WEYBURN, Sask. — A growing number of Saskatchewan politicians are calling on city councillors who decided against a proposed group home for the disabled to change their minds.
Premier Scott Moe, Social Services Minister Paul Merriman and legislature member Dustin Duncan — who represents the Weyburn area — are urging the city in the southeastern part of the province to reconsider a vote from earlier this week.
Weyburn city council voted Monday to reject a proposal for building a group home in a new upscale residential area called The Creeks. Residents there cited concerns including safety and an impact on their property values.
"The Saskatchewan I know can do much better," Moe said on Twitter on Thursday. "Our province should be the best place in Canada for persons with disabilities."
Moe and Merriman both said they are disappointed in the council's decision.
Merriman told reporters that he spoke to Weyburn's mayor, Marcel Roy, and urged him and city council to reconsider.
"It's a very slippery slope when people from the community are picking and choosing who lives on their street and who doesn't," Merriman said.
Duncan stood up in the legislature and said he has visited three other group homes that have opened in Weyburn and they don't take away but add to a community.
"Any neighbourhood would be lucky to have them," he said.
Former premier Brad Wall has also called on Weyburn city council to reconsider.
"This decision must be changed," Wall said in a post on Twitter Wednesday.
"Saskatchewan has worked hard to provide dignity, care and quality of life through more group home spaces to our most vulnerable fellow citizens. In turn, they bring dignity and care to any neighbourhood."
The proposed home was to have rooms for no more than four adults with physical or mental disabilities and two to three staff on rotation to provide their care.
Roy has said council would work with the Weyburn Group Homes Society to find a location and that no harm was meant by council's vote.
Letters had been sent to council on behalf of residents in The Creeks voicing concerns about safety, a disruption of parking and a potential impact on insurance rates.
"The needs and the severity of the participants dwelling there may change in the future and our hands would be tied for dispute," said one letter.
Coun. Brad Wheeler, who had said there is a stigma to having a group home in an upscale neighbourhood, later apologized.
Rick Wanner had hoped his autistic, non-verbal grandson would be moving into the new group home.
"It's rather disgusting," Wanner said Thursday.
"The whole city has been given a black eye by these individuals with their negative attitude towards the handicapped."
Wanner knows how important a group home can be. His sister-in-law lives in another group home in the community.
He and his wife, both who are retired and in their 70s, are caring for 21-year-old Josh because the young man's parents work full-time.
Wanner said his grandson needs a home he can "live and thrive and get the best life possible."
He said he wants to see the group home built where it was planned.
"The whole thing has now becomes a matter of principle."