Paul Caune is the executive dirctor for Civil Rights Now!
Disabled people and their families should not be tricked into “stakeholder engagement”
By Paul Caune
The BC Government wants to know what are the needs of the disabled. The disabled need the government to stop pretending it doesn’t know the answer to that question.
The stated purpose for wanting to know what are the needs of the disabled is that it will lead to BC becoming the most progressive place for people living with disabilities in Canada.
This goal may sound familiar to any old-timers reading this column. One of the five goals for a Golden Decade that the BC Government set for itself in 2005 was to “build the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities, those with special needs, children at risk and seniors.”
Many of my previous columns have demonstrated the alarming state of seniors, children at risk, and people with disabilities living in BC. Of course, the BC Government has read all the reports that justify me describing the state of those vulnerable people as “alarming.” I say “of course” because the reports I’m referring to were written either by the Government itself or by officers of BC’s Legislative Assembly.
The BC Government knows that, starting in the late 1990’s, it was sued by tax-payers who wanted to get science-based treatment for their children with autism covered by the Medical Services Plan. The Government knows it fought these tax-payers for five years, losing in the lower courts but, sadly for children with autism, winning in the Supreme Court of Canada. The BC Government knows it made sure that the best place on earth would not to be the most progressive place in Canada for children with autism.
The Government of BC knows that from September 2006 to July 2007 it had a consultation with the public called the “Conversation on Health”, during which many people with disabilities told the Government what they needed. There are pages and pages of summaries of what people with disabilities and their families stated during this Conversation on the BC Government’s website.
The Government of BC knows that in 2009 a lawsuit by former residents of the Woodlands institution forced it to financially compensate some of the former residents of that institution for the abuse of them by civil servants.
I have to write “some” because the Government knows it has refused to financially compensate the former residents of Woodlands who left that institution before August 1, 1974—hiding this cruelty behind a legal technicality.
The Government of BC knows that during the last three years it has received waves of complaints from parents with adult children who are clients of Community Living British Columbia (CLBC), the crown corporation responsible for funding services for adults with developmental disabilities. As recently as November 2011, the Chair of the Board of CLBC admitted to the Government that CLBC had “lost sight of its core values.”
It is very telling that the stated goal of the BC Government is to make this province the most progressive place in Canada for people living with disabilities. Why not make British Columbia the most progressive place in the world for people living with disabilities? Because a standard using the rest of Canada is setting the bar abysmally low. With such a standard, even a tiny improvement of the current system will give the Government a pretext to brag that they’ve made BC the most progressive place in Canada for disabled people.
Also, if the BC Government ever decided to make this province the most progressive place in the world for people with disabilities, it would crash into what is commonly known as “reality”. The United States, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and many Scandinavian countries have laws and services for the benefit of the disabled which are better than their supposed equivalents in British Columbia.
The BC Government is not ignorant of what disabled people need. It knows how badly it has treated disabled people since the nineteenth century. But the Government’s priority is how to dodge having to act on the facts.
Experience has taught the Government that many disabled people and their families are suckers for what Public Relation fraudsters call “stakeholder engagement.” Stakeholder engagement is a magic show intended to create an illusion of democracy. And like all magic shows, stakeholder engagement only works if the audience wants to be fooled.
Here’s some advice for BC’s disabled and their families: if a PR vampire calls you a stakeholder, drive a stake through its heart.
Paul Caune is the Executive Director of CIVIL RIGHTS NOW! Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or CRN’s website
Tags: British Columbia, Disabled, featured, Paul Caune