Jessica Lott Thompson, executive director of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, says the commission is offering free training on disability rights monitoring this month. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)

Yukon Human Rights Commission offers free training on disability rights

The Commission hopes its symposium gets Yukoners looking at disability through a human rights lens

Five years after it stalled due to funding issues, the Yukon Human Rights Commission is resurrecting a project focused on educating people about disability, human rights and inclusion.

Jessica Lott Thompson, executive director of the YHRC, said that in 2014, the commission facilitated a training session for people with disabilities from communities across the Yukon. It included a two-day summit, she said, and went well, but the funding hadn’t been there to hold the symposium again until this year.

From Nov. 21 to 23, the commission is offering free training in disability rights monitoring, followed by a free disability rights symposium from Nov. 26 to 27.

Lott Thompson said symposium speakers include local people with lived experience with disability, as well as Susan Hardie, the executive director of the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, and Marcia Roux, the director of Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI).

DRPI is a project out of York University aimed at establishing an international system that can monitor the human rights of people with disabilities.

That system is part of what will be taught at the training session from Nov. 21 to 23.

Lott Thompson calls it “transformative.”

“It really places that ethos of ‘nothing about us without us,’ really at the centre of human rights work,” she said. “It operationalizes and makes those words meaningful.”

Bali Epoch, public education assistant with the commission, said the model is one that focuses on independent monitoring.

Rather than relying on a questionnaire, or a single data collection method, the monitoring methodology that will be taught at the training sessions takes a three-pronged approach.

It asks individuals for their personal experiences of living with disability, it looks at laws, legislative frameworks, and government practices that affect people with disability, and it tracks media coverage of disability.

It’s a system that Lott Thompson said has been taught by DRPI across the globe in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and beyond, but hasn’t necessarily been used as frequently in the country where it was developed.

“It’s one of those funny things about Canadian innovation sometimes,” she said. “We send it out but we don’t always benefit from it.”

Epoch said that a lot of people in the Yukon are used to thinking about disability in terms of the medical model, which looks largely at physical disability as something to be cured or managed. She said people need to start looking at disability through a human rights lens, which views various forms of disability as a natural part of human diversity.

The hope is that the symposium can correct that.

To find out more about the training sessions or the symposium, visit yukonhumanrights.ca

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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