Advocate for Persons with Disabilities should be a higher priority for government

Alberta Liberals say the government needs to make the creation of an office of the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities a higher priority.

“Ensuring a better quality of life for Albertans living with disabilities should be a far higher priority for this government,” says Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann. “The rush to create a new elections watchdog proves the NDP can push an issue when it wants to, or when it is politically expedient to do so.”

Yesterday, a committee approved a budget of $1.3 million for the office of an election commissioner, which was made possible by Bill 32 – an act that was introduced in the legislature during the final weeks of the Fall Sitting. Meanwhile, a bill to create an Advocate for Persons with Disabilities, which was passed in June, still has yet to be proclaimed.

The need for an Advocate for Persons with Disabilities was obvious following a scathing 2016 report by the Auditor General, in which he criticized the government’s management and delivery of the AISH program.

“There is a clear need for an advocate to help Albertans with disabilities navigate the system,” says Swann. “I am disappointed there hasn’t been more done to help some of the most vulnerable get the government services they deserve.”


Urgent action needed to stop suicide epidemic in Maskwacis

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says urgent action from all levels of government is urgently needed to stop the suicide epidemic in Maskwacis.

“I am deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life,” says Swann. “My heart goes out to this community, which has endured immense suffering and witnessed so many preventable and senseless deaths.”

A recent CBC News report said the community has experienced 14 suicide deaths in less than 2 months. This echoes a previous story from May, 2015 that warned about a dramatic rise in Maskwacis suicide rate, which had reached one or two every week.

A local health worker and community members alike are asking for the area’s leadership to declare a state of emergency, a measure Swann believes may be needed to raise awareness and mobilize additional resources.

“This is clearly an ongoing crisis that hasn’t garnered the attention and action it deserves, especially given the scale of death occurring in this particular community,” said Swann. “All levels of government, must use whatever means at their disposal and work with the community and the affected families to put an immediate stop to this.

“We need the provincial and federal governments to provide increased access to affordable housing, education, health and child care, mental health and addictions services, as well as increased professional development and business opportunities.”

Yesterday, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate also released a five year summary showing that, of the number of suicide deaths during involvement with child intervention services, Indigenous young people accounted for 71.4% of deaths and 37.5% of serious injuries from suicide attempts. Among the suicide risk factors it identified were depression and exposure to suicide within their families and communities, as well as the impacts of intergenerational trauma and colonization.

“Maskwacis is particularly vulnerable given the particularly high presence of all of the risk factors associated with suicide,” says Swann. “The Advocate’s report should be a clarion call to invest in culturally appropriate care and activities to strengthen individual identity and connection to the community.”