MEDICINE HAT, AB — The Province of Alberta now has an official Advocate for Persons With Disabilities.
During a news conference in Edmonton Tuesday morning, Irfan Sabir, Minister of Community and Social Services, announced Tony Flores has been named to the newly created position.
Flores, a former Paralympic athlete, says he is honoured to take on the role, and is looking to speak with advocates, people with disabilities and their families from around the province to find ways to assist them.
“As a person with a physical impairment myself, this is an exciting time," he said in a news release. "We now have a voice. I look forward to working with self-advocates and organizations across Alberta over the coming months. I encourage any Albertan with a disability and their family or caregivers to request assistance from myself and my staff, share concerns, and learn more about their rights. We are here to listen and to help.”
In 2017, the province passed a bill creating the position, but began recruiting for the position earlier this year. Sabir said his office wanted to ensure they found the right fit for the role.
The news was welcomed by Rita Bessant, executive director with the CORE Association, a local organization which assists people with developmental disabilities in Medicine Hat.
“I think anything that promotes advocacy for persons with disabilities is a good thing,” she said. “We don’t know very much about this position, so I’m sure we will hear more in the future.”
Bessant says CORE already has staff members that work as advocates for the people they help, but adds a new office specifically dedicated to advocacy could be beneficial.
“I think there will be duplication, there has to be,” she said. “If we’re focused on the same goals and objectives, there will be duplication, but I think duplication of advocacy is perhaps a good thing.”
During the press conference, Flores indicated he would be doing consultation work throughout the province, in the lead-up to his office being open in November. Bessant says she’s hoping to meet with Flores at some point.
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