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Event #23

#CdnImm Event #23 - Access to Employment Services for Immigrants with Disabilities
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM
North York Central Library Meeting Room 1, 5120 Yonge St, Toronto


Access to Employment Services for Immigrants with Disabilities

The aims of this session are:

  • Speak to the experiences of immigrants with disabilities seeking employment
    • From a personal perspective what are some of the barriers newcomers with disabilities experience accessing employment
  • Consider the importance of hiring people with disabilities not simply because of legislation but as an untapped resource
  • From a manager’s perspective – what are some of the barriers to creating a space for employees with disabilities, what do you need to consider when thinking about immigrants with disabilities
  • From a legal perspective – what can immigrants with disabilities do to protect their rights when accessing employment
  • How to expand your recruitment for people with disabilities – things to consider about the immigrant community
  • To provide education, resources, strategies and tools for employers to consider expanding their talent pool to include people with disabilities and to break down some of the misconceptions by way of highlighting the business case for why this makes sense and for them to ultimately move forward.


1:30 - 2:00 pm: Registration
2:00 - 2:10 pm: Opening remarks from OCASI; introduction of moderator, Chavon Niles
2:10 - 2:15 pm: Introduction of panel members
2:15 - 3:00 pm: Panel remarks
3:00 - 3:30 pm: Q&A with audience
3:30 - 3:35 pm: Summary from moderator
3:35 - 3:40 pm: Closing remarks from OCASI
3:40 - 4:30 pm: Networking


Chavon Niles, Coordinator, Accessibility Initiative, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Chavon Niles is a Doctoral student from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her scholarly interest includes education as a social determinant of health, education outcome for immigrant youth with disabilities, and social justice and equity issues within education. As an educator Miss Niles continues to take on an active role in bringing greater awareness to disability issues within Ontario, Canada. She strives to accomplish this in her position as the Accessibility Coordinator at the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants where she works to educate the settlement and disability sectors about the needs of newcomers with disabilities. Chavon completed a Master’s degree in Critical Disability Studies from York University focusing on regular and special education classroom teachers’ perceptions of teaching students with IEPs, a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto with a specialization in primary/junior education, and an Honors Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster University with an interest in supporting students with disabilities in the classroom.


Domenico Calla, Human Rights Consultant, Toronto Public Health
Domenico Calla has worked at Toronto Public Health for the past eight years in various capacities, including as a sexual health counsellor and health equity specialist. He is currently a Human Rights Consultant where he works to promote a climate of dignity, respect and accessibility for all. Domenico is a trained human rights investigator, holds a Masters in Sociology & Equity Studies, and a Bachelor of Social Work. A key aspect of Domenico’s work involves investigating human rights and harassment complaints, as well as building the capacity of TPH managers to resolve human-rights related conflict. In addition, he works with internal partners to strengthen civility and respect in the workplace.

Marco Costa, Educator, Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board
Marco Costa is an educator for the past 18 years with Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board. He teaches English as a Second Language, Language Instructions for Newcomers to Canada and Deaf people. Marcos has been an advocate for fairness, equality, and compassion for Deaf people. He is also an immigrant and Deaf, and he uses his overcoming adversities as an example to all.

Anita Shiwnath, Manager, Employment Access Program, Catholic Crosscultural Services
Anita Shiwnath is committed to creating opportunities for people who are marginalized. She believes that everyone is worthy irrespective of their social location, race, sex, gender, age, religion and abilities. Through her position as a Manager, she hopes to empower others to identify their strengths, develop goals and chart a path to accomplish their vision. She is a Registered Social Worker with an Honours Degree in Social Work and Bachelor in Social Sciences with specialization in Business Management. Currently she is the Manager, Employment Access Program at Catholic Crosscultural Services. Through this position she streamlines and implements an employment project to enhance the employability skills for newcomers who are seeking employment or training within Canada. In addition, she oversees all project requirements for the Culinary Training for Newcomer Youth Program. Through her role at CCS she continues to collaborate, build relationships and apply a social justice framework to service delivery in her daily practice.

Consuelo Rubio, Manager of Client Services at the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC)
In this role, Consuelo shares responsibility for ensuring that the HRLSC provides legal and support services across Ontario to disadvantaged communities that have experienced discrimination. Consuelo was on the Transition Team that set the HRLSC up. Prior to her employment at the HRLSC, Consuelo was a community legal worker at the Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples for almost thirty years. She has participated in numerous access to justice and law reform initiatives, for example, as a member of the advisory committee of the Six Language Project sponsored by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO). She was a founding member of the Employment Standards Workgroup, a community based group advocating for the rights of vulnerable workers. She was also a member of the steering committee that set up what is now known as the Workers’ Action Centre. In her work at the Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples, she advocated on behalf of workers in precarious employment, such as domestics, cleaning subcontractors, and non-unionized factory workers. She appeared on their behalf before numerous administrative tribunals, including the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Board of Referees, the Umpire, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Human Rights Tribunal and its predecessor, the Board of Inquiry. Consuelo was on the founding boards and steering committees that set up what are now known as Access Employment Services, Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Clinics and the Workers’Action Centre. She served terms on the Boards of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants both as a member as large and as a member of the executive and, as well, on the Social Planning Council of Metro Toronto. While employed at the CSSP, Consuelo was very active in union affairs. She was the steward of OPSEU local 512 for years, the Vice President of her local, and the chair of her bargaining team. She has extremely fond memories of that particular aspect of her work. Starting in 2001, Consuelo participated in a grassroots campaign to bring to the public light the living and working conditions of seasonal farmworkers, one of Ontario’s “hidden communities”. She was an organizer of a community-based education and outreach campaign which used very innovative outreach methods. As a result of the campaign, seasonal farmworkers received employment insurance benefits for the first time in forty years.

Tess Vo, Program Supervisor, reachOUT Program, Griffin Centre
Tess Vo, MES Candidate, has over a decade of experience as a community-based researcher, educator, service provider and health promoter working in various social service sectors in Toronto and New York City. Tess has co-authored a number of articles focusing on sexuality, HIV, settlement and mental health, incorporating community-based approaches to research. She has also co-written reports, case studies and fact sheets on accessible service creation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth, focusing on youth who are often marginalized in mainstream services such as youth of colour, youth with mental health concerns, newcomer youth, and youth labelled with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, as an artist working through a creative continuum that includes film, photography, digital video and writing, she is dedicated to cultural production and art activisms in order to engage mobilize and co-create alongside outsider groups to promote equity. An example of this work includes the documentary film, Our Compass (Vo, 2010), which Tess directed, produced and co-wrote with eight LGBTQ youth. Through Our Compass, the goal was to highlight the experiences of LGBTQ youth labelled with intellectual disabilities as decision makers and agents of change and to trouble the prevalent and historical paternalistic and institutional treatment of these young people as service users. The video has been screened at over 16 international film festivals and has won four awards Tess currently supervises the reachOUT program, within Griffin Centre Mental Health Services. In 2008, the program won the Jay Browne Living Legacy Award from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and more recently, a number of awards for youth engagement from the City of Toronto.

Presentation Material

Domenico Calla Anita Shiwnath

Note: Video recordings of the presentations for Marco Costa, Consuela Rubio and Tess Vo are not available.


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This session run in collaboration with:

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