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Rise and Triumph – Disability Rights Panel and useful resources on Disability Rights

defiant lives


Sunday June 3, 2018 was special and inspirational night for anyone living with a disability in Toronto. Why? Because Community Living Toronto partnered with the ReelAbilities Film Festival to premiere an exciting film about the disability rights movement around the world. This film is called Defiant Lives: The Rise and Triumph of the Disability Rights Movement, and contains never seen before footage of some of the most passionate protests changing the lives of people with disabilities. The film screening was at University of Toronto’s Innis Town Hall.
Survivors of institutions, protesters for accessible transit, for education inclusion and advocates working toward a better world for people with disabilities are all featured in this film. Following the film, a panel hosted by Sue Hutton (Community Living Toronto’s Self Advocates Council Coordinator and ARCH Disability Law Centre’s Respecting Rights Coordinator) took place. The panel includes some incredible voices for disability rights. Some panelists spoke from their own perspective and some spoke from the broader focus of disability rights under the law.

The four panelists were ARCH’s Executive Director Rob Lattanzio, Marissa Blake (self-advocate), Mika Hjorgaard (York University student and advocate), and Peter Park (People First Co-Founder).
The ReelABILITES Film festival is still happening up until June 4th. Find tickets and show information here:
To watch the panel of discussion got to:

Thanks to our co-presenting community partners Harmony Movement and Access Ryerson.


Panelist Bio’s 

Marrisa Blake, Community Living Toronto member

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Marrisa Blake is a member of Community Living Toronto, a self-advocate, and participates in many speaking engagements, including a recent engagement at Parliament Hill about affordable housing! She lives semi-independently in an accessible unit in affordable housing with her roommate in downtown Toronto.  Marrisa has graduated from the Community Integration through Cooperative Education (CICE Program) at Humber College.  She travels around the city independently utilizing wheel-trans and regular TTC. Marrisa is working towards becoming an advocate for people with disabilities.

Mika Hjorngaard, Student and Advocate

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Mika Hjorngaard has just completed her first year at York University studying Anthropology and Health and Society.

Mika has been involved in several disability activism projects including Project Re-Vision from 2013-2015 which focused on telling the stories of women with disabilities. Mika combines her passion for disability activism with a desire to advocate for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Mika co-chaired a youth LGBTQ+ event in 2013 at the 519 and continues to blend disability and queer activism.

Mika intends to pursue graduate work in Medical Anthropology to give a voice to minorities in terms of health disparities and unfair treatment. As a person with a diagnosed physical disability, Mika brings to light issues of ableism and unfair treatment with the goal of providing the broader community with a fuller understanding of unfair and stigmatizing treatment often encountered by people with disabilities.

Sue Hutton, BSW, MSW., ARCH Disability Law Centre, Community Living Toronto.


Sue has devoted 25 years to developmental services, working in human rights education for staff, families and people labelled with intellectual disabilities as well as Mindfulness research in the area of autism and intellectual disability.

Sue works closely with Peter Park.  In 2012 they were both co-founders of Respecting Rights, a project at ARCH Disability Law Centre devoted to rights education for people labelled with intellectual disabilities across Ontario.

Together Sue and Peter co-published Rights, Respect and Tokenism; Challenges in Self Advocacy in 2011 in the Journal of Developmental Disabilities as well as Self-Advocacy: Rising from the Ashes of the Institution in 2017 in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies.

Roberto Lattanzio, Director of ARCH Disability Law Centre


Robert is the Executive Director of ARCH Disability Law Centre. He joined ARCH as an articling student in 2003 and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2004. Robert received his LL.B and B.C.L. law degrees from McGill University in 2003 with distinction, and received his B.A. from Concordia University in 1999 with honours.

He has acted as counsel in test case litigation at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and has made law reform submissions to various levels of government, committees, and administrative bodies.

Robert has presented and written extensively on topics such as equality and human rights law, administrative law, education law, legislative reform, and social science evidence. Robert has a long standing interest in disability issues and had extensive work experience with disability communities prior to attending law school.

“Persons with disabilities around the world continue to experience discrimination, prejudice and ableist barriers. These can be subtle and insidious or cruelly overt. As lawyers, we use laws in creative ways to advance the self determination of every individual, but there are limits to what changes in law can accomplish.  This film reminds us of the power that we all have to make a real difference in our lives.” – Robert Lattanzio.

Peter Park, Respecting Rights Co-Founder & Self-Advocate

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Peter has dedicated his life to advocating for people who have been labelled with an intellectual disability.  He has been involved in disability rights work over a span of 40 years. Peter was an instrumental part of the “Eve” case, the famous precedent case of people with disabilities winning the case against forced sterilization at the Supreme Court of Canada. He’s done public speaking engagements on human rights and disability across Canada, the US, India, and many other places over the last 40 years.

Peter was institutionalized at age 20, and spent 18 years of his life locked away from the community. From the moment he got out, he has worked tirelessly to advocate and educate on the realities of living in an institution, the barriers he faced, and the violation of rights that occurred while he was there.

After having co-founded People First of Ontario in 1979, Peter has been a leader in Ontario’s self-advocacy movement for 40 years. Peter has worked with ARCH Disability Law Centre in the past, and decided in recent years that self-advocacy needed to improve. That’s when Peter teamed up with ARCH and co-founded Respecting Rights.



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Resource Links

1. How Disability Inclusion Touches Every One of Us


3. Bold Beauty Project is a powerful, visual arts exhibition that features women with varying disabilities. Through the photographer’s lens and the women’s personal stories, the project seeks to raise awareness of the women’s strength, sensuality and spirit, and in the process, change perceptions of beauty.

4. Deaf Community Demands interpreters at concerts

5. Let’s change the way we think about disability | Joel Dembe | TEDxMississauga

6. Details about protests that the film covered in Defiant Lives.

7. ARCH Disability Law Centre is a specialty community legal aid clinic dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities in Ontario. 

8. Respecting Rights is a project of ARCH. It is focused on rights for people labelled with intellectual disabilities. Self-advocates, lawyers , and advocacy staff work together on rights issues in Ontario. Respecting Rights is proud to work in partnership with People First of Ontario. 



Defiant Lives 3

Sponsor Panel