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Happy 150th Birthday Canada

Response to Strong Partners Key to Fully Accessible Canada– March 17, 2017 Vancouver Sun

Its Canadas 150th birthday and yes, we are getting older. The question is are we getting smarter as a nation, as provinces and as a people? Is Canada and its Provinces seeking strong partnerships with meaningful accessibility results? Are we looking to the future that includes and employs people with disabilities?

Are we readied for an inclusive party in 2017?

Are we as a nation, community of persons with disabilities, maturing population, looking for a legacy after this national 150th birthday party?

Will people with disabilities get employment, training and economic inclusion or even be invited?

Will Canada and the almost 4 million people with a disability get a gift or will the parcel be passed along and the music stop elsewhere?

Will we, as people with disabilities, get to celebrate our nations birthday? Do we have the strong partnerships to make that happen? The answer is both yes and no.

In the March 17th, 2017 article written by arguably Canadas number one accessibility icon, our very own man in motion, Rick Hansen writes about a game-changing investment of $9 million the Province of British Columbia is making in the Rick Hansen Foundation.

As Mr. Hansen writes, this funding will not only train and employ people with disabilities – one of the most under employed in Canada, but very importantly provide a professional accessibility certification program for public and private facilities.

These two meaningful efforts will significantly assist making BC accessible by 2024one year ahead of Ontarios statutory deadline for full accessibility.

So, I guess the race is on as we look into the future. And, the Province of British Columbia just got a huge head start.

I encourage Ontario to get on board, work with groups like the Rick Hansen Foundation, embrace inclusivity and invite its more than 2.4 million people with disabilities to the 150th birthday party table, meaningful employment and a legacy we can all be proud of.

In 2016, I was part of a Provincially funded Deloitte Certified for Access consultation that reached a consensus that a professional and sustainable accessibility accreditation program was necessary. A program exactly like what British Columbia is launching in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation. For Ontario, this could be a legacy program that will offer persons with disabilities professional training, meaningful employment and a real shot at a career in the service field of accessibility.

It will also positively engage and support leading private and public sector operators to further embrace accessibility and lead by example. It seems like supporting a similar program in Ontario enroute to meeting its Accessibility 2025 plans would be a legacy gift for all.

So, yes at year 150 Canada is getting smarter and more accessible. Can we do much more to ensure the legacy has strong partnerships to ensure accessibility, employment and real inclusion…absolutely. So when the Government of Canada is offering to pay for the party you say thank you, order the hor d oeuvres and prepare to be inclusive. Lets make sure Ontario and its citizens are invited and at the birthday table with British Columbia. Please RSVP Minister McCharles.. this will show Ontario is a strong partner, leader and important key to accessibility, inclusion, employability, and dignity in Canada.

What better birthday gift than such legacy for all that live, work, play, visit and invest in Canada and its most populous province. Happy Birthday Canada! Well done BC government and Rick Hansen Foundation.

Gerald Parker
Executive Director
Institute of Canadian Justice