Minister's Council on Employment & Accessibility

This is a forum comprised of members from the business, non-government and government sectors as well as families and individuals with disabilities. The forum advises the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction on solutions and strategies to increase employment and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The Minister’s Council worked with the business community and government to support a comprehensive, province wide public consultation. The result is a 10-year action plan for making B.C. the most progressive province for people with disabilities to live.

The action plan is designed around 12 building blocks–ranging from employment to accessible service delivery–which reflect themes that emerged from the public consultation. Proposed outcomes, measurements and early actions are outlined under each building block.

Mandate & Scope

Leadership, partnership and action by employers, persons with disabilities and their families, governments and community-based organizations are key to the success of the provincial Disability Strategy. The Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility is a forum comprised of members from the business, NGO, and government sectors as well as families and individuals with disabilities that advises the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, as the lead of the Provincial Disability Strategy, on solutions and strategies to increase employment and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The Minister’s Council will:

  • Advise on employment and accessibility of persons with disabilities
  • Identify and support opportunities for partnerships, and capacity-building across government and community to increase employment and accessibility of persons with disabilities
  • Communicate and gather input from the public on matters related to fulfilling its mandate

Key Linkages

  • Provincial Disability Strategy
  • Cross-Ministry Disability Strategy Reference Group

Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility Members

Council Member Biographies

Dr. Jaimie Borisoff, Canada research chair in rehabilitation engineering design, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) & International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD) (interim chair)

Improving health, expanding activities of daily living and fostering community participation for people with disabilities are paramount to Dr. Borisoff’s work with BCIT and ICORD. Dr. Borisoff developed the Elevation wheelchair that lets people adjust sitting positions on the fly to better suit particular activities. He has ongoing design projects to further improve wheelchair accessibility, adaptive exercise equipment and exoskeletons. He is also a four-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball, winning two gold and one silver medals competing for Canada.

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, McLaughlin Educational Consulting Services (deputy chair)

Joseph McLaughlin was the dean of deaf studies and special services at Ohlone College in Freemont, California from 2004 to 2008. With over 26 years’ experience in educational leadership, Dr. McLaughlin has taken on various roles and responsibilities including teacher, counsellor, vice principal, principal and sessional lecturer for the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia. Dr. McLaughlin is an appointed public member on the board of College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of British Columbia.

Dr. Gary Birch, executive director, Neil Squire Society

Gary Birch was appointed director of research and development at the Neil Squire Society in 1988 and then, in 1994, was appointed executive director. Dr. Birch is a Canadian Paralympian and is considered by many to be Canada’s foremost expert on brain-computer interface technology. Dr. Birch earned his B.Sc. in electrical engineering in 1983 and, in 1988, received a doctorate in electrical engineering (biomedical signal processing), both from the University of British Columbia. He continues to champion accessibility through his research and development work in assistive technologies at the University of British Columbia and with the Neil Squire Society, and is an adjunct professor at the electrical and computer engineering department of the University of British Columbia. In 2010, Dr. Birch was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and, in 2012, awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Dr. Birch was appointed a member of the federal panel on Labour Market Opportunities for People with Disabilities.

Neil Belanger, executive director, British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

Neil Belanger is the executive director of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS), a provincial Aboriginal disability and health organization. Neil has worked in the fields of disability and health for the past 17 years both within British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Through his and his various teams’ work within the disability sector, organizations he has served have been honoured to be the recipient of various organizational awards and recognition, most recently being the 2013 British Columbia Medical Association’s  Excellence in Health Promotion Award and the 2013 Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division’s Dr. Nancy Hall Public Policy Leadership Award. Neil has served on a variety of local, regional and provincial boards and committees and is currently the co-chair of the Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) Aboriginal Advisory Committee and a member of the Aboriginal Infant/Support Child Development Provincial Steering Committee.

Neil was traditionally adopted into the Lax Se el (Frog) Clan within the Gitxsan First Nation in 2007, lives in Victoria with wife and their two children and is currently completing his master’s program at Royal Roads University.

Jane Dyson, executive director, Disability Alliance BC

Jane Dyson has been with Disability Alliance BC since 1998. She has been the executive director since 2009.

Jane has been responsible for the management of many projects designed to enable people with disabilities to live with dignity and independence in their communities. These include initiatives designed to make the RDSP more accessible to people with disabilities, particularly those living on very low incomes.

Jane has also played a leadership role in developing stakeholder partnerships to promote communication between the disability community, government and other decision-makers. The Disability Without Poverty Network/Supporting Increased Participation for people with disabilities is one example of this model. She is also responsible for organizing committees which have brought together community organizations with TransLink, ICBC and the business sector.

Jane is a member of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, Metro Vancouver Transit Police Chief's Community Council and is on the board of the Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry. She is a past member of the Vancouver Foundation’s Disability Supports for Employment Advisory Committee.

Jane has a master’s degree in political science from Simon Fraser University and was admitted to the Order of British Columbia in 2015.

Michael Edgson, investment & retirement planner, RBC Financial Planning

Michael has been with RBC for over 18 years in a variety of leadership roles. Currently, he provides advice and guidance as a licensed financial planner focusing on long term investment strategies for clients. Michael is the founding chair of RBC’s National Employee Resource Group for People with a Disability. Michael has been involved on several boards, including: director of finance, Canadian Paralympic Committee; director, Delta Gymnastics Society; and assistant director, Fraser South Swimming.

Michael has been recognized for his contributions to sport in Canada, including induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Paralympic Sports Hall of Fame, Terry Fox Hall of Fame and Swim Canada’s Circle of Excellence.

Michael completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria and holds his personal financial planning designation.

Norah Flaherty, business consultant

Norah Flaherty is a business consultant with expertise in management/marketing as well as disability-related issues. She served on the board of directors of Community Living BC (CLBC) from 2010-2015. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of Canadian Business SenseAbility as well as the board of directors of the Canucks Autism Network. Norah chairs the RDSP Action Group, one of the Government of B.C.’s accessibility initiatives.

In 2010 she founded the West Point Grey Ball Hockey team for young adults with developmental disabilities. Its members continue to thrive as a team.

Ms. Flaherty holds a bachelor of education and master of science in renewable resources from McGill University, as well as a master of business administration from Concordia University, Montreal.

David Galbraith, deputy minister, Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction (ex-officio member)

David has been with the provincial government since 1992. He has held a variety of executive and management level positions in a number of ministries including Finance; Environment, Lands and Parks; Tourism Sport and the Arts; Healthy Living and Sport; Community, Sport and Cultural Development; and Social Development. During his career he has been responsible for a wide variety of program areas including: the development of the provincial budget for social ministries; delivery, budgeting and accountability for provincial granting programs; developing provincial public policy and delivery of on-the-ground services across B.C.

David is an economics graduate of the University of Victoria. He has a passion for good governance, empowering people and ensuring excellent government service to British Columbians.

Dr. Henry G. Harder, professor & chair, School of Health Sciences, University of Northern British Columbia

Dr. Harder is a registered psychologist working in the field of rehabilitation and disability management for over 20 years. His research interests are in disability issues, workplace mental health, suicide prevention and aboriginal health, and he is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded scholar. He was recently named the Dr. Donald B. Rix B.C. leadership chair in Aboriginal environmental health. Dr. Harder is a published author and is a member of the College of Psychologists of British Columbia, Network Environments for Aboriginal Research in BC, Canadian Psychological Association, as well as other professional organizations.

James Ho, founder & chief executive officer, Mainstream Broadcasting Co.

Promoting multiculturalism is reflected in Mr. Ho’s passion for and active involvement in various local community and multicultural organizations. His career began in the financial services industry and then merged with his other long-standing interest in broadcasting ultimately resulting in the leadership of a group of investors in acquiring Channel M in 2001. Mr. Ho has served on several boards and was voted person of the year by the Interfaith Brotherhood Society in March 2007.

Arlene Keis, chief executive officer, Go2HR

With over 25 years of human resource management at the operational, corporate and industry levels in both the public and private sectors, Arlene leads the development and growth of Go2HR. Go2HR is the B.C. tourism and hospitality human resource association. They help the industry attract, retain and train its workforce. She joined the team in 2002 and has since been managing and overseeing the overall operations and strategic direction of the organization. Arlene has achieved an M.Ed. in counseling psychology from UBC, a B.Ed. from UVIC and is also designated as a certified human resources professional.

Karen Lai, accessibility & inclusion consultant

Ms. Lai has a vast background working within the recreation and employment field to assist individuals with disabilities feel a sense of inclusion in their own community. She has worked with several organizations delivering recreation programs for people with disabilities such as Disabled Sailing Association of BC, BC Mobility Opportunities Society, Disabled Skiers Association of BC and Power to Be Adventure Therapy Society. She also worked with BC Centre for Ability Association supporting the business community to improve employment for people with disabilities. Currently, she works as an independent consultant for several organizations to improve accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. Ms. Lai received her bachelor of tourism management, majoring in recreation from Vancouver Island University (Malaspina University-College) and her MA from University of British Columbia. As Ms. Lai lives with a disability, she believes that inclusion is achieved when both parties work collaboratively within an environment of understanding, acceptance, tolerance and patience.

Jennifer Leyen, director, WorkSafeBC

Ms. Leyen has over 20 years’ experience working in the field of disability and rehabilitation. In her current role as director, WorkSafeBC, she provides leadership to highly specialized clinical teams supporting clients with catastrophic physical and psychological injuries. She was instrumental in the development of special care services (SCS) at WorkSafeBC, which coordinates care and case management services for B.C.’s most severely injured and disabled, and is a board member with the BC Centre for Ability, an organization providing community-based services that enhance the quality of life for children, youth and adults with disabilities.

Dr. Nigel Livingston, professor, University of Victoria & founder/director CanAssist

Dr. Livingston completed his PhD at UBC in 1986 and, following three years at the University of Saskatchewan, moved to Victoria in 1990 to take up a faculty position in UVic’s department of biology. In 1999, he began the University of Victoria Assistive Technology Team (UVATT), later becoming CanAssist, providing direct support to thousands of people with disabilities across B.C., Canada and around the world. In 2006, UVic formally appointed him as director of CanAssist. Dr. Livingston has published more than 80 publications in peer reviewed journals and is the recipient of numerous awards including UVic’s Community Leadership Award and the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C.’s Distinguished Academic Award.

Kevin McCort, president & chief executive officer, Vancouver Foundation

Kevin was appointed president and CEO of Vancouver Foundation in September 2013. Before joining Vancouver Foundation, he served for six years as president and CEO of CARE Canada in Ottawa, one of Canada’s leading development and humanitarian aid organizations, and has lived and worked in many countries, including Mali, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

He is currently a director of Imagine Canada, serving on the board since 2009. Imagine Canada is a national charitable organization dedicated to strengthening charities and non-profits. He is also a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization.

He graduated in 1989 with a B.Sc. (specialist/honours) from the University of Toronto. In 2005, he earned a master of business administration from Queen's University. In February 2013, he was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Michael Schratter, teacher, David Oppenheimer Elementary School

In addition to being a teacher, columnist for 24 Hours newspaper and mental health ambassador, Mr. Schratter is also a dedicated cyclist. On August 1, 2010, Mr. Schratter embarked on his Ride Don’t Hide journey, cycling solo around the globe to increase awareness of mental illness, combat the stigma surrounding it and raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s child and youth programs. He spent more than 15 months cycling almost 40,000 km across six continents and 33 countries, raising more than $70,000. In September 2011, Michael’s outstanding achievement was honoured with CMHA BC Division’s inaugural Dr. Nancy Hall Public Policy Leadership Award.

Marilyn Tyfting, senior vice-president & chief corporate officer TELUS International

Ms. Tyfting joined TELUS in 2007 and served as vice-president, human resources for TELUS International from 2009 to August 2015, when she was promoted to her current position. In this role, she leads a combined global team that includes marketing, communications, facilities, real estate, talent acquisition and development, team member engagement and community investment. Marilyn’s expansive team brings together the key parts of the business that impact almost 26,000 team members every day to build the best overall employee experience.

Marilyn has provided human resources leadership to diverse national, customer-focused organizations through mergers, acquisitions and periods of significant growth and cultural change. Prior to joining TELUS, she held progressively senior positions in human resources with the University of British Columbia, BC Transit, Rogers Cable, and Rogers Wireless. She holds a masters of business administration and a B.Comm in human resources and labour relations with the University of British Columbia.

Marilyn’s passion for people, her consummate experience and her interminable professionalism are evident in every endeavour she takes on.

Josh Vander Vies, president, AthletesCAN

Josh is an experienced director of charitable and not-for-profit organizations, retired international boccia player, Paralympic medalist and leader in Canadian sport. A graduate of Western University and the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, he is a past director of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and successfully helped build, and extend the funding of, the Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI) in British Columbia.

Josh is currently president of AthletesCAN, Canada’s association of national team athletes, and won bronze at the London 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in doubles boccia. An electric wheelchair user born without much of his arms and legs, Josh’s leadership experience has given him more practice than most in identifying collective issues, distinguishing them from individual ones and engaging them.

Andy Yu, president, Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia

Andy Yu brings a wealth of business insight and passion to see full participation for persons with disabilities in the social and economic life of the community. With a bachelor of commerce from the Sauder School of Business at UBC, Chartered Accountant and Chartered Professional Accountant designation as well as an executive MBA from Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, Andy has had successive promotions to his current position of corporate controller of Taseko Mines, a B.C.-based mining company.

He has been the president and chairman of the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia since 2011. As a person with Cerebral Palsy, it is important for Andy to volunteer his time and energy to participate in organizations and causes that aim to improve the lives of people with disabilities. During Andy’s tenure as president and chairman of the board, the work of the association has been recognized with the City of Vancouver Accessibility and Inclusion Award (Organization category). As well, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia awarded Andy its Community Service Award in 2013.