More than 60 people attended the Sunshine Coast’s inaugural Inclusion Fest at Roberts Creek Hall on Oct. 12, as presenters highlighted personal transformation powered by a network of community support.
The first-annual event, billed as a celebration of inclusion and diversity, was organized by Community Living British Columbia and its North Shore Sunshine Coast Community Council in conjunction with the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living.
Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons attended the event. As Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Simons oversees the work of the Community Living British Columbia, which is a crown corporation.
“I love working in this area,” said Simons. “It’s my favourite subject and it’s my favourite people to work with. We want more housing for people [with disabilities] to be able to live as independently as they can. We want people to have a chance to get jobs that they want, in all sorts of fields. We want to make sure we all have access to health care.”
Simons stressed the importance of working alongside Indigenous communities to provide services for individuals with developmental disabilities and other challenges to independent living.
shíshálh Nation hereditary chief Calvin Craigan stressed that respectful collaboration is a key to tackling seemingly intractable problems like climate change. “There’s a long history about our own chiefs welcoming the first immigrants into our land,” he said. “They talked about how to survive. Now, as more and more people [come to] our land, there’s big demand. There’s no point saying ‘leave my land.’ That ain’t going to happen. So we have to cooperate together.”
In short speeches, self-advocates Micheal Oswald, Jordyn McGregor and Vanessa Brittany reflected on inclusion.
“Once I discovered that [Community Living B.C.] provides funding for me to have a support worker, I was able to travel out in the community safely, and begin to participate in many things,” said Oswald, who lives with autism. “My worker helped me stay focused and reduce frustration while learning skills needed for success.” Oswald’s literary projects have also flourished — he reports on the Special Olympics, published two books, and is a fixture of local theatrical performances.
“I was able to try harder because I had support,” said Oswald.
Clarence Li, the executive director of the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living, helped organize the event. “We are part of a movement, a movement of inclusion for people with developmental disabilities,” Li said. “I’m just so excited for the council to hold the hopefully first-annual Inclusion Fest.”
In his role, Li is a member of the North Shore Sunshine Coast Community Council, one of 13 such groups around B.C. that unite self-advocates, families, community members and service providers. Guests from Vancouver’s North Shore traveled to attend the Inclusion Fest event, arriving in time to share a meal cooked by board members from the the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living.
The Association was founded in 1959 and offers a variety of services including housing support, social and sporting activities, and fresh produce through a food box program.
Hallie Ouyang, who is in her eighth month as the regional Integrated Service Manager for Community Living B.C., added that Inclusion Fest was a project of council members themselves. “I’m so happy to see that people in the community care for the community,” she said. “I hope that this will continue to get more support and raise awareness about its importance.”