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Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


Senate Committee Probes Rural Poverty; Kapuskasing Visit Part Of National Stuy

Scott Paradis / The Daily Press
Local News - Saturday, June 02, 2007 @ 10:00

Lack of government funding and an attitude of ignorance among employers have made many disabled people feel it's impossible to escape poverty, a Senate committee heard Friday in Kapuskasing.

Several senators met with residents to discuss rural poverty issues at Le Centre regional de Loisirs culturels.

The Kapuskasing appearance, which featured Senator Frank Mahovlich, a native of Timmins, is part of a nationwide study by the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

Patricia Simone, executive director for the Disability Resource Centre for Independent Living in Kapuskasing, said that in small towns especially it has become difficult for the disabled to live poverty-free.

"When you're on a fixed income that doesn't rise in relation to the cost of living, you're taking steps backwards all the time," Simone told The Daily Press.

"It gets to a point where the basic necessities are being cut."

Government funding has been frozen or cut, the senate committee heard. Often that forces unhealthy lifestyle changes, Simone said

"Good food isn't cheap and cheap food isn't good."

Employers that refuse to hire disabled workers exacerbate government funding cuts. Simone said she believes too many employers focus on how a job is done rather than if it's complete by the end of the day.

"We have to be a little bit more flexible," she said. "If I need a memo typed, regardless if it's typed by someone's fingers or someone's toes, it doesn't matter as long as it gets typed."

Simone said she hopes the government will help employers change their views through a major education and awareness campaign.

That kind of campaign is starting on a local level in Kapuskasing. The Disability Resource Centre for Independent Living has organized a health fair it hopes will educate employers about disabled people in the workplace.

But the Senate committee meeting didn't focus exclusively on the disabled.

The senators who make up the committee have been collecting information about rural poverty from towns across Canada.

Senator Mahovlich said there are many rural towns from coast to coast that are in serious economic trouble.

Finding solutions for any one community won't be simple, including Kapuskasing, he said.

"We need another industry up here, you can't just rely on lumber," Mahovlich said.

The senator said he doesn't know what kind of industry a town like Kapuskasing could attract. But, he said strong leadership, such as the case in California, could attract something to help stabilize the town and region.

"Look at California for example," he said. "Look at what it was three years ago and look at it today and how prosperous it is.";

In the fall the committee will head to the territories and begin collecting information about rural poverty in Canada's far north.

The committee tour is expected to end in the fall, and a report based on the tours will follow shortly.

"It's going to take a while," said Liberal Senator Joyce Fairbairn. "It will probably be many, many long evenings of debating even within our committee."

Taken from

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