Chairperson's Update: June 2009

30 June 2009: School’s out and the summer season officially begins! Before we all get too consumed by our summer activities, I have one piece of business for you to consider—the CCD Summer Report Card, which summarizes our accomplishments during the first six months of 2009. CCD has performed in an excellent manner in a number of critical areas: Membership Development, Promoting an Inclusive and Accessible Canada, Organizational Sustainability and Honouring Community Leaders.

CCD Summer Report Card

Membership Development

CWDO Is a Full Member—I am proud to inform you that CCD now has a full member in the province of Ontario—Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)! At its Annual General Meeting (7 June 2009), the CCD National Council of Representatives voted to grant CWDO full membership. Both Al Buchan, CWDO representative to CCD Council, and Terry Green, CWDO Co-Chairperson, were on hand for this important decision. Immediately upon being granted full membership, CWDO stepped up to the plate and delivered to CCD Council a workshop, which demonstrated how CWDO uses its web site, and services provided by the IDEAL Group and Online Conferencing Systems Group, to hold meetings and webinars. With rising meeting and travel costs, this is a new way of doing business that other CCD members may want to check out. During the workshop, Terry expressed an interest in assisting CCD member groups to become more familiar with what this new technology has to offer.

Promoting an Inclusive and Accessible Canada

Ramping Up to a Federal Election—For our kids, summer means no text books and homework for a few weeks. For our politicians, summer means doing the rounds of barbeques and various types of festivals, where they meet with the electorate. This summer will be especially busy for Canada’s politicians, as the pundits are predicting a fall election. If you encounter any of our Federal politicians this summer, discuss with them the issues that CCD would like to see addressed in party platforms for the next election. CCD has been informing all federal parties of our platform priorities.

CCD’s top 10 issues for party platforms—If we were writing the parties’ platforms, the commitments we would make to Canadians with disabilities are:

1. Make the Disability Tax Credit refundable for those without a taxable income who are DTC eligible.

2. Expand Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits from 15 to 50 weeks to address needs of those with episodic disabilities.

3. Renew and expand funding to the Court Challenges Program.

4. Regulate access to all federally regulated modes of transportation.

5. Ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

6. Regulate access for persons with disabilities to new and existing information/communication technologies.

7. Harmonize the DTC and CPPD definitions. If eligible for CPPD, individuals should be automatically eligible for the DTC.

8. Create a new CPPD initiative to encourage employment and allow individuals to retain benefits and significant income from employment.

9. Energize Federal/Provincial/Territorial dialogues and initiatives regarding disability.

10. Provide greater support to NGO’s.

Eradicating Poverty—The CCD Council voted to endorse Canada Without Poverty’s Dignity for All | The campaign for a poverty-free Canada. Canada Without Poverty was formerly called NAPO—the National Anti-Poverty Organization.

Everyone who can say:

I believe that freedom from poverty is a human right.
I believe in equality among all people.
I believe we are all entitled to social and economic security.
I believe in dignity for all.
NOW is the time to end poverty in Canada.

……..will want to sign-on to the Dignity for All campaign.

End Exclusion 2009 Focuses on Disability and Poverty—On the morning of 1 October 2009 at the Ottawa City Hall, CCD, the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), and Canada Without Poverty will be hosting an event where leaders from the disability community and leaders from the anti-poverty movement will share their perspectives on poverty eradication for people with disabilities. Following the meeting, there will be a public rally at the Ottawa Anti-Poverty Monument.

Addressing Labour Market Policy—On 12 June 2009 in Ottawa, I participated in a roundtable on Barriers to Labour Market Participation facing people with disabilities. During the session, I addressed the policy reforms that are necessary to improve the labour market participation of people with disabilities.

Human Rights A Key Priority—CCD has been focusing a great deal of its energies on human rights issues. The CCD Human Rights Committee met on 18-19 June 2009 in Winnipeg.

CCD interventions—In May, Gwen Brodsky and Yvonne Peters were in the BC Court to present CCD’s arguments, as an intervener, in the Moore case, a case focusing on the lack of accommodation of a student with learning disabilities in a BC school and how decision-making about accommodation is undertaken. This was CCD’s last active case. At its June meeting, the CCD Human Rights Committee decided to recommend that CCD intervene in two new cases—one addressing barriers to voting and another addressing self-determination by air travelers who are deaf-blind and who do not wish to be compelled by the airlines to travel with attendants.

Building our litigation capacity—At the Annual General Meeting, the Council decided to allocate funding to the Legal Defense Fund to bring it up to $75,000. CCD draws upon this Fund for its legal interventions. Supporters can donate to the Fund via CanadaHelps.

Our response to the human rights report card—The CCD Human Rights Committee wrote to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) about a human rights report card that the Commission is developing. As the report card had a heavy focus on statistics, CCD questioned the approach and methodology being adopted. CCD is encouraging the CHRC to be proactive in its approach to rights and to use excellent court decisions, such as the VIA Rail decision, to eliminate the systemic barriers that are hampering our full participation and full enjoyment of our human rights.

Media attacks on human rights commissions—The CCD Human Rights Committee is very concerned about a spate of negative media articles, which present the work of human rights commissions in a very poor light. For people with disabilities, commissions provide an important avenue for accessing justice when discrimination has occurred. People with disabilities are frequent complainants at commissions. Commissions assist people with disabilities obtain the individualized accommodations that are necessary for our participation in society. As consumers and supporters of human rights, when negative media coverage about commissions occurs, through submissions to the Letters to the Editor section of newspapers and magazines, we can provide an alternative point of view describing how commissions make a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

Canadian ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) overdue—On 25-26 June 2009, Chairperson of the International Committee, Steve Estey, and CCD National Coordinator, Laurie Beachell, participated in a Canadian government consultation on the CRPD to deliver the message: RATIFY IMMEDIATELY! It has been a long time since the signing ceremony in New York at the United Nations. Over two years have elapsed and Canadians with disabilities are still waiting for ratification. The good news is that the CRPD now has the force of law because it has been ratified by more than 20 nations.

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Canada’s human rights record—On behalf of CCD, Terry Green, Co-Chairperson of CWDO, participated in a press conference at the House of Commons organized by Canadian equality seeking organizations.

The UPR is one function of the UN Human Rights Council, established in 2006. The UPR involves a review of every country's human rights record every four years by the other members of the Council. On 3 February 2009, Canada was reviewed, and UN members made 68 recommendations to Canada. Of interest to the disability community are recommendations on ratification of the CRPD and poverty eradication.

At the press conference, organizations were critical of the Canadian government’s response to recommendations to improve human rights in Canada. Rather than describing a new program or law to address an identified problem, Canada’s approach has been to maintain that it is already in compliance with international obligations.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR)—During the Council Meeting (6 June 2009) Angela J. Cassie, Director, Communications and Public Engagement, conducted a workshop with Council members and guests to obtain input on how the Museum might convey the disability rights story to Museum visitors. A wide variety of ideas were shared by participants, as well as some well-deserved criticism. The Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians expressed its dismay that the Museum’s DVD shown at the session did not include video description which would have made it accessible to persons with vision impairment. We understand that the Museum is now working on a descriptive video DVD.

On 22-23 June 2009, Laurie Beachell participated in meetings of the CMHR’s Content Advisory Committee. In the fall, the CMHR will be conducting engagement sessions with Canadians to get their feedback on the stories that the Museum should share. Based upon the work done at the Council meeting, CCD has prepared a memo describing important disability rights stories to include. To learn more about the consultations visit the Museum's Web Site.

Working internationally for disability rights—CCD is a member of Disabled Peoples' International. This month I participated in a meeting of the DPI North American Caribbean Regional Assembly, held in Barbados. I was elected both to the Regional Assembly and, as well, to fill a vacancy on DPI’s World Council.