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CACL and PFC host 7th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion

December 12, 2016 - - Safe and Inclusive Communities

Joy Bacon

Joy Bacon, CACL President, welcomes nearly 200 attendees to the 7th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion in Ottawa.

The Canadian Association for Community Living and People First of Canada (PFC), in collaboration with the Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada, hosted the 7th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion in Ottawa on December 2. This year’s focus was access to affordable housing in safe and inclusive communities (click here for an outline of the day's agenda and presenter and panellist bios.)

Joy Bacon, President of CACL, and Kory Earle, President of PFC, welcomed the full room of nearly 200 self-advocates, family members, policy makers, and government officials. Kory opened the day with a grounding reflection on our shared values: “I always deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Our country can do better and must do better.”

Member of Parliament Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development and Kathryn McDade, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Employment and Social Development Canada explained that in order for Canada to be fully inclusive, we must focus on housing. 

“Housing matters to building an inclusive Canada… and that’s why it’s on the agenda,” said MP Duguid, “Low income and vulnerable Canadians are a key priority that came out of the housing consultations.”

The first panel included advocate parents and persons with lived experience who described the difficult situations faced when working toward living independently in community. David Weremy, disability rights expert and self-advocate, shared his story: after many unbearable years in an institution and a residential home, he has lived on his own for 18 years. David, now 72-years-old, concluded, “I live on my own and I like it that way.”

David Weremy

Self-advocate, David Weremy (3rd from left), shares his life story from living in an instiution to living independently.

Dr. Michael Prince of the University of Victoria moderated a session with representatives from the Housing Needs Research branch of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, an initiative of Employment and Social Development Canada. The panel highlighted a renewed commitment to affordable housing by the federal government and reviewed the implications of the recent report from CMHC: What We Heard: Shaping Canada's National Housing Strategy. The report addresses key priorities for Canadians who have an intellectual disability and their families.

Canadians with intellectual disabilities face significant difficulties in meeting basic housing needs – because of lack of affordability, adequacy and suitability. Tens of thousands of Canadians have what Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation calls ‘core housing need.’ Many cannot afford housing that meets their basic needs, and many live in poverty.

The third panel of the forum highlighted the work of four local support agencies in British Columbia and Ontario. These agencies are leveraging their current housing assets to create new housing options that enhance community inclusion. The panel included a presentation by Susana Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, who remarked, “We face a lot. It’s time for solidarity. Remember, first and foremost we are all humans. Together we are strong. Injustice to one is an injustice to all.”

The day concluded with a panel focused on specific policy changes that government could consider in order to improve access to affordable, accessible, and inclusive housing for people who have a disability. James van Raalte, Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada offered a message of hope regarding a renewed commitment by the Government of Canada to the disability community and others to address housing challenges, “It’s about big ideas and it’s about big solutions.”

James van Raalte, Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada, wraps up the informative and inspirational day.