Since the late 90’s, I have had the honor and privilege of working with First Nation Communities, more specifically with Treaty 7 members, to address the barriers to employment that people with disabilities face. Although my focus in assisting these communities started as a focus on job seekers with disabilities, this focus has evolved and adapted to also include supports with daily living needs. This progression has happened for a number of reasons, including and not limited to, the development and nurturing of trusting and open relationships and friendships. It is through conferences and awareness building events like the ones offered by T7EDC over the years, that we become more educated that indigenous people with disabilities contribute a great deal to the their communities and our province. However, even beyond our combined efforts, many people still face major barriers to full community inclusion and participation.

First Nations people with disabilities are severely marginalized in numerous ways and these barriers can make doing things in the community difficult. Things like going to school or work, getting attendant care supports, getting to a doctor’s appointment, shopping for groceries, going to a movie or out for dinner, or participating in cultural, recreation or religious activities or events.

As we continue our work towards assisting and supporting indigenous job seekers with disabilities find and retain jobs and careers of their choice, we are faced with the reality that many employers are becoming more aware that indigenous job seekers with disabilities can be valuable members of their companies and corporations. Yet, they may not have a full understanding and awareness of the barriers that prevent many Aboriginal workers with disabilities from entering the workforce, or ideas on how they could remove or reduce the barriers.

It is through learning and partnership opportunities like the ones provided by T7EDC, that we work towards overcoming the barriers to full community participation by the sharing of ideas and suggestions for everyone’s consideration and understanding. In closing, we all need to continue to educate ourselves and work together to remove barriers.

If we leave the conference with nothing else, we should leave with considering a quote by Supreme Court Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella,

“Sometimes equality means treating people the same despite their differences, and sometimes it means treating them as equals by accommodating their differences.”

To hear Cal present at the CFT7 Symposium, and for more Symposium details, click here.