News / Winnipeg

Disability rights to be celebrated at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Saturday

December 3 marks the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities worldwide.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will host speakers, musicians and artists on Saturday for the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The New York Times

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will host speakers, musicians and artists on Saturday for the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Saturday marks the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is being celebrated locally at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Disability rights advocates will present speeches on how far Canada has come and what’s yet to be accomplished in terms of accessibilty, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bonnie and John Buhler Hall. There will also be musical entertainment and the opportunity to contribute to a group mural.

Last year's event at the Manitoba Legislature drew such an overflowing crowd — an estimated 1,600 people — that organizers opted for the larger venue at the CMHR this year.

Jim Derksen, an advocate who’s been in a wheelchair since age six, will speak about the rights of people with disabilities to have personal relationships and children – points made in article 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

"When I was first disabled in the early 1950s, I was subject to very low expectations. People thought I would never be able to support myself, I would never be able to marry and have children. Of course, that didn’t turn out to be true. I have two children," he said in a phone interview. 

After the success of the Disability Matters 2016 campaign in getting noticed during the lead-up to the provincial election, Derksen said he hopes activists can continue the same momentum into the new year.

“We’ve still got a long way to go in all fronts. There are still some people (with disabilities) who are very isolated, very lonely, who have never been able to find a life partner, who have never been able to have children, and who’ve never been able to work," he said. 

For the 15th year in a row in 2015, disability discrimination was the top-ranked issue among complaints to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. Many of the complaints had to do with employment issues.

"If people actually go out of their way to show up to this event at the human rights museum, it will be an expression of the will of our population to move this thing ahead," said Derksen. "We know that most people we talk to will agree when we explain that the rights of persons with disabilities should be in place and should be entrenched in our programs, policies and laws. So we would hope that our government would listen to the will of the people and do good on their front.”

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