Evelyn Huntjens has a mandate to help and she is keen to make sure as many Indigenous people with disabilities as possible who are eligible for Community Living BC services are accessing the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).
Evelyn is the senior manager of the Indigenous Navigator program at the BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS). The program supports Indigenous people with disabilities to apply for the RDSP, and was started in 2016 after there was recognition that not enough people from Indigenous communities eligible for the RDSP were applying for this beneficial program.
Evelyn and her co-workers provide people who request help from the Navigator program with one-to-one support for the entire RDSP application process, and with maximizing contributions available from government.
“To qualify for the RDSP people need to meet the eligibility requirements for the Disability Tax Credit, have a valid SIN [Social Insurance Number], be under the age of 60 and be a resident of Canada,” said Evelyn. “The RDSP is a long-term savings plan that helps Canadians living with disabilities and their families to save for their future. Think of it as a pension plan for a disabled individual.”
Evelyn says the RDSP application process can take time, which is why their program is so important to help people navigate the system. She and her colleagues work one-on-one with individuals through all aspects of qualifying for and opening an RDSP.
“RDSP is a tool to fight poverty that puts money directly into the bank accounts of Canadians with disabilities and provides added financial security in later years,” says Evelyn. “With currently only 39 per cent of British Columbians eligible for the RDSP having opened one, we want to make sure as many Indigenous people as possible are aware of this opportunity.”
One of the key facts many people may not know about opening an RDSP is that if they do so before December 31 of the year of their 49th birthday they can receive Canada Disability Savings Bonds of up to $20,000. If contributions are made before their 49th birthday, people can apply and receive up to $70,000 in Canada Disability Savings Grants. It’s funding that can help people and their families plan for a more secure future.
The Indigenous Navigator program is funded by the Vancouver Foundation. Similar programs are also available through the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) and BC Disability Alliance for people who are not from Indigenous communities.
Read these stories from families about the importance of the RDSP, including tips for opening one:
November is Indigenous Disability Awareness Month in British Columbia, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Indigenous peoples with disabilities. Read the announcement of Indigenous Disability Awareness Month here.
The Province introduced legislation on October 24, 2019, to create a path forward to recognize and uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples in B.C. You can read about this legislation here.