COVID Appeal Letter
NOMADS | United
April 2, 2020
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am grieved to see that the most vulnerable are the last to be addressed in Canada during the COVID crisis, and that they are discounted and dismissed to third party support through non-profits.
Let me be clear. We deeply appreciate all that charities and non-profits do for people in need, but this is not sufficient support at this time. We need direct financial support right now. Why not put a maximum income cap on workers and businesses for support? The working poor and the precarious workers that may earn a few thousand dollars every year are truly needy and it is how we treat the least of these that we will surely be judged by our neighbours and history as a nation.
One group, in particular, have been largely overlooked. All those who are neurodivergent members of our larger society. We represent 20%, or 1 in every 5, Canadians. You probably know us better by the labels given to us by the medical and/or disability community: ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and others.
This is a direct appeal on behalf of all neurodivergents, whether diagnosed or self-identified, to waive the $5,000 minimum for self-employed / contract individuals. Anyone chronically under or unemployed is already facing undue hardship, of which neurodivergents are VASTLY over-represented. Why take away their dignity and humanity with these measures? Don’t put those barely holding on to housing out on the streets and make things even worse.
Many of us don’t all qualify for disability supports, but we all qualify for the experience of discrimination. Much of the suffering we experience, even more so through collective hard times, are the results of systemic and structural barriers. Barriers to opportunity to learn, to work and to participate in community life are ever-present. Instead, we are told that we don’t belong in a thousand different ways – both subtle and bold. The message of diversity and inclusion is all around us in schools, workplaces and government. But we don’t experience these things personally.
During this crisis, many of us have experienced social, health and economic harm and felt loss more acutely. We cannot look for work as employment and community centres have shut down, we don’t want to apply for social assistance and thus many live in destitute circumstances and rely on personal savings (if any), the kindness of family, friends and strangers and nothing else! Many of us spend our days looking for work, self-employed in low wage or no wage situations and volunteer much of our time to community support organizations a lot.
Our identity is not primarily how the majority have defined us morally or functionally, with common disparaging descriptors like “lazy, crazy or stupid”. And many would be quick to acknowledge that these things are happening and that they are wrong, but then in the same breath, they discount and dismiss our differences as disease, disorder, and disability. Make no mistake, some of us suffer from some or all of these things but they don’t define us and they are not to be conflated with our differences (what the medical community likes to call co-morbidities).
Societies have disparaged some of our greatest minds over the centuries: Galileo, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and many more. Names we all recognize. But then there are the names you will never hear of because of their traumatic experiences with teachers, employers, politicians, police and health workers. They became school dropouts, addicted, homeless, jailed and prematurely died – often by their own hands. Society has not done right by us and we suffer. We suffer human rights violations, social justice and indignities of every imaginable type for being different. For not fitting into what the majority defines as “normal”. And so we try to hide our difference, or appease the authorities and system by trying to be something we are not. Many live in fear of “not measuring up”, of being found out or coming out of the closet. So many cruelties endured by so many.
This must change. Moving forward, we would ask that no decisions are made without our input as the larger collective neurodivergent community. In other words, “Nothing about us, without us”. Nations around the world have treated us with equal disregard. But our fellow advocates are raising the alarm in many of those countries. And now we raise the alarm for Canada. Let us be leaders in the global neurodiversity movement. To take the initiative and do the right thing for neurodivergents and society at large. Whenever we allow people to challenge the status quo, we welcome the voice of diversity and challenge entitlement. May we learn from other countries and times in our history where diversity has not been recognized / embraced and the fallout in human costs.
This appeal is NOT a call to dismiss or diminish support for disability, which many require and for which the need may be greater at this time (often the result of chronic intolerance and lack of social integration), but rather to recognize the role that systemic barriers and discrimination have played and the toll of human suffering on us, your neighbours and friends. We need more support and encouragement in simply being our best us and contributing from our distinct strengths and abilities as neuro minorities. This is a call to see us, hear us, respect us, include us. Not based on the traits of the masses, but in the exercise of our unique traits. It is in our collective (neuro)diversity that makes us stronger together. Especially now as we face a major crisis in COVID. There will be more and even greater challenges ahead, challenges that require thinking differently. Status quo thinking simply will not serve anyone moving forward.
The government of Canada has a dark history of practicing cultural intolerance and exclusion. Some progress has been made in recent years with some groups. Let’s apply those learnings and recognize the systemic practices and institutions that have created these inhuman acts and practices against those without power and find new ways of practicing community for good, the greater good of all Canadians.
In hard times, people often lean on each other. And we see the best (as well as the worst) come out of these experiences. We grow in empathy, compassion, and creativity. In other words, we become more of the best in humanity. The future will need this more emotionally intelligent and imaginative humanity. I trust this will be true for Canada and that we collaborate and flourish together rather than play zero-sum games and think in scarcity terms.
May God give you wisdom in leading the nation in the days ahead and unite us all in community. May we each do our part, think of each and serve where / how best we can as we face the unknown and uncertain days ahead with courage and love.
Robert M Peacock
NOMADS United (Nu) Founder
Neurodivergent Advocate and Neurodiversity Ambassador