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Back to the Future’ – Families Organizing for Change


The weekend of March 23-25th CACL was pleased to present our Values, Vision and Action Family Leadership Workshop at the beautiful Kempenfelt Conference Centre in Innisfil, Ontario.  Our facilitation team met with approximately 25 family members for a weekend full of connecting and discussions. 

On Saturday we were joined by a member of the Axiom News team who sat in on our discussions and who talked to a number of participants. Axiom will be running a series of stories to investigate what the future holds for our association in meeting the increasing challenges we face in creating truly inclusive communities. The first of this series can be found here.

The opening comment made by Axiom is “What got us here will not get us there” which is very fitting as it is the basis of our workshop.  In the workshop we look at the values we hold, our vision of the future we want to create and review our history to critically look at where we started, what we have created and where we find ourselves today.  Will what we have created in the past truly get us to where we need to be?  Is there a disconnect between what we say we believe in and what we actually deliver to families and individuals?  Do the structures we have built over the years help or hinder our efforts to create an inclusive society?  What actions do we need to take?

More than 60 years ago families all across Canada started coming together with two main questions in mind – “How do we create a good life for our sons and daughters?” and “Who will be there after we are gone?”.  The questions today remain the same.  What has changed are the responses to those questions and the increased expectations held by individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families.  We have learned so much over the years about what is possible but often our practices have not kept pace.   What has not changed is the vital role that families play in leading the way to making change happen and moving us along that path to full, meaningful inclusion.

CACL has just adopted a mission statement which reads:

The Canadian Association for Community Living is a family-based association assisting people with intellectual disabilities and their families to lead the way in advancing inclusion in their own lives and in their communities.  We do this in Canada and around the world by sharing information, fostering leadership for inclusion, engaging community leaders and policy makers, seeding innovation and supporting research.  We are dedicated to attaining full participation in community life, ending exclusion and discrimination on the basis of intellectual disability, promoting respect for diversity and advancing human rights to ensure equality for all Canadians.

CACL will be embarking on nation-wide discussions with Provincial/Territorial Associations for Community Living about how all levels of our federation can best help achieve this mission and in particular what roles the national association can play.  It is clear to us that to move forward families and individuals with intellectual disabilities need to be supported to make the changes necessary to create good, inclusive lives in their community.

In this context, the Axiom investigative series is timely.  The feedback we received from families in Ontario during our workshop is also of great benefit.  There was a good mix of family leaders present, from experienced to emerging.  They were all strong, vocal, committed and the desire for change expressed was palpable.

It was an intense weekend but we did manage to squeeze in some time for fun as well.  I left Ontario feeling very optimistic that there is a strong base of family members there ready and willing to drive changes and that those in the room were but the tip of the iceberg.  As families across the province rally together along with their allies change will become inevitable.  The question is - how can we best get organized and ready to support them?

Laurie Larson
President, Canadian Association for Community Living