clark was mentally competent and able to make his own decisions.

Born with severe cerebral palsy, Justin’s parents placed him in the Rideau Regional Centre in Smith Falls Ontario on the advice of doctors. His parents and the Director of the centre believed he was not only physically limited, but also intellectually incompetent and was unable to make decisions on his own. Justin thought otherwise, and with the help of his friends, he retained Bakerlaw’s David Baker as counsel and began his fight for his freedom.

The 6 day trial began in November 1982 in Perth, Ontario. Justin testified by pointing to a board filled with symbols, a bliss board, which read his answers aloud. This was the first time a bliss board was used in a Canadian court.

When Justin finished his testimony, his parents stood up from their seats and applauded. You can read Justin’s testimony in the unpublished manuscript written by Audrey Cole and Melanie Panitch in PDF here (link) and in text here (link).

The CBC has recently published an article reflecting on this landmark case, which can be accessed here (link).

David Baker reflects on his representation of Justin on this landmark case in David Gutnick’s CBC documentary. You can listen to this documentary here (link).

To view an article by Shirley McNaughton, Justin’s translator, on the case and it’s impact, click here (link).

The Clark v Clark decision can be accessed here (link).

For more information about the case, please visit our previous blog post here (link).

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