He Didn’t Know

Well it is Monday, a nice sunny day with a bit of a cool breeze. I thought my days of writing were behind me and that it was time to just quit. People don’t seem to want to hear. However when you look at what is going on in, not only the world, but in my own province of Alberta I realize now is not the time for silence.

We are now ruled by a Premier who is closer to fascism than democracy. Albertans have become so numb to political rhetoric that the use of the word “purge” rolls off our back like water. The idea of “purging” democratic oversight committees was a term I associate with a third world despot, not a Canadian political party with a Premier name Jason Kenney. We have left the world of democracy and now is not the time to stop speaking out.

Picture of two tables with banners above them and a single individual seated at each table.  A long line has formed in front of the table with the banner reading "Comforting Lies" while the second table is absence of anyone waiting and a dejected looking individual sitting under a banner that reads "Unpleasant Truth".  The picture is captioned "The truth may set you free however it can also alienate you".
The truth may set you free however it can also alienate you

I had made a decision a couple of weeks ago just to stop writing and keep my opinions to myself. It took a birthday phone call from my brother to realize I couldn’t do that. This brother is four years younger than me and that is important in the family dynamics here. As many of you are aware I grew up in a hospital, to my “very” young brother I was just that kid up there waving down from my room on the third floor. Siblings weren’t allowed to visit, polio kids were kept pretty isolated back then.

He was too young to realize that the regulations of the day kept me from attending community schools. It wasn’t until the late 50’s that the Alberta Education Act was amended requiring schools to start accepting kids with disabilities. He was too young to realize that I could now attend school but any regulations that required a school to be “physically” accessible didn’t happen until the National Building Code was amended in 1976 to include wheelchair accessibility. The irony there became it was law that school administration could no longer refuse admission to someone with a disability but there were no regulations stating the facility itself had to be accessible.

I was sixteen when I got home that day to find a letter from the Alberta Eugenics Board. I knew what that meant. I was on the road hitch-hiking to Vancouver before my parents got home to find that letter. He was 12 and had no idea that the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act gave the government the ability to sterilize me regardless of my desire. To him I was simply an out of control kid who had run away. He had no idea to the extent regulations affected my ability to live a “normal” life.

By sixteen I was a Vancouver street kid living with my crutches and my wits. Those were the survival skills that had been developed in the Children’s Hospital but something a 12 year old able-bodied kid could not fathom. The Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act was finally repealed in 1972. When I returned to Alberta to attend Mount Royal College, the old college down town, he was 16.

He had no idea that for me to get a leased apartment close to the college the regulations of the day required me to have a co-signer. That was part of the world of the disabled in those days and even that was a fight. Up to that point most disabled were institutionalized so one had to fight for the right to live independently in the community. Up to the early 70’s the social regulations of the day kept us in facilities. We had to prove we were “capable” of being responsible for ourselves which also included co-signers for any kind of contract.

As long as I’ve been aware he has always had some type of job. He was working as a gas jockey part-time while finishing his high school. He had no idea that the regulations of the time allowed employer to deny me any interview let alone a job because I was “disabled”. That type of national protection for the right to work didn’t happen until the introduction of the Charter in 1982. He didn’t know.

A picture of sunset over a field of wheat reading "One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to the facts".

He, like so many, also doesn’t like to discuss politics. So when he phoned me for my birthday I touched on my favourite subject, politics. All you have to do is look at the protested happening, not only in the States, but world wide to understand the importance of political engagement. He, like so many, sees political discussion as adversarial, not a “fact” checking discussion. So after a few low level political remarks we settled into a discussion of completely mind numbing nothing. Following the polite “well have a good birthday”, he asked why I didn’t just give up the advocacy. He was pretty sure “nothing ever changes anyway so why get involved”. Well I can’t do that, a lot has changed over the years but you have to have the historical context to see that.

A lot has changed but change can be a slow process. Inactivity and silence are not what keeps the life blood of democracy flowing. Democracy isn’t free and change can be slow. The problem is the taps of democracy can be turned off much faster than it took to get the right flow going. I can’t keep quiet and to those out there, your silence is killing people. More to come…

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