Reaching First Nation and Aboriginal Communities

By Victor Lethbridge

After several years of presenting information about the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) to First Nations and Aboriginal communities, I’ve recognized a few common issues. Despite being around for nearly ten years, almost no one from these communities have heard about this savings plan. Although efforts are being made to expose everyone throughout Canada to the RDSP, the information is still not reaching many people.

So what are the obstacles?
Persons with disabilities can have quite a challenging existence. There is a strong dependence on local infrastructure for assistance, but starting an RDSP is a way to get ahead and assure a better quality of life in the future. The RDSP program is a federal government run plan and this is where some trust issues come into play. Because of some negative past experiences, many that I present to have difficulties trusting the government and are highly suspicious of being taken advantage of. As a result, there is a reluctance to commit or even hear about a government program. Although there have been some difficulties in getting people to attend the seminars, once I start presenting the benefits of this savings plan, many can see the advantages of having an RDSP.

The stigma of having a disability or having a family member with a disability is also another issue. Sometimes this stigma prevents those that could benefit the most from attending information sessions. People sometimes suffer in silence and are not aware of programs and plans that are available. Nearly every time I have an RDSP presentation, those that attend are making lists of people they want to pass information on to.

The thought of long term savings may seem to be somewhat of an unrealistic goal, especially when a person is struggling day to day and this brings up another major issue–money. I’ve heard it said, “how am I supposed to save money when I don’t even have enough to get by?” This is where efforts in establishing an RDSP can be rewarded. There is money available from the federal government to help build savings for the future. Savings can be greatly assisted by grants and bonds available within this plan.

In conclusion, I see the word is spreading, people are identifying the benefits and some are taking advantage of this savings plan. They recognize that by enrolling in an RDSP they are preparing for the future.


Victor Lethbridge has been an RDSP presenter since 2011. He is a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation and is a motivational speaker with and is a Canadian best selling author of children’s books.