Gemma Yates-Howorth

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, it was an honour for me to invite Gemma Yates-Howorth to write the guide GO Confidently Into Hiring: A Guide for those with Disabilities for Hiring Careworkers.

In 2019, we passed the Accessible Canada Act, an act ensuring a barrier-free Canada. Bill C-22, the Canada disability benefit act, is currently before the Social Affairs Committee. Society must focus on the needs, rights and independence of people with disabilities and those who are deaf. Personal assistance for people with disabilities is a critical aspect of that challenge. May this guide be useful to those who hire and live with care workers.

I have seen Gemma’s diligence in hiring her caregivers over many years and how she assesses her needs and balances the interests and competencies of her staff. I have witnessed the warmth of her interactions with each of them. Quality of life, self-esteem and community engagement are integral to life’s positive experiences.

I asked Gemma to articulate not only the “hows” of her hiring principles and practices, but also to share what she could of her own personal story. She has done that. Gemma’s insights, personal and universal, are prescient. Her determination has enabled her many achievements despite living with cerebral palsy her entire life. After completing her high school diploma, she graduated with a degree from the University of Manitoba in Recreation Management and Community Development. She has volunteered at Winnipeg’s St.Amant centre, a home for people with high-needs disabilities, and has had various contracts with the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba.

Colleagues, life in a wheelchair is daunting, yet Gemma has explored and experienced parts of her city and its diversities few of us have. Her creativity and adeptness with technology are evident in all her work. Throughout, she always acknowledges with gratitude the assistance of her caregivers and the enrichment from their diverse backgrounds, professions and cultures.

I hope this guide, which is just back from translation and will be on my website soon — with its advice on defining one’s needs, the posting of the position, assessing applications, interviewing, hiring, training and dealing with inevitable issues — will enable others to expand their worlds of independence and discover new places and interests. As I said, now translated, it will soon be on my website and we will share it with organizations interested in posting it themselves. Gemma, I thank you and all those who work with you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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