BC People First Values: Freedom, Choice, Respect, Dignity, Inclusion

BC People First Society (BCPF) is a non-profit provincial organization that is part of the international PEOPLE FIRST movement. BCPF has been the independent voice of self-advocates in BC for over 40 years. We are a society made up of a group of BCPF Members from across British Columbia who want to make sure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are included and respected in our communities as full citizens. We do this by supporting each other to speak up for ourselves and by sharing advocacy skills with each other.

Our vision is a diverse community where all people are:

    • included and involved
    • honoured and respected
    • seen for their abilities
    • and supported to participate

At BCPF we work to stop the stigma surrounding intellectual and developmental disabilities and unite our Members' voices in the fight to be considered People First. The fight to not have people speak for us or down to us and to help everyone in society understand what "nothing about us without us" really means and why it matters.

Self-Advocates Supporting Self-Advocates

We write letters, do presentations, and advocate with governments about issues affecting people with disabilities. We advocate for all people to be seen as equal citizens and for issues that matter to our Members.

These are just some of the things that matter most to us:

    • Employment and fair wages - equal work for equal pay and closing Sheltered Workshops in Canada.
    • De-institutionalization - getting people out of institutions and into the community.
    • Affordable housing - everyone should have a good, clean home and choice in where they live.
    • Equal disability benefits and a livable income - everyone deserves a guaranteed liveable income!
    • Access to quality services - all government services should be individualized, person-centred, helpful, and hopeful.
    • Accessible transportation and passageways - society should be made for everyone not just some.
    • Inclusive, non-segregated communities - everyone should be part of the community on their own terms not segregated based on labels.

BC People First is run by a Board of (5-10) Directors, all Self-Advocates, representing the province by region and the Executive Board. Director positions are usually 3-year terms. Executive positions are voted on every year, with the President taking a 2-year term. BCPF Members who want to get more involved are invited to join Committees chaired by a member of the Board.

History of the People First movement in Canada

Here are some of the important dates in the history of the development of People First across Canada:

  • 1973 For the first time, people labelled as mentally handicapped come together at a conference in Canada.
  • 1974  Inspired by the British Columbia conference, a conference of self-advocates is held in Oregon. The name “People First” is chosen as a name for the self-advocacy movement.
  • 1974  The first People First group in Canada begins in British Columbia.
  • 1978  A local People First group forms in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Groups are active in British Columbia and forming in Alberta.
  • 1979  People First groups form in Brantford and Oakville, Ontario.
  • 1980  Self-advocates in Ontario hold a conference at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario and decide to form a provincial People First organization. People First groups began to form in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • 1981  Provincial conference of People First in Ontario held in Toronto, Ontario. About 650 people attend. International People First Conference in Oregon.
  • 1982  Meeting of self advocates organized at the 1982 World Congress of the International League of Societies for Persons with Mental Handicap in Nairobi, Kenya. Barb Goode represents Canada.
  • 1983  People First of Ontario formed. People First groups have formed in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Alberta.
  • 1984  National Self Advocacy Development Project begins. Project soon becomes known as the National People First Project. First issue of the newsletter of the project (“The National Organizer”) comes out in July. International Self Advocacy Leadership Conference in Tacoma, Washington. People First leaders from British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, and the National People First Project attend.
  • 1985  British Columbia forms provincial People First organization. In Ontario, there are 34 known groups. First meeting of the Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia People First group. 1986 Conference of People First leaders from Canada and the United States held in Bolton, Ontario. Self Advocates organize a “Workers Council” in a sheltered workshop in Nova Scotia.
  • 1989 There are 19 People First chapters in British Columbia. Nova Scotia provincial People First group begins. Saskatchewan and Manitoba also have provincial organizations by this time. Founding Convention of People First of Canada. Provincial organizations alive and well in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. People First of Canada and People First of Ontario host the Third International People First Conference in Toronto. About 1,500 delegates from 34 countries attend the conference.

Today, People First groups from all provinces and territories are represented on the Board of Directors of People First of Canada. In 1996, a history of People First in Canada was published. It is a chapter in a book called New Voices: Self Advocacy by People with Disabilities. The book was edited by Gunnar Dybwad and Hank Bersani, Jr. It is published by Brookline Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bruce Kappel, a volunteer Advisor with People First of Canada wrote the history with a lot of help from Peter Park, Beth French, and Patrick Worth.