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On March 19, 2015 The Federal Government announced they will be closing a sheltered workshop after 35 years of operation, effecting 50 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Later that day the Federal Government updated the announcement stating that they will extend the work program for the 50 developmentally disabled Ottawa workers in the face of public outrage, that they had been cut loose after dedicating decades of their working lives to sorting and disposing of federal documents.
These two announcements triggered of an even larger much needed discussion around the topic of: "real jobs for real pay" for people with disabilities, which came together in part in an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen, titled 50 workers who deserve better. CACL President Laurie Larson wrote one of the many letters to the editor at the Ottawa Citizen which we wanted to share with you here. Read, comment or share Laurie Larson's Letter to the Editor which can also be found on the Ottawa Citizen's website
Letter to the Editor
Re: Federal government extends jobs program for disabled workers
As President of the Canadian Association for Community Living I was concerned when I read the article about so many people with developmental disabilities losing their jobs with the federal government. The personal impact on those individuals can’t be ignored.
However, it is even more concerning that in 2015 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to be relegated to sheltered employment where they are paid a mere pittance for the work that they do. These individuals have provided a valuable service to the government for 35 years and were only paid an honorarium which amounts to $1.15/hour. While initiated out of the best intentions, it is now clearly recognized that sheltered employment is an outmoded system. It has long been a cause for concern for those who advocate on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
In a country with labour laws and minimum wage requirements, those with disabilities should be able to count on the same protections as everyone else.
The Minister has stated that they will extend this program for a short period of time to allow for other jobs to be found for these workers. I truly hope that all individuals will indeed find more work within the government for real wages and, if not, that they are actively assisted to find real jobs in the private sector.
There is an opportunity to turn this into a good news story – the end of an outdated, segregated employment program and the beginning of real jobs for real pay for these deserving individuals. I hope to read that headline in your paper soon.
President, Canadian Association for Community Living
Above Image Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen
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