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We often think of inclusive education as the origin story of Inclusion BC. It all began in the mid-1950s when parents joined efforts to bring their children home from large institutions. They fiercely advocated for their children to have the same opportunity as their siblings to receive an education in their community schools. Almost 70 years later, we are a strong federation of members working and advocating for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from the twinkle to the twilight years. There’s been much progress, but significant systemic challenges remain for students with disabilities.

Inclusion BC is very concerned about the lack of proper support to educators and students, leading us back to old mindsets and the reappearance of institutional practices like the use of restraints and seclusion, exclusion, and segregation for many students. This concern is informed by the 500-plus calls from parents each year whose children experience daily discrimination in their community schools as they strive to receive a meaningful education.

However, with new leadership, new opportunities for change can arise, and we look for them. Over the summer, Inclusion BC had a chance to meet with Honourable Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care, now that she is settled in her new position. At our meeting, we shared our belief that students with and without disabilities who learn in inclusive classrooms gain the skills and mindset to create inclusive spaces in their adult lives, and that it is not only an aspirational goal but our shared responsibility to ensure all students in our province receive a quality education and are prepared to be good citizens.

We talked about the culture of exclusion allowed to continue in many schools and the devasting poverty of expectations many have regarding the potential of students with disabilities. We shared the W5 documentary feature on the use of restraints and seclusion and referenced our member, BCEdAccess, and their work on the Exclusion Tracker. Two clear examples of how many students with disabilities are not given equal opportunities to develop their full potential.

The 30 minutes flew by with meaningful back-and-forth conversation, and we ended the meeting by asking the Minister to show leadership on the crucial issues we shared and offered our allyship and support to those efforts. We emphasized that together, we can change the trajectory of an entire generation of students with the actions we take today.

We felt heard, and it was only a week later we received an invitation to participate in a conversation with the larger Ministry of Education and Child Care team on the state of Inclusive Education in BC. We will show up carrying with us the stories of the students and families we support every day and the commitment to moving inclusive education forward in our province.

We know better; now is the time to do better.

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