June 23, 2020

DAWN Canada: 35 years of feminist disability activism

Animated gif of a sun rising over a hill making the stars fade in the background. Everything is in shades of purple. The number 35 in white rises over the hill. "DAWN Canada, since 1985" in white fades in.

Nothing to celebrate – In service and in hope!

This week DAWN Canada begins a whole year of activities to mark our 35 years in service to women with disabilities. Our past President, Carmela Hutchison who passed away just two years ago this spring, was an extra-ordinary woman whose devotion to people with disabilities in her community, in Alberta, in Canada, and anywhere she rolled was legendary.  She signed all her correspondence, “in service and in hope”.

DAWN Canada would love to celebrate our accomplishments today as we begin this important year but there is still too much to do. Today you will see a new banner on all our social media to mark the day. It suggests a sunrise, a dawn – we continue to live up to our name and our 35th year must again be about the change we want to see.

Over the course of this year (from June 2020 to June 2021) we will be hosting events, sharing stories and preparing for a conversation with the nation.  This conversation begins with our beginnings; the 17 amazing strong women who came to Ottawa and decided on this day, 35 years ago, to give us a name.  It is imperative that this conversation acknowledge the public servants who made it their business to bring our founders together. It is a conversation that was and is still framed around four key pillars: Research, Education, Policy & Advocacy.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted billions of people in so many different ways that we will be analyzing its impact on civilization for centuries to come. Millions of events including weddings, graduations and yes, most tragically even funerals are being postponed or lost to COVID-19.

Our organization, like so many others, has had to make major adjustments to our way of working, to our work plans, and to our lives because of this pandemic.  A 35th anniversary can be a reason for celebration or for reflection depending on what is being marked. We are choosing to observe our 35 years and not celebrate them because we know that millions of women with disabilities here in Canada and around the world are having to make impossible choices between food and supports, between medication and safety, between keeping a job or staying alive.

This is the beginning of a year of conversations. By the end of this year we hope to be standing with our allies and our partners - including our partners in the public service - focused and committed to a ten-year vision that can move us from hope to celebration. The convergence of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd have lifted any illusions of their being real meaningful equality for all – but folks are organized, galvanized and the social justice movement is continuing to coalesce and make meaningful change.


In service and in hope,

Bonnie Brayton's signature

Bonnie Brayton, National Executive Director
DAWN Canada