'Where is our humanity?': Vulnerable sector reacts to 'Windsor Crackhead Spotters' Facebook group

The Facebook group, which has now been made private, posted photos and derogatory comments about people assumed to be mentally ill or drug users. 

Experts say group is indicative of a larger problem

The Facebook group has more than 2,000 members. (Facebook)

When the executive director of Victoria Manor saw a Facebook group called 'Windsor Crackhead Spotters' she didn't have words for how she felt about it.

"My first reaction was 'Where is our humanity?'" said Leigh Vachon.

The Facebook group, which has now been made private, posted photos and derogatory comments about people assumed to be mentally ill or drug users. 

Vachon leads the team at Victoria Manor, a permanent home in downtown Windsor for people who need some personal care and assistance with activities of daily life. 

"My people are sick people. It's not my job to make judgements about the choices that they make," said Vachon. "At the end of the day they're sick people who need help."

Janice Kaffer, president and CEO of Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor said if she was a member of the group, her mother would be ashamed of her. 

"It continues the notion that these people who are dealing with some catastrophic illnesses are not worthy of dignity, that they're not worthy of compassion or empathy," said Kaffer. "I think that's wrong."

The stigma around mental illness, addiction

Vachon said it doesn't matter why someone uses drugs — they're still a human being.

A screenshot from the group, shared on Facebook. (Facebook)

"Regardless of why they seek and use drugs, that's a human being," said Vachon. "It makes me ... hurt, for the people that I serve and the people that I work alongside who serve all these very ill people. It makes my heart hurt for them."

Kaffer said she thinks the community is becoming more accepting of mental illness, but addiction "doesn't get the same empathy."

"I think there is a need to focus some education around the stigma attached to addiction," said Kaffer.

'I don't think there's a place for this on social media'

According to Kaffer, a group like this is the "bottom of the barrel" when it comes to social media. 

"Social media allows a certain level of anonymity and people can have fun at the expense of someone else but don't have to do it in person," said Kaffer, adding that the group was "ugly."

(Facebook Community Standards)

Vachon said there's a perversity to making public someone's suffering.

"To seek it out ... to like this page and participate in this group. That's a whole level of loss of humanity that's extremely concerning for me," said Vachon.

Facebook does allow users to report pages, groups and posts, but Vachon said the options are limited.

"The only thing it fit under was bullying and harassment, but that's open to interpretation."

Leigh Vachon, executive director at Victoria Manor, says the Facebook group makes her sad and angry. 1:13

The social media site operates under a 'Community Standards' guideline, which says they have "high expectations" for "cruel" content. Social media comments say the group was reported multiple times by various users before it was made secret.

"We do have a drug and homelessness problem in this city," said Vachon. "A crisis. If you want to talk about that crisis, lets be part of the solution. In no way is this helping. 

The administrator of the Facebook page was "not interested" in providing a comment to CBC. 

About the Author

Angelica Haggert is a web writer for CBC Windsor.