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Indigenous Disability Awareness Month

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Honourable senators, I am very pleased to speak to you today to raise awareness and to recognize November 2020 as the sixth anniversary of Indigenous Disability Awareness Month, or IDAM, in Canada. As you may be aware, Indigenous peoples in Canada experience a rate of disability significantly higher than that of the non-Indigenous population. Indigenous persons and families living with disabilities face unique barriers when trying to access disability-related services and supports necessary to ensure their social and economic inclusion and well-being.

A few of the barriers experienced include jurisdictional and mandate issues, remoteness, ongoing and intergenerational effects of residential schools, Indian day schools, the Sixties Scoop and, as was highlighted recently, the systemic racism and discrimination towards Indigenous peoples within many of the very systems and institutions designed to help them.

Despite these overwhelming and, at times, seemingly insurmountable barriers, the resiliency and strength of Indigenous peoples living with disabilities have shone through. They are our leaders, elders, knowledge keepers, grandparents, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, professionals, employees and employers and so on. The roles they hold and the contributions they bring to each of our communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, across Canada cannot be properly conveyed.

In 2015, to help convey these contributions and the initiatives to recognize, raise awareness and celebrate Indigenous peoples living with disabilities, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) created Indigenous Disability Awareness Month. BCANDS is an internationally recognized and award-winning Indigenous disability organization, holding special consultative status with the United Nations and is the only Indigenous disability organization of its kind in Canada. As noted, BCANDS created IDAM to raise awareness of and bring priority to Indigenous disability in Canada but, more importantly, they created it to celebrate the overwhelming contribution that Indigenous people living with a disability bring to each of our communities daily.

Indigenous Disability Awareness Month is the only Indigenous disability-specific recognition of its kind anywhere in the world. I would like to acknowledge their leadership, advocacy and ongoing national and international work. Thank you.

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