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Families driving change won’t wait any longer

BCACL Executive Director Faith Bodnar has written a letter to the editor regarding the important role of families in driving change and bringing the community living crisis to public attention

Families driving change won’t wait any longer

The letter was printed under a different title on the Canada.Com website

How is it that the “crisis in community living” remains such a sustained conversation in BC? It has been described as unprecedented, involving families and people with developmental disabilities, the community organizations who serve them, commentators, academics, activists, advocates and media. Perhaps most striking are the ever-growing numbers of people who prior to now have not been an active part of the conversation. People who previously sat on the sidelines are now weighing in saying that it is simply unacceptable that people with developmental disabilities and their families are being denied even the most basic of services, that supports are in many cases being cut indiscriminately and without notice and that the systems that are supposed to support them clearly need reform.

The “crisis in community living” has stirred something significant in us, demanding immediate action and decisive leadership. In many ways it has become the barometer of how we are doing in BC, striking a fundamental chord of justice and fairness in all of us.

So again, we must ask why this issue and why now? The answer is both simple and profound. It is the relentless and resolute voice of families who know their sons and daughters with developmental disabilities deserve good lives. They rise up to claim the birthright of their children in ways that others take for granted. They are like other families who love and want the best for their children, but in a few very remarkable ways they distinguish themselves. As we have been reminded over the past many months, families with children with developmental disabilities are all too frequently called upon to be courageous in the face of intimidation, refusing to be pushed to the margins, unwilling to accept inadequate resources and endless waitlists. They take their stories to the streets, insisting, and rightly so, on leading what has become an incredible public conversation. They are demanding accountability from governments and decision makers. As well, we must be more than witnesses to their struggles. We are called to join with them as activists.

Since the birth of the BC Association for Community Living (BCACL) in 1955 as a non-profit, non-government advocacy organization, the power of families coming together is undeniable. Families of people with disabilities refused to be sidelined back in 1955 when they first formed the BC Association for Community Living, a grass roots, family-driven non-profit federation focused on advocating for the rights of citizens with disabilities and holding government accountable for ensuring full citizenship for all British Columbians.

Families take nothing for granted. They clearly cannot afford to. And they have been right, again and again over more than 5 decades of hoping, waiting, watching and taking action. BCACL, as a voice of families, continues to call for an external review of Community Living BC, the crown corporation that funds supports and services. Additionally, we call for an immediate investment of $70 million to address the backlog of those waiting and an annualized investment of $30-35 to keep pace with demand. The question now is how much longer must families wait?

Submitted by Faith Bodnar, Executive Director, BC Association for Community Living