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Indigenous Disability Awareness Month

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on Indigenous Disability Awareness Month, or IDAM, on behalf of Neil Belanger from B.C.

IDAM is celebrated each November, with 2021 marking its seventh anniversary.

Currently, over 22% of the Canadian population lives with a disability. For Indigenous peoples in Canada, the disability rate is significantly higher, at over 30%.

Indigenous peoples living with disabilities face multiple barriers to their inclusion and their ability to thrive in Canada. These barriers include accessibility issues, limited access to safe and affordable housing and health and disability supports, low employment and educational attainment, and, unfortunately, they face systemic racism and disability discrimination. Despite this reality, Indigenous disability has been, and largely continues to be, an under-prioritized segment of the population domestically and globally.

In 2015, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society, or BCANDS, took it upon itself to change that narrative by raising awareness of Indigenous disability and the barriers faced, as well as highlighting the overwhelming contributions that Indigenous peoples living with disabilities bring to each of our communities. Thus, Indigenous Disability Awareness Month was born.

Since it’s 2015 inaugural year, IDAM has grown exponentially. It is now an officially recognized month in the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and my home province of Manitoba. In addition, countless Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations and communities have declared the month. This includes the B.C. First Nations Summit; Métis Nation BC; Council of Yukon First Nations; the Assembly of First Nations; and the capital cities of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2017, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recommended to the Government of Canada that they proclaim Indigenous Disability Awareness Month nationally — an idea which I personally support.

I would like to recognize and thank BCANDS for their leadership in raising awareness of Indigenous disability in Canada and abroad through their creation of Indigenous Disability Awareness Month. I ask each of you senators, and all Canadians, to join me in celebrating Indigenous peoples. We all play a role in moving Canada toward a more inclusive and barrier-free place. Thank you.

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