Order of Canada awards includes disability activist


Source: The Chronicle Herald

Catherine Frazee,  a disability rights advocate, former chief of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and professor emeritus at Ryerson, was appointed to the Order of Canada last year but was awarded her official insignia by Gov. Gen. David Johnston at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on 18 November.

Frazee, from Canning, has been celebrated for helping change the way Canadians view disabilities. Wednesday’s ceremony was a mix of excitement and humility, she said, and she accepted the honour on behalf of the dedicated people she’s worked with over the years.

Catherine Frazee receivers her Order of Canada from Governor General David Johnston in Ottawa on Wednesday. Frazee, who was born in Canning, has been celebrated for helping change the way Canadians view disabilities.

Catherine Frazee receives her Order of Canada from Governor General David Johnston in Ottawa on Wednesday. Frazee, who was born in Canning, has been celebrated for helping change the way Canadians view disabilities.

“We’re conditioned to think of disability as a tragedy; they look at my life and think of the losses, perhaps, of opportunity,” Frazee said.

“But I have no complaints about loss of opportunity, quite the contrary; I’ve had a remarkable and extraordinary life not in spite of my disability but in many ways because of it, and that’s a hard thing for people to get their heads around.”

While people living with disabilities still must work through many social and economic barriers, Frazee said, she feels hopeful for a new generation. More often, she said, people are treating those with disabilities with respect instead of pity, a common reaction she called well meaning but poorly placed.

“One of the great excitements for me is to see in the new generation of people with disabilities there is an innate sense of entitlement and of place of belonging and the possibility of contribution. I think that’s a really strong and important momentum that we have to keep building.”

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