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Canada Egan: 'I should have the right to marry and live my life' — Ontario guardian stops wedding of disabled woman

13:15  06 december  2019
13:15  06 december  2019 Source:   ottawacitizen.com

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He has said that marriage is a big deal and I should respect the reality of what he’s been through. I love this man and want to spend my life with him. You have every right to feel undervalued, not by his preference not to marry again at present but by him telling you that it’s because it’s a “big deal”!

a person standing on a snow covered forest: Sherry Brachfeld is trying to get married at the end of December, but the Public Guardian is putting up roadblocks, she says. © Julie Oliver Sherry Brachfeld is trying to get married at the end of December, but the Public Guardian is putting up roadblocks, she says.

Sherry Brachfeld had her wedding all set for Dec. 29 — the venue, the dress, the ring, a man she loved.

Then came a crashing intruder. Ontario’s Public Guardian and Trustee wants to leave her at the altar, now and possibly forever.

In a Nov. 29 letter, the state Guardian said it had “serious concerns” that Brachfeld is mentally capable of making such an important life decision and is refusing to provide documents she needs for a marriage licence.

“I should have the right to marry and live my life,” she said one day this week. “I’m a human being. I have a right to be happy.”

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The living room had a single brown leather sofa and a large TV with huge free-standing speakers on either side. I had been married and I was now divorced. There is a misconception that Islam does not allow a woman the right to divorce her husband.

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Brachfeld, 33, says she has a mild intellectual disability and is on the autism spectrum. She also admits to a hoarding tendency and problems with personal care — the very reasons the Public Guardian took over her affairs in 2017 from her mother, who had legally been in charge.

But Brachfeld says she’s been working on her mental health and points to her record of independence: working at Tim Hortons for 11 years; stints at Elections Canada; a couple of years on her own in Israel; moving freely about Ottawa, including going to the see the Nutcracker at the National Arts Centre on Wednesday evening.

She’s also graduated from the public school board’s Adaptive Learning Program and occasionally returned as a motivational speaker.

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I lived in Toronto and he was two hours away in northern Ontario but we started dating. We ’ d decided we ’ d marry in Hawaii. He was very much involved in organising things. This man who was supposed to be the love of my life was telling me he was calling off the wedding less than an hour

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“I’m not crazy like they think I am.”

The Public Guardian, however, concludes differently. “There are serious concerns as to whether Ms. Brachfeld has the mental capacity to choose to enter into a marriage and everything that a marriage involves, including physical intimacy,” reads a letter sent to her fiancé, Jun Miyamoto.

He has an interesting life story. Miyamoto, 51, was born in Japan but is now an American citizen living in Cincinnati. He has a PhD in nuclear engineering but now works as a software engineer.

He met Sherry in about 2004 while he was a research associate at Carleton University. He lived near the Brachfeld family home and the pair attended the same synagogue. (Miyamoto converted to Judaism and is now an Orthodox Jew who uses the Hebrew name Yona.)

A relationship developed about 15 years ago and, despite his moves to the U.S., they stayed in touch, eventually rekindling their liaison and becoming engaged in May.

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While he refuses to marry , I ’m having tantrums of unexplained anger. Can this impasse be resolved We moved in together after 11 months of dating and this relationship is the happiest part of my life . He says there is no difference to him between living together or being married . In that case, I said, if

Brachfeld lives in supportive housing and gets regular help from the Tamir Foundation. She says the staff at Tamir were so keen on her wedding plans they helped organize an engagement party in July, an event to which guests flew in from out of town.

Miyamoto put down a $3,000 deposit for a downtown hotel for the wedding reception and the plans sped ahead. The esteemed Rabbi Reuven Bulka was lined up for the ceremony and a bridal shower was held.

Then reality began to sink in. The Public Guardian said it can’t formally stop Brachfeld from getting married, but it can withhold her documents and control where she lives. It also warned that her Ontario Disability Support Program payments could be cut by virtue of the marriage.

Neither did it like the idea that Brachfeld would move out on her own — with a personal support worker Miyamoto would pay for — while he sorts out his residency and employment status in Canada, a process that could take six to 12 months.

“They’re not letting me try,” said Brachfeld. “I feel like I’m being degraded, I’m being put down.”

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Support The Guardian . Support our journalism with a year-end gift. How was I supposed to decide what costume to wear on one of the most important days of my life ?’ He took my news, and my feelings about it, seriously. “ I ’m in a body that isn’t saying the right things. I was excited to be married , but there were difficult steps to take first. Here was another wedding to plan, and another

The Public Guardian did not respond to comment requests from this newspaper.

Miyamoto, meanwhile, wonders whether they are holding Sherry to a behaviour standard that a so-called “normal” person would not be subject to.

“What does competence and incompetence mean? It can be defined in different ways,” he said this week.

“They are deciding her future based on what they know now. They’re not giving her a chance to improve. They’re making an assumption that she will stay that way forever.”

Rabbi Bulka sympathizes with the couple but, based on the Guardian’s position, can’t legally marry them. He says he “defers” to the expert opinion that Sherry is not ready for this step right now. After all, he says, the government guardian has a responsibility to ensure its charges are not put in harmful situations.

“She’s a lovely kid,” he said. “I think it’s a hard call.”

The Public Guardian has given the couple a couple of options, both involving hiring a lawyer: a court order declaring her competent to be married or an order that terminates the Guardian’s role altogether.

So now the couple is reassessing.

“This has caused a lot of stress and anxiety but Yona can see that I’ve been able to cope with it and manage,” said Sherry. ”I love Yona very much. I tried to tell them that.”

Brachfeld feels strongly that she needs to speak up for other disabled people, who are so often treated differently.

“I’m doing this for myself and for all the people out there who are not able to speak for themselves.”

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email kegan@postmedia.com

Twitter: @KellyEganColumn

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This is interesting!