Tinker Calls For More Action On Disability Issues

Monday, September 14, 2009 at 13:17



A long-time advocate for the rights of disabled northerners says he’s “tired of talking” — it’s time for action.


Gary Tinker’s historic 650-km walk from La Ronge to Regina in 1989 was celebrated this past weekend.


He says he wants to see a five-year mandate for the Gary Tinker Federation to assist people with disabilities in northern Saskatchewan, backed by the various levels of government in the province — many of whom were represented at Saturday’s anniversary celebration.


Tinker got fired up over the injustices and lack of services that northerners with disabilities still face — two decades after his advocacy work began.


“I’m tired of talking — it’s time to sign some cheques. That’s what we need,” he said.


Topping Tinker’s wish list are buses, better schooling and care options, and a pension plan.


Saturday’s anniversary celebration included a banquet and a break dancing performance, as well as the presentation of the first-ever Lawrence Yew Award to the family of the former northern MLA, who was one of the strongest supporters of Tinker’s walk.


Meanwhie, the Gary Tinker Federation is developing some new strategies — including a plan to help youth connect with the group’s services once they leave school, and an employment strategy for adults with disabilities.


Co-ordinator Clarence Neault says the new strategies were introduced before the anniversary event in La Ronge, at an invitation-only conference aimed at collecting ideas from people with disabilities, and their caregivers.


Neault says that the one-year youth initiative will enable Tinker to make personal connections with disabled youth in communities across the North, so that they know him and also learn how the federation can help them.


“We don’t want them not to fall off the grid and (as a result) not have any supports after school life is over for whatever reason,” Neault says.


Neault also hopes this project will create better working relationships between the schools and his organization.


The northern disability employment strategy is based on a plan developed in Ile-a-la-Crosse, and will develop community-specific approaches to removing employment barriers.


Neault says while the federation has relied on its own “best practices” in dealing with employment issues, this is the first time they have put a formal strategy in place.