Honouring disability rights activist Jim Derksen
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/07/2022 (317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jim Derksen was a Wolseley resident, disability rights activist, and friend to many. He died earlier this month at the age of 75. Jim was a well-known member of our community. I’ve heard from many people about his influence on their lives and it is clear he will be sorely missed. I offer my sincere condolences to Jim’s family and friends.
Jim began using a wheelchair at the age of six, owing to complications from polio. Several years later, he spoke up when he was being mistreated in the hospital. Jim’s self-advocacy was effective, and the mistreatment stopped. This marked the beginning of his lifetime of disability rights activism. Jim would go on to become a founding member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities. He also chaired the Winnipeg Taxicab Board in the 1980s and brought in wheelchair-accessible taxis. Jim was instrumental in enshrining disability rights in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
When I sat down to learn from Jim a few years ago he didn’t just want inclusion, he insisted on the recognition of disability as something good and to be valued as part of the natural diversity of human life. Jim reminded me often that there is still much work to do surrounding human rights and supports for disabled people. Earlier this year, a woman living in Toronto made headlines when she found that it was easier to access Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) than it was to receive the supports and housing she needed. This is unacceptable. No one should have to turn to MAID due to poverty or a lack of supports. Jim was a strong advocate on this issue.
Here in Manitoba, the PC government must do much more to support people living with disabilities. Urgent investments need to be made to ensure that disabled Manitobans have access to appropriate supports and affordable housing. The province should also work with organizations such as Barrier Free Manitoba and Abilities Manitoba to improve accessibility in public spaces and to solve the support-worker labour crisis.
Jim lived his life with dignity and grace while working to transform our culture to one of true equity and inclusion. I’m committed to these same goals, and I invite all of you to continue the work that Jim dedicated his life to so that all Manitobans can live with dignity.
I can be reached at 204-792-2773 or email@example.com
Wolseley constituency report
Lisa Naylor is the NDP MLA for Wolseley.