Krista Carr: Leading a movement for inclusion | UNB
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Spring/Summer 2021

Alumni Changemaker

Krista Carr: Leading a movement for inclusion

ALUMNI NEWS MAGAZINE | Spring/Summer 2021

Krista Carr (BBA’95) was no different than most young business students when she was at UNB: she dreamed of an executive career in marketing with a big salary and title. Her first full-time job after graduation changed that goal in a pretty dramatic way. 

“I came home late one night after working my part-time job and there was a message for me to go to an interview the next morning at the New Brunswick Association for Community Living,” she recalls. “My name had been referred to them, but I knew nothing about the organization at all. I called people to find out what I could and showed up the next morning at their office, which was a creaky, old apartment above retail stores in downtown Fredericton. I remember thinking ‘what am I doing here?’ But I got the job as executive assistant to the executive director and I took it, thinking it would be good experience and I wouldn’t be there that long. I ended up staying 21 years.” 

It was Carr’s first exposure to the people with intellectual disabilities and their families that are served by the organization.

“It struck me very powerfully that these individuals were no different than I was and wanted the same things – to be included and valued, to have a job, friends, relationships and to be part of the community. It seemed so easy for me but was so hard for them.""Their families were typical families that just wanted the best for their kids, but they had to struggle with so many things other families never even have to think about. It felt very wrong, and I knew I wanted to do something about it.” 

Looking back, Carr now realizes that was when she stopped thinking that she wanted to be someone important and instead understood she wanted to do something important.  

And she did.  

She took over as executive director when she was just 27 years old. The New Brunswick Association for Community Living grew under her watch, and Carr’s values of full citizenship and inclusion were demonstrated in the real change in people’s lives in communities around New Brunswick.  

“We’ve come a long way in a lot of areas. We’ve seen more people have opportunities to live in their own homes and we’ve made gains in inclusive education, inclusive childcare and in employment supports for people. We’ve worked hard to reshape those support systems to enable people to keep real jobs for real pay. We helped reform the long-term care program in the province into a whole new program with better support for their unique needs. Thankfully, we had assistance from the community, employers, hard-working teachers, early childhood educators and others who believed everyone belongs.”

Carr’s stellar record was noticed. The national federation – the Canadian Association for Community Living, now called Inclusion Canada – hired her as their executive vice-president (CEO) in 2017.

“Across the country, the issues around exclusion, marginalization, and lack of access to equality are the same.”

Still working out of Fredericton, Carr provides strategic vision and direction at a national level, working with 13 provincial and territorial organizations and over 300 local associations.  “My work is much the same but on a very different level. I deal primarily with the federal government on policies and awareness. Across the country, the issues around exclusion, marginalization, and lack of access to equality are the same. They’re devasting in many ways. This work is so important."

Carr says that she likes a challenge, is not afraid of taking risks and focuses on building relationships that are key to gaining ground. She’s also not easily deterred: her former boss and mentor says that for Carr, “no is just a place to begin a conversation.” 

Yet she says she doesn’t really consider herself a changemaker.

“Helping to make society a welcoming and inclusive one that supports each person to reach their fullest potential is the kind of society I want to live in.”

“I consider myself someone who cares deeply and just gets up every morning to work as hard as I can to move the needle for people who desperately need the world to change for them. The best part of my job is the people – the people I serve and the people that this work attracts. They’re salt-of-the-earth members of the community who are so resilient. It takes all of us to make change happen, and it can be slow and frustrating. But it’s also so rewarding. Helping to make society a welcoming and inclusive society that supports each person to reach their fullest potential is the kind of society I want to live in and I want my children to grow up in.”

Seems like Krista Carr achieved her dream of both being someone and doing something important.