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.'

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.”

Just Posted

Sister of cancer victim cycles across Canada to raise awareness

Her journey started on May 14 and will end in early August

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to the Okanagan

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone Award Foundation charity weekend in Kelowna

Woman in hospital after being thrown off horse

She was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital from Okanagan Falls

Update: Washed out South Okanagan road temporarily closed for assessment

A portion of Eastside Road, south of Penticton, appears to be crumbling into Skaha Lake

Okanagan Regional Library hosts famous author

Author of The Woo Woo, Lindsay Wong will be in Kelowna Tuesday

VIDEO: It’s warming up across the Okanagan Valley

Grey skies are expected to fade and the sun looks like it’s here to stay

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Okanagan art gallery releases their theme

Fine arts painting will be the point of focus for this year’s event

South Okanagan search and rescue help injured climber

Search and rescue called on the assistance of a helicopter to help retrieve an injured hiker

Marriage proposal on the big screen at Enderby drive-in

Kelowna man gets engaged in front of hundreds to Vernon sweetheart

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Firefighters respond to bus fire on Highway 1

Smoke in coach bus reported to have been caused by overheating, driver and passengers safe

North Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Caravan Farm Theatre holds outlaw themed fundraiser

Caravan Farm Theatre hosts its western outlaw themed fundraiser, Hands Up! June 1

Most Read