As Time Slips By

“Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by economic structures that creates huge inequalities” – Pope Francis

I can’t believe how quickly fall is coming upon us.  My body is certainly making me aware.  I’m not sure what this says about the excitement in my life but when I look at the depth of my latest epiphany, how much better my body has become at predicting the weather over the local meteorologist, tells me I have to broaden my horizons.  So I decided to have a 5 minute tryst with the Weather Network and it looks like those horizons may be pretty dark for the next five or so months.

La Nina returns meaning a wet, snowy winter making my car inaccessible.  Can’t wheel over a snow bank with the grace I had 25 years ago so I’m more of a homebody (not that I’m a social butterfly these days).  When it does snow the contractor comes in with his grader, does his thing and is gone in five minutes.  I have a nice foot high embankment of snow between me and the car door.  The upside of that means way more writing of which I have no shortage of time, topics or experiences to draw upon.

Ended last week on a bad note due to a misunderstanding on definitions of my new wheelchair cushion.  It is difficult to complain when someone has done you a favour and I didn’t provide enough detail.  Lesson learnt.  It’s truly amazing what my friends will do and for that I am grateful.  It is very much appreciated and doubly so because they are aging as well.  I think I’m more aware because of the speed the decrepitude demon is coursing through the sinews of my mind.

This week started off infuriating me.  This latest crap involving Jenny Hansman is outrageous and another symptom of how our system is failing us.  How can a landlord justify evicting a 70 year old who has been a good tenant for 16 years just because the property management (or whoever) is too cheap to fix the elevator?  Another instance of a local government letting local business off the hook at the expense of the marginalized.

For maximum effectiveness AND peace of mind choose your battles well

I generally choose my battles well however I am getting past the point of just ignoring local government issues.  When I hear elected officials suggest that “maybe those with mobility issues should only live on the ground floor” as a solution I see red.  Nobody tells me where I can live or at what height I can be.  I thought that battle had been settled in the 1980’s.  You know, the “Wonder Years” generation.  Give your heads a shake, we are not moving backwards, not as long as I have access to a keyboard and readers.

What I do know is that this wouldn’t stand for a minute in a human rights hearing.  I am also aware that it could take months just to get an application into the current Human Rights Tribunal system here in BC.  The system itself is so full of systemic barrier it’s now more about keeping (abstract thinking) “the tapestries of old to cover up the computer screens of today”.

Organization like Inclusion BC need to (and they may have this, I don’t always take the time to join every organization but I do know some of the people involved) partner with seniors organization for programming purposes.  Times are changing and how we interact needs to adapt to that.  Unfortunately every time an example like Ms. Hansman’s shows up too many of my non-disabled peers don’t hear that story because “it’s not part of my world”.  That “losing track of” is a major contributor to the erosion of rights.

When I see an issue I do speak up and I don’t deal well with idiots.  For every policy point they present to me I can find a half dozen contradictions.  The lower down you get in the political food chain of jurisdiction the less likely they are to be aware of Canadian constitutional law.  In Canada the doctrine of “paramountcy” establishes that where there is a conflict between a valid provincial and federal laws, the federal law prevails.  The provincial law, or even lower jurisdictions like municipal laws, will be inoperative to the extent that it conflicts with the higher jurisdiction.

If anyone tried to dole out to me what they have done to Ms. Hansman would be in for one hell of a legal battle.  The ability for her to find a simplified solution involves the application of policies that are, in my opinion, a systemic barrier.  Most recently I had an issue with BC Health Services and took steps to remedy them.  I received a resolution in a reasonable amount of time.  Plus I got it in writing.  I have had way to many, what I call, “pat on the head moments” telling me it would be dealt with and thank you for coming, just to have nothing really happen.  Much easier to get it done if you have a written commitment on government letterhead.

I also request written responses that reflect the conversation.  I am often amazed at how a group of people can take such different messages out of the same statement.  Fear also keeps many from challenging.  If you are “marginalized” it is easier to create fear.  Not a lot of people want to (what could appear to be) “bite of the hand that feeds you”.

Letter of commitmentI will not sit back and let fifty years of my efforts be in vain.  I fought hard for the development of systems distinctly designed to keep atrocities like the type hitting of Ms. Hansman or, different case, seniors being evicted so a assisted living facility could get rid of subsidized suites?  Ignoring this kind of stuff is how access and human rights get pushed to the back-burner.

I reach out to the powers that be.  I inform, hopefully I educate but I always remind them of previous commitments.  I speak for myself, without a mediary, and hopefully benefit others.  I wish I could say that Ms. Hansman was an “only” event but it isn’t.  There are many ways to erode human rights particularly when you have little knowledge of the particular issue but the easiest is always to “frame” it as a policy issue.

Sadly few people understand the concept of “primary” legislation let alone the concept of “paramountcy”.  It is time consuming, frustrating and you will often be angry but if you are persistent and know your rights, the fight can be worth it.  But get it in writing, get some deadlines and be informed.

In the world of today’s social media you can take five minutes out of your day and fire off an e-mail to your local politicians.  You may not want to push for change but you should at least make them aware that you are paying attention.  If the story about Jenny Hansman upsets you then send an e-mail to your local MLA and tell them your fed up with a system that allows this crap to happen.  I’m not asking you to march but write.  How many times have I crawled into your house?  Give me a simple accommodation by registering your feelings about this case with a politician.

Complacency is not the way…I did this little video two years ago to get my point across to the City of Nanaimo, a city where “variance” has more appeal than “access”.

Two years later it has been partially corrected…if I could present a half bouquet of kudos to Nanaimo, I would.  Change is happening, be aware…




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