The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and People First of Canada (PFC), in collaboration with the Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada, hosted the 9th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion in Ottawa on December 3, 2018. This year’s theme was Inclusion: What Gets Measured Gets Done.
CACL and PFC were honoured to have the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility attend this year’s forum and offer opening remarks. Minister Qualtrough has been a champion in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and in the creation of Canada’s first national accessibility legislation. She has also been a huge champion of the Ready, Willing and Able initiative and efforts to ensure that the new Medical Assistance in Dying system protects vulnerable Canadians, particularly people with an intellectual disability.
In what was perhaps one of the most impactful statements of the day, Minister Qualtrough shared her personal take on the People First mantra of Nothing about us without us. “Rather than nothing about us without us, how about nothing without us, because everything is about us!”
Following Minister Qualtough’s opening remarks, a territorial land acknowledgement by Andrea Harrison, People First 2nd Vice-President from the North West Territories, and a welcome by CACL President Joy Bacon and PFC President Kory Earle, the day launched into a series of panels. Each panel focused on a distinct national priority and explored how inclusion of people with disabilities must be built into program design and measured to ensure that it is achieved. Each panel was designed to include the perspective of a self-advocate, family member and other community and government organizations with expertise in policy and research.
The First Panel set the stage for the day by exploring the meaning of inclusion and the day-to-day ways that individuals with a disability and their family members recognize when they are or aren’t being included. Dewlyn Lobo from Ottawa, ON and Robin Acton from Lloydminster, AB shared their experience of inclusion through the use of stories and photos.
Jutta Trevianus, Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University then offered some thoughts about how research and data used to inform program and policy decisions often fail to capture the experience of people whose experience doesn’t fall within the norm, or what Jutta referred to as those along the “jagged edges” of the bell curve. This means that the voices and needs of individuals with significant disabilities are often disregarded altogether. Following the panel, longtime parent-advocate and CACL Distinguished Associate, Audrey Cole thanked Jutta saying that it was “the first time in fifty years that I’ve sat in a room and heard someone talk about my son.”
Panel two looked at Canada’s National Housing Strategy. Self-advocate Christopher Rowley and parent Lorraine Silliphant shared their experiences of inclusive living arrangements, roommates, and the ways that housing contributes to a person’s identity and status as a valued community member. Janet Kreda, Manager with Housing Needs Research at the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) discussed how the needs of vulnerable populations are being taken into consideration in implementing the national housing strategy. Finally, Michael Bach, Managing Director of the Institutes for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS) shared a new tool being developed to help funders of new housing developments evaluate level of inclusiveness.
After lunch discussions shifted to Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and the interconnectedness of poverty and barriers to inclusion for people with a disability. John Cox, a self-advocate with lived experience of poverty shared the multiple barriers to inclusion that he and his partner experience because of their income, including access to transportation, prescription drugs, medical care and legal aid. John also are described his experience of being labelled as “not disabled enough” to get the supports he requires.
Frances MacNeil, Regional Executive Director with Community Living Toronto reflected on the importance of a safety net for all citizens to be able to take risks and fully participate in community. Panel 3 was completed by presentations from John Stapleton on the challenge of lifting those who are living in deep poverty out of poverty, and William MacMinn with Employment and Social Development Canada discussing the new market basket measures built into Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Panel 4 focused on Canada’s new federal accessibility legislation. Donna Brown and Catherine Rodgers delivered a condensed version of People First’s Core Values program, offering strategies for service providers about how to accommodate and include people with intellectual disabilities. James van Raalte, Director General with the Accessibility Secretariat spoke about the new federal accessibility legislation and what it means for people with disabilities. He suggested that this monumental law will entrench the Nothing about us without us mantra in legislation. The panel wrapped up with presentations from CACL’s Director of Policy and Program Operations, Kurt Goddard, and Chronicle Analytics’ Brendon Pooran who each reflected on how we will measure the success of this new legislation.
The day concluded with closing remarks from Krista Wilcox, Director General from the Office for Disability Issues, who reflected on the learnings from the day and the power of community coming together.