After a short hiatus, northern residents with intellectual disabilities have a self-advocacy group to call their own once again.
On Nov. 6, activist Kristopher Blake announced that he is reopening People First’s Thompson chapter, making the move official with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Northern Harmony Co-operative.
“We’re just so excited to be back in Thompson to help people with disabilities and help make awareness about people living with disabilities,” said Blake, who established the Thompson chapter in 2011 and became the president of People First of Manitoba from 2014 to 2016. “We’ll be having our meetings once a month to go over what’s going on in Thompson, as well as across the province.”
People First has been operating in Canada since 1974, and has established a chapter in virtually every province and territory in order to make sure that persons with intellectual disabilities are fully included and supported to live as equal citizens.
This advocacy group ceased having a presence in Thompson in early 2018 after Blake, one of its key members, decided to move back to his hometown of Snow Lake.
However, Blake returned to the Hub of the North a couple months later.
In the past, People First has been advocated for many high-profile accessibility projects in Thompson, including the installation of an elevator and viewing platform at the CA. Nesbitt and Gordon Beard arenas, respectively.
Moving forward, Blake said that the Thompson chapter of People First will continue to work with businesses and members of the new municipal government to guarantee that local buildings and facilities are in line with the Accessibility for Manitobans Act.
“In the near future we’re going to meet with the TRCC recreation department,” said Blake. “Because I saw on YouTube a few weeks ago that a county in Arkansas, down in the United States, got a wheelchair accessible swing for students in wheelchairs.”
Blake said he also wants to restart educational initiatives like People First’s language program, which aims to discourage younger students from using of the “R word” and other disparaging remarks.
“We’ll be taking care of the north as well, from The Pas to Churchill, in terms of going into schools and talking to students about using proper language when they’re referring to people with disabilities,” he said.
Right now, the office for People First’s Thompson chapter is located at the Northern Harmony Co-operative on 15 Arctic Drive and will be open from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Anyone interested in learning more about this self-advocacy group, including how to become a member, can contact Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org visit the People First of Thompson Manitoba Facebook page.