The Province has proclaimed November as the second annual Aboriginal Disability Awareness Month in British Columbia, recognizing the unique contributions Indigenous people living with disabilities make to communities throughout the province.
Recognition and awareness of Aboriginal Disability Awareness Month began in 2015 through the efforts of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) and support through proclamations from the First Nations Summit, the Métis Nation BC and the Government of British Columbia. It was the first time anywhere in the world this type of recognition had been extended to Aboriginal people with disabilities. Support for the month is growing each year with more events planned and more organizations and governments across Canada joining in with their own proclamations.
This year Métis Nation BC, the First Nations Summit, Council of Yukon First Nations and the Province of Saskatchewan have all declared November as Aboriginal Disability Awareness Month. The Assembly of First Nations has also made a declaration of November as Indigenous Disability Awareness Month.
Aboriginal people with disabilities face unique challenges to participating fully in the social and economic opportunities available in communities throughout B.C. The provincial government is working with disability organizations like BCANDS, Indigenous communities, and individuals with disabilities and their families to reduce these barriers and create a more inclusive and accessible B.C.
BCANDS is unique as the only stand-alone organization in Canada serving Indigenous people with disabilities. This year, the not for profit charity celebrates 25 years providing Indigenous disability and health services and programs throughout the province. BCANDS offers clients individual case management services to help them access and navigate the services and supports available to them, such as mobility equipment, applying for financial supports, adaptive technology and housing. Its advocacy work includes a focus on the special cultural and practical considerations important and unique to Aboriginal people with disabilities.
BCANDS is working with a variety of partners across the province to celebrate Aboriginal Disability Awareness Month and details can be found at: www.bcands.bc.ca
Aboriginal Disability Awareness Month supports Accessibility 2024, B.C.’s ten year road map for becoming the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024. BCANDS is recognized as a member of the Accessibility 2024 Leadership Team, and is represented on both the Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility and the Registered Disability Savings Plan Action Group.
Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –
“We celebrate Aboriginal Disability Awareness Month to honour the important contributions and achievements of Aboriginal people with disabilities and to raise awareness about the unique barriers they face. We are committed to a more inclusive British Columbia and, through Accessibility 2024, intend on becoming the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities.”
Neil Belanger, executive director, B.C. Aboriginal Network on Disability Society –
“All people who live with a disability are very important members of our society. The purpose of Aboriginal Disability Awareness Month is to raise awareness of the statistics that show the prevalence of disabilities within Indigenous populations is twice that of the national rate, and even higher in impoverished communities and neighbourhoods. This month celebrates the contributions Indigenous people with disabilities and their families bring to all of our communities.”
- There are nearly 550,000 British Columbians considered to have a disability.
- From Dec. 3, 2013, to March 11, 2014, the B.C. government held public consultations with disability advocacy groups and thousands of British Columbians throughout the province on what government, businesses and communities can do to reduce barriers and increase accessibility for people living with disabilities. This resulted in a ten year action plan ― Accessibility 2024 ― to become the most progressive place for people with disabilities in Canada by 2024. It is rooted in twelve key accessibility themes, ranging from housing to employment to financial security.
- The Registered Disability Savings Plan Action Group is an advisory committee to government supporting the government’s Accessibility 2024 commitment to build and maintain B.C.’s position as the province with the highest per capita uptake of RDSPs in Canada. The RDSP is a long-term savings plan designed by the Government of Canada to help people with disabilities and their families save money for the future.
- The British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) was founded in 1991 and works to improve the lives of Indigenous people with disabilities.
- The rate of disabilities among Indigenous Canadians (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) is estimated at twice that of the national rate, at around 30% (BCANDS).
- BCANDS’ mission is to support the unique and comprehensive disability, health and resource needs of Indigenous persons and organizations across British Columbia, through relevant, timely and accessible client services.
- BCANDS has received numerous accolades in the past year including the Canadian Medical Association’s National Excellence in Health Promotion Award and the March of Dimes National Judge George Ferguson Award, and BCANDS board president, Stephen Lytton, received the Caring Canadian Award from the Governor General of Canada.
View the proclamation: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/proclamations/proclamations/AborDisAwrMnth2016
For more information on the British Columbian Aboriginal Network on Disability Society: www.bcands.bc.ca
Read about Kelsey and Georgina – BCANDS employee and client share their stories: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Aboriginal_Disability_Month_Profile_Nov1_2016.pdf
For more information on Accessibility 2024 or to view the Accessibility 2024 Two Year Progress Update visit: www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility