By Kristi Fairholm Mader
“Families are the first educators and the first line of healing and protection. They are where we turn when times are tough and when we seek inspiration. Families can extend beyond bloodlines, to one’s support network of friends and mentors. How we define them is a personal choice. Families instil character and make good citizens. And good citizens make a great province and a great country.”
At Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), we listened to the throne speech with excitement. We are a network of families advocating for a good life for our loved ones with disabilities. Christy Clark’s throne speech recognizes that families are the first line of healing and protection— we live that truth intimately and are excited to work closely with the government on how to support the first line.
We agree that networks of friends and families are essential to a good life, and have been building such networks for the past 20 years. As a society, how do we ensure that everyone has access to a support network of people that love them? We maintain that the only true disability is isolation and loneliness— acknowledging the importance of networks is a first step in building a society where everyone belongs.
As parents and family members, we are reminded every day of the gifts and contributions of our sons and daughters. And we see how often their gifts and contributions go unrecognized. Citizenship includes the opportunity to participate and give back to community, not viewed only as ‘vulnerable’ or someone who requires services. We have everything to gain by turning the spotlight and opening the door to the contributions and citizenship of our sons and daughters with disabilities.
Families across BC live in a reality of challenge and often struggle. We meet this reality with creativity, innovation and love. The throne speech indicates a new relationship with government; a relationship that recognizes the value of families and our relatives, and an equal partnership between government and families towards good life for all people with disabilities in BC.