Toronto Area Community Consultations on Electoral Reform

Let’s make sure disabled voices are heard on this important issue!

  • The following is a list of community consultations on electoral reform happening in the Toronto area, please find the consultation closest to you if you wish to attend.
  • There are consultations happening across Canada. Please contact your MP for more information on these consultations.
  • Please Note: Some locations require RSVP.
  • Please also note: At time of writing, no accessibility information is readily available regarding these consultations. I will update as more information is available (all the more reason to make sure disabled people are heard on this issue).

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall, Hosted by the Hon. Kirsty Duncan and MP James Maloney. 7 – 9 pm, Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Etobicoke, ON

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Willowdale Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Ali Ehsassi, 7pm – 9pm, North York Civic Centre Council Chambers, North York, ON RSVP

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Salma Zahid, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Scarborough Centre Scarborough Civic Centre, Committee Rooms 1-2, 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough, ON

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Bill Blair, 6 – 8pm, Warden Hilltop Community Centre 25 Mendelssohn St, Toronto, ON

Sunday September 11th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with Hon. Carolyn Bennett, 3 – 5 pm, Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Federal electoral reform community dialogue tour with Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, time and location to be confirmed, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MPs Jane Philpott and John McCallum, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, Markham Village Library Fireside Lounge, 6031 Highway 7, Markham, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Community Consultation at 6:30pm at the Calvary Church to discuss and share ideas about the future of Canada’s democratic principles, and to identify and study other voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post. Toronto-Danforth, ON

Sunday September 18th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Rob Oliphant, (Special Guest to be announced), 2 – 4 pm, Don Valley West at Temple Emanu-El, 120 Old Colony Rd., Toronto, ON, RSVP

Sunday September 25th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Francesco Sorbara, 3 – 6 pm, Vellore Village Community Center, Open to all residents of Vaughan-Woodbridge, Woodbridge, ON

Disabled People making more waves than Election Candidates?

For those of you who might not know, we’re having a federal election here in Canada. I’m not a huge fan of electoral politics. I think there’s much more that we can do to influence social policy than cast our votes, and let’s be honest, the choice between three white one-percenters in 2015 says a lot about the level of change that needs to happen in this country.

Aside from that, it is a great time to push for change, while the public eye is on politics, and surprisingly disabled people are making space in election time.

There are some really exciting things happening in the disability movement in this election, and you need to know about them.

First is the Toronto Disability Pride March, happening tomorrow Saturday October 3rd. Full disclosure I am the founder and a co-organizer of this march, but even if I weren’t I would still be shouting from the rooftops, because this is going to be an amazing event and you all should be there. It starts at 1:00 pm at Queen’s Park at 111 Wellesly Street West, and wraps up at 99 Gerrard Street East with a post march celebration at 4:00 pm

We have some great speakers lined up including David Lepofsky of Barrier-Free Canada and the AODA AllianceDiem LaFortune, myself, and Kevin Jackson. This is not just a time to raise disability issues, but also a time for disabled people who are not often involved to have their voices heard, and take to the streets as part of the community of disabled people. You can find the march on Facebook, and on Twitter @DisabilityPM hashtag #tdpm2015.

In Toronto, there was a election debate on disability issues earlier this week, you can still see the video.

There have also been some exciting developments with Barrier-Free Canada’s efforts to encourage all federal parties to commit to enacting a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

They’ve introduced a letter writing tool that makes it easier than ever to join the campaign. All you need to do is fill out a short form, and a prewritten letter will automatically be addressed to all the candidates in your riding.

You’ll have the option of changing the letter or sending it as is. And you’ll have the ability to easily share through email and social media.

The beauty of this tool is that there’s no need for you to look up candidates or to try to find their email addresses. We take care of all of that. You simply fill out the form, and you’re ready to go!

There are still a few hiccups with this tool, but I encourage you to check it out.

Please take two minutes to let candidates in your area know that you support the call for a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Then invite your friends and family to join the campaign. So far the NDP and Greens have promised to enact it, but we need more than a press release, we need action. Visit www.barrierfreecanada.org/campaign/. They are asking people to promote the campaign on social media with the hashtag #canadiansdisabilitiesact.

Elections are a great time to raise our voices as a diverse disability community. I will be raising more issues to not in the coming days, but until then I hope to see you at the march tomorrow!

 

“Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”…unless we can profit from it.

The Parapan Am Games, August 2015. I was at the Torch Relay a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers, a well-known member of the disability community, and founder of a disability organization said, “Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”.

My jaw dropped. I wanted to believe that he hadn’t just said that like it was a good thing, but he did. In fact he went on about it for another few minutes with great enthusiasm.

I doubt anyone has gone from shameless fan girl to outraged disability activist as fast as I did in that moment, but it was an uncomfortable transformation that went something like this:

“Wait, what?”… “Are you kidding me?”… “Ok, any minute now he’s going to turn around and tell all the politicians behind him that they need to step up”… “Somebody must’ve put him up to this.”… “Nope, no, please just stop”.

He meant this as a positive statement I’m sure, I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a country where ableism doesn’t exist. I think the PR department forgot to tell the white guy with the microphone that Canada isn’t that country. If that country exists right now it probably has unicorns, wizards flying on brooms…and much better Games.

I want to believe this speaker meant well; he’s a Canadian icon. Maybe he’s just speaking from his lived experience.

Maybe he doesn’t realize that there’s disabled people still fighting for accessible transportation, like RAPLIQ in Montreal. Maybe he doesn’t realize people are fighting to keep their existing accessible transportation, like Save Handydart in Vancouver.

It’s not like Canada’s a country that still euthanizes disabled people, but it does do research to screen genes for disabilities, and let’s not forget the ableism in assisted suicide.

It’s a country were disabled people can move freely…unless you’ve have been forced to live in an institution (another example), or have a suicide attempt on record that prevented you from crossing the border.

It is a country where disabled people have free will, unless compliance with medication is forced on you, someone decides you’re too disabled to parent, or you’re a refugee seeking healthcare.

Perhaps it’s easy to be misdirected by the billions of dollars that was spent on the Games and forget we’re in a province that underfunds social assistance and social housing, still has high unemployment for disabled people despite the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the Guy Mitchell inquest.

If I may, let’s take a lesson from our Prime Minister on what not to do, and stop trying to make problems go away by pretending they don’t exist. Disabled people exist in Canada, and not seeing that is part of the problem. Shielding our eyes from oppression is not something to be proud of and it won’t make ableism disappear.

How about we focus on making Canada a country that sees disabled people, and sees them as an asset. That sounds like something to shout into a microphone.

For more on ableism see The Invisible Backpack of Able-Bodied Privilege Checklist.

Support a Barrier-Free Canada.

Helen Henderson

A bright light in the disability community has left us. Well maybe she hasn’t really left us.

I didn’t know Helen well, but I did have the honour of working with her a little bit. One day, she was encouraging the work I was doing with the Toronto Disability Pride March, and I couldn’t quite work up the nerve to tell her how much of an influence she was in my life. I thought I would find a better time. She was someone I looked up to, and though she was a humble person, I felt humbled in her presence.

Her writing taught me that people wanted true stories of disabled people at a time when it seemed like those things were invisible to the wider world. Her ability to cross that border, and show non-disabled people the truths of our lives was uniquely powerful.

Thank you Helen for sharing your cleverness, your quiet strength, and your warm encouragement. There are eyes more open, and lives made brighter, because you dared to share your world with us.

The following is a You Tube video of Helen at TedxRyerson: