Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, I join you today from East Preston, Nova Scotia, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq.
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and in Nova Scotia April is Autism Acceptance Month. I would like to acknowledge the strides we have made toward equity, diversity and inclusion, while noting that there is still much more work to be done.
As we move from awareness to acceptance and now action, it is time to use employment equity more effectively. CASDA’s upcoming Canadian Journal of Autism Equity issue on employment highlights the necessity of ongoing supports for people with disabilities, particularly people with autism.
Colleagues, accommodation is not a burden.
Over the past two years, we have seen the devastating impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities. We have also seen an increase in racism and hate crimes, and employment is one of the places where racism and discrimination flourish. People living at the intersection of marginalized identities, such as Indigenous peoples, African Canadians and other racialized people, have been disproportionately affected by those dual pandemics. Business closures, restrictions due to COVID-19 and social-distancing requirements have all contributed to a labour market that, more than ever, presents significant barriers for persons with disabilities to remain in, enter or re-enter.
Currently, one in four persons on the autism spectrum or with an intellectual disability is employed, representing the lowest labour-force participation rate of all disability groups in Canada. We must take action to include those with intersecting marginalized identities into Canada’s economic recovery plan as we build back better.
Honourable senators, in honour of Autism Acceptance Month, please commit to actions that will lead to meaningful changes in employment for those caught at the intersection of autism and racism. Asante, thank you.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.