Critic Roles

Disability

As critic for disability issues, Meara has focused on the inadequacy of SAID, the chronic underfunding of supports for people living with disabilities (and their families), and the lack of robust legislation to build a more accessible Saskatchewan.

In its report “People Before Systems: Transforming the Experience of Disability in Saskatchewan”, the Sask Party government wrote about its intent to “improve disability programs and services to meet Government’s goal of making Saskatchewan the best place in Canada to live for persons with disabilities.” So far, they have failed to honour this promise.

SAID

People who rely on SAID with disabilities that pose a barrier to employment continue to live in deep poverty, while also navigating the system challenges that disincentivize greater autonomy.  The Sask Party government contradicts many of its own recommendations in its 2016 report “Taking Action on Poverty: The Saskatchewan Poverty Reduction Strategy”.  It continues to be a mystery how SAID rates are set and rates have failed to keep par with the increasing cost of living.

Bill 103

The creation of Bill 103, The Accessible Saskatchewan Act initially, gave the community a lot of hope that Saskatchewan would finally tackle many of the barriers that people with disability deal with on a daily basis. So far, the process has been extremely drawn out and the final Legislation leaves many questions still unanswered. The Bill received first reading November 15, 2022, second reading March 13, 2023, third reading May 4, 2023, and Royal Assent on May 17, 2023. In her role as critic, Meara posed many questions about how the legislation would operationalize at the Committee stage, which can be watched here beginning at 7PM or a pdf can be downloaded here

Community Supports

Many living with a disability rely on community-based organizations (CBOs) and group homes run by third party agencies. These agencies are too often understaffed and underfunded, and struggle to meet the growing needs in the community. Even though CBOs are heavily relied on by the provincial government to meet the mandates of provincial funders, the province continues to ignore their growing needs. There is therefore a growing gap in how individuals with intellectual disabilities are supported in Saskatchewan, and a clear failure to honour the Sask Party government’s promise of a “person-centred approach”.

Whether individuals are in group homes, or cared for by loved ones, the themes include an unacceptably low quality of care in some group home settings. This is a direct result of the lack of sufficient supports, pay, training, and care to client ratio, as well as a lack of protocols in place and enforcement mechanisms. The self-directed funding model – while no doubt an attempt to fill existing gaps – is a source of stress and frustration to families who struggle to manage the loved one they care for, their own working schedules, and the oversight of all care/admin/staffing often without sufficient supports. The lack of coordination between Health and Social Services, including the lack of formal coordination mechanism and the limitations of CLSD/SHA program mandates are a barrier to improving the quality and availability of supports. The lack of coordination has aggravated the labour crisis in the disability support sector and reduced the quality and viability of many existing supports. Recruitment and retention are reaching crisis levels in the disability support sector.

Meara in her role as critic has urged the Ministry of Social Services to explore solutions, such as providing predictable multi-year funding, addressing and regulating training requirements of support workers (and improving wages), extending nursing support for all group homes, not just some – this is important given the complexity, health disparities and challenges recognizing health problems in the disability population. She would also like to see greater transparency and accountability, such as changes to the Coroner’s Act and the creation of a third party empowered to investigate and advocate on behalf of Vulnerable Persons. Currently the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Act is silent on deaths that take place in CLSD supported agencies including Group Homes, Approved Private Service Homes, Group Living Homes, and Supported Living Programs, or directly-run MSS homes. These homes are not listed in the Coroner’s Act as being subject to an automatic duty to notify the Coroner’s Office in the event of a death, which is at odds with jurisdictions like Ontario, where there is an automatic duty to do so. In at least one case, I have spoken to a treating physician whose concerns that an individual’s death was contributed by the care they received was told the Coroner’s office lacked a mandate to investigate. Saskatchewan’s lack of third party agencies trained and empowered to investigate and address non-emergent concerns around possible neglect, abuse, and poor quality of care for adults with Intellectual Disabilities is unacceptable. Often individuals looking to voice concerns or advocate are redirected back to the organization in question, which is entirely