NEWS RELEASE – ADVANCING INCLUSION FOR 25 YEARS
MANITOBA APRIL 6, 2016 – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.
Twenty-five years ago, a small group of people labelled with an intellectual disability began proving that quote to be true. That group was the beginning of a legacy that would become People First of Canada (PFC). Today, People First of Canada is the national voice of people who have been labelled with an intellectual disability.
“Our founders fought to get out of institutions, they struggled to have their voices heard, and they demanded a seat at the tables where decisions that affected them were being made,” said Kory Earle, current president of the organization. “Over the past 25 years, we have continued our message of ‘nothing about us without us’ and we have grown to be seen as experts on intellectual disability,” Earle stated, “Our 25th anniversary of making change is a great accomplishment.”
“We have come a long way from our beginnings,” says Shelley Fletcher, executive director for PFC. “We used to ask to be included; now we are the ones being requested. Over the years, People First members have presented on Parliament Hill, at the United Nations, and at international and national events. Our documentary, The Freedom Tour, is shown and discussed in universities and colleges as part of post-secondary courses. We have been in the classrooms of over 3,000 students educating them about the importance of language and rights. We are in the courtroom defending the rights and lives of people like Ann Hickey, who have died in institutions. We are at the table of accessibility and inclusion committees for Elections Canada, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and the Manitoba Opera,” Fletcher stated. “As an organization and a movement, we have developed a strong voice and a diverse partnership.”
Partnerships and support have a lot to do with success, says Earle. “We have grown to have invaluable support from the national disability community and our long-time partners like the Canadian Association for Community Living, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, among others.” Earle doesn’t downplay the importance of government support either. “Regardless of the political climate in Canada, the federal government has always shown a belief in and support of the work of People First of Canada. With their continued support and the network and expertise we have built over the years, I am looking forward to not only this special anniversary, but to many more years of working towards a fully inclusive and welcoming Canadian society,” said Earle.