On August 15-18, Inclusion BC collaborated with the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship and a number of self-advocacy organizations from across the province to co-host the Self Advocacy Leadership Institute at the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna. This was a learning event where self-advocates had the opportunity to learn about the self-advocacy movement from people with lived experience. We interviewed delegates coming from all over BC – Tracy from Williams Lake, Tony from Kamloops, and Steven from Langley – about their experience at the event.
What have you learned from this event?
Tony: I have learned quite a bit about opening up, learning every day, and meeting some new faces.
Steven: I learned about stuff I already knew and some stuff I didn’t. [For example] there are a lot of things happening in the background that people are still working on, and there are still so many areas that need to be worked on.
Tracy: I have learned [from a panel on the history of the self-advocacy movement] that people got sexually abused and institutionalized, which is just absolutely horrible.
How are you feeling about the event?
Tony: Really good, a bit [tiring] but it’s worth it. With all this information you get, you will hopefully take it with you and take it to your councilmen.
Tracy: I like the event and find it interesting so far.
What made you come to this event?
Tony: Over the last three years, Covid stopped a lot of things. Before Covid-19 came, I was doing a lot of interviews and speaking, but then we got isolated. Everything got shut down and I couldn’t do any conferences or anything. But now everything has been lifted, and it’s been really wonderful to have this. It’s the very first conference we had since Covid-19, and it’s been really good to see all the new faces.
Tracy: My supporter talked me into coming and I said, “Maybe I should come to it,” so I did.
Steven: I applied through the application form with SAiL (Self Advocates in Langley) and got accepted. I came here to help make a difference and really enjoy doing this kind of work. It’s a great experience.
How important is it to you that this event was put on by self-advocates?
Tony: It was very important to me because, most times, these events are all planned by other people. It was nice to have self-advocates [put on the event] and really work together for us. I am really grateful for them and proud of them.
Tracy: It’s very important…[they] did an excellent job organizing the conference and everything else.
Steven: It’s pretty important because if it wasn’t, what kind of event would it be? The self-advocates should run the majority of things.
What do you hope to take home with you, and what do you look forward to in the future?
Tony: New and more leadership, being more open and speaking out more, doing more presentations. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s a good refresh. I’ve been to a lot of conferences, and I like the face-to-face interaction instead of Zoom since [that] doesn’t feel personal at all. I hope for more events to open doors for more self-advocates. We still have a lot of work ahead of us and, hopefully, we can successfully do this again… It’s a lot of work to be done, but we [as self-advocates] are going to come together and work together with the supporters… It’s all very tight. The money situation is tight right now. Low income is a big one, employment is another.
Tracy: People living with disabilities aren’t [treated] fairly at all and that the government needs to step up and help them, but they [haven’t]. Being with the self-advocates, speaking for our rights and what we believe in will make a better world to live in.
Steven: More knowledge and understanding of what everything is and what’s going on around the communities of people with disabilities…doing more of the same thing, getting more connected to organizations, and building community.
This event was an excellent opportunity for self-advocates of varying ages and levels of experience, with different types of support needs, from all over our province to build a community of support and share knowledge. There were challenges, not least of which were the wildfires that threatened Kelowna during our time there. However, the delegates, presenters, and supporters all looked out for one another. While the event had to be cut short on its last day due to an evacuation order at the UBC Okanagan campus, everyone got home safely, and we hope the event had a lasting, positive impact on everyone who attended.
This event was a collaborative effort made possible by:
- BC People First
- Self Advocate Leadership Network
- Self Advocates of the Rockies
- Speaking Up for Self-Advocacy Society (SUSA)
- Talk Northwest
- Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship
- Community Living BC
- Inclusion BC
- University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus
Written by Katie Miller and Galen Exo
Photographed by Galen Exo
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