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Judicial review on closure of Michener Centre to be held in March

The Michener Centre's north residence for people with developmental disabilities in Red Deer Alberta, March 12, 2013.

JASON FRANSON/The Globe and Mail

A judicial review on the Alberta government's decision to close Michener Centre will be heard in March.

The Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre filed a request last month for a judicial review into the closure of the live-in centre for people with physical and mental disabilities.

It hopes the review will force the government to explain how it came to its decision after years of assuring guardians and families that their loved ones would remain at Michener for as long as they lived.

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Society president Bill Lough says the group doesn't expect the review will change the government's mind.

But Mr. Lough says they want the Conservative government to explain how it diverted from its pledge in its report in 2008 that no resident would be forced to leave the centre.

The society put in a freedom of information request with the government for information about the closure, but says about 80 per cent of the 130 pages it received were blacked out.

The society is expecting the judicial review will allow it to see government documents and correspondence from the period immediately leading up to the announcement.

A judicial review is a special court process with lawyers representing each party in front of a judge.

Lee Kvern, whose sister Jody is a resident at Michener, said she wants to learn through the review when and why the government changed its thinking relating to care for the developmentally disabled, and whether it can legally close the facility in spite of its promise in the How We Move Ahead report.

"Those of us that want to stay in Michener, we basically see that this is our time to just stop doing anything in terms of going forward with any transitioning or talking with the transition teams. We're standing up for Michener by standing down," said Ms. Kvern.

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The judicial review will not formally delay the transition process, however. A spokeswoman with the Ministry of Human Services said work on moving the 123 residents from the facility is continuing, respecting the wishes of the families involved.

The society is holding another general meeting on Oct. 6 to discuss the current situation.

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