The Honourable Minister Carla: A Trailblazer Across Many Fields
BY GARY THANDI
As a lawyer, the Minister primarily focused on human rights matters. Her focus was often on addressing inequity and advancing social policy objectives, particularly as they relate to traditionally marginalized and disadvantaged groups.
We at DRISTHI are committed to showcasing the best of our communities, be it trailblazers in the fields of education, politics, social services, entertainment, medicine or sport. Sometimes we come across some unique individuals who continue to blaze a trail in several different fields. The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Member of Parliament representing the Delta Riding and the Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, is one such person.
Minister Qualtrough was born in Calgary and moved to Langley, BC at the age of four. Born legally blind, she learned early on, thanks to her parents’ unflinching advocacy, the importance of fighting for one’s rights. “People often made assumptions of what I could and could not do,” she recalls. “They wanted me at age five to go to a school for the blind, but my parents fought to have me included in the public education system.” She recalls that her parents were always there to push for her inclusion, and over time they taught her how to advocate for herself. “They gave me the language of advocacy growing up,” she advises.
The Minister notes her parents’ push for inclusion also extended to sports. Her family was a very sporting family, and her parents were always there to ensure their daughter was included and fully involved. “At some point, however, it got too fast,” she recalls. “And that’s when I found Paralympic sport. The unique thing about Paralympic sport is that is inclusive from the start. You complete with those who have the same ability as you.” Minister Quatrough went on to become an accomplished Paralympic athlete. She won three Paralympic and four World Championship medals. She competed nationally and internationally in the sport of swimming, representing Canada at the Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games. The Minister remained involved in sport after her competition days, having served as an advisor to several Federal Sports organizations.
Minister Qualtrough’s passion for advocacy, social justice and inclusion for all has also been demonstrated through her educational and careers paths as well. She has degrees in political science from the University of Ottawa and law from the University of Victoria. “I was accommodated, and taught how to advocate, and have been part of a system [Paralympic sport] that was inclusive from the start, which very much influenced my chosen profession,” she advises. As a lawyer, the Minister primarily focused on human rights matters. Her focus was often on addressing inequity and advancing social policy objectives, particularly as they relate to traditionally marginalized and disadvantaged groups. Minister Qualtrough has served as counsel to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, chaired the Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility and was an adjudicator and the vice-chair of British Columbia’s Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal.
The Minister believes it was her many years of experience as a human rights lawyer, and the support of family, that made her ultimately decide to run for federal politics. As a Member of Parliament, the Minister is keenly aware of the unique needs of her very diverse riding. She speaks in detail of these varied needs and interests of constituents, from immigration and family reunification concerns, seniors’ rights, environment, First Nations communities, land use, and economic concerns. She also has national responsibilities as the Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities. In the case of the latter, “We are creating a new accessibility law, one that can ensure systems are more inclusive from the beginning.” And from a sports perspective, “we are looking at ensuring our goals are broader. While it is important to earn gold medals, we also want to see more people enter sports for health promotion and illness prevention, and not only focus on the end results like gold medals.”
The Minister is proud of the diversity of both her riding and the country. “We need to be unapologetically proud of everyone who has stepped up to make our nation great,” she notes. DRISHTI is most certainly proud to be able to showcase in our magazine the highlights of an advocate for inclusion like the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough.