BY: John Driscoll
DATE: June 3, 2004
NIAGARA FALLS – Jason Rae of Campbellford, the first self-advocate to be elected president of a local Community Living association board in Ontario, is the 2004 recipient of the James Montgomerie Honour Award.
Jason received a standing ovation when he was presented with the award last night at the opening session of the 51st Conference and Annual General Meeting of Community Living Ontario. The award is presented annually to a self-advocate who has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting inclusion and equality of people identified as having an intellectual disability.
“I’d like to thank all the self-advocates I’ve met who have inspired me,” said Jason of Community Living Campbellford-Brighton, in accepting the award.
Nancy Stone, president of Community Living St. Catharines, described Jason’s dedication to his local Community Living association as well as his term on the self-advocates council and volunteer work in activities unrelated to Community Living.
When Jason Rae was in high school, he wanted to become president of the student council but other students felt he wouldn’t be able to do the job because he had an intellectual disability, he recalls. At the annual general meeting of Community Living Campbellford/Brighton, Thursday (June 26) Jason, 28, proved his schoolmates wrong and made history.
He became the first Self-Advocate in Ontario, and possibly Canada, to be elected president of a federated agency.
To tumultuous applause from more than 80 people, outgoing president Chris Park announced Jason’s election, describing it as a historic event.
“Community Living Ontario salutes Jason and this organization on this historical precedent,” said Community Living Ontario President David Barber, guest speaker at the meeting.
“You are a leading group in this province in successfully honouring the role of the Self-Advocate,” David said. “You have successfully empowered Self-Advocates and developed a leadership model to allow this to happen.”
Jason has been vice-president of Community Living Campbellford/Brighton for the past two years and the organization saw no reason not to honour him, said executive director Chris Grayson. “He is definitely an asset to this organization and we will support Jason.”
Ministry officials may be frightened because they are not sure what this means but “we will not back down on this” Chris Grayson said.
Jason has the credentials to serve as president, he pointed out. For two years he sat on the provincial Self-Advocate board, has represented 14 Community Living organizations as the regional Lakeshore representative and held his own conference in Campbellford.
He has taken a very active role in meetings with local politicians concerning the need for increased ODSP payments for individuals with disabilities, said Chris Park. Jason was part of the four-person board executive committee for the past year. Chris, who remains on the board as past president, will act as mentor for Jason.
An employee of Campbellford Office Supplies and More for about six years, Jason, a native of Stratford, Ont. and is a member of the local Rotary Club.
His election represents an opportunity to have a big impact across Ontario, Chris Grayson said. “Other Community Living organizations will be asking ‘If Campbellford/Brighton can do this, why not us?’ In an interview, Jason said he knows there are challenges ahead in leading the organization. “There are other challenges I’ve faced,” he said. “As a Self-Advocate and a person who has always looked out for the best interests of the organization and all its members, I will do my best to fill the shoes of the president’s role.”
“I cannot tell you enough of just what your confidence in me and my abilities means to me,” he told the audience. “The support and constant guidance that family, friends and co-workers have shown me is completely overwhelming and has helped me to achieve my personal goals.”