Obstacle Sports Association of British Columbia

For the people competing in the new sport of Obstacle Sports Racing (OCR), we were finding that there was little consistency in how races were organized, how races provided racers' insurance, and how races were designed to be inclusive of all levels of athleticism.

A National athletes organization was formed, and some of us who were members of a local training club were approached to create a provincial chapter for the national organization.

I am on the forming board of directors as a co-secretary. Only 5 of us set up the organization, registered as a member-funded non-profit society, and continued to pave the way for athlete events, athlete protection, and complete transparency in our workings as a society.

Read more: Obstacle Sports BC Association

Diabetes Advocacy

I have been living with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) since I was 5 years old. I was injecting insulin for the first 20 years of onset.

While I was in university, I decided I wanted to try a different method of insulin delivery, called Continuous Subcutaneous Infusion of Insulin (CSII therapy). More commonly known as Insulin Pump Therapy, or "Pumping". This medication delivery method change was chosen to more appropriately support my physically active lifestyle.

Insulin pumps cost $7,000 and often have a 4-year warranty. This means that should the pump stop working outside of the warranty period, one must purchase a new pump to replace it.

My extended health plan through my university at that time covered 80% of the purchase price for insulin pumps. However, when I graduated and began working as a sub-contractor, I did not have this coverage. As I moved out into more traditional types of employment, my future employers' extended health plans also did not offer this coverage. 

In 2015, I dug in to the provincial health plan and Pharmacare programs to find out if there was any government funding available for an insulin pump. There was coverage, but only for people under the age of 25. Adults who were insulin-dependent (some of whom are type 1, and some of whom are type 2) would have to foot the bill for the pump out of pocket. 
As I continued to learn more about coverage in different provinces in Canada, I learned that Alberta and Ontario had no such age restriction for provincial funding. The other provinces at that time had age cut offs at 18 or 19 years of age. 

I wrote to the Provincial Health Officer, the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in my riding, as well as my mother's riding, to ask for help. The MLAs did not respond. The Provincial Health Officer did respond only to direct my query to someone else who did not respond. 

Running out of time being on compassionate pump "loans" from my previous pump company, I wrote to an MLA who I knew was also living with T1D. He responded immediately, and asked the MLA who was the opposition Health Critic to work with me. 

Myself as well as other people with T1D (from a group called Young and T1) were part of a huge advocacy effort to remove the age-restriction on government funded insulin pumps.

In 2017, these two MLAs were part of the party that took power and were appointed as cabinet ministers. On July 03, 2018, the Health Minister removed the age-restriction from insulin pumps. People with diabetes could apply for their pump to be covered by Pharmacare for 70% of the purchase price. 

This was an outstanding accomplishment for our little advocacy group!

In British Columbia, we have just over 5 million residents, with 5.9% of them living with diabetes (over the age of 12 years old). This means approximately 295,000 people live with diabetes. On average, 10% of the population with diabetes is considered insulin-dependent. This means that our change to the legislation affected access to a medical device for over 29,000 people.

Having experienced how I could affect legislation as an outsider has really informed how much more I can accomplish for people with disabilities as an elected official. There is so much more work to do, and I have the lens of living as a person with a disability who has been living in a low to moderate socioeconomic status their whole life. This is something that lacks among the current elected officials who are PWDs. I have the lens of the lived experience and I want to use my privilege to continue advocating from the inside.

SFU Undergraduate Health Plan

I completed my Undergrad degree at Simon Fraser University from 2008 to 2013.

The undergrad students were all members of the Simon Fraser Undergraduate Student Society (SFSS). When I transitioned from Langara to SFU, I was shocked to learn that there was no extended health plan for the students. I had one at Langara, and I thought an institution like SFU which was so much bigger would have a health plan in place, but this was not the case.

The Fall of 2008 brought with it an undergrad election for the people to be elected to the SFSS Board of Directors. I ran to be the Faculty of Science representative to work on solving the extended health plan problem, as well as being a unifying voice among the departments under the Faculty. I was elected, and thus began our work in providing a health plan for our student body.

We got a chance to discuss terms of coverage with different extended health insurance underwriters, cost of plan premiums, amounts of coverage, what gets covered, etc. Knowing that coverage of medical devices for people with diabetes at that time was quite new, I wanted to know how much it would affect the premium cost to the students. Turns out, adding that line item of coverage didn't affect the premiums by even one cent. This was due to our other coverage selections but also because the premiums were cheap - we had a 20,000 person enrollment (they could opt-out if they had coverage with spouses or parents) and the amount of students per year who would be applying for that coverage would be minimal.

This was my first exposure to any type of governance and we were the first board to introduce extended health coverage for SFU's undergraduate students.

I also quite enjoyed working on and organizing events for the departments in Science. According to the students, I was the first representative to attend all of the department student meetings (there were only 8 departments). It was wonderful to help build community for students within the faculty, as the undergrads don't often have a lot of ties to their department, unless they feel they will go on to pursue further academia.