A Brief History
The vision for the Orillia Centre of Arts + Culture originally focused on repurposing the Huronia Regional Centre.
The Ontario government first established a convalescent hospital in Orillia in 1861 in a converted hotel which stood in what is now Couchiching Beach Park. The outline of the foundation of the original building is visible during dry weather. It is located next to the Champlain Monument in the park. Between 1885 and 1891 the institution expanded to its current site on the shores of Lake Simcoe.
While the growth of the Centre was continuous through the next half-century, by the early 1960s overcrowding and dilapidation were now taking a toll on the facility and its residents. The 1970s saw a change in attitude toward those with developmental disabilities—from institutionalized care to community inclusion.
The number of residents of the Huronia Regional Centre declined from nearly 3,000 residents in 1968 to less than 350 by the time the Centre was closed in March of 2009.
In 2010, former residents of the Centre started a class-action lawsuit against the government alleging that the Centre’s staff perpetrated systemic physical, sexual and emotional abuse against the residents. The lawsuit was settled with a financial payment and formal apology to the affected residents.
Today, the site houses the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Headquarters. Other buildings have been converted to a Courthouse and the OPP Academy.
The original farm is now the site of Georgian College’s Orillia Campus.
A collection of artwork by former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre is part of the permanent collection of the Creative Spirit Art Centre in Toronto. Former residents of the Centre continue to share their stories so that we may all continue to learn from their experience.