With great thanks to Paul caune of british Columbias civil rights now
Paul Caune is the executive director of CIVIL RIGHTS NOW!
By Paul Caune
No one has the right to speak on behalf of all of BC’s disabled citizens. The BC government plans to write a White Paper on how to make Lotus Land the most progressive place in Canada for disabled citizens.
Part of the process of writing this White Paper is “stakeholder engagement,” which I excoriated in my last column.
In addition to asking the public to talk to it, the BC government has decided to have a special meeting on Jan. 15. According to this announcement (which is not on the government’s website): “The Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation asked the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities to help bring together a group of leaders in the disability community for an open discussion on this important issue.”
There are two things wrong with this decision:
1) It is wrong in a democratic society for government to give anyone the power to decide who are the leaders of the disability community.
2) There is no such thing as “the disability community.”
What BC has is approximately 750,000 disabled citizens. The emphasis should always be on the citizenship of people with disabilities. Citizens with disabilities are not a special interest group. They should always stay out of the dead-end of identity politics.
As to what is in the best interest of disabled citizens, that is a question of the public interest, of what is the greater good? All the citizens of BC have a right and a duty to propose what is in the public interest in regards to people with disabilities, as they do with any other issue that affects the public interest.
However, the only legitimate body to make that decision is BC’s Legislative Assembly acting in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A democratic government should never give power to some citizens to decide who are the leaders of other citizens. That would be giving away the citizenship of some of our nation.
I am a citizen with a disability. My citizenship is a sacred birthright. My representatives do not have my consent to give anyone the power to give my civil right of free expression to someone else for the purposes of speaking on my behalf. It’s my responsibility to use my civil right of free expression to try to convince other citizens as to what is in public interest.
The Rick Hansen Foundation does not have the right to speak on behalf of all people with disabilities. The Terry Fox Foundation also has no such right. Nor does the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities. (Please note: I’m not asserting that any of these organizations have ever claimed they have that right.)
The three questions to be asked in regards to what is in the public interest are:
Is X really a problem? If yes, then:
Is this a problem that only government can solve? If yes, then:
Is there a practical solution?
Whether the person arguing that X really is a problem for people with disabilities is disabled themselves is irrelevant. The decision on whether the argument is valid should be based only on logic, evidence, ethics, common sense and historical experience. Any proposed solution for such problems should be rigorously debated by the public and their duly-elected representatives on its probability of success.
The fact that you have a disability, or that your child has a disability, or that you’re the Executive Director of a disability organization, in and of itself does not guarantee that you know what is in the common interest in regards to citizens with disabilities.
My organization, Civil Rights Now!, has come to the conclusion, based on evidence, that disabled citizens, regardless of their particular disability, share certain problems. We have proposed a solution. (Please note: “a” solution, not “the” solution.) We have never claimed that if our proposal is put into action all people with disabilities’ problems will be solved. We have never claimed that we speak on behalf of BC’s disabled citizens. We are simply making a proposal for the consideration of the people and the people’s duly-elected representatives.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Paul Caune is the Executive Director of CIVIL RIGHTS NOW! Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through CRN’s website