Pat Capponi – interview
Pat Capponi was born in Montreal in 1949 and raised by a father who verbally, sexually and physically abused her and other members of her family. She survived this trauma, but not without emotional scars that resulted in a series of suicide attempts and hospitalizations in her late teens and early twenties. Nevertheless, Capponi received important early schooling in journalism, theatre and student politics at Montreal’s Dawson College during this period of her life. Each one of those areas would find expression in her later career as a storyteller, advocate, and activist.
By the late 1970s Caponni had relocated to Toronto. A discharged psych patient living in a boarding house in the uncertain neighbourhood of Parkdale, Capponi first sought to distance herself from her fellow boarders. However, over time she emerged as a leader and a key advocate for marginalized people, first in Parkdale and then in the wider Toronto community. Finding allies in the press, the nursing profession, and among politicians and fellow activists, Capponi worked to improve housing and social supports for former mental health patients. She worked at PARC (Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre), served on the key task forces and community boards. And Capponi was a well known author, most famously of Upstairs in the Crazy House, a series of evocative vignettes about life in her Parkdale boarding house.
Her 70-minute interview, shot at PARC in 2009, covered all these topics and many others besides – told by a powerful storyteller.
Capponi died in April 2020 in Toronto, age 70.
Key Words: Parkdale, PARC, housing, human rights, patient deaths, allies, equity, boarding houses, community, advocacy, deinstitutionalization, community mental health, media, politics, Reva Gerstein, Pat Capponi, Paul Quinn, Toronto, Archway, David Reville,Gerstein Centre, Cuckoo’s Nest, Upstairs in the Crazy House, Larry Grossman, memoir, storytelling, Dawson College, Concordia University, family, stigma, discrimination.