British Columbia

Diverse abilities celebrated in B.C.'s first ever disability pride march

More than a thousand people marched in Richmond, B.C., to proclaim their pride and celebrate their identities as Canadians with disabilities.

'I’m really proud of my CP swagger and my CP swagger makes me who I am,' says woman with cerebral palsy

Marchers braved the rains and held up signs with positive messages about disability and diversity. (Dillon Hodgin)

A colourful stream of people with and without disabilities celebrated their way down a Richmond street, in British Columbia's first-ever disability pride march.

The dreary weather didn't stop more than 1,000 people from showing up to proclaim that disability is nothing to be ashamed of, according to Faith Bodnar, executive director of Inclusion B.C.

"This is about people coming into their own as full Canadians, and it's important that we shift the conversation to one of belonging and full citizenship," Bodnar told Michele Eliot, host of CBC's B.C. Almanac.

"And we've got a long ways to go."


The diverse community of British Columbians with disabilities included people with both physical and intellectual disabilities who want to send the message that they are every bit as important to Canadian identity as any other minority.   

For Lauren Stinson, who has cerebral palsy, it was an opportunity to put what she calls her "CP swagger" on display.

"I'm really proud of my CP swagger and my CP swagger makes me who I am," she said.

Alexander Magnussen has autism, and is an inclusion consultant. Lauren Stinson has cerebral palsy, and is a youth leadership mentee at the North Shore Disability. They marched together along with more than 1,000 others in B.C.'s first ever disability pride march. (Inclusion B.C.)

A large part of today's conversation centred around language.

While many are working to reclaim the words disability or disabled, others prefer to use contemporary terminology like "diverse-abilities." 

Still work to do

Around 15 per cent of British Columbians identify as having a disability.

For many of them it can be difficult to find work, access services or participate in a society that still stigmatizes people with different abilities.

Fewer than half of those with disabilities in Canada are employed, as opposed to 79 per cent of the general population, according to 2015 numbers from Statistics Canada.

The provincial government committed to a ten-year action plan to make B.C. "the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024" and has posted a two-year progress report online.

Despite gains in some areas, such as making access to the court system easier for people with hearing impairments, or updating guide-dog legislation, the government has been heavily criticized making small increases to disability payments.

Currently, disability payments in B.C. are just over $1,000 per month, well below the established poverty line.

But for today, said Stinson, the focus was less about an ongoing battle for equality and recognition and more about celebrating the community's place as an important part of Canadian identity.

"So much of the time we have a group of disabled people, it's usually about protesting something. But this march was about taking ownership in something, taking pride in something," she said.

Listen to the entire conversation with Stinson and Bodnar on B.C. Almanac.