The Labour Day weekend is often seen as a time when we put away our summer things and look forward to the routine of fall: children going back to school, dusting off our rainboots and, of course, getting out your favourite cozy sweaters.
For the past year and a half, so many essential workers have been putting in extra-long hours, foregoing other plans and often facing personal risk, to ensure that British Columbians could access the supports and services they needed. We appreciate and value them as cherished members of our communities.
Thank you to the frontline staff of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, who have continued to come into offices throughout the province every day to ensure vital services to many of British Columbia’s most vulnerable citizens could be delivered uninterrupted. I’m honoured as minister to lead our focus toward ensuring supports are stronger than ever and rebuilt with inclusivity top of mind.
Labour Day gives me a chance to reflect on the important contributions that organized workers have made to public policies that protect our quality of life, from labour standards that protect children from dangerous work, to guaranteed time off and holidays. Workers have also led important social movements, standing with marginalized groups and giving voice to those who would otherwise not be heard.
Poverty reduction and supporting those living with a disability have always been key priorities of workers and organizations representing them. They were instrumental in ensuring our province instituted the Poverty Reduction Strategy and were vocal in advocating for the recent permanent rate increase, the largest increase ever, for those receiving assistance.
Workers were also key participants in the passage of the Accessible British Columbia Act. This legislation will support the development of new accessibility standards in a range of areas, including employment, the built environment, and the delivery of services. By proactively identifying, removing and preventing barriers to inclusion, this legislation will ensure we are rebuilding in a way that improves the lives of people with disabilities.
Labour Day marks the end of another summer season, unusual with the ongoing pandemic, and perhaps too “usual” with the weather and wildfires. It was also a summer that led to deep collective reflection as Canadians thought about our history, with the identification of the burial sites of Indigenous children and youth on the grounds of former residential schools. This has led many Canadians, some for the first time, to truly understand some of the worst aspects of our history – one that many of us should have learned in school.
With the last days of summer just around the corner, and as our communities strive to be more resilient and healthier, it’s still important to remember to be patient, kind and safe.
Happy Labour Day!
Nicholas Simons is BC’s minister of social development and poverty reduction.