Posts Tagged "Canadians"


North Vancouver woman says some disabled Canadians feeling left out of discussion during election campaign

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Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders’ debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.

The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.

The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canada’s disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.

“We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that don’t get addressed,” Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.”

Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canada’s disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.

They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.

The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment, and the People’s Party of Canada said its platform contained “no policy related to disabled persons.”

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.

Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.

“The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures,” reads the NDP’s response. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.”

The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.” Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.

The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.

“Canada’s approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve,” Peters said. “Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.”

Other disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.

Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a person’s identity.

Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.

A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.

“That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities,” Haagaard said.

Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.

Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties’ failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.

“What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us,” she said. “Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other words — most of us.”


Low-income Canadians struggling to pay for medications plead for pharmacare

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TORONTO — Three of the major federal parties have promised they’ll introduce universal pharmacare if elected. While the details and costs of their plans differ, coverage of drug prescriptions would help the almost one million low-income Canadians who are struggling to pay for prescription medication, with some going without food and heat to pay for drugs, according to a recent study. 

Vulnerable Canadians, including contract workers and people without private health insurance, are struggling to pay for meds for common conditions like diabetes, asthma, cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Around 20 per cent of Canadians have inadequate drug coverage or no coverage at all, and must pay out of pocket.

Another study found that one in five households reported a family member who, in the past year, had not taken a prescribed medicine due to its cost.

The Liberals have said they will implement a program to ensure “prescription drugs are more affordable and more accessible to more Canadians,” according to their website. The NDP have said their plan will make sure every Canadian can fill their prescription and will save families more than $500 a year.

The Green Party said they would support the expansion of the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed at pharmacies.

Canadians struggle to pay for prescription drugs

Contract worker Natalie Brown, 33 and from Nova Scotia, is one of those struggling to afford her drugs. Chronically ill with a variety of health problems including severe asthma and diabetes, she has no private health insurance or union protection.

Now on disability, her government plan covers some medications but won’t pay for seven others that she’s been prescribed, leaving her with a medical bill for between $200 and $700 a month.

Sometimes she’s forced to choose between staying warm or staying on her meds.

“I will have months where utilities are almost cut off, because I had to pay for my medications,” she said.

“I feel devastated. I worked for the government in the wellness department…and I had the head of the department say ‘you don’t look sick.’”

Brown is among those patients hoping for the introduction of a national pharmacare scheme, a federal system that will cover all essential medications.  

“It would make more sense to have a national program to protect all Canadians equally,” she said.

Patient advocate Bill Swan from Hubley, Nova Scotia, has created the “Faces of Pharmacare” website to highlight the plight of those like Brown.

Swan, who has suffered asthma since childhood and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with about 60 per cent lung function, has also struggled to afford his medications, often ending up in the emergency room.

He is now on a private plan through a professional association, but still pays over $3,000 for his medication.

“It should have been done 50 years ago, so the next best time is now,” he told CTV News.

“There is a massive untold story. There are so many affected by this and don’t get their story out.”

“During the election we are seeing the talk is just talk, and that is what I am doing with my website… we need to get beyond the positioning…and look at why this is good for all Canadians.”

Studies also show that for people with diabetes, heart disease and chronic respiratory problems alone, universal pharmacare would result in 220,000 fewer emergency room visits and 90,000 fewer hospital stays every year.

One-third of working Canadians don’t have drug benefits provided by their employer and most work-based plans don’t cover the full cost of medicine.

University of British Columbia researcher Steve Morgan, who studied pharmacare, is unsure of the prospects for pharmacare post-federal election.

“Canadian voters need to realize that this is a nearly once in a life time opportunity to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of the Canadian health care system,” he said.

“It’s tempting to say we are going to get a national pharmacare system…it depends on voters, but not just parties….but to ask candidates, ask their parties, are you committed.

“Studies are showing that people who don’t take their medications, often end up sicker and in hospital… far more expensive than the prevention they are prescribed.”

With files from CTVNews.ca writer Mariam Matti


New Canadians getting opportunity for new job paths

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New Canadians in the Lower Mainland will get training opportunities that build on skills they have, while forging a path to rewarding work.

The government program, with funding of $451,436, will help people feel more included in their communities as they prepare for careers in the public-works sector.

Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS) will train up to 36 newcomers and immigrants in working for public utilities, building and grounds maintenance, water and waste treatment and fire protection in the Lower Mainland. The program will help new Canadians who have arrived here with similar or transferable skills.

“Working with organizations like PICS is a way to help people build the skills and confidence they need to succeed in the job market and take care of themselves and their families,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This employment program also supports the goals of TogetherBC, the first provincewide Poverty Reduction Strategy, to reduce the number of people impacted by poverty.”

Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, said, “Finding meaningful employment can be a huge challenge for new Canadians. Creating opportunities for people to maximize their potential and build their careers will help them feel more at home and included in their new communities.”

Participants receive training over three full-time 12-week sessions and four weeks of on-the-job work experience placements. The second group is in progress and participants in the first group have found or are seeking employment. The final group begins Nov. 25, 2019.

“The program aims to engage new Canadians who earned skills and training in their native countries, but whose qualifications do not transfer to Canadian certification,” said Raj Hundal, director of employment programs and planning, PICS. “It’s helping immigrants work in their chosen field and develop skills to acquire the appropriate certifications and best utilize their skills.”

Quick Facts:

  • This project is funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction through the Project-Based Labour Market Training stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP’s goal is to increase employment and work experience opportunities in communities throughout B.C.
  • About $15 million will be invested in CEP projects around B.C. in 2019-20.

Learn More:

Learn how CEPs are helping local communities: www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships.aspx

Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society: https://pics.bc.ca/


‘Living my dream’: Sixty people become new Canadians on Canada Day

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Bill and Phyllis Neufeld are British Columbians born and bred.

As Canadians — born in the tiny pulp-and-paper-mill town of Ocean Falls on B.C.’s Central Coast — the Neufelds never had to take an oath of citizenship.

But they have. A few dozen times in what has become an annual Canada Day tradition.

Along with 60 new Canadians from 36 different countries, the Neufelds, sitting in the audience in a ballroom at Canada Place, proudly raised their right hands and pledged allegiance to the Queen and to do right by their country.

“It’s a reaffirmation of our citizenship,” said Bill. “It makes us aware how lucky we are that we are born here.”

It’s also their way to welcome their new fellow Canucks into the family, said Bill, who derives pleasure from witnessing such a momentous occasion. It can get pretty emotional, he admitted. “But I don’t break into tears or anything.”

“I do,” said Phyllis.

A bagpiper kicked off the proceedings, followed by cadets hoisting Canadian flags, a Mountie in red serge, military officers in uniform and dignitaries.

Gabriel George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation provided words of welcome and a traditional blessing and song.

The ceremony touched on reconciliation with First Nations, the original inhabitants of Canada who had welcomed early settlers but not reaped equal benefits from the country, and the need to do better.

B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin presided over the ceremony, hearkening back to history and the initial waves of immigrants who came to Canada fleeing hardship and deprivation.

“You may have faced great hardship and adversity before coming to Canada and you all made sacrifices to be here. I thank you for answering our invitation to make Canada your home,” she told the crowd before leading them in the oath of citizenship.

Devraj Chakraborty, 14, and seven-year-old Kenji Kirby help cut the cake during Canada Day Citizenship ceremony at Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre  on Monday. Photo: Arlen Redekop/Postmedia

Arlen Redekop /


Jerry and Joyce Kirby watched as their daughter Kenji, 7, performed her first duty as a Canadian: Helping cut a giant Canada Day cake studded with raspberries.

“I am so honoured to be Canadian,” said Jerry, who works in IT. “It’s a very wonderful feeling. I am very emotional I could cry right now.”

The family, originally from the Philippines, moved to Vancouver in 2015 under the federal skilled worker program. Canada, is “the land of opportunity,” said Joyce, a gateway to a better life.

Emilie Cautaert left Belgium in 2012 for what she thought would be a one-year expat stint at an aerospace manufacturing company and ended up staying for love.

She was seduced by Vancouver’s easy accessibility to nature and the diversity and multiculturalism she encountered daily in the city and in her office — a situation that would have been quite rare in her home country, she said.

“In Vancouver, all different nationalities work together. It was new for me. When you come from Belgium, everybody is from Belgium.”

Cautaert also met her husband, Alex Swinnard, on her first day at work. They are expecting their first child in August.

Coming to Canada was a dream come true for Rajesh Chakraborty, who moved to B.C. in 2014 with his wife and son.

Chakraborty wanted to work in animation, but there wasn’t much of an industry in India. He had a good job, a stable life, but his love of animation drove him to seek opportunities in Canada.

“It’s been my dream to come here and work, now I can say I am living my dream,” he said, smiling ear-to-ear.

His 14-year-old son Devraj, who attends David Thompson Secondary in Vancouver, took the occasion in stride.

When asked what he was looking forward to the most as a new Canadian, he said: “I’m not really looking forward to anything. Just living my life.”

Emilie Cautaert, who is seven and a half months pregnant, at the  Canada Day Citizenship ceremony at Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre on Monday. Cautaert is originally from Belgium. Photo: Arlen Redekop/Postmedia

Arlen Redekop /


In his remarks, defence minister Harjit Sajjan said all immigrants, new and old, share the same story “of coming here for a better life, hope and a brighter future.”

After the ceremony, he said he wanted to convey to the newly-minted citizens that in Canada, the possibilities are endless: “I want them to understand they have the breadth of Canada to choose from and to succeed.”

Even though Monday’s ceremony was his third Canada Day citizenship ceremony at Canada Place, it remains an emotional and inspiring experience for Sajjan.

He wants his Canadian-born kids, age 7 and 10, to witness the momentous occasion first-hand. That’s why he has been bringing his family to the ceremonies even before he was elected to office.

“I want them to understand the feeling,” he said. “When they see it through the new Canadians coming here and taking that oath, it resonates with them.”

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Not ‘just a suggestion’: MMIWG report calls to give Indigenous people rights most Canadians enjoy already | CBC News

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In the wake of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Firls’ final report, attention is now turning toward whether its 231 recommendations will be acted upon.

On Monday, the national inquiry held its closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que., where it delivered its final report to government. The inquiry detailed what it found to be the root causes of the disproportionate amount of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls and made 231 “Calls for Justice” to address them. 

The inquiry’s commissioners have said the calls for justice are not merely recommendations but legal imperatives based in “international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter, the Constitution and the Honour of the Crown.”

During a news conference after the inquiry’s closing ceremony, commissioner Qajaq Robinson elaborated on what it means to describe the calls for justice as legal imperatives.

“If we’re talking to access to health — for example the calls for justice that there be holistic, wraparound health services in all communities and isolated communities — that isn’t just a suggestion. It’s because the people in those communities have a right to health, have a right to those services,” she said.

“You legally have to do it. It’s not like we’re asking you to come up with a new framework to understand what you have to do. You signed it already; you’re just not implementing it.”

Commissioner Michèle Audette said the rights the inquiry is talking about seem to be respected in southern Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michèle Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Gatineau, Que., on June 3. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“But when you live in my North… far, far away, there’s no protection, no services, no accessibility. And it’s still called Canada,” she said. 

While the commissioners say the calls are rooted in existing legal commitments, the final report also states that “Governments are not required to implement these recommendations.”

‘These truths are piling up’

Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report, the national inquiry’s report acknowledges it will take all Canadians to assert their political pressure on institutions and governments to ensure substantive changes come about.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, has been at the forefront of pushing government for equity for First Nations children in Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with the society and Assembly of First Nations in a 2016 ruling, finding that Canada discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by failing to provide them with the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere in Canada.

Three years later, and more than a decade since the initial complaint was filed, the case is still not resolved. There have been seven non-compliance orders issued by the tribunal since its ruling.

Blackstock says, looking at the calls put forward by the national inquiry, the most important impact the final report can have is to change the collective Canadian consciousness. In her view, governments don’t make change, they respond to change.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“All of these reports and all these truths are piling up in a way that makes it more and more difficult for people normalize the discrimination and to turn away from it,” she said.

She said key indicators that change is happening will be a shift in public attitude. She said the public should also be looking for on-the-ground, immediate investments in things like safe shelter space for women fleeing violence.

Blackstock said the calls for justice might not be legally binding, but are certainly morally binding. Still, she said it will likely take litigation to achieve the level of substantive reform for which the inquiry is calling.

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan said Ottawa is already taking action on the report through its national action plan to invest in housing and education on reserves and safety on the Highway of Tears.

The prime minister has also promised that the federal government will come up with a national action plan for implementing the inquiry’s recommendations, which itself is among the 231 calls for justice in the final report. The government says this action plan will be developed in partnership with survivors, family members as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit governments and organizations. 

When asked if the recommendations of the inquiry are legally binding, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs wrote in an emailed statement that “the final report offered recommendations to inform concrete action,” and referred to the inquiry’s terms of reference which include making recommendations to remove “systemic causes of violence and to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls.” 

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Town Talk: Former U.S. ambassador now advocates for all Canadians

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FRIENDS IN DEED: In Bob Rennie’s Chinatown office-art museum recently, 2014-2017 U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and wife Vicki released a jointly written memoir of their time here. Titled The Art of Diplomacy, Strengthening the Canada-U.S. Relationship in Times of Uncertainty, the book reflects their personal friendship with and support of Democrat former president and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama. Diplomats represent their own country’s interests above all, of course. Still, alternately authored chapters in the Heymans’ “love letter to Canada, our neighbour and best friend” show them contributing to fellowship and culture far beyond Washington’s remit and Ottawa’s political and diplomatic precincts.

Their resolve “to build bridges, not walls” resulted in a bike lane replacing post-9/11 concrete barriers at the ambassadorial residence, Lornado. They also filled the house with art, presented many eminent artists, hosted scores of public events, sparkplugged a visit by Obama, and installed honey bees who, with their queen, departed soon after they did. Conversing with and learning from ordinary folk, the Heymans criss-crossed Canada. That included days spent in Arctic-shore Tuktoyaktuk, Labrador’s Mary’s Harbour and even more remote Battle Harbour. When it came time to leave Canada, though, the news came, deplorably, in a New York Times article rather than a single word from the Trump transition team. “Vicki and I now consider ourselves citizen ambassadors for the Canada-U.S. relationship,” Heyman wrote. “We are private citizens working to make a difference.” Supporting that intent, they and Rennie donated all proceeds from their book sales to The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a- Reader campaign.

Accompanied by daughter Ali in a simulated 1955 Chevrolet, Jen Rainnie chaired a gala to raise $900,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Malcolm Parry /


Hweely Lim, Kirsten Maxwell and Lucia Kwong surrounded multi-charity $5-million benefactor Sylvia Chen at the Heart of Gold gala.

Malcolm Parry /


MISS CANADIAN PIE: Jen Rainnie drove her Chevy to the levee, but it sure wasn’t dry. In fact, the levee — more specifically the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon’s 14th-annual Heart of Gold gala — reportedly generated $900,000 and change. Meanwhile, the Chevy that second-time gala chair Rainnie seemingly drove was actually a full-scale Styrofoam sculpture of the front end of a 1955 model. That was an epic year as a new-for-Chevrolet V-8 engine promised high performance. Rainnie, foundation chair Irene Chanin, board chair Brian Curin and all involved doubtless hope the gala will spur a similar result. That would include supporting an automated external defibrillator program planned to double the survival rate of those experiencing cardiac arrest.

Paul Armstrong heads the Crazy8s Film Society Andrew Williamson founded in 1999 and that received an outstanding-achievement Leo award.

Malcolm Parry /


PICTURE PERFECT: Directors Helen Haig-Brown and Gwaai Edenshaw’s Edge of the Knife (Sgaawaay K’unna) cut through other nominees at the recent Leo Awards gala for B.C.’s film and television productions and personnel. It was named best motion picture, and Haig-Brown and Edenshaw received best-direction Leos. Director Menhaj Huda’s Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance was named best TV movie.

Walter Daroshin and wife Tina walked the red carpet at the local movie industry’s Leo Awards gala he has headed since its second running in 1997.

Malcolm Parry /


Staged by the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of B.C., the event is nostalgic for chair Walter Daroshin. That’s because a feature film he’d executive produced, The War Between Us, won the 1996 debut running’s top award. Daroshin signed on as Leos president in 1997. Two years later, Andrew Williamson founded the Crazy8s Film Society that won this year’s outstanding-achievement Leo. Long headed by Paul Armstrong, its juried contestants shoot, edit and deliver short but sometimes superb movies in eight days.

Twins Sam and Kailey Spear made the short horror film Alien: Ore at Britannia Mine to commemorate the Alien feature film’s 40th anniversary.

Malcolm Parry /


QUADS: One Crazy8’s production was written and directed by Bowen Island-raised twins Kailey and Sam Spear, and filmed by two more twins, Graham and Nelson Talbot. Nominated for six Leos, it has a robot nanny violently attack a mother regarding the care of her daughter. Keeping up the jollity, the Spears and Talbots made the short horror flick Alien: Ore in the Britannia mine. It’s the only Canadian picture among 20th Century Fox’s commissions to commemorate the original Alien’s 40th anniversary.

Tim Roddick accompanied entrepreneur-wife Madeleine Shaw at a plate-smashing benefit for the United Girls of The World Society she founded.

Malcolm Parry /


SMASH BASH: You could wait for a Greek wedding to break plates. Or you could pay $20 for a plate emblazoned with the word for something you dislike — homophobia, perfectionism, say — and sling it against a wall. Attendees did that when multi-entrepreneur Madeleine Shaw fronted a fundraiser for the United Girls of the World Society she founded. The organization aids parents and caregivers “that assist in supporting adolescent girls’ development of personal empowerment, healthy peer relationships, self-esteem and body positivity.” Shaw’s accompanying husband, Tim Roddick, was newly met in 1996 when this column reported her launching a women’s apparel firm. “He had a girlfriend, and I was having unwholesome thoughts about him,” Shaw recalled. “But one thing led to another.” They married in 2001 — without smashed crockery.

City-based movie producer Tex Antonucci’s name was a consequence of animator-father Danny’s reverence for famed film cartoon creator Tex Avery.

Malcolm Parry /


IN A NAME: Tex Antonucci, who co-produced the Leo Awards’ best-movie-nominated Indian Horse, was named to commemorate legendary cartoon animator Tex Avery. Antonucci’s father Danny made the cult classic Lupo The Butcher (Google it). His Ed, Edd n Eddy was possibly the last TV series to employ Walt Disney and Avery’s hand-painted-cell technique rather than computer animation. At least Danny didn’t name his son for a beloved Avery character: Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, Porky, etc.

Danny Antonucci’s TV series Ed, Edd n Eddy may have been the last one produced by hand-painted cells before digital technology triumphed.

Malcolm Parry /


DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Th-th-th-that’s all, folks.

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Job fair breaks down employment barriers for Canadians living with autism

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For people living with autism spectrum disorder, getting a job comes with specific challenges.

“I would always get stymied at the interview stage,” said Katherine Shadwick, who has a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering but struggled to get a foot in the door after graduation.

That’s because Shadwick, who is on the autism spectrum, says she can have trouble connecting with the subtext of what is being said.

“If you tell me one thing and don’t make it very obvious that you’re saying it in a sarcastic manner, for example, I might not pick up on the sarcasm and might take it for face value,” she told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’sThe Early Edition.

During a traditional interview, that makes it much more difficult to sell herself to a potential employer and highlight her skills, she added.

“People with autism usually end up being misjudged in a way:  I do have friends, I empathize, I have lots of emotions,” Shadwick said.

“I was just having trouble finding jobs because of that people connection [in the interview].”

Alternative interviews

After partnering with a professional services firm that helps connect people who are on the spectrum with employers and facilitates the interview process, Shadwick found a job as a software tester at Vancity credit union.

“They see if your personality is a good fit, and then they give you some pre-employment classes and additional testing, and then they match you with an employer,” Shadwick said.

“I never did an interview directly with Vancity.”

She’s speaking about her experience — and ways to improve the workplace and jobs market for people with different abilities — at a Spectrum Works job fair in Richmond, B.C., on Monday.  

According to a 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, adults with autism have the lowest employment rate in Canada at just 14 per cent — compared to the general population at 93 per cent.

“People that are on the spectrum are highly intelligent,” Shadwick said.

“Sometimes, we need more structure and clearer expectations but, once we get something, we get it and we’re good.”

Katherine Shadwick is a software tester and lives with autism spectrum disorder. Heather Linka is neurodiversity employment consultant. The two are speaking with people at the Spectrum Works job fair, to get those with ASD get a job. 8:45

‘Intentional autism hiring’

Heather Linka, a neurodiversity employment consultant and employer coordinator with the job fair, works with people including Shadwick to break down employment barriers in the IT sector.

Adjustments in the hiring process and accommodations in the workplace can be put in place for what she calls “intentional autism hiring.”

“We recommend things like skill-testing questions or a more casual meet-and-greet environment rather than the [traditional] interview,” Linka said.

On the job, accommodations could include things like tailoring the sitting arrangement in open-desk environments or making some sensory adjustments in places with fluorescent lighting.

Clear expectations and communication are key, Linka emphasized.

“Generally, it’s just mindfulness and education on both sides,” she said.

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Swearing is the biggest etiquette faux-pas among Canadians, poll suggests

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There are noisy eaters, people who are always late, litterbugs, chatty movie-goers and those who drive too slowly in the fast lane.

But a new poll suggests the biggest etiquette faux-pas of all among Canadians is foul language.

According to a nation-wide survey conducted by Vancouver-based Research, Co., 64 per cent of respondents said they’d witnessed someone swearing in public over the past month. In Alberta, that number jumped to a whopping 71 per cent.

“It would seem that the language of Canadians is getting more colourful,” Research Co. president and CEO Mario Canseco said in a statement. “More than two-thirds of women and residents aged 55 and over report hearing someone swearing in public over the past month.”

By comparison, only 56 per cent of those polled said they witnessed a child behaving badly in public while their parents looked the other way, while just under half said they witnessed someone littering in a public place.

Interrupting or talking over another person else followed closely behind at 48 per cent, and 47 per cent of respondents said they’d been cut off by someone while driving.

Other behaviours reported by Canadians included seeing people chewing with their mouths open (39 per cent). Again, that number was higher in Alberta at 44 per cent.

The results suggest cutting in line at the store was more common in Atlantic Canada than in the rest of the country (48 per vent versus 39 per cent).

According to Research Co. 33 per cent of those polled reported seeing someone making an obscene gesture (43 per cent in Alberta).

“The two lowest ranked items on the list of behaviours are someone delivering important information via text or e-mail instead of face-to-face (31 per cent) and someone ignoring, or not responding to an invitation (19 per cent),” the company said.

The survey also included two positive behaviours. According to the report, 63 per cent of respondents reported seeing someone hold a door open for a stranger, and just over one in four saw someone giving up their seat for someone who had a disability, was pregnant or elderly.

Research Co. conducted an online survey among 1,000 adult Canadians between March 22 and 24. The data carries a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

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Roughly 2/3rds of Canadians are concerned about mobility, hearing and vision issues: new study

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A new study from the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Angus Reid Institute suggests more than two-thirds of Canadians fear someone in their lives will face mobility, hearing or vision disabilities in the next 10 years.

Roughly the same two-thirds concerned about a family member or a friend are also worried they too may face similar challenges.

Overall, almost one quarter of Canadians say they have a disability or face mobility, hearing, and vision challenges.

According to the study, 28 per cent of adults aged 35-54 expect to deal with a disability in the next five to 10 years – that number rises to 32 per cent for adults over age 55.

Canadians are also concerned about accessibility to buildings, the study indicates.

Seventy per cent of respondents said they believe any new building that can be made accessible for all should, and one in five Canadians would support a business more knowing it was certified as accessible.

The study also looked at the economic backgrounds of the respondents, and found nearly half of all people who say they’re directly affected by a disability come from households with combined incomes of less than $50,000 annually.

But for those directly affected and earning $100,000 or over, the number plummets to only 14 per cent.

The poll data comes from an online survey that ran from Nov. 14 to Nov. 20 2018, from 1,800 randomized members of an Angus Reid study group.

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Canadians anxious about accessibility issues as they age

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The Rick Hansen Foundation is releasing a national survey on accessibility issues today.


Two-thirds of Canadians are anxious about developing disabilities and challenges in the next decade that will impact where they live, shop and go for any reason, and about a quarter of Canadians say they already have mobility, vision or hearing challenges, according to a survey to be released today by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

The survey of 1,800 Canadians was conducted and sponsored by the Angus Reid Institute and focused on the perspectives and concerns of individuals regarding disabilities, mobilization and accessibility.

Hansen said it is striking that about a quarter of Canadians said they had mobility, vision or hearing issues and nearly half of survey respondents said they spend time with individuals dealing with such concerns. It is clear millions of Canadians are worrying about such challenges and how they will impact their own lives or those of their family members, he said.

Already, nearly a third of people say accessibility is a consideration when they think about where they go out. And a third of people said their own homes are not accessible to those with mobility, hearing or vision challenges.

About 70 per cent of survey respondents said Canada should have universal accessibility standards for newly constructed buildings and homes.

Hansen said long overdue is a “new, standard playbook” for consistent accessibility building codes across Canada.

“People in the design communities are rarely focused on accessibility, or if they are, they’re driven to embracing minimum codes. The other problem is that building codes and standards — and the interpretation of them — vary across municipal, provincial and national jurisdictions.”

In late 2017, the provincial government awarded the Rick Hansen Foundation a multi-year $9-million grant to help remove physical barriers and realize the goal of universal access for those with disabilities. The grant enabled the foundation to develop an accessibility certification service, which is a LEED-style system to rate accessibility in multi-family residential homes, retail stores, businesses and institutional buildings where people work, study, and pursue a variety of activities.

The foundation also used some of the grant to establish a partnership with Vancouver Community College to train individuals how to analyze and rate buildings for overall accessibility. After the course, the graduates (over 70 so far) must write a formal exam administered through the Canadian Standards Association. Besides developing the curriculum, the grant enabled free accessibility ratings for 1,100 buildings across B.C. and, in a further incentive, also allowed organizations seeking such ratings to apply for grants of up to $20,000 to use toward improvements such as automatic doors, ramps, and other necessary features.

While other provinces have yet to copy B.C.’s generous grant program, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Ontario have also created some college-level educational programs to train accessibility assessors, Hansen said.

“It’s wonderful to see that momentum is building across the country. This is going to be a made-in-B.C. social innovation, a national and global standard, and hopefully similar to the LEED certification program for energy-efficient buildings. Our intention is to learn from that model.”

The B.C. Institute of Technology was an early subscriber to the program and the Vancouver Airport earned an “Accessibility Certified Gold” rating, for features such as counters with heights that are appropriate for those using wheelchairs, curbside ramps and numerous other features.

Hansen said the fact that the program can no longer accept new registrants for free ratings since it quickly reached capacity shows the huge demand for such a service. Businesses that still want to be rated and certified can be waitlisted and book the service through the foundation.

Referring to the fact that the Angus Reid survey showed that 21 percent of Canadians say they are more likely to support a business that is certified accessible, Hansen said scorecards can be displayed in windows; they’re a good form of advertising for commercial enterprises and a fine way to reveal which ones are socially conscious.

“This is not just a human rights issue, it’s becoming an important economic issue. Inclusive design is good for business, not just for society,” he said, noting that the survey shows 30 per cent of Canadians consider accessibility when deciding where to do business. Moreover, home builders would be wise to construct fully accessible single and multi-family residences since ageing in place has emerged as a priority, he said.

“I thought I was trying to create a global movement when I was 27 and starting out on my Man in Motion tour but little did I know just how inaccessible and disconnected the world was,” Hansen said, adding that accessibility has finally become top of mind for many so “maybe the fantasy is becoming more real than ever.”

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Twitter: @MedicineMatters

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