“We’re In This Together”

BC People First Society Conference and AGM

May 4 and 5th 2016

at the Coast Westerly Convention Centre
Courtenay, BC, Vancouver Island


-So what happened at Conference? –




BCPF Board of Directors present at Conference (front back left to right) Michelle Goos, Michael Mclellan, Jerry Laidlaw, Dave Sherritt, Mike Gauthier, JoAnne Gauthier, Consultant to the board Lorie Sherritt, Conrad Tyrkin, David Johnston. (board members not pictured: Paul Girardi and Tracy Jo Russell)

First, let’s tell you a bit about BC People First PF


The BC People First Society (BCPF) is a non-profit organization that has been a provincial voice for rights since 1981.

We are part of a strong international movement and are an independent group of people who have been labelled with a developmental disability.

We are unique in that we are run by people who have been labelled FOR people who have been labelled. We work to make sure that people who have been labelled are respected and included in communities as full citizens. We do this by supporting each other to speak up for ourselves and others.

Our vision is a diverse community where all people are: included and involved; honoured and respected; seen for their abilities, and supported to participate.

B.C. People First is a way for many self-advocacy groups to join together and have a voice as leaders, mentors and advocates.

We create ways for people with disabilities to get together to learn from each other and share experiences.

CaptureSelf Advocate Cory Fisher, during his workshop “Creating a Support Network”


About the Conference


The “We’re in This Together” conference took place on May 4 and 5th 2016 at the Coast Westerly Convention Centre, in Courtenay, BC on Vancouver Island.

A total of 77 people attended the two day conference representing 12 different communities in Western Canada, and 11 different self advocacy groups.


The conference theme, “We’re In This Together” was chosen by our Board members to support our goal of awareness raising and capacity building throughout the province, and creating community.

The B.C. People First Society is making sure that peo­ple who have been labelled know there is a community which is supportive, understanding and “gets” what they are going through.

This conference was created for all people who are la­beled (and their support people) to learn and share together, and to expand the provincial reach of BCPF.


People First Conference Principles:

1. People First members take the lead in all aspects of organizing the conference.

BCPF Board members decided on all conference content, including presentations, speaker selections and conference location.

2. Workshops presenters are majority Self Advocates.

3. Everybody gets a chance to speak up and contribute.

4. Costs to members and self advocates are kept as low as possible.

(in this case, we only charged to cover partial costs of catering)



CaptureDirector of the Board, Conrad Tyrkin, with the mayor of Courtenay Larry Jangula, who gave opening remarks at the conference






This year we had our big conference called “We are in this together” held on Vancouver Island in the town of Courtenay, BC.  It was held May 4th and 5th.

This was the first ever provincial conference ever held in the Comox Valley around people with a disability. We had 77 people register for our conference and most of the people were from Vancouver Island.

I heard from a lot of people that they enjoyed our conference.

The workshops we had on Wednesday night were Self Determination presented by Sherwin Strong (a Vancouver Island Self advocate) as well as Chair yoga (presented by Courtenay yoga teacher Kristen Gilbert) and we played job bingo (a fun game created by BCPF and presented by BCPF board members David Johnston and Conrad Tyrkin) as well as one called Passion to Purpose, (which is about turning what you are passionate about into a job you love, presented by BCPF Director David Johnston).

On Thursday we started out with a work shop by Catriona Johnson (who is the parent of a self advocate) called “Taking back Power, Self advocates leading, Families following”.

Another workshop, Parenting with a Diversability, was done by two of our board members Michelle Goos and David Johnston, who are both parents with a disability and one of their kids have one as well.

We also had a workshop on Creating a Support Network, (presented by Vancouver Island self advocate Corey Fisher) and we had a presentation by the Family Support Institute of BC, (which talked all about what they do offer and how to find the supports you need).

Someone came from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation to talk about the PWD and the bus pass program.

(this was Executive Director Strategic Transformation Branch Raymond Fieltsch).

I heard during that work shop from a lot of self advocates how they felt the $45 dollar sign up fee plus the $52 dollar monthly bus pass cost is wrong.

The Ministry representative said that is something that they have heard quite loudly so they are reviewing that part of the bus pass program. (more on the Q and A with the Ministry Representative in another article)

We also showed a video series from Ontario People first called “This is My Life!”, Strengthening communities through active living and social inclusion.

The videos showed how some people who have been labelled found different ways to live a life they love: buying a house, living in an apartment, getting a meaningful job.

After the conference was over we had our Annual General Meeting where we decided on what we are going to work on the coming year (our focus).

The things that we decided to be our focus of our advocacy work are: plain language in places of business (like banks and insurance companies), The School language project (taking presentations to schools, groups and college programs to educate people on why we should not use the “R” word, and human rights) and advocating for accessible transit (with a focus on the recent changes to the bus pass program)

Our next conference will be held in 2018, and we hope many of you will come attend and find out what all the fun is about!

-by Michael McLellan



Captureleft: BCPF Director Conrad Tyrkin (at left) with presenter of the workshop “Self Determination” Sherwin Strong of the Comox Valley.

This workshop included some of the history and similarities between First Nations and residential schools and Persons with Diverse Abilities and institutions.


Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is a chance for all the People First Society members to find out how the organization works, vote on important issues, and elect the Directors who will serve on the board of directors.

For People First members, it is important to have a vote in what goes on and to hear the various reports from the Directors.

The presidents report and treasurer reports were made, as well as reports from all the Directors present. This year the board had elections by acclamation for 3 Directors.

The new Executive positions were voted on, the 2016-17 board is:

President: (one year left in term) Jo Anne Gauthier
Vice President: Michelle Goos
Secretary: Michael McLellan
Treasurer: Dave Sherritt, to train David Johnson who will assume the role of Treasurer later in the year.


The board worked hard to keep registration costs low at $40.00 for the two days. Support workers were asked to pay $20.00.

These costs were meant to partially cover the costs of catering during the event.

We receive funding from Community Living BC, People First of Canada and the Self Advocate Foundation of BC, portions of these funds were used towards the conference.

In addition we received a grant of $300.00 from the local Coastal Community Credit Union which was used towards our conference room rental.


Director Michael Mclellan receiving the $300 grant from Coastal Community Credit Union


Nanaimo Association for Community Living
kindly donated their services and provided
accessible transportation to some of our Board members to and from the ferry terminal in their shuttle bus.


What People Said About the Conference

People enjoyed the conference and we received many compliments on a job well done.


Here is some of what people said:


“Thank you for all you did towards the People First Conference. I am glad i got to participate! “


“It was amazing and we did meet new people and make new connections.

The speakers were very informative and we loved the interactive exercises. You will have a few new members now.”

“I’ve been to A LOT of conferences, and this one was great! It was never boring and the energy of all the people was awesome!”



CaptureBCPF members Lorie and Dave Sherritt and Jerry Laidlaw, with Nanaimo Association for Community Living bus Driver.

Thanks so much for the accessible transportation NACL!!!




Impacts and Outcomes

CaptureABOVE Our amazing main driver, BCPF board member Conrad Tyrkin and his passengers (from left, back: David Johnston, Lorie Sherritt,

CLBC self advocate adviser Jessica Humphries and BCPF Provincial Coordinator Ariel Pavic.

We are In This Together – The single most important outcome of the conference was the realization of the theme title.

Individuals felt like they were not alone, they were with people “who get it”, and that they can find the support that they need to live lives they love.

All of this resulted in an overall feeling that as individuals we are strong, but as a group we are POWERFUL.

Self advocacy groups will now be inspired to build leadership in their own communities and take on issues that they face in their lives.

We hope to foster new groups by aligning them with our movement.


Greater Leadership Ability/mentorship network – Through the process of planning and presenting the workshops and organizing the conference, the Board and People First members enhanced their skills and set examples for everyone.

The majority of the people involved in presenting the workshops were self advocates.

This has strengthened the mentorship network of self advocates across the province, making new connections that would have otherwise not have happened.

Increased Awareness of People First – many people arrived at the beginning of the conference with no previous knowledge of People First or its history.

Connections – as a result of the conference, individuals and groups are connected with each other by knowing what’s happening in different communities.

A network of mentors has been established.

Vision Achieved:  The history of People First in Canada started with a vision for people who have been labeled to build and run their own organization, and advocate for themselves.

Through the planning, it was clear that this was a reality. The BCPF board are very proud of their accomplishment!



And please LIKE our page on facebook, join our online community at:


MEMBERSHIP IS FREE! If you would like more information or would like to become a member, please email our Provincial Coordinator at:



Print Friendly, PDF & Email