Dawne Fraser (Soaring Eagle) created this article at our request after delivering an impassioned plea for inclusion of all "uniquely abled" persons in society during a Talking Circle at our Spiritual Gathering in 2009. Dawne raised a number of issues that were new to us, and provoked a great deal of thought, and we wanted to share it here with you.

Do you see the dogs first, then the wheelchair, then the person? Shouldn't we relate to the person first? Experience inclusion as you relate to the person first, not their mobility aids.
(Photo of Dawne Fraser)

Discover through the Mi’kmaq tradition, the living spirit of inclusion. The last frontier within each one's heart is the generosity of natural inclusion. Everyone is a uniquely abled person, there are no disabilities! It is a label of convenience to provide service. This label has perpetuated the underlying inability of individuals to accept that everyone is a valued, uniquely abled human being.

Nova Scotians might like to take notice that in 1998 a law of Accommodation was established in Canada, extending the human rights laws by ensuring each one of us has access to all services. This law was established to combat and reduce unconscious system wide discrimination. However, Nova Scotia has the highest incidence of persons with limiting unique ability due to accidents, illness, disabilities, poverty, age, educational needs, and language access. With this situation Nova Scotia also has the highest incidence of violence and neglect against those who are vulnerable. This seems unimaginable when such kindness, generosity, creativity, industrious, and the educational goals of diversity reflect the efforts of our goodness. And so this may be the very reason it is hard to accept the truth and take inclusion action to remedy the situation.

In 1970, Nova Scotia was Canada's first province to provide a fully integrated recreation program. It was designed and the directed by a young Nova Scotian woman (Dawne Fraser) and modeled natural inclusion on every level. The program was for deaf or hard of hearing, children, teens and youth and their hearing peers. Some events were held at Keji Park and educational activities included aboriginal culture, land conservation, wildlife habitat, canoeing, camping, fire making, basket weaving and for full accessibility all activities were conducted in total communication (ASL, SEE and speech).

Now consider only two of many examples from around the world, in Canada:

1. Slavery was first abolished in 1834, and the ongoing re-education of society's expectations has been an intensive challenging process to reduce racism.

2. The restoration of aboriginal rights began officially in Canada in 1876, and still our aboriginal brothers and sisters struggle for natural freedom, beyond the expectations of conformity and submission.

The last frontier is basic rights for ‘Disabled persons’ officially started in 1998, as per Canadian Human Rights Commission (S.2: S.15(2) 1998 Duty to Accommodate) Accommodation is not a courtesy - now it is the law.

The battle for real inclusion is just beginning for ‘disabled persons’ this past 11 years, compared to the 175 years of battling slavery and racism. There are many similarities and differences between disablism and racism. For example slaves (African and aboriginal) were valued, whereas those who were disabled were hidden away and had no social value. Both groups experienced rampant violations against them, and the vulnerable have no real voice of safety even today.

‘Disabled persons’ are rising beyond the obvious social prejudice into a distorted view of inclusion, which is when the disabled person is treated as a ‘hero’ or ‘loving pet’. This is a reflection of society's search for ‘the way to value disabled persons’. Many individuals are still shamed for their differences by ignorance or indifference and devalued so they can be denied the same privileges as the abled bodied of language access and physical access to medical and government services for basic survival.

The right of full accessibility – inclusion – is an extremely challenging issue to clarify for one's community because the privileged individual (both abled and uniquely abled) are often very reluctant to step outside their comfort zone to truly understand the consequences of racism and disablism. Many privileged individuals require a very safe environment for them to see beyond our differences and risk new behaviours of real inclusion.

The privileged person can never ‘learn enough’ to satisfy this need for security and to protect themselves from their own projections to label and alienate others. The privileged do not need endless information to pad their comfort zones, rather they need the experience of how to simply provide attitudinal acceptance.

An explanation to satisfy understanding can be helpful to relax one’s own fears and cultivate inclusion. Still it is the suspension of one's judgments in the first moments of contact, resting in that gap of silent kindness where natural inclusion spontaneously manifests.

Dawne’s Philosophy:

“Natural Inclusion is a spacious encounter within relationships where true compassion is experienced and each of us has the rightful opportunity to independence, communication, learning, employment, diversity, leisure, relationships, spiritual expression and the empowerment of real inclusion.” – Dawne Fraser 1990

“By cultivating genuine connections to each person’s uniqueness, one discovers the essential essence of real inclusion is beyond words; it is the direct experience of naturally allowing each uniquely abled individual to be perceived as a whole person.” – Dawne Fraser 1992

The impeccable call of Soaring Eagle:
    Here at Keji - I have always experienced the acceptance of my wholeness.
    Here at Keji - my unique abilities are naturally included as I honour the Mi’kmaq spirit
    Here at Keji - the Keji Gathering embodies the true spirit of ALL MY RELATIONS.

Dawne Fraser, Sept 15 2009

Updated: 27 Mar 2016 Print Page