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Union applauds report from special needs youth

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and members at the launch of “We Have Something to Say”
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OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas applauded the Provincial Child Advocate this week for the publication of a new report on – and by – youth with special needs.

Advocate Irwin Elman launched the report, “We Have Something to Say,” on May 10. It gives voice to special needs kids who describe, in their own words, their experience with disability and the public services they receive – or don’t receive.

“This is a wonderful initiative by the Child Advocate and I want to thank him for giving voice to children with disabilities in Ontario,” Thomas said. “If every citizen of Ontario read the stories in this report, every child with a disability would have the services he or she needs.”

Thomas attended the report launch with Deb Gordon, a member of Local 145 and Chair of the OPSEU Community Services Divisional Council, and two members of the Provincial Young Workers Committee, Jessica Sikora (Local586) and Catherine Csuzdi (Local 608).

Seventeen youth with a wide range of disabilities spoke – or sang – at the report launch, describing in heartfelt terms the challenges they face getting services. One participant summed up the challenges this way: “We don’t need to fix disability. We need to fix everything else.”

The young people called for more educational assistants, counselors and social workers in the school system and across the social services. The Child Advocate’s report makes numerous recommendations across ministries and asks government to work with young people to adopt them.

“It’s not about a funding envelope,” Irwin Elman said at the report launch. “It’s about people.”

OPSEU’s Thomas said that the union was “in complete lockstep” with the Provincial Child Advocate on the need for more and better services for children with disabilities.

“As a social justice union, we’re committed to making sure people have what they need. We will continue to support kids with disabilities, and their families, in every way we can.”

Read the full report here.

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OPSEU at the launch of “We Have Something to Say”: President Warren (Smokey) Thomas;  Deb Gordon, Local 145, Chair, OPSEU Community Services Divisional Council: Irwin Elman, Provincial Child Advocate; Jessica Sikora, Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC), OPSEU Local 586; Catherine Csuzdi, PYC, OPSEU Local 608.