Tag Archives: Rotary

Newly minted Senator Vimal Kochhar

Harper Appoints Disability Advocate to Senate

Conservatives now outnumber Liberals 51-49 in Canada’s Senate. Not bad for a Prime Minister who wanted to abolish the Senate

Newly minted Senator Vimal KochharVim Kochhar, from Ontario, is a businessman. He is the President of Vimal Group in Toronto which manufactures and retails quality pine furniture and home furnishings. Vimal Group is said to work for InterContinental Hotels and Howard Johnson Hotels.

He was responsible for project management of major hotels around the world. He is an entrepreneur and a professional engineer, and, for over 20 years, was associated with the construction industry in Canada and abroad.

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Ramesh Ferris  (photo - Journal Pioneer)

Polio still a problem: activist

Ramesh Ferris (photo - Journal Pioneer)

The Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE – Ramesh Ferris is a study in contrasts as a survivor of polio.

As a six-month-old in India, the disease crippled his legs. But he is now nearing the end of a cross-Canada awareness campaign that demonstrates what proper rehabilitation can do for polio survivors.

Ferris is using a hand cycle to travel across Canada to raise awareness for the eradication of polio. He said Canadians have become complacent about vaccinations over time, while some even think the disease no longer exists.
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Towards a Just Society for Islanders with disabilities

@ Rotary International

Ed: presentation given to Charlottetown Rotary, PEI on June 4th by Stephen Pate a Rotarian, Paul Harris Fellow and the founder of PEI Disability Alert.

When Pierre Elliot Trudeau said “Canada must be a just society” he was voicing a common view after World War II. Too long left out because of their disability and society’s attitudes, Islanders with disabilities must join that Just Society.

Trudeau’s vision of a Just Society is partially a product of his Jesuit education which emphasized Christian values of sharing and caring for our fellow man.

It is also a product of post-World War II Western democracies. After WWII, the United Nations developed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which said in part,

“…inalienable human rights …Among these rights include the right to life, the right to not be tortured or enslaved, and to not be unfairly persecuted. The Declaration also grants freedom of thought, expression, and religion.”

Various western nations including Canada adopted the UN Charter. It also formed the basis for Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s “Canadian Bill of Rights”

The social welfare legislation sponsored by the Trudeau government was part of Trudeau’s vision of a Just Society, such as universal medicare, unemployment insurance and the basket of social programs that we identify as Canadian.

Canada was in the mood for Human Rights. However, Canadians with disabilities were left out of the Just Society for the most part.

In 1981, Trudeau was able to achieve his ultimate goal with the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which says in the preamble

“the only way to provide equal protection to everyone is to enshrine those basic rights and freedoms in the Constitution. …”

With those rights and freedoms came the protection of persons with disabilities, namely

“15.1 Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race…mental or physical disability.”

For the first time persons with disabilities achieved equality under law. Achieving that equality in society would be a struggle that is ongoing today.

Towards a Just Society for Islanders with disabilities

Disability is defined by the United Nations

“Any restriction or lack resulting from an impairment of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being”

Loss of hearing requiring a hearing aid is a disability, small hearing loss isn’t. A learning disorder that impairs the ability to learn is a disability. A developmental disability such as autism is. A limp isn’t a disability, walking difficulty may be.

According to Statistics Canada, one in 7 Islanders has a disability. That means 19,000 Islanders have a disability.
Who are they – people in this room, members of your family if your family is moderately sized. They are often shunted aside in society.

Disability is not a childhood problem. Only 1 in 20 children have a disability while the total age demographic is 1 in 7, a magnitude of 3 times higher.

Most disabilities occur from middle life onward. They are level until one’s 40s – then rising in later years of life. Disability is often a factor of aging. By age 65, 1 in 3 are disabled. By age 75, that’s 1 in 2.

Most Common Disabilities (some multiple disabilities) are mobility 50%, hearing 30%, seeing 30%, agility15%, and learning or speech 6%.

Practicalities of a non-discriminatory society

While Canadians with disabilities are protected from discrimination by the constitution, the practical realities are difficult to overcome. Governments have been studying the issues since the Kirby report in mid 90’s proposing various structures at the Federal and Provincial level.

By 2000, they had issued 2 studies: In Unison A Canadian Approach to Disabilities and In Unison 2000.

What was agreed upon is that Inclusion of Canadians with disabilities is not a simple task. If you give some one an assistive device, wheelchair, hearing aid, will they still have access to non-disabled society?

Governments have come to understand the complexity of the problem includes both hard supports (assistive devices) and soft supports (community, employment, education and home care supports).

Some provinces already had disability support programs like Ontario, Saskatchewan and BC. In 2001 PEI inaugurated the Disability Support Program.

The DSP was severely under-funded. Problems started appearing right away with Human Rights and Privacy cases. Exclusion of seniors who make up 45% of disabilities population was an obvious omission.

A 2004 study funded by the Provinces and the Federal government found persistent unmet needs for assistive devices with 1/3 of disabled. Unmet needs on PEI included: 550 hearing aids, 500 bathroom grab bars, 500 Wheelchairs and scooters, 550 pairs of glasses. Islanders are also in need of community access, transportation access, employment and education supports, home care, and respite care.

The problems were acerbated last year with a $1 million cut back to the DSP and harsh new rules to contain costs.

PEI Disability Alert

At this point, frustrated by government inaction and cut-backs, we formed PEI Disability Alert. We believed that if you could capture the attention of Islanders they would respond to the inequality of treatment of those with disabilities.

With virtually no money, we began a program of street protests handing out flyers, Internet Blog stories, YouTube video stories, letters to the Editor, newspaper stories and TV coverage.
Ours was a grass-roots education program that attempted to shift the public mindset about 19,000 Islanders with disabilities who deserved to be treated better.

We lobbied elected officials and candidates for office of all parties, their party leaders, backroom political operatives – virtually anyone who could influence the process. Some of them promised to help. Luckily for Islanders with disabilities, some of those who promised just got elected to form the new government.

The Road Ahead towards a just society for Islanders with Disabilities

The new government has committed in writing to carry out reform of the DSP, including:
• A full review of the Disability Support Program (DSP)
• Use the results of this review consider broadening the current definition of disabled used under the DSP to accommodate a fuller spectrum of those living with disabilities, including seniors
• Use the results of this review to define new funding levels and provincial commitments for Islanders with disabilities
• Increase home and vehicle modification funding for Islanders with disabilities
• Establish a Standing Committee of the Legislature for Seniors and Islanders Living with Disabilities
• Advocate for increases to the Health and Social Transfer that
would target increased federal transfers to address the needs of Islanders living with disabilities
• Commit to making it part of the mandate of the PEI Housing Corporation that it retrofit a certain percentage of existing seniors and family housing units to make them accessible
• Commit to the construction of $3.2 million in new social housing units by 2009
• Look at making part of the mandate of the PEI Housing Corporation the establishment of fixed percentages of accessible units in new construction.

It is not merely up to the new government. It is up to all of us because the government only expresses the will of the people. If we collectively don’t maintain that desire to see Islanders with disabilities as part of the Just Society the effort will fail.

What can Rotary Do? Rotarians are known to support various disability charities. This is a good place to be coming from. However, we need to move beyond the charity model where the disenfranchised are given part of their needs, but only periodically.

We need to adopt the Social Justice model, the Just Society, where every citizen can be assured some basic minimums values like food, shelter and most of all dignity. For Islanders with disabilities the problem is more complex and involves special needs that society has identified. We need to make sure we follow through and help them obtain their needs.

Winning hearts through statistics

Presentation to Montague Rotary March 28, 2007
I want to win your hearts today through statistics. It’s not enough to see and read anecdotal information on disabilities. The information I am presenting is based on the latest reports by Statistics Canada, the Federal and Provincial governments.

According to Statistics Canada, one in 7 Islanders has a disability or 14.4%. That means 19,000 Islanders, making them one of the largest minorities in the population.

Who are they? The are people in this room, members of your family if your family is moderate sized, friends, people in Rotary, Lions, Kinsmen, your church, political party, people you work with.

Disability is not a childhood problem despite the emphasis on childhood disabilities. For children under 15, the rate of disability is only 5%. Most disabilities occur from middle life onward.

Disability is defined by Statistics Canada

any restriction or lack resulting from an impairment of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.

This is the World Heath Organization definition.

Let me give you some examples. Small hearing loss isn’t a disability: loss of hearing requiring a hearing aid is a disability. A limp isn’t a walking disability: a mobility problem requiring a cane, crutches or wheelchair is.

Disabilities are implicitly long term. If one breaks a leg, there is no disablement in the sense of a permanent disability. If one loses the ability to walk securely over a long period of time that is a mobility disability.

Disability among children is rare. The occurrence of disability increases with age. By age 65, some 35% of the population has developed a disability. By age 75, that is now 50% of the population.

Some of the most common disabilities are mobility (walking) at 50% of the disability population, hearing at 30%, seeing at 30%, agility at 15%, and learning/Speech other – 6 %.

While Canadians with disabilities are protected from discrimination by the constitution, the practical realities are difficult. If you give some one an assistive device – wheelchair, hearing aid – will they still have access to normal society? Will they be able to use the wheelchair without building a ramp on their home, widening doorways, using a wheelchair bus service?

Governments have come to understand the complexity of the problem of inclusion includes both hard supports (assistive devices) and soft supports (community, employment, education and home care supports)

A joint Federal Provincial 2004 study found needs for assistive devices was prevalent with 1/3 of disabled – i.e. 2/3 had no need for assistive device or technical aid while the remainder had an unmet need.

That study showed a continuing need for devices on PEI including 300 grasping tools / hand brace, 550 hearing aids and devices, 375 learning aids, 550 bathroom grab bars, 550 wheelchairs and scooters, and 300 pairs of glasses.

Governments have been studying the problem of how to provide these disability supports since the Kirby report in mid 90’s proposing various structures at the Federal and Provincial level. By 2000 they had issued 2 studies: In Unison A Canadian Approach to Disabilities and In Unison 2000

Some provinces already had disability support programs like Ontario. In 2001 PEI inaugurated the Disability Support Program. PEI agreed to provide assistive devices and technical aids, community access, transportation access, employment and education supports, homecare, respite care.

The PEI DSP program was comprehensive in scope but severely under-funded. To an existing budget of $5 million and 150 recipients the Province added only $1.6 in new money but 800 more applicants. The money was stretched too thin.

Problems started appearing right away with a flurry of Human Rights Commission and Privacy cases. In fact, 50% of all complaints to these two bodies are related to the DSP.
Seniors were excluded despite being 45% of Islanders with disabilities and their obvious higher rates of disability. This can only be defended as a cost saving measure.

Last year the DSP was dealt a severe blow when $1 million was cut back. Harsh new rules were introduced to contain costs.

We call on Government to reform the DSP to meet the needs of Islanders with Disabilities by including all Islanders with disabilities, reforming the program to end human rights abuses, and fund the program at a level to meet the unmet needs of Islanders with disabilities.

PC Party stops at nothing to silence disabled

Since we started exposing the Disability Support Scandal, there has been a concerted effort on the part of the Government and the Progressive Conservative Party of PEI to discredit any negative publicity. It took a new low today when Nelson Hagerman called me mid-afternoon to postpone my presentation to the Charlottetown Rotary until late in the Spring. I knew then the election was going to be called soon.

When I first offered to give an innocuous presentation on Disability on PEI in January 2007, the President of Charlottetown Rotary agreed it would be informative to hear it. He said the presentation committee would call me.

Then I get the phone call from Nelson Hagerman an old-time PC operative and party fund raiser. His wife had been appointed Lieutenant Governor and Nelson would have to be politically neutral from then on. Nelson sent out press releases that he was no longer political.

Nelson was pretty incensed about the whole idea. He questioned my right to speak on a disability topic despite having given at least 8 presentations to Rotary on a similar topic. ‘Shouldn’t someone else give the presentation?’ he suggested. In a bold attempt to limit free speech, he asked me to go over the contents of of my speech. I don’t think any presenter at a Rotary has been subjected to such blatant censorship.

Nelson literally threatened to hit me if I said anything embarrassing about the Government, the ruling PC Party. Guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I started to laugh somewhat nervously at the image of 6 and a half foot Nelson Hagerman standing over 4 and a half foot me in my wheelchair and his hand is out stretched to hit me. He persisted so I kept trying to jolly him up.

Somehow I talked him out of hitting me and letting me speak. It was all set to go until I had a death in the family and had to postpone.

Nelson’s next date was in early May. He was still breathing fire and brimstone on my head should the government be embarrassed by my presentation. He was so incensed he was almost incoherent. I knew the game: put me off outside the expected election zone.

When Nelson called me today I knew it meant an election was expected during the time I would speak. Nelson wouldn’t want the public to think about Islanders with disabilities during an election. Why his good buddies in the Government might have to pay attention to the disabled, help them out. Even worse they might lose a vote.

I told Nelson I knew his game. He laughed nervously. I got a new date in June for my speech. On the CBC supper news they announced an expected mid-May vote. The PC Party will be safe: Disability Alert will be silenced during the election.

So here we have the husband of the Lieutenant Governor called up a disability advocate trying to limit free speech, physically threatening him, using vulgar and profane language, intimidation, and obstruction of the free dissemination of ideas. What has PEI become, a backwater dictatorship in the Third World?

In the work I’ve done for Islanders with disabilities, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in how this government wants to treat information. They want to restrict information and public criticism. It smacks of a police state. I thought we had all been warned enough by Nineteen Eighty-Four and other literature.

Beware of a government that seeks to control public discourse, free speech, and dissent. This one is a text book case of people doing anything to hold onto power. Scary.

Rotary highlights Mia Farrow’s work in the fight against polio

Mia Farrow has worked as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2000 in the fight against Polio. Despite being a very busy actress in more than 40 films during her career, she spends extensive amounts of time in humanitarian activities. Ms Farrow was herself a victim of polio at age 10 and has an adopted child who contracted polio.

The daughter of a director John Farrow and the famous actress Maureen O’Sullivan, she was married to Frank Sinatra, composer conductor Andre Previn and then to Woody Allen. She has starred in numerous films including Rosemary’s Baby, Death on the Nile, Hannah and her sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanours.