Disability Justice: The Call to Action

By: Naomi Shi (bio below), UNA blog writer

 

Disability, the theme of the upcoming Rosemary Brown Conference this year, is experienced by more than 19% of the world population. In Canada alone, more than 5.3 million people are affected by some form disability. Discrimination towards persons with disabilities is ingrained in our culture and is still immensely relevant to the international community. Ableism conceptualizes the belief that people with disabilities are inferior, and that having a disability is a defect rather than a dimension of difference. The interpretation of difference as a defect is the root of ableist acts, as it fosters the culture of discrimination in society.

However, ableism is more blatantly and commonly integrated into our culture, albeit the great anti-discrimination progress that is repeatedly depicted. Many nowadays fail to even recognize ableism as legitimate and predominant discrimination. Accessibility, or the lack thereof, is one of the most obvious forms of discrimination people with disabilities face. Disabled people are still to access places and services only open to their able-bodied counterparts. How often have you seen wheelchair ramps at the back of a building? Is that something you even notice? Ableist terms have also become naturalized in the English language, with many people carelessly using pejoratives (and often without knowing the harmful connotation behind these words) in casual conversations, harmfully promoting the prejudicial treatment of people with disabilities in daily life.

Although ableism is a significant and universal detriment, it is consistently marginalized and disregarded as a pressing and relevant social justice concern. Framed as lacking, undesirable, and laced with pity and stigma, the wrongful perception of people who have disabilities and the blind integration of ableist acts in society contributes to the widespread assumption that disability does not constitute a serious category of oppression. While indignation with issues such as racism and sexism is heavily circulated and publicized by social justice activists, it contrasts their chronic disregard and indifference towards ableism. This normalizes the marginalization of disability, and it further undervalues the weight of ableism when compared to other forms of discrimination.

The winner of the Rosemary Brown Award for Women this year has helped change how society views people with mental disabilities. Dr Dana Brynelsen is a stalwart advocate for the rights of children with learning disorders. Pioneering the Infant Development Programs of BC since their founding from 1975 to 2009, Brynelsen has dedicated her efforts to promote inclusion at a time when isolation of children with developmental disabilities was common. The program she fronted has ensured over 100,000 families had the support they needed to help these children realize their full potential. As the recipient of numerous awards for her work in the areas of early childhood intervention, Dr. Brynelsen has been recognized for her unyielding commitment to the well-being of infants and families across BC. She received the Order of British Columbia – the province’s most prestigious honour – in 2014.

The call for disability justice is urgent and pressing. Dr. Dana Brynelsen’s persistent work in the domain of early childhood intervention exhibits how the fostering of a culture based on inclusion, rather than segregation, has positively altered society’s perception of disability. Through her achievements in her field, she shows how disability justice has the power to not only change the way how people perceive their culture and its regards to diversity and difference but also to fundamentally change the way social change is enacted. It is vital that disability, and ableism, be considered equally amongst other issues of social justice.

The fourth annual Rosemary Brown Conference will be held on September 23rd at Asia Pacific Hall at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University and will include discussions on gender, sexuality, and disability.

Naomi Shi

Naomi Shi
Volunteer Blog Writer, UNA Vancouver
Naomi is an avid and eager student who is driven by curiosity. She is a student newspaper editor, a youth parliamentarian, and is currently approaching her senior year at Little Flower Academy. She strives to learn more about past events that shaped the world around her and understand its correlation to current events that continue to dominate and influence the world today. Having been an active participant in Model United Nations for three years – through attempting to rectify simulated international conflicts, she has become a more conscientious student. Model UN has increased her knowledge in world matter and allowed her to better comprehend different mindsets and perspectives through attempting to rectify international conflicts. In 2016, Naomi volunteered with Canada Global Culture and Education Association along with 70 other British Columbians as Canadian ambassadors, leading a cultural exchange camp in Guangzhou, China. She was able to teach and supervise workshops on English, Canadian history, and social justice for five weeks to underprivileged youth in China. She is excited to complete her final year of secondary education, as she hopes to pursue her interest in sociology and post-colonialism in the future.
If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I would love to go to Israel, as it is an epicentre of history and religion. Visiting Jerusalem and its bountiful landmarks of cultural, historical, and religious significance is something that I wish to do within my lifetime.

 

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Meet the 2017 Rosemary Brown award recipient and keynote speaker, Dr. Dana Brynelsen

Annual Rosemary Brown Award for Women, 2017 Recipient, Dr. Dana Brynelson

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Dana Brynelsen is the former Provincial Advisor for the Infant Development Program of BC and worked in that capacity from 1975 until 2009. In that role she supported the development of 53 Infant Programs in communities across BC and encouraged the development of a parallel network of Aboriginal Infant Development Programs. Since their inception Infant Development Programs in BC have served over 100,000 families. She has advised on the development, operation and evaluation of early childhood intervention services in BC, Canada, England and New Zealand.  Dana has a particular interest in Family Centred Care and has presented on this topic at many conferences. She worked with colleagues and faculty at UBC to establish the Certificate and Diploma in Infant Development at UBC a first in Canada, and was successful in having the York Certificate in Infant Mental Health offered through UBC.  She collaborated in developing the course work on disability for the Family Resource Program Certificate. Dana has published in the field, served on the editorial board of Infants and Young Children and is past president of Parent Child Mother Goose, a national organization that provides training and sets the policies for this attachment based program. She is a founding member of the BCFASD Resource Society and a former Director of the Society of Children and Youth. She was involved in the development of the Early Hearing Program in BC, which provides universal newborn hearing screening and leads to early language intervention for all infants identified with hearing loss. Dana worked with colleagues to establish the Early Years Conference through UBC and the International FASD Conference. She is the recipient of many awards for her work in the areas of early childhood intervention.  These include; Year of the Child and Family Award (1979) BCACL Partnership Award (1984), Winston Churchill Fellowship Award (1987), YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (1997), UBC Doctor of Laws (2004), Federation of Community Services Award for Excellence (2009) , BC Family Resource Programs Outstanding Achievement Award (2009), BC Council for Families Distinguished Service to Families Award (2010), Order of BC (2014). Vancouver Island University Doctor of Laws (2016).  Although retired, she continues to work in a voluntary capacity.  Her current project involves advocating for changes to the court system to ensure better outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens, infants and young children in care or at risk for out of home care and their families.

Working Abroad for UN-Habitat in the Vibrant City of Nairobi

Author: Stephanie Ortiz

Doug

I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Lau over the phone as I overlooked Vancouver’s smoky skyline following the BC Day long weekend. We chatted about his recent experience in Nairobi working as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) through the United Nations Association of Canada. Doug was hired as a JPC by UN-Habitat, an agency that promotes sustainable urban and human development as well as adequate shelter for all. Doug expressed that the opportunities felt endless in this lively East African city as he made his way to work every day. Something that struck Doug about Nairobi was the city’s vibrancy and the optimism that people had about the future. We discussed what it was like working at the UN office in Nairobi, his responsibilities as a JPC with UN-Habitat, and the challenges of working abroad.

During his six-month contract term, Doug discovered that the UN office in Nairobi -which has roughly 5,000 employees from all over the world- was “quite an exciting place to work.” Doug’s office was located in a zero emissions building on campus and the UN Nairobi campus was recounted as being a forward thinking place, with an open-space concept, and indoor gardens –features that align with the UN-habitat mandate. The overall campus was illustrated as having preserved gardens, lined with elegant trees, and manicured grass and described as an incredible and lively place.”You could feel that people around you were very capable and motivated,” Doug recalled.

As a JPC, Doug carried two major responsibilities. The first being monitoring and evaluating programs. He developed systems to track performance, assessed the progress of those involved, gave feedback, and then provided and guided the necessary adaptations. His second responsibility comprised of reporting essential information to stakeholders and donors. “One of the coolest parts of working with the UN is working with diverse partners.” This experience gave Doug the opportunity to collaborate with other different units and external agencies based in Nairobi. This allowed him to work with other local governments, delegations from foreign diplomatic missions, community groups, women’s groups, youth groups, and more.

However, relocating and working somewhere unfamiliar often brings along a string of challenges. Doug confessed, “it’s always difficult to adjust to working in a new city. Not only do you need to learn the new office, practices, and procedures,” you inevitably have to combine it with figuring out the transportation system, where to get groceries, and so on. Doug added, “but it becomes very rewarding as the months go on.”

When asked whether he would recommend this type of work experience to others, he responded, “Absolutely. This has been an incredibly formative experience, not just in my professional career but for my personal development. It’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to work in this field. Development work hasn’t been around long enough but it’s a great field to work in and very rewarding. It’s Important to understand how competitive this field is and how important the work you’re doing is. You’re competing from a pool of candidates from all corners of the world and it should be approached as such. It’s tough, something that needs to be taken seriously. Work hard and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in right away. It can take time. And just remember that not all citizens of all countries have the same opportunities.”

If you’re considering a career in development, the  2017 Hiring Trends Report: The Jobseeker’s Guide to Development Recruiting is well worth a read. If you’d like to participate in the UNA Canada’s International Development and Diplomacy Internship Program, you can visit the Facebook page for more information. The deadline to apply is September 5th, 2017.

 

DOXA Event Recap

The United Nations Association in Canada (Vancouver Branch) was pleased to sponsor a film at the 2017 DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

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Photo of UNA Vancouver taken by Tara Flynn Development Manager, Doxa Documentary Film Festival

The screening of “Complicit” was held at VIFF’s VanCity Theatre on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. The screening was well-attended, and the audience was clearly engaged in the issues presented in the film.

One of the highlights of the 2017 edition of the DOXA Festival is the Spotlight on Troublemakers, which celebrates courageous dissent in difficult circumstances. Our sponsored film provides an incredible first-hand look at the frontlines of China’s labour movement. It shines a light on the global electronic manufacturing industry in China, where 90% of the world’s consumer electronics are produced.

The featured activists are committed to taking on some of the world’s largest corporations, and they speak openly about abysmal working conditions. Young people work in buildings with poor ventilation, and handle chemicals which have been banned in industrialized Western countries for more than 40 years. Corruption and obstruction run deep, as workers struggle to deal with diagnosis and treatment of occupational diseases, many leading to serious illness or death

Complicit” was also included in the festival’s Justice Forum, so it was followed by a thought-provoking question and answer session led by two guest speakers. Cathy Walker is the former National Health and Safety Director of the CAW (Canadian Auto Workers Union) now UNIFOR. She has worked on China-related projects for the Canadian Labour Congress, the Vancouver & District Labour Council, and the BC Federation of Labour. Fiona Koza is a Business and Human Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada. She works to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses and to ensure access to remedies for people who have been harmed.

The afternoon concluded with informal discussions with audience members who visited the UNAC information table in the lobby of the theatre.

We extend our thanks to our two guest speakers, and to all DOXA staff and volunteers for making this year’s festival such a success. We look forward to working together again next year!

DOXA Film Screening: Complicit

UNA-Vancouver is sponsoring the May 6th screening of Complicit, a documentary film about the detrimental health effects involved in the global electronics manufacturing industry in China.  Complicit is part of the festival’s Justice Forum; thus, it will host a Q&A after the screening. Directed by Heather White and Lynn Zhang, they aim:

to shine a light on what it’s really like for Foxconn factory workers, who produce devices for Apple and other companies.

The film, which was mostly shot undercover, follows Yi Yeting, a former Foxconn employee who was diagnosed with leukemia at the young age of 24. The cause? Benzene poisoning from a cleaning agent that was used while making the iPhone and iPad. Apple banned the substance, along with n-hexane, from its assembly lines back in 2014, following reports that it was leading to leukemia among factory workers. But Yeting is still fighting for Foxconn and other companies to acknowledge benzene poisoning and other issues.

Complicit debuted this past March at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

Tickets for the May 6th, 2017 screening at VanCity Theatre @ 2pm are on sale through DOXA. Ticket prices range from $11-$15.

To see other films included in DOXA’s 2017 program click here. DOXA runs from May 4th to May 14th.