My name is Gabrielle Peters.
I am disabled.
I am poor.
I am poor because I am disabled.
Picking who will be poor is a function of society.
Bootstrap is a lie.
I didn’t choose to be poor.
I was not given a choice.
Politicians say if disabled people don’t want to be poor we should get a job.
Science-based physicians say that isn’t possible.
If the state offers me the choice to die but not the means to live, who is really making the decision?
I think this is where I am supposed to tell you my disability story – including the part where a healthcare professional sat at my beside and urged and then almost insisted I take her up on the consoling prospect of forever rest after my partner announced he was leaving me because I was too much of a burden and I no longer fit into the life he wanted.
My story is long and complicated but what matters most about my story when discussing policy is that my story is part of a larger story. My story is part of Canada’s story and this country’s story is part of mine.
Canada is racist.
Canada is ableist.
Canada is sexist.
Canada is no stranger to injustice.
Canadians live in poverty.
We can debate numbers and causes but not the existence of these things or their impact on individual humans and the choices they face or the way these will be woven into their stories.
This may come as a surprise given who we tend to see represented but not all disabled people are white or wealthy. The intersections of class, race, gender and other axis of oppression dramatically alter the lived experience of a disabled person in this country.
This is non-fiction. It is fact. It is what we need to discuss when we discuss Bill C-7.
The story supporting C-7 is fiction. Carefully branded, carefully crafted narrative. The state is not paying hospitals to euthanize, just to assist people to cease breathing.
Once upon a time
In a special land called MAID
Free spirits flit about
Unaffected by the humans around them
Unaffected by history
By codified isolation
By systemic discrimination
By multiple layers of oppression
By the indignity and violence of poverty
They are never blamed or shamed for their bodies or their minds
Never judged for their cost/benefit
Never told their needs are too difficult, too expensive, too much of a burden.
Never made to feel less human.
In this special land they get ONLY the
That fits their needs
All bias and hate are poofed away by putting on a white coat
Inside a building in bubble topped by a halo
That is always fully funded
Where staff are always fully rested
And life is always as it should be
Policy should not be based on a fairy tale
So here’s my choice.
I pick liveable income. I pick fully funded supports. I pick free education. I pick truly affordable and genuinely accessible home and community. I pick living with dignity. When is that Bill’s first reading?
Gabrielle Peters is a disabled writer living on one of the country’s lowest incomes in one of the world’s most unaffordable cities. She uses the isolation and exclusion imposed on her by poverty and inaccessibility to reflect on those and other things. Her words are informed by the work of disabled activists, writers, thinkers and scholars past and present.
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