British Columbians are invited to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous people with disabilities as government has proclaimed November Indigenous Disability Awareness Month.
Acting on a recommendation from the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS), B.C. became the first province in Canada to dedicate November to Indigenous people with disabilities in 2015, along with the Métis Nation British Columbia and BC First Nations Summit. The Assembly of First Nations, the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Province of Saskatchewan all recognized and proclaimed the month in 2016.
“Indigenous Disability Awareness Month is an opportunity to recognize the challenges that face Indigenous people in B.C. who live with disabilities,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “When we eliminate the barriers, we can create opportunities for greater inclusion and build communities where everyone is welcome.”
The government is committed to building a better future for people with disabilities. To help make B.C. a truly inclusive province, government is working with BCANDS, Indigenous communities, people with disabilities and their families to reduce barriers that affect them, a Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction press release outlined.
“BCANDS promotes greater awareness of the need to build an inclusive and accessible province for Indigenous people,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Recognizing Indigenous Disability Awareness month helps give voice to Indigenous people with disabilities, many of whom often feel like they are alienated from the initiatives, programs and services that have and will impact their current and future disability and health-related needs and well-being.”
“Raising awareness of the many challenges faced by Indigenous people with disabilities is an important step towards changing attitudes, opening doors and creating a more inclusive society,” said Neil Belanger, executive director of BCANDS.
BCANDS is unique as the only stand-alone organization in Canada serving Indigenous people with disabilities. The not-for-profit charity has been providing Indigenous disability and health services and programs throughout the province for 26 years.
BCANDS made a presentation last April to the United Nations International Committee on the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities in Geneva. BCANDS made recommendations to the committee to help address barriers experienced by Indigenous people and their families in Canada.
Quick Facts as per ministry press release
- Approximately 334,000 British Columbians, between the ages of 15 and 64 years, self-identify as having disabilities.
- People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to people without disabilities.
- There are 203 First Nations in British Columbia.
- Approximately 270,000 Indigenous people live in B.C., roughly six percent of the population.
- There are significant health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Indigenous people in B.C. have higher prevalence of diabetes, infant mortality, youth suicide and lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous people. (Source: Provincial Health Officer’s Report – First Nations Health and Well Being, Interim Report, 2015).