Please Don’t Try to Help Me!

I was recently out for supper with a pleasant well educated couple whose company I have always enjoyed.  As usual, with me, the conversation did drift around to politics.  The issue of right/left came up a number of times however I am much prefer a more centrist common sense approach.  I find this right/left conversation to be very divisive and is proving to be a great detriment to Canada.  Although the conversation did get a little heated on a couple of topics I believe overall that we probably have more similarities than differences in our beliefs.

That was until we came around to a topic that is particularly important to me which is the erosion of rights.  Having grown up with a disability in a time when rights were not only not protected but not even recognized I do not take my currents rights for granted.  I say this as a person whose parents were offered the choice to have me sterilized in 1966 as spelt out in the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta.  This act wasn’t repealed until 1972 but this concept is beginning to raise its ugly head again.

I say this as a person who could be and has been refused employment based purely on the fact that I walked on crutches until I was almost 32 (this became illegal with the introduction of the Charter in 1982).  In fact it wasn’t until the introduction of the Charter that I was guaranteed the right to vote.  Prior to the Charter it was up to the discretion of the polling manager on whether or not a person with a disability could vote.  So yes I get a little testy when it comes to what I see as erosion of rights.  I have spend the better part of my life fighting for those rights and find it quite disheartening when intelligent people just accept whatever spin is thrown at them in regards to these rights.

The situation that arose over supper was when I brought up the fact that the disabled are exempt from minimum wage in Alberta under the Employment Standards Code (see Part 2, Division 10, 67(1), A and B, 2 and 3).  Initially my supper companions refused to believe me and when they finally did accept what I was saying was when I received the real kick in the gut.

I must digress here for a moment to acknowledge that I have made the mistake in the past of associating intelligence with insight.  And it is a mistake that has often raised its head and bitten me much to my chagrin.  So I was quite taken aback when I heard a response that was basically saying that this minimum wage exclusion was probably beneficial to persons with disabilities.  After all it would help them access employment that they may not otherwise be able to access.  The conversation continued along the vein that this was a GOOD thing for people with disabilities and that probably many of these disabled individuals were probably supportive of this kind of legislation.

Besides myself I am not sure how many people this couple know with a disability.  However I know many and I can safely say that not one of them is supportive of this kind of legislation.  Now in all fairness after hearing this justification I really lapsed into a state of cognitive numbness and I did lose some focus on the logic of our conversation.  I associated comments like this as an indication that the growing left/right polarization happening in Canada is having an affect.  All of a sudden everything is black and white while 50 shades of grey is simply a book.

In the heat of this conversation and with a very stunned mind I did make a comment that was reflective of differing socio-economic life styles for which I was quickly admonished.  I had no intentions of it being discourteous but apparently that was the way it was seen.  Meanwhile I am sitting there attempting to get my mind around this cognitive dissonance I was experiencing over how, what I had considered an enlightened individual, would even consider the need for this exclusion let alone see it as a potential benefit.

I left the restaurant after our supper with a very confused mind.  I have spend a good part of my life fighting to have people with disabilities seen as contributing members to the community.  I am also a strong advocate for persons with disabilities to accept responsibility for themselves.  Sometimes there does have to be accommodations made to even the playing field.  Exempting them from minimum wage is NOT leveling the playing field.  And worse holding onto a belief that you are doing the disabled a favour by exempting them is a major backward step for an enlightened country.

Am I the only one to see an incongruent thought process here?  I am positive that the members of the Alberta Eugenics Board believed they were doing the right thing every time they signed another approval paper.  That was the 50’s and 60’s which I hope we have moved well past.  But then maybe I am wrong and the world is more black/white than I like to believe.  Leave me your opinion.

Just one man’s opinion


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