Genuine concerns for Canadians with disabilities

Until now, I have never felt pity for someone with a disability. But that’s what is conjuring up inside of me when I hear MP Steven Fletcher. In fact, I feel sorry for him because he appears to be so unhappy with his lot in life — a quadriplegic, using a wheelchair following a motor vehicle crash in Manitoba.

I am more disappointed Mr. Fletcher has taken his overall view of life and spun it into a national debate over assisted suicide. Being so unhappy is one thing.

But for Mr. Fletcher to roll his personal feelings on to the floor of the House in Commons is fundamentally wrong and could be a murky and confusing cloud lurking over Canadians with disabilities in the future.

Mr. Fletcher introduced not one, but two private members’ bills, supporting physician-assisted suicide for all competent adults over the age of 18.

I cannot speak to what it’s like to be in such a state of despair of I have wanted to end my life. I will never pass judgement on those circumstances.

But I have real concerns about Canadians who may be perceived as not having a very good quality of life.

I have a disability — cerebral palsy caused by lack of oxygen at birth — and use a wheelchair. And I think my life is wonderful. I have a family, a job that gives me meaning and so much more.

I am a little dumfounded by Mr. Fletcher’s thinking.

It sends a most disconcering message from the government of Canada. If Mr. Fletcher’s bill passes, Canada will be seen as a country that does not value the potential of citizens with disabilities. Better off dead?

Absolutely not.

If Mr. Fletcher was truly engaged with people with disabilities, he would be lobbying for employment equality, income supports, accessibily, transportation, housing and so many other issues that need political massaging, and understanding.

Instead, he is waving a white towel saying “Take me, and everyone else like me because life with a disability in Canada ain’t worth living.”

What does this mean for future debate on issues for Canadians with disabilities?

Will MP’s view those debates as tedious, even mindless, because one of their fellow parlamenterians says life with a disability, frankly, sucks? He should know, they will conclude, because he has a disability.

To which I say: so?

One man’s view. That’s it. It should not be taken as gospel.

I am personally concerned aboout the message Mr. Fletcher is sending and most wonder, with respect, if making assited suicide a convenient way out — rather than encouraging all Canadians, despite limitations, to be the best they can.

Sometimes, we do the easy thing because it’s simply … easy. But the federal government has a responsibility to empower Canadians in all circumstances.

And, I fear, if Mr. Fletcher’s bills are passed, it will be abused — and the way of life in Canada will never be the same.

(Cam Tait is the special projects advisor for Challenge Insurance.)


Words mean so much in conveying perceptions (June 3)

I was a little upset on the weekend.

I just arrived at a sporting event when someone asked: “Where’s your handler?

My reaction: “I am not a dog.”

I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair. I have personal care assistants, professionals in their own right, who assist me with daily activities. Sometimes, they accompany me at events I attend.

The person who asked where my “handler” knows I that I have people who help me.

And why I was so upset was the word they chose.


Makes me cringe.caregiver

Yet, I should know better, I suppose. Because words can often magnify a disability rather than accepting it.

“Handler” is in the same vain as “wheelchair  bound” or “confined to a wheelchair.” In my view “wheelchair user” is the right terminology because there aren’t any negative images conjured up.

People with disabilities are part of society. Moreover, with our aging population, the personal care assistant industry is going to increase.

Personal care attendants need to be respected and viewed as professionals. The word “handler” has no place in a conversation around personal care assistants.

I find it an incredible insult to people with disabilities. I was extremely upset Saturday night.

But that’s only me. I want to know what you think.




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What’s the best way to make a point in 2014? (May 27, 2014)

This is all about you.

How do you a recent event staged by Artspace Co-Op Sunday: a mock funeral, with a coffin and flowers.

But before you make an informed decision you need some information.

The funeral was held to garner support and awareness for an on-going labour issue at Artspace involving people with disabilities.

Since May 7 personal care attendants have been on strike, demanding higher wages. Replacement workers have been brought to carry out the work.

Since 1990, residents with disabilties have pooled their home care funding to hire personal support services. Supports for Artspace Independent Living Inc. has administered funding from Alberta Health Services to run the program.

It’s a grass roots program. Artspace residents direct their own care.

And here is my question I have for you.They are worried they could lose their program, and, ultimately, their independent living because of the strike.

Their fear is a large for profit home care provider will be hired and their independence will be taken away.

Understandably, they want to tell their story and garner support from the public.

Please click here for an Edmonton Sun story.

And here is my question I have for you.