B.C. promises action on jobs for disabled

Minister Don McRae says policy changes coming in June, and employers are a key part of increasing opportunity

Retired London Drugs CEO Wynne Powell speaks at the B.C. legislature with a sign-language interpreter: 'This is not out of the ordinary. This is how we should operate as a society.'

Retired London Drugs CEO Wynne Powell speaks at the B.C. legislature with a sign-language interpreter: 'This is not out of the ordinary. This is how we should operate as a society.'

Of the thousands of comments the B.C. government received during its three-month consultation on increasing opportunities for disabled people, one of the last ones sums up the difficulty faced by job seekers.

“I’m quite capable of working, and what holds me back is the discrimination of employers within the community,” wrote Michael from the Thompson Okanagan on the government’s consultation website.

Like many other participants, Michael said his $906-a-month disability benefit isn’t enough to live on. WorkBC, the province’s agency for job seekers, puts its emphasis on helping applicants prepare for job interviews, rather than convincing employers to give them a chance.

In her comment, Lisa agreed, noting that employers and co-workers may see accommodation as “special treatment” for disabled people like her.

That’s where Wynne Powell comes in. The recently retired CEO of London Drugs is co-chair of the “presidents group” appointed by the B.C. government to reach out to employers.

Powell said his store chain has hired many disabled people, and he became accustomed to seeing sign-language interpreters and other assists at corporate events.

“They may have challenges in certain areas, but I can tell you as an employer, they are the most loyal, hard-working, caring people, and they help build your trust with the public,” Powell said.

Don McRae, B.C.’s minister of social development and social innovation, has been instructed by Premier Christy Clark to make B.C. “the most progressive place in Canada for people with disabilities.” He knows disabled people have heard the rhetoric before.

“Some people expressed exhaustion,” McRae said. “Some don’t have the networks of support that can make a positive difference. Some are excluded from opportunities they want, they need and they deserve.”

The province-wide consultation has created expectations that McRae has to deliver improvements as the ministry prepares for a policy conference in June.

Speaking at an event at the B.C. legislature to mark the end of the consultation tour, Powell agreed.

“I know minister, this consultation is a step in the right direction,” Powell said. “But words have to be backed up by action, and I know you’re committed to that.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paul Lewis is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Arts Advocate of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
West Shore driftwood sculptor inspired by Esquimalt Lagoon

Paul Lewis is the 2021 Arts Advocate of the Year

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Cathy Armstrong, executive director of the Land Conservancy, Paul Nursey CEO of Destination Greater Victoria and Saanich Coun. Susan Brice helped to kick off the annual Greater Victoria Flower Count at Abkhazi Garden Monday. This year, the flower count is less about rubbing the region’s weather in the rest of Canada’ faces, and more about extending a bouquet of compassion and love. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
2021 Greater Victoria Flower Count sows seeds of compassion

Friendly flower count competition runs from March 3 to 10

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read