Canadian Human Rights Commission 2018 Annual Report Shows Little Improvement for Disabled Canadians

For Immediate Release |  April 25, 2019

In 2010, Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which provided Canada a road map to follow to ensure that people with disabilities have full enjoyment of their human rights, but Canada was slow to begin implementing the CRPD.  For example, it was only in 2018 that the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act.  “Speak Out, as the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has titled its 2018 Annual Report, reads to us like a call to action to speak our truth on the discrimination that people with disabilities encounter in Canada,” states Jewelles Smith, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD). “Far too many of us face oppression and discrimination, while going to school, at work and doing the activities that many Canadians take for granted but for people with disabilities often mean navigating barriers, which are often systemic in nature,” states Pat Danforth, CCD 1st Vice Chair.

In 2018, 52 percent of the complaints received by the Commission were on the ground of disability and half of those complaints were related to mental health.  Disability-based complaints increased by 33 percent in 2018.  This is only a partial picture of the discrimination encountered by persons with disabilities, as the CHRC only addresses cases of discrimination that occurred in Federal jurisdiction, with provincial commissions also receiving a high proportion of complaints from people with disabilities.

The CHRC monitors progress on Canada’s implementation of the Employment Equity Act. “CCD was extremely disappointed to learn that for federally regulated employers in the private sector absolutely no progress has been made with respect to improving the representation of people with disabilities in the workforces of these employers.  Given that they have had nearly a quarter century to advance since the Act passed in 1995, it is hard to believe that there is actually any will for compliance,” states Ms. Danforth.

What we read in the Commission’s Annual Report sadly underscores the importance of comments made by Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability Rights, to the Governments of Canada when she concluded her official visit to Canada.  “…I have noticed that discussions about the rights of persons with disabilities are still framed in terms of social assistance, rather than from a human rights-based approach. While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines the right to non-discrimination, and federal, provincial and territorial human rights laws recognize a duty to accommodate, which allows for individual remedies, this is insufficient to ensure a systemic transformation of society.  I would like to remind the authorities that the CRPD embraces a substantive model of equality, which goes beyond non-discriminatory approaches towards the full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities. Therefore, more proactive governmental responses are needed to ensure systemic change …”

The data provided by Speak Out on disability discrimination will be shared with the UN’s CRPD Committee, which is preparing for its second review of Canada’s progress on implementing the UN CRPD. “In June, the Canadian disability community will be providing input to the UN Committee for its List of Issues Prior to Reporting (LOIPR) for Canada and, to be sure, we will be flagging the concerns identified by the CHRC, particularly the lack of progress by federally regulated employers in the private sector to employ more people with disabilities,” states Mr. Estey, CCD Government and Community Relations Officer. “We will use our personal experience of discrimination and oppression to bolster the statistics provided by the Commission.”


For More Information Contact:

Jewelles Smith, CCD Chairperson – Email:
Pat Danforth, CCD 1st Vice Chair – Tel.: 250 383-4443, Cell.: 250 896-8545, Email:
Steven Estey, Government and Community Relations Officer – Email:
April D’Aubin, Research Analyst – Tel.: 204-947-0303, Email:

About the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

The mission and mandate of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) are as follows:

Mission - The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a social justice organization of people with all disabilities that champions the voices of people with disabilities, advocating an inclusive and accessible Canada, where people with disabilities have full realization of their human rights, as described in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mandate - The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) unites advocacy organizations of people with disabilities to defend and extend human rights for persons with disabilities through public education, advocacy, intervention in litigation, research, consultation and partnerships.  CCD amplifies the expertise of our partners by acting as a convening body and consensus builder.