Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The passing of Bob Hansplant, the passing of an ordinary man

Bob Hansplant was not a celebrity, nor was he a public figure. He was an ordinary man, and at the same time he was an extra-ordinary man among us. As a child he lost his father and found himself shuffled through orphanages. Bob was not given an opportunity to take part in the most basic education, and never learnt to read and write. He worked hard to earn a living and in his early sixties found himself in St. Catharines.

I had met Bob Hansplant only a few short months ago. It was not at a social gathering but rather under an air of unpleasant circumstances. I had been told of a double-amputee living in an apartment where he could not even shower in the privacy of his home. His apartment complex was run by the Niagara Regional Housing authority. All that I had been told sounded obscene to believe and I had to speak with Bob himself. The result in the end was the interview with Bob, available now on YouTube and the article, Disabled Body, A Heart Full of Pride – The Bob Hansplant Story.

As a man facing immense challenges, unable to walk, losing parts of his fingers to illness, and facing other health issues, Bob still did not find a need to wallow in self pity. He was somewhat reticent to speak of his past in detail other than that his mother was First Nations, that he lost his father at a very young age, and that he was born in Orillia. Instead he was more proud of the various certificates he had been awarded for his efforts, both in his community and for his own personal growth.

Bob's situation at the time of our meeting was intolerable. Not one of us would permit a relative or a friend to endure such treatment. He was confined to a wheelchair, yet as I looked around his small apartment one clear sign of trouble stared back at me. The walls around his entry and bedroom had holes in them. Bob explained how for some four years he had to go down from his apartment on the fourth floor to the second floor to take a shower. In those four years he had never been able to take himself onto his balcony as there was a stoop some eight and a half inches high at the balcony door.

Niagara Regional Housing had known of his conditions and had done nothing. Individuals both elected and paid by the public purse decided to lie to cover up. One such glaring lie comes from Steve Murphy, Niagara Region's Accessibility Coordinator. Steve Murphy in an email to Janet Pilon, the Regional Clerk states, “In the event this landlord...”. Prior to this he says that “The Niagara Region has adapted FADS (Facility Accessibility Design Standards)...”. He also says, “This gentleman was not residing in a building owned, operated or leased by the Niagara Region...”. 

Simply look at the document from The Landlord and Tenant Board File #SOL-39190-13, an official Provincial body and document. Here it states Niagara Regional Housing as the landlord! Steve Murphy has to be removed from his very highly paid position and a demand for a full investigation is required. Can such deceit be permitted? Can such a terror campaign be permitted against a double-amputee who simply wanted to live a life with some dignity?

Listen to Bob Hansplant's own words from the interview when he says that “I am no different to you.” These words will remain in one's mind for a long time. Regional Councillor Andy Petrowski was appalled by the conditions that Bob Hansplant was living under. For his concern and willingness to stand against the stream of acceptability in Niagara's regional government, Councillor Petrowski has been subjected to a public spectacle of an integrity commissioner's investigation. It seems that the price for integrity is an attempted public smear campaign by those who cannot allow public scrutiny of their own actions.

In the end Bob Hansplant passed away and the regional government got what they needed, silence. As Councillor Andy Petrowski raised himself at the Regional Council meeting to publicly state and confirm the passing of Bob Hansplant, another regional councillor decided to object Councillor Petrowski's actions. Regional Councillor Brian Heit did not want it mentioned that Bob had passed away. The saddest of truths was attempted to be silenced. Why did Councillor Heit object, was he afraid of the truth, what was his motivation for such a cold and empty act?

Bob Hansplant was a man who could not read or write, yet he felt the same joys and sorrows as any of us. Bob could not walk, yet he stood tall with a heart that wanted to ensure others did not have to endure his pain and indignity. Bob cannot be simply forgotten, nor the injustice he had to survive.

I am no different to you,” Bob's own words linger in the air as we say farewell to an ordinary man, filled with an extra-ordinary spirit.

Send comments to: demtruth@gmail.com

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