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Aug 22 2013

Should The Letter From ‘One Pissed Off Mother!’ Be Considered A Hate Crime?

By now I’m sure we have all see the dreaded letter from ‘One pissed off mother!’ that was written to an Ontario family regarding their 13-year old autistic son, Maxwell.  If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

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This letter serves as a bit of an eye opener for me on many levels but by far the thing that I think about most is how upsetting it is to think about the degree of hate that this ‘mother’ has in her life.  As a ‘mother’, she is raising children of her own.  I try not to be judgmental as I don’t like it when people judge me… or my son.  Perhaps this ‘mother’ needs help… and if this is the case, I hope that she gets the help that she needs.  But in the meantime, this is a ‘mother’ that is possibly raising her children to think in the same manner as she does.  I have a really hard time wrapping my head around that fact.  The children of today are our future. Children need to be taught love and acceptance… not hatred, discrimination and judgement.

As a parent of a child with autism, I am an active advocate not only online, but in my community as well.  I have shared before my frustration with the fact that society still hasn’t learned ‘acceptance’ for those that see the world differently… my frustration with the fact that in society I need to continually fight for the things that my son is entitled to (such as an education)… my frustration with the fact that in so many areas, I don’t see the important changes happening.  With 1 in 50 children in U.S. schools being diagnosed on the autism spectrum… the time for understanding and acceptance is NOW!

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My son is an intelligent, witty young man who loves Pokemon, Lego, reading and video games.  His dream is to become a video game designer when he grows up and if that turned out to be Lego video games than he would truly be in all his glory. He is an animal lover to the extreme and many of you that follow Mom-ology know that he has a golden retriever, Ollie, that is his service dog.  The two are almost inseparable.  Our family also has another golden retriever named Jorga that he has lovingly nicknamed, ‘The Paper Shredding Everything Eating Goat Princess Spazmanian Devil’. He rides horses and the times that he is able to do this is the highlight of his week – ending each session with a kiss for ALL the horses! He loves to talk and share ‘his world’ with those that he loves.  And though this is a small circle, it is very special to him… and to me.  He enjoys playing soccer, wants to play baseball and if he could live on trampoline he probably would.  This is only a small part of who my son is.  Yes, my son also has autism but it sure doesn’t define who he is.  I am proud of everything that he does and I am proud of everything that he has accomplished.

When I read this letter, I think like just about any parent, special needs or not, my heart broke.  But there is another factor that has upset me… almost more so that the letter itself.  You see, if a letter like this had been written to an individual in reference to race, sexual orientation or probably even gender, it could very likely have been considered a hate crime.  I heard one lawyer state on the news that a jail sentence of two years could be possible for such a crime… if this letter had been directed at a particular ‘group’… one that was protected under the Criminal Code of Canada.  The sad part here, and what makes me angry, is that those with disabilities are not considered a ‘group’ (so to speak) under the Criminal Code of Canada.  So, in essence this letter, that was filled with so much hate in every sense of the word, doesn’t constitute a ‘hate crime’ because it was directed at someone that has a disability?!?!  (For the record, I really dislike using that term… I have never thought of my son as having a disability… I prefer the term, like so many others, ‘differently-abled’ but in relation to this topic, the term is disability.)  This is just wrong!

So, when the Crown decided that this letter doesn’t constitute a hate crime, what does this tell society?  Isn’t it pretty much saying that this letter is OK – for lack of a better way to put it? If no one is to do anything to stop this from happening NOW, from a legal standpoint, I expect this has opened up the door for this to happen again.  To cowardly write a letter and deliver it to an unsuspecting family in the same manner as ‘One pissed off mother!’ did?  This decision perhaps has some very serious repercussions!?!

Should those with ‘disabilities’ be included in the Criminal Code’s definition of what constitutes a hate crime?  Ummm… yes, I think that is a must!! Again, with the number of children alone that are on the autism spectrum, and even the number of those children that are bullied every day… I look at this and see a HUGE loophole that isn’t there to protect those that need it.  What do you think?

In the meantime, I extend my support to Max and his family.  This letter is not OK… and I for one will be doing what I can to help ensure that things like this can’t happen again… at least not without consequence!!

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Jen

As a Canadian blogger and the mom of a child on the autism spectrum, Jen shares a lot about life while having a child with autism... raising autism awareness and the need for acceptance. She is an active advocate both online and in the community for those with autism but also service dogs. Also as a volunteer for the I CARE Foundation Jen shares a great deal of information about international parental child abduction (IPCA) in an effort to help raise awareness and educate parents about the risks and warning signs of international parental child abduction. Mom-ology has been ranked in the Top 25 Canadian Mom Blogs for 2012 & 2013, one of the Most Influential Canadian Mom Blogs for 2013 as well as placing in 1st (Disability) & 3rd (Activism & Social Justice) for the Canadian Weblog Awards 2013.

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14 comments

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  1. Cindy Dwyer

    Wow. Some people are unbelievable. I think the neighborhood would be much better off if the writer of that letter were the one to leave.
    Cindy Dwyer recently posted..The Road to AbileneMy Profile

    1. Jen

      I hear ya Cindy! Hard to imagine that a ‘mother’ can hold this much anger… you’re right… the neighbourhood would likely be better off without her!

  2. Amy Carlson (@stews3)

    I really, honestly believe this letter should be considered a hate crime. The police may say ‘no’, but it does discriminate against a group of people – it discriminates against every single person that doesn’t conform to ‘normal’, whether it be physical, psychologically, or emotionally. To me, that IS discriminating against a ‘group’.

    I think the police/crown are AFRAID of the can of worms that would be opened… it NEEDS to be opened!

    1. Jen

      Hi Amy,

      I totally agree! It is discriminating against a group… and a rather large group of individuals as well. I admit I didn’t expect the Crown to make such a decision in that it wasn’t a hate crime… to think that ‘disabled’ individuals are not protected in this manner under the Criminal Code of Canada?!?! As a Canadian – and the mom of a child with autism – this upsets me terribly! The can of worms DOES need to be opened… and the sooner the better. Thanks for sharing your opinion!! :D

  3. Nadia

    Hi Jen! I really enjoyed reading this post. Like many, when I read the letter I was in shock and horrified. I have a younger brother with autism (he’s 25). If anyone picked on him when we were growing up they had to contend with me! Naturally, the hatred expressed in this letter stirs up emotions because I know what its like to be targeted as a family with autism. I can only imagine the heartbreak and anger of Max’s family, and their disappointment that in the legal system. This is a hate crime, plain and simple. I hope that enough many people sign the petition on change.org so we can get some solidarity from community leaders like the police services.

    When you have a moment be sure to check out my Facebook page. I’ve been building a life skills education game in partnership with Centennial College and Autism Ontario. Watch the teaser trailer and let me know what you think so far. Would love to get you and your sons feedback! Lets keep in touch, I love meeting other au-mazing warriors. especially in my own backyard;)

    Nadia

    Facebook.com/magnusmode

    1. Jen

      Hi Nadia! Thanks for saying that :) Appreciate you sharing about your family – I sometimes think we are making progress… advocating and such… and then something like this happens. Granted it is only one person… but it does represent a cross-section of society! It is time for a change!

      For sure I will check out your facebook page – thank you for sharing that. The life skills education game – what fantastic idea… can’t wait to have a look! For sure, keep in touch – sent you an invite via Linkedin… and we are definitely in each other’s backyards by the sounds of it!

      Cheers,

      Jen

  4. Debra

    Tears flow down my face in response to reading that trashy letter written to pierce the hearts of Max’s family. My husband is just as upset after I read the letter him. It really shakes one’s faith in human beings when a child is attacked with such vicious hatred. Such ugliness and darkness… but worse, the cowardly manner in which the person’s message was delivered. I feel confident the writer will face some sort of karma, but our family supports Max in the meantime.

    1. Jen

      Hi Debra,

      I know the feeling. When I read it I was shocked … with similar type feelings. This is a child!! I am the kind of person that feels that if you have something so strong that you feel you need to say… you better be able to stand behind your words… or keep it to yourself! You know the saying, if you can’t say anything nice… Karma – I sure hope so, and hopefully sooner than later. Max’s family, thankfully has been receiving a huge amount of support from the community and others, so there is a positive that has come from something so negative.

      All the best!

      Jen

  5. Cathy

    The first time that I read that HATEFUL letter it made me sick and it did the same this time….. IT is a HATEFUL letter and should be against the law….we need to remind the legal system and Canadian government of that. We all know that if that letter was sent to anyone else it would not be excused so easily. The hate that poured out of that person was disgusting and sad that person needs help! This still does not make it okay at all in anyway as they need to own up to it and stop it now. As you stated in your blog that if that person is a parent can you imagine just what they are teaching their child(ren).
    Our granddaughter is teased on a regular basis because of her hand and 9 times out of 10 it is an adult that does it. What a terrible society we live in when an adult can not shut their mouths because of a fabulous little girl has a hand that is different…… she is kind, loving, happy and caring does that not count for something! Why should her day be ruined because she dare be out in public an unkind, uncaring individual recks it for her.
    Max we send you a huge hug from our family. Keep being you Max as it is okay to be you.
    Please Canada speak out as that is the only way that this will change.

    1. Jen

      Oh Cathy… that’s awful to hear that your granddaughter is teased :( That is so not OK!! And breaks my heart…

      I agree with you – that if this letter was sent to anyone else it would not have been so easily excused… that alone says something! Society is changing but when I see things like this it is a real reminder of how far we still have to go.

      There is a petition going around that is requesting that the Crown Attorney’s office makes those with disabilities an identifiable group within the Criminal Code of Canada… here is the link: http://chn.ge/18Pmxmi It is the time for change! Thanks so much for sharing your story Cathy… wish you and your family all the best!

      Jen

  6. Mel

    First, my heart goes out to the parents who received the above posted letter.However, I am offended by your post. You assume that the letter was ok just because the letter was not considered actionable by the police. that is not the same thing. the letter was not ok, however, You also naturally assume that the mother who wrote the letter was full of hate. I read pure frustration and potentially fear, rather than hate. Many uninformed persons respond like the author of the letter when they are afraid. If the mother has very young children maybe she fears for the safety of her children because she is believes the autistic boy may harm her children. Have you considered a different approach – education rather than quickly assuming hate crime.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinions, informed or otherwise. I believe it is the autism community that continues to spread misinformation about vaccinations despite the doctor who wrote the original research has had his medical licence revoked and the research in question expunged. People continue to spread fear about vaccinations and that is their opinion & right in a free nation. Just like you have the right to assume that this was a hate crime.

    1. Jen

      Well, I guess we’re doing well then, as I too am offended by your response. If you had actually read my post, at no time did I say this letter was OK – as you are saying that I did. It’s actually quite the contrary… this letter is not OK… under any circumstances! I even said that in my post… so please show me where I said this is OK?!?!

      Fear… people are naturally fearful of the unknown… and that is fine, but that doesn’t give anyone the right… EVER… to respond in a manner that this woman did. If this letter was directed at someone that was, say, gay…or if it was racial… it would have been taken very differently.

      As an advocate, education is the key. I educate society in my role as a special needs parent, every day. I have been the target -as has my son – of this type of behaviour… and it’s NOT OK!!!

      You blame the autism community saying that we are spreading misinformation… interesting! This has nothing to do with vaccines and I am not going to get into that topic. As with any group there are many sides to many issues and I am extremely offended by your comment.

      I could say a lot of things here but that doesn’t accomplish anything. You have accused me of many different things and the fact of the matter is, this letter is not OK… fear or not! Interesting that you are the first of hundreds of comments and individuals through my social media that has said something otherwise. If an individual has fear rather than sprouting such terrible words in an anonymous manner, they should be doing some education themselves and find out that individuals with autism are not individuals to fear… saying they are… that is spreading misinformation.

  7. angie

    It always shocks me when I see things like this while it really shouldn’t shock me at all. I have first hand experience with hate by virtue of having a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have been in the states at the wrong time and had to be hidden for 2 days during the Rodney king incident because relatives lived in a “black” neighborhood in new jersey and our friends were afraid I might be hurt if I walked the neighborhood. I’ve had to accompany my sister in laws back everywhere they went after 9-11 because every time they went out alone wearing their head scarves someone would stop them to yell at them. I’ve walked with Pakistani friends who had bottles thrown out of moving car and graze them. One friend who had just arrived from the middle east and was still at the time wearing the face covering had someone stare her down and make a throat cutting motion that scared her to the point she wouldn’t leave her house for over 3 months. Her husband finally convinced her that face coverings scare some people here and that she should take it off until people are more accustomed to her choice. I don’t think I will ever understand why she prefers to cover that much but I always thought that in a free society like this we could all just make accommodations for where people are in life. We all need a little help now and again and those who seem to be the most needful of our patience and understanding silently give back things to society that we can’t live without. They teach us so much. If there were no disabilities, no illness and everyone dressed and looked alike, we would be far worse off as a society. Caring for others in whatever capacity teaches us not to be selfish and self centered.
    This letter was horrible but from what I’ve seen it brought out the very best in the neighborhood and even the community at large. This one family, through their hurt has given all of us the chance to step up and try to fix something that is definitely broken. By gathering around the family to help them deal with one person’s hatred we all have had the chance to improve ourselves. In her letter she says “what the hell else use is he to anyone” The fact that we have all been given a chance to exercise our humanity and show this woman and others like her that no one is a waste of space and just because you don’t like how someone looks or acts doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be here. I hope this woman sees all the outpouring of support and love for this family and it changes her heart.

    1. Jen

      Angie,

      I love what you have shared here… very very well said! It is great that there has been so much positive come from something so negative, this is true! I agree, that those that see the world differently, are different nationalities, or whatever, do make the world a much better place. My son has taught me to be more understanding – if only everyone could be that way.

      Thank you again, for such an amazing comment! One day… I am convinced, all those that are different will be accepted… and yes, the world will be a better place! :) Be well!

      Jen

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