A Smiths Falls facility for adults with mental disabilities will close as scheduled in 2009, but the residents' families and guardians have the final say on where they will be transferred, Ontario's divisional court ruled Thursday.
"We will now have a process that puts some respect around our words, our thoughts, our wishes, " said Conni Scott, whose son David has lived at the Rideau Regional Centre since 1974.
While she admits disappointment at the closure, she says having a say in David's future is a major victory.
The court upheld the province's right to close down the Smiths Falls centre, home to about 400 residents, and two others in Orillia and the Windsor area.
The lawyer representing family members argued that the province has no legislative authority to close the home.
If the closure was deemed legal, the lawyers asked the judges to make it mandatory for officials to acquire approval from the resident's families or guardians before transfers took place.
While the three-judge panel ruled unanimously to reject the first argument, they did order officials to seek consent before moving residents of the centre.
Despite the partial loss, the families said they were pleased with the decision, said Brenda Hollingsworth, an Ottawa lawyer representing them.
Essentially, the judgment gives families the power to decide what's in the best interests of their loved ones, said Hollingsworth.
"The families are clear it's never been about the walls and the bricks of Rideau Regional Centre. I mean, it's been a fantastic home and everyone will be very sad to leave, but it may be that a very acceptable alternative will be possible."
Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services Sandra Pupatello said it's always been their policy to seek approval from the family.
"There hasn't been an individual in all of these years in the tens of thousands of people that have moved out of an institution that has ever been moved without consent."
Pupatello said that though its already in their mandate, she's "very happy with the decision."
Since 1987, the province of Ontario has been phasing out these types of institutions, moving residents into the community.