It is understandably not attracting a great deal of attention in mainstream media, but Prime Minister Trudeau’s appointment of a Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities is garnering plenty of attention from those within the disabled community and their loved ones. And he could not have selected a better Member of Parliament than the newly elected Honorable Member from Delta (British Columbia) Carla Qualtrough; who happens to be visually impaired since birth.
Best known for her record as a three-time Paralympic Games (competing in Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992) medalist in swimming, Ms. Qualtrough is a lawyer with a strong background in human rights, inclusion, and sport. Her focus has been on addressing inequity and advancing social policy objectives, particularly as they relate to traditionally marginalized and disadvantaged groups.
As a parent to a child on the autism spectrum, I am excited by the potential impact of her presence at the Cabinet table. While I have only found myself part of this community for two years I have come to realize the failure of all governments to address persons with disabilities in a truly impactful way. But Minister Qualtrough can do this. Prior to her election to Canada’s Parliament she was a representative to the British Columbia Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal. She also worked as a mediator and arbitrator, and has taught mediation and negotiation courses around the world - skills that will prove an asset in her new role.
Working with Premier Christy Clark's BC government, Minister Qualtrough chaired the Minister’s Council on Employment and Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities. She advised the Minister of Social Development on issues related to persons with a disability, and helped lead a province-wide consultation initiative developing a white paper on disability.
She was Director of Inclusion and Director of Sport Initiatives for the 2010 Legacies Now Society, developing a strategy to make the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games a true celebration of diversity and inclusion. She acted as Senior Advisor to the Parliamentary Secretary (Sport) to the Prime Minister, as Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State (Physical Activity and Sport), and as Special Advisor to the Director General of Sport Canada.
Suffice to say; Minister Qualtrough has a tremendous resume that has prepared her for the role she has undertaken.
With her promise of a "Canadians with Disabilities Act" I look forward to her positive impact on government policy.