For Immediate Release--January 31, 2008
Disability Advocates See Opportunity in the Disbandment of the Disability Council
Saskatoon, SK—In response to the disbanding of the Saskatchewan Council on Disability Issues, the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) welcomes the opportunity to work directly with the Ministry of Social Services and hold them accountable on disability issues.
“The Council has done some excellent work in the past, creating the Disability Action Plan in 2001 after a wide consultation with disability groups,” says Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of SACL. “However, the Council became a window out for the government-or a filter-rather than as a way for disability issues to be brought forward, reducing the opportunity for broad engagement and consultation on key policy issues and strategic directions.”
Laurie Larson, President of SACL, sees an opportunity in the disbandment of the Council. “We understand and respect the desire of a new government to create new ways of working with the disability community and we will hold them accountable to ensure that they do so. We have been calling for a closer collaboration with government on policy development for a long time, and we see this as a chance to work together to create policies that respond to the real issues we face every day as families and individuals with disabilities. SACL provides on-the-ground expertise that Minister Harpauer can draw on when making decisions about disability issues and we are more than happy to provide them with assistance.”
Bodnar agrees. “While we participated on the Council since its inception, we were aware of the need to explore other ways of working together that would be far more effective in representing the voices of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. The Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) is one example, as it includes 27 disability organizations that have joined together and agreed on the approach that we would like the government to take to tackle the issue of poverty in the lives of people with disabilities. We welcome more direct contact on these and other substantive policy issues with the Government of Saskatchewan.”
“We will be contacting the Minister’s office to suggest how we might work with the Ministry of Social Services in the future to create policies that will lead to better, more inclusive lives for people with intellectual disabilities and their families,” says Larson.
For interview opportunities, please contact: Laurie Larson, President of SACL, Vice President of CACL at (306) 948-7341
For Immediate Release: December 6, 2007
People with disabilities and their families relieved at Latimer Parole Decision
Saskatoon, SK—People with disabilities and their families are relieved today that the National Parole Board has honoured the memory of Tracy Latimer and the lives of all people with disabilities in their decision to deny Robert Latimer day parole. The Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) commends this decision to uphold the standards of law regarding parole for those convicted of murder.
In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously convicted Robert Latimer of second degree murder for the pre-meditated murder of his 12-year old daughter Tracy, who had cerebral palsy. Latimer admitted to killing Tracy by gassing her in his truck and has shown no remorse. SACL maintains that because his unconscionable crime was premeditated, that Latimer should have received a charge of first-degree murder with the associated sentence. The leniency of the court to convict him of second-degree murder reveals a belief that people with disabilities are second-class citizens.
“As a parent of two children with disabilities, I can’t begin to explain my relief that justice has been upheld for a little girl whose life has been so devalued,” says Laurie Larson, President of SACL. “Latimer has managed to justify the murder of his child in people’s minds by playing on their fears and misconceptions about disability. There are many individuals who have similar disabilities as Tracy, who have been humiliated and offended by the suggestions by Latimer’s supporters that her life and their lives are worthless, or that murder is an appropriate response to pain. It is of grave concern that this attitude persists.”
Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of SACL agrees. “Tracy was a beautiful 12-year old girl whose expectation of the protection of her father was violated. The way she is sometimes referred to as if she were an animal that needed to be put out of misery strips her of humanity, and it strips us of our humanity when we classify people into categories of valuable and disposable. Our laws do not permit us to decide the value of someone else’s life and whether they should live or die. We are relieved that the parole board has been just and fair in its decision, holding Latimer to the same standards for parole as any other murderer who is eligible for parole.”
SACL continues to work for quality services and supports for the families of people with disabilities in Saskatchewan.
“While Latimer is certainly guilty and must pay the price for the crime he committed it is important to point out to people that our society is also to blame for allowing that family to end up in the position they were in,” says Larson. “He has not taken responsibility and neither has our society. Society cannot admit that what they did was wrong either, by not providing Tracy and her family the care they needed and they must justify it by denying her worth. If they admit there was another way, then they also have to admit that they let her and her family down.”
“The supports that parents can access have not improved significantly since Tracy was murdered. It is essential that we provide families with the best medical care, respite and above all, acceptance, so that no family feels alone and pushed to the edge. It is our responsibility to ensure that tragedies like Tracy Latimer’s murder do not occur again,” says Bodnar.
For Immediate Release--November 29, 2007
SACL President is elected to Vice President of National Human Rights Organization
The Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) is pleased to announce that Laurie Larson, President of SACL, has been elected Vice President of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL).
“CACL is honoured to congratulate Laurie Larson on her election as Vice President,” says Bendina Miller, President of CACL. “As a parent and President of SACL, Laurie brings a deep understanding of the critical role of families and of people with intellectual disabilities in moving forward on disability issues. CACL values Laurie's leadership on deinstitutionalization, inclusive education and support for families and individuals—all areas of specific focus in the national work of CACL.”
“I am excited to be working for social change at a national level—it is an honour,” says Laurie Larson, regarding her election as CACL Vice President. “The reason I chose to run for Vice President is that CACL will allow me to actively work for the day that my sons and all people with intellectual disabilities in Canada have the opportunities, accommodations and acceptance they deserve. People in Canada understand diversity, so I believe our message of full inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities will resonate with Canadians.”
CACL is a Canada-wide association of family members and others working for the benefit of persons of all ages who have an intellectual disability. Founded in 1958 by parents of children with intellectual disabilities who wanted supports and services within the community instead of in institutions, CACL has become one of Canada's ten largest charitable organizations, and has grown into a federation of 10 provincial and three territorial associations comprised of 420 local associations and over 40,000 members. The work that CACL does for people with intellectual disabilities and their families is guided by the following principles: respect; dignity; equality; diversity; human rights; justice; self-determination; mutual responsibility; inclusion; and moral courage.