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Vigil aimed at raising awareness of abuse faced by people with disabilities
Laura Tupper, ctvedmonton.ca
Published Tuesday, August 17, 2010 6:19PM MDT
A small crowd attended a candlelight vigil Tuesday evening in memory of a mentally-disabled woman who died after allegedly being abused by her caregivers.
The event was held on the eve of a court appearance for the couple charged with manslaughter in the death of 48-year-old Betty Anne Gagnon.
The tragic circumstances surrounding Gagnon's death tore at the emotions of Daisy Stacey, the organizer of the candlelight vigil. She says she understands what it feels like to be marginalized. By holding the vigil, Stacey says she hopes to give a voice to those who may otherwise not be able to speak out.
"Treat people with disabilities with the respect and honesty they need," said Stacey. "Not treating them like they are nobodies."
Gagnon died after being brought to a gas station in Strathcona County back in November 2009. At the time of her death, she was staying with her sister, Denise Scriven and her sister's husband, Mike Scriven.
Denise and Mike Scriven face a string of charges in connection with Gagnon's death, including manslaughter, unlawful confinement and assault.
Court documents allege that at times, Gagnon was housed in the garage where she was kept in a pen made out of chicken wire and blankets. The documents, which haven't been proven in court, describe how a tent that Gagnon was living in eventually had to be thrown out because it was covered in feces.
Advocates for people with disabilities say statistics indicate 90 per cent of people with disabilities are at risk of being abused.
"They're underreported often because people don't know where to report it," said Cindy DeBruijn, a spokesperson for the Gateway Association. "People are afraid to report it."
With files from CTV's Serena Mah.