Vigil held in Winnipeg for people with disabilities killed by caregivers

​About a dozen people held a vigil at the University of Winnipeg Thursday night to honour people with disabilities who had been killed by their families or caregivers.

‘It’s important to also be here in the hard times’: Organizer laments lack of support

Names of people with disabilities who died at the hands of their caregivers or families were read out at the vigil. (CBC)

About a dozen people held a vigil at the University of Winnipeg Thursday night to honour people with disabilities who had been killed by their families or caregivers.

It's an annual vigil with similar events held across Canada and the United States.

One of the organizers, Megan Linton, said it's an issue that gets little attention, and when it does, the conversations surrounding it are concerning.

"You're 50 per cent more likely to be a victim of a violent crime if you live with a disability. 83 per cent of women with disabilities are sexually assaulted," she said. "We continue to see folks who have lost their lives to their caregivers, and the media often gives the caregivers the benefit of the doubt."

The group read out hundreds of names of people who died at the hands of their family or caregivers as well as those who had violent deaths due to having a disability.

Linton said they wanted to raise awareness about violence against people with disabilities, honour those who were killed and to reinforce that people with disabilities are not burdens.

Statistics Canada has found people with physical disabilities are two times more likely to be the target of violent crimes, including sexual assault. Two-thirds of those violent crimes are committed by someone known to the victim.

That same study found people with intellectual disabilities were four times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.

"Every single day, I experience and many different folks experience barriers," said Linton. "Being a woman using a cane or a mobility aid, [I'm] walking down the street and experiencing a lot of violence — be it in harassment forms or other forms."

The annual event often attracts a handful of people. Linton said that's disappointing.

"We saw, however, many Canadians being around for Bell Let's Talk day, and none of those people being here today," she said. "I think it's important that allies to the disability community are aware of this happening and of this day. We continue to see a failure of allies supporting people with disabilities for this and showing up for events like this."

Linton said accessibility has been used as a buzzword by corporations and others, and that needs to change.

"It's important to also be here in the hard times and honouring our experience of struggle and injustice," she said.

Megan Linton is the vice-president of external affairs for the University of Winnipeg Students' Association and helped organize Thursday night's vigil. (CBC)