2019 Recipients

Dr. Pamela Cushing

Below is an excerpt from the nomination letter prepared by Madeline Burghardt, Jeff Preston and Mel Quevillon:

Nomination letter for Pamela

Dr. Cushing is the founder of the Disability Studies program at King’s College. With its beginnings as a few courses within the Social Justice and Peace Studies program, Dr. Cushing has, with patience, creativity, and unfailing energy, nurtured the program since its inception 7 years ago to its current status as an independent department with 14 professors which offers approximately 25 courses to over 1000 undergraduate students. Its core message of ‘building understanding across difference,’ experienced through a hands-on case-based methodology, resonates with students seeking to imagine alternate and productive ways of fostering understanding and equity in society. The program has been enormously popular with the student body, quickly becoming the biggest program within the broader Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at King’s College.

Dr. Cushing brings a unique approach to Disability Studies. She encourages students to consider how disability “lives in our cultural imagination” and how that influences law, policy, and discourse, preparing DS students to be strong and articulate advocates with people with disabilities in Canada. Dr. Cushing endlessly creates new ways of fostering this kind of learning. She builds partnerships between the DS program and community groups, artists, activists, and policy-makers, seeking opportunities for discussion and dialogue from which students can benefit.

In addition, Dr. Cushing is the creator and founder of the Jean Vanier Centre, a new initiative that will begin its work with a Symposium in June 2019 at King’s University College. The sole institution devoted to the work of Jean Vanier in Canada, Dr. Cushing’s vision includes facilitating dialogue about Vanier’s unique contribution to understandings of difference and the need for mutual understanding in society. In the near future, the Jean Vanier Centre at King’s will be a hub for archiving and inspiring international scholars engaging with Vanier’s work, especially encounters and intersections with disability, impairment and difference.

Marie-Eve Veilleux

Below is an excerpt from the nomination letter prepared by Dr. Kim Sawchuk, Concordia University:

Nomination letter for Marie-Eve

Marie-Eve Veilleux’s commitment to the Quebec disability rights movement makes her a leading figure in the new generation of activists focusing on the use of new technologies and social media. In 2015, she co-founded Québec accessible, a citizen initiative to pass legislation for accessibility in Quebec. In 2016, Ms. Veilleux facilitated the World Social Forum’s Committee on Disability, Deaf Culture and Barrier-free Society in Montreal. This committee provided an opportunity for people with disabilities and deaf people from several countries to come together and share their struggles. Its ability to bring together people with disabilities and deaf people deserves to be highlighted. In addition, Madame Veilleux’s activism helped improve the accessibility of polling stations for people with disabilities during provincial elections. In recent years, she has been involved in founding the Facebook community Transport mésadapté. This group has nearly 1000 active members and has become a recognized space for people with disabilities to discuss transportation issues. Since 2018, she has been a member of the Accessibility Committee of Elections Québec. It is also important to note that the Committee’s social commitment is not limited to disability issues. For several years now, she has devoted numerous hours a week to getting involved with Santropol Roulant, an organization dedicated to the food security of Montrealers. She is also involved with the Fédération des femmes du Québec.

Her research and her commitment to the defence of the rights of people with disabilities have also led her to make numerous interventions in the media. In addition to participating in numerous radio shows as a guest, she has been published in Le Devoir and La Presse. More recently, while a trial involving two Quebecers with disabilities wishing to be entitled to medical assistance to die was in full swing in Quebec, she published an open letter in Le Devoir entitled “Ce qui fait souffrir les personnes handicapées”. While journalists and columnists from the mainstream media supported the request of these two people without even considering the important issues of home support and prejudice against people with disabilities, Marie-Eve Veilleux highlighted these issues and the dangers of extending the right to medical assistance to people with disabilities. This public position is to be commended as it takes place in a socio-political context in which the right to die of people with disabilities attracts more attention than the right to live. Madame Veilleux’s media interventions thus actively contribute to a better understanding of disability issues in Francophone communities.

In conclusion, I cannot stress enough the importance of Madame Veilleux’s contributions in terms of both research and advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities. She is actively involved in the emergence of critical disability studies in a francophone context and in a new wave of activism. While disability is still widely perceived as a disadvantage to be overcome on an individual basis and resources to think critically about disability are extremely limited in French, Marie-Eve Veilleux is one of the activists who dare to think outside the box and propose a radical change of perspective that is more than necessary. She also does not hesitate to claim her pride in being a disabled woman and has a particular interest in the development of the arts and culture of disability. Madame Veilleux firmly believes in the importance of disability pride and disability culture, two concepts that are still little known in militant and mainstream circles, to build a just and accessible world.