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How Did People First get started in Canada?

In one way, People First started in Canada in 1973. The British Columbia Association for the Mentally Handicapped (as it was called at the time) organized a conference for people who had lived in an institution. This was the first time that people who had been labelled came together in a conference in North America.

In 1974, the first People First group in Canada began in British Columbia by some women and men who had been living in institutions. They wanted to live in the community. They needed help because life in an institution is very different from life in the real world. They had not been taught what they needed to know to live and work on their own. They needed to make their own decisions and speak for themselves.

People First also got started in 1979. The Canadian Association for Community Living was having its annual general meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia that year. There was a self-advocacy session at the conference. It was the first self-advocacy meeting where people from all across Canada who had been labelled could get together on their own to talk about things that were important to them. It brought together Barb Goode, Peter Park, Pat Worth, David Lincoln and others.

These self-advocates formed an alliance that lasted for years. It also marked the beginnings of the Consumer Advisory Committee for the Canadian Association for Community Living. The Committee, in the early days, provided a way for these leaders from across Canada to meet on a regular basis.

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