. E-mail This Article

Moving forward

Consolidating political power to improve lives for disabled on social assistance

Kirsten Murphy
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 31/01) - An advisory panel formed last month will be taking the recommendations from the Count Me In conference seriously, says Health and Social Services minister Jane Groenewegen.

The panel's aim is to streamline housing, health and income for people on government assistance.

Jane Groenewegen

However, appointing a Disabilities Minister to cabinet - one of the recommendations - is beyond her control.

"That would be up to the premier," Groenewegen said.

Groenewegen, who spent two days at the conference, said the government is listening to the disabled community.

"When we look (to see) if programs work, we're not doing it in isolation, we're doing it with other departments who serve the same group of people," she said.

Even so, disabilities advocate Margo Hopkins wants more.

"People with disabilities run into more bumps than the average person and its time someone stepped to the plate," Hopkins said.

NWT Council for Disabled Persons chair Bill Burles compared dealing with the government to a tennis match.

"A health issue will get bounced to income assistance and then bounced another department," Burles said.

A Minter of Disabilities or a territorial advisory council would reduce the tennis game effect, he said.

When and how it happens, Burles said he could only guess.

"Our population is aging and so will the disabled population," he predicted.

The Council will discuss pushing for more legislative accountability at their February board meeting.

George Glinka, Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) regional director, applauded the move toward equitable services.

"These issues have been largely neglected in the NWT and people with disabilities want in on the social envelope the government keeps talking about," Glinka said.

Glinka suspects months, if not years, will pass before any notable changes at the government level are made.