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Federal Election message to all political parties from the Council of Canadians With Disabilities (CCD)
Despite having ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Canada has not implemented a plan to address the inequality of people with disabilities and there continue to be many disparities between people with and without disabilities. Through our research project, Disabling Poverty, Enabling Citizenship, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) learned that:
…throughout the working years (15-64 years of age) people with disabilities remain about twice as likely as those without disabilities to live with low income. People with disabilities are much less likely than people without to have jobs. Even where employed, people with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely than people without to live with low income. (Recommendations for Positive Change)
Among working-age women with disabilities who live in low income households, half (49.5%) received social assistance in the past 12 months compared with fewer than one in ten (8.6%) whose household income was above the LICO [Low-Income Cut-Off]. (Gender, Disability and Low Income)
Due to the fact that they experience multiple forms of discrimination, women and girls with disabilities face increased social and economic vulnerability. Disabling Poverty, Enabling Citizenship identified policy reforms to improve the social and economic conditions of Canadians with disabilities.
During the 2015 Federal Election campaign, CCD is seeking the support of all parties for measures outlined in the attached "Agenda: Inclusion, Access and Participation for Canadians with Disabilities", which is grounded in the findings and recommendations of CCD's Disabling Poverty, Enabling Citizenship research and additional recommendations developed by our National Council. Action is needed in three thematic areas: poverty alleviation, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and access.
A priority for CCD is learning all parties will commit to making the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) a refundable tax credit. A refundable DTC would extend compensation for the extra costs of disability to those eligible living in poverty.
CCD requests that all major federal political parties, to share with us by 1 October 2015 the specifics of how, if elected, they would improve inclusion, access and participation for Canadians with disabilities. CCD will share all responses throughout our network, so that Canadians will go to the polls informed about the Federal Parties' commitments to Canadians with disabilities and our families.
Agenda: Inclusion, Access and Participation for Canadians with Disabilities
To more fully address the vulnerability, labour force exclusion and lack of support faced by Canadians with disabilities, particularly women and girls with disabilities and others facing multiple forms of discrimination, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) proposes the federal government expand its leadership and role in three areas:
Poverty Alleviation (income security and employment)
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
CCD calls upon federal political parties to commit to:
Act to improve the social and economic conditions of people with disabilities, particularly women and girls with disabilities and others facing multiple forms of discrimination, by addressing the income security and employment of people with disabilitiesi:
- Convert the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to a refundable credit equal to the maximum current value of $2,000 per year. (The $2,000 value includes the current federal amount of the DTC and an assumed average provincial/territorial amount.) Everyone eligible for the DTC should get the full credit regardless of their income or employment status. A refundable DTC would extend compensation for the extra costs of disability to those eligible living in poverty.
- Harmonize the eligibility rules between the DTC and CPP-Disability (CPP-D), whereby every person with a disability of a year’s duration who receives CPP-D should automatically be qualified for the DTC.
- Extend the duration of the Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefit from the current maximum duration of 15 weeks to 50 weeks, for those eligible who have a prolonged or episodic serious illness or health condition.
- Increase investment in the Opportunities Fund and the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities, which are federal transfers to provinces and territories.
Enhance targeted initiatives focused on building employer confidence and demand for recruiting and hiring people with disabilities.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – Act to ensure Canadians with disabilities experience full enjoyment of their human rights:
- Ratify the Optional Protocol to the CRPD.
- Develop a CRPD implementation strategy.ii
- Name and support the Canadian Human Rights Commission as the CRPD monitoring body.iii
- Restore the Court Challenges Program, which provided resources to disability associations (and other groups) seeking to establish or to confirm their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as a vehicle for promoting a fuller measure of inclusion and citizenship.iv
- Implement the strictest possible safeguards and restrictions on assisted suicide.v
- Ensure effective access to palliative care, including rural communities – to meet unmet needs and support caregivers, and to help ensure assisted suicide is a last resort.vi
Recognize ASL/LSQ as an official language.vii
Access – Act to build a barrier-free Canada:
Create a comprehensive, federally-based “Canadians with Disabilities Act” which includes:
- An independent accountability mechanism for reporting to Parliament on the social, economic, and political status of Canadians with disabilities,
- An Accessibility Design Centre and a Full Inclusion Policy Centre, and
- A cross-departmental, coordinated set of instruments for establishing federal government accountability, responsibility, and intervention to advance and assure the Charter and human rights of Canadians with disabilities.viii
- Create new access regulations for federally-regulated transportation systems, telecommunications and the National Building Code.ix
- Expand funding through the Social Development Partnerships Program-Disability Component to include targeted initiatives outlined below and to strengthen capacity of the disability sector to build national partnerships and leadership for the "Inclusion, Access and Participation Agenda". x
- Expand capacity of people with disabilities, families and caregivers to meet disability-related and respite needs through targeted initiatives to:
Provide information and navigation support to families supporting a family member with a disability.
Build family-to-family networks for mutual support.
Promote disability- and family-friendly community and health care services.
Strengthen employer support for family caregiving responsibilities.
Support recommendations from the "Employer Panel for Caregivers," released in January 2015 by Minister Wong.xi
List of Action-Oriented Mechanisms to Make a Canadians with Disabilities Act (CDA) xii Effective:
Comprehensive Purpose and Function to Guide Ongoing Implementation
- robust declaration of purpose to guide future interpretation - including broad goals (i.e. inclusion, participation, dignity) and procedural goals (i.e. accountability [public reporting], barrier removal, political participation, universal design) and specifically address barrier removal for women and girls with disabilities, First Nations, Aboriginal, Metis and Inuit persons with disabilities both on and off reserve and others facing multiple forms of discrimination.
No Undermining of Rights Afforded in any Existing and Future Legislation
An interpretation section confirming the CDA does not undermine Charter and human rights protections and referencing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Creation of New Mechanisms to Address Barriers
The development of centres of excellence to monitor compliance and provide guidance to departments: a Commissioner of Disability and Inclusion (supplements existing accountability mechanisms, conducts independent assessment of disability programs, and reports directly to Parliament), an Accessibility Design Centre (supports federal departments and agencies, proactively advising them on standards, barrier removal and could have standard enforcement responsibilities), Full Inclusion Policy Centre (addresses disability-related barriers in practices of federal departments, commissions and agencies).
Strong Regulations with Enforcement Measures and Resources to Comply
Effective regulations, enforcement measures and resource allocation. A CDA must deliver more than voluntary guidelines and public education.
A Broad Scope to All Federal and Co-Managed Jurisdictions
Apply to the federal jurisdiction - federal government departments, agencies and commissions, as well as federally regulated industries and addressing inter-jurisdictional issues such as barriers facing First Nations and Aboriginal persons with disabilities and enhancing regulatory regimes in transportation, banking and telecommunications.
Focus on Areas of Most Need
Areas requiring particular attention by a CDA - transportation, telecommunications, banking, accessible democracy (accessible voting and accommodation of people with disabilities running in federal elections), employment of persons with disabilities (i.e. federal government becoming a model employer, to lead by example) and issues affecting girls and women with disabilities.
Clear, Concise Definitions and Methods of Communication/Plain Language
Terms, if used in a CDA, requiring clarification:
- Language includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non-spoken languages and establishes ASL/LSQ as official languages in Canada.
- Communication includes spoken and signed languages, display of text and Braille, and tactile communication, large print, written, audio, accessible multimedia, plain language, human reader and augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, including accessible information and communication technology.
Inclusion of Strategies that will Ensure the Broadest Impact of a Federal Canadians with Disabilities Act
Strategies and tools a CDA could include: an omnibus approach (to reform existing legislation that continues to discriminate), procurement policies (use of federal purchasing power to encourage development of accessible products and services), and representative advisory committees (an avenue of input to government, agencies and government programs).
i CRPD Article 6 (Women with Disabilities), 27 (Work and Employment), and 28 (Adequate Standard of Living and Social Protection).
ii CRPD Article 33 (National Implementation and Monitoring).
iii CRPD Article 33 (National Implementation and Monitoring).
iv CRPD Article 5 (Equality and Non-Discrimination), Article 13 (Access to Justice).
v CRPD Article 4 (General Obligations), Article 10 (Right to Life), Article 19 (Independent Living and Being Included in the Community), Article 25 (Health), and Article 26 (Habilitation and Rehabilitation).
vi CRPD Article 25 (Health).
vii CRPD Article 2 (Definitions), Article 21 (Freedom of Expression and Opinion and Access to Information).
viii Gordon, P. (1996). "A Federal Disability Act: Opportunities and Challenges". Retrieved 12 August 2015 from http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/1006.
ix CRPD Article 9 (Accessibility).
x CRPD Article 29 (Participation in Political and Public Life).
xi CRPD Article 4 (General Obligations), Article 19 (Independent Living and Being Included in the Community), Article 25 (Health), and Article 26 (Habilitation and Rehabilitation).
xii Gordon, P. (1996). "A Federal Disability Act: Opportunities and Challenges". Retrieved 12 August 2015 from http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/1006.
For more information contact:
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
909-294 Portage Avenue