Chairperson's Update: February 2009

The Government of Canada’s Federal Budget had a heavy focus on what has been termed initiatives that are shovel ready. We at CCD have also been busy building, putting down a strong foundation on a number of different fronts. This month, I will share with you information on areas where CCD is, or has been, building for the future.

Building Our Resource Base

CCD appreciates Minister Finley’s three year extension to the Social Development Partnerships Program. All the organizations in our network worked very hard for the achievement of this extension. The hard work paid off and we will continue to develop our collective capacities over the next three years. CCD has submitted its funding application to HRSDC for the next three years.

Building an Accessible and Inclusive Canada

Budget 2009 announced many new initiatives geared to stimulate the economy. New funds were made available to support infrastructure projects, housing development, retrofitting Federal Government buildings to make them accessible, training dollars for people who are not EI Eligible, to name a few of the undertakings that were announced. If done right, these initiatives will go a long way to make Canada more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.CCD’s Executive and Social Policy Committees developed a letter writing campaign called Our Fair Share, where we encourage our provincial member groups to write to their provincial governments reminding them that projects funded by Budget 2009 need to deliver access and inclusion so that people with disabilities have equal enjoyment of the opportunities created by stimulus package.

Building for the Future via the RDSP

The new RDSP provides an opportunity to build savings for the future for people who are DTC eligible. CCD has been participating in workshops and seminars on the RDSP so that we are in a better position to share information about the initiative. Laurie Beachell has been advising consultants who have been hired by HRSDC to promote the RDSP about community outreach methods.

Building Our Immigration File

At our January meeting, Council made immigration a priority for the Social Policy Committee. This month, CCD formed a working group, which met by conference call, and developed an action plan geared toward building CCD’s knowledge on the issue and raising public awareness.Bakerlaw will be undertaking legal research for us on this issue. John Rae, and colleagues he has recruited in Toronto, will be undertaking qualitative research so that we can benefit from the experience of people who have had direct contact with the immigration system. Roy Hanes will share with us his research on the history of immigration and people with disabilities.

Building the Data Base on Disability

Through surveys, like HALS and PALS, the Government of Canada has been building a data base that provides statistical information on the nature of disability in Canada. This information is used by programmers and policy makers, both inside and outside of government, to develop responses to the needs of persons with disabilities. The surveys are done in conjunction with the census. CCD has been working to ensure that another PALS survey is done following the next census.This work is being guided by the Social Policy Committee, which met by conference call this month.

Building An Internet with the Capacity to Meet the Needs of Persons with Disabilities

The CRTC is looking into whether, and how, the internet should be governed and this is referred to as net neutrality. CCD wants to ensure that the internet remains accessible to persons with disabilities. Along with ARCH, CCD hired Phyllis Gordon to write a submission which examines the issue of net neutrality with a disability lens. The CCD/ARCH submission was made on 23 February 2009.

Building Upon International Opportunities—Universal Periodic Review

Peer Review on Human Rights Record--This year, it is Canada’s turn to have its human rights record reviewed by its peers—other nations—and the review occurred at the beginning of February. This process was created by the UN General Assembly in 2006 and states are reviewed every four years. As part of this process Canada receives recommendations on areas where it needs to improve its laws and programs so Canadians have full enjoyment of their human rights.

Why the Community is Involved--Along with other equality seeking organizations, CCD has been sharing its perspective on Canada’s record, so that the reviewers have substantive information on equality and inequality in Canada. We submitted a brief in September, participated in community consultations in January and this month, we sent a letter to Prime Minister Harper calling for a transparent community consultation process leading up to the June meeting of the Human Rights Council where Canada will indicate which of the review’s recommendations it is prepared to accept. Community groups want to participate in Canada’s decision-making on what recommendations will be accepted because these recommendations will become part of Canada’s agenda on human rights for the next four years.

Building the New Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Gail Asper and her colleagues have been fund raising in support of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Another million dollars in donations has been announced. 97% of the private sector fund raising goal ($105 million) has been collected.CCD has been working to ensure that the Museum follows the principles of universal design. Additionally, CCD has been working to ensure that the Museum’s programming is both accessible and inclusive. As disability issues are human rights issues, we want the Museum’s programming to convey the rights struggles of our community and we want the story to be accessible to everyone. Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, has been re-appointed to the Museum’s Content Advisory Committee and attended a day and a half meeting on 26-27 February 2009.