The Canadian government has announced an additional $73 million in funding under the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities (OF) to support 31 new projects aimed at bolstering workplace inclusion for individuals with disabilities. The announcement was made by Kamal Khera, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, at the YMCA Cape Breton in Sydney, Nova Scotia. This supplementary funding comes on top of the $118 million allocated in June, bringing the government’s total investment under the OF 2022 call for proposals to approximately $191 million.
The YMCA Cape Breton, where the announcement was made, has received $1,119,755 to facilitate employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in Cape Breton and Antigonish County. The funds will be directed toward skills training, digital literacy, and employment services, specifically tailored to high-demand job sectors in the region. Services such as career counseling and referrals to mental health and addiction support agencies will also be available to program participants.
“Through the Opportunities Fund, we are creating inclusive workplaces and providing additional opportunities for persons with disabilities to connect with resources such as skills training and mentorship to help them succeed in the job market,” said Minister Khera.
Sabrina Vatcher, CEO of the YMCA of Cape Breton, stated, “The Opportunities Fund allows the YMCA to connect people with disabilities across Cape Breton Island with meaningful employment opportunities, supporting independence, employment equity and individual and community growth.”
Jaime Battiste, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Member of Parliament for Sydney—Victoria, highlighted the local impact, saying, “The $1.1 million dollars announced for the YMCA here in Cape Breton will help more persons with disabilities, our community and our local economy.”
The newly announced funds are a part of the Canadian government’s broader Disability Inclusion Action Plan, particularly focusing on its employment pillar. The plan is designed to foster a more inclusive Canada, free of physical, societal, and attitudinal barriers.
According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, the employment rates for persons with disabilities stand at 59%, compared to 80% for those without disabilities. The Opportunities Fund seeks to address this disparity by offering a range of programs and services including job search supports, pre-employability services, and wage subsidies.
The financial commitment is in line with Canada’s Budget 2022, which earmarked $272.6 million over five years to support the Employment Strategy for Canadians with Disabilities through the Opportunities Fund.