Disabled people can be a very convenient scapegoat to either be the victim or the villain in just about any social issue. When it comes the environmental causes we have certainly been both.
In the often misguided war on single use plastic we are both the villains for needing many single use plastic products. We are also largely ignored as bans on things like plastic straws gain momentum. The latest battle is one where we are being used as convenient victims to shame the growing national protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs against the encroachment of a nationalized pipeline going through an unapproved route through their territory.
This issue is also so much bigger than the environment as it is also primarily an issue of Canadian colonialism and racism against Indigenous people. Yet, a British Columbia disability org, Disability Alliance BC wants to reframe an issue about land sovereignty and reconciliation as an issue of accessibility. This is a viewpoint that at least one news outlet seems happy to parrot.
It places the presumed access needs of disabled Canadians over the rights of Canadians to protest and over the rights of Indigenous Canadians.
I am appalled by the colonialism being practiced in my name and I want to express in the strongest terms that Disability Alliance BC does not speak for me.
I condemn completely the very idea a weaponizing disabled people in service to colonialism and placing our comfort and convenience against the rights of Indigenous people. Because, let’s be clear this isn’t an argument about conflicting rights. This is largely an argument against inconvenience. The same kind of inconvenience that everyone is intended to experience as a result of these kinds of protests.
Disability Alliance BC could be spending its time trying to mitigate the inconvenience to disabled people who lives might be disrupted by the current wave of protests. They have by no means shut down all travel in the country. They have instead chosen to shame protesters who want to support reconciliation and the Wet’suwet’en protests, rather than look for available solutions and place the blame where it really belongs. On the doorstep of a colonial government that both seeks to further entrench Canada in colonial violence and which on an every day basis fails to invest in accessibility for disabled Canadians. If Canada cared about accessibility disabled people wouldn’t be able to be used as a stick with which to bludgeon protesters because we would already have options to deal with unexpected travel delays.
If disability and access must come up in this conversation let it be one of criticism of how we still don’t have those options and how that is a structural wrong that should not be placed at the feet of protesters. Let the conversation also highlight the additional barriers Indigenous disabled people face as a result of colonialism.
Do not, however, legitimize the idea that protesters are wronging disabled people. Society already did that. I know I am not the only disabled person who does not want to be used as a tool to deny justice to others. My humanity should not and demonstrably in this case does not come at the cost of the humanity and rights of others.
I stand with Wet’suwet’en
I condemn the rhetoric of division that puts my rights and comfort above the rights of others. Particularly when their rights are being actively attacked by the government. When they face direct intimidation and violence from the RCMP.
I stand with Wet’sewet’en not with Disability Alliance BC