Chairperson's Update: May 2009

May was an extremely busy month for transferring knowledge about disability, increasing awareness about our issues, joining other communities and celebrating accomplishments. CCD’s volunteers and staff presented our message of full citizenship, inclusion, and access to a wide variety of audiences, ranging from the BC Court of Appeal, the Senate, and community advocates focused on poverty. Some CCD volunteers joined the decision-making structures of other organizations. Working on the inside of an organization is another way to affect change. A few CCD volunteers have been working for over 30 years in support of disability rights and this month, Jim Derksen’s exemplary contribution was recognized in a number of different ways. Read on for the highlights of our activities in support of disability rights.

CCD Addresses BC Court of Appeal

On 4-5 May 2009, CCD appeared in the BC Court of Appeal in the case of The Board of Trustees School Division No. 44 v. Frederick Moore on behalf of Jeffrey P. Moore and the BC Ministry of Education and the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The Moore case is important to the Canadian disability community because it is about ensuring that the legal duty to accommodate persons with disabilities is interpreted and applied in a manner that serves its remedial purpose. CCD shared with the Court its perspective on how to analyze cases in a way that provides the scope for legal remedies that make structures and services equally accessible to persons with and without disabilities. The Moore family launched this case because Jeffrey Moore, who has a learning disability, was not adequately accommodated in the school system.

CCD’s Counsel was Gwen Brodsky, Karey Brooks, and Yvonne Peters. Assisted by the CCD Human Rights Committee, Yvonne Peters and Dean Richert directed the development of the legal arguments that were presented in CCD’s intervention. CCD’s thanks goes out to Gwen, Karey, Yvonne and Dean for all the hard work and time that was put into this case.

CCSD Conference Learns About Disabling Poverty Enabling Citizenship

Some members of the Community University Research Alliance (CURA) project team, Michael J. Prince, Nathan Irving, Michael Bach, Sharon Murphy and Laurie Beachell, presented a workshop session at the Canadian Council on Social Development national conference which took place in Calgary from 19-22 May 2009. At this session participants learned that in Canada, as elsewhere around the globe, poverty and disability are largely synonymous: poverty can lead to disability and disability can lead to poverty. A disproportionate number of Canadians with disabilities live in poverty. Across the country, no coordinated policy response is in place to address the issue. Instead those who require income assistance rely on a patchwork quilt of local/provincial/territorial and federal programs which overlap, grab back, and fail to provide adequate income and basic supports required to remove barriers associated with disability. During the session, participants engaged in a dialogue about policy options, the use of a human rights lens for reviewing policy options and current poverty reduction strategies and their impact on persons with disabilities.

CURA Project Passes More Milestones

A full team meeting was held by conference call this month. Co-principal investigators Yvonne Peters and Michael J. Prince chaired the meeting. The team reviewed the work plans of the three themes that are currently in progress. A new student was welcomed to the team—Zilla Marie Jones.

Hot Off the Press--Michael J. Prince’s New Book

The CURA project’s co-principal investigator Michael J. Prince’s new book, Absent Citizens: Disability Politics and Policy in Canada, is now available from the University of Toronto Press, as well as

In this book, Dr. Prince knits together concepts from feminist studies, political science, public administration, sociology and urban studies in an examination of structural methods of exclusion, discrimination, public attitudes, and policy-making in the context of disability. Michael’s work on disability policy has been very beneficial to the disability community and this book is a very welcome addition to the existing disability studies canon.

Winnipeg Conference Hears from Us

On 11-12 May 2009, Laurie Beachell and Yvonne Peters presented at the Disability Health and Wellness Conference, sharing our perspective on Americans with Disabilities Act-type legislation in the Canadian context. Components of the disability community in Manitoba have been promoting a Manitobans with Disabilities Act. During the conference, CCD’s representatives took the position that while disability legislation can mandate some useful initiatives, it should not be considered a panacea for all the disability community’s aspirations. Laurie and Yvonne also argued that additional initiatives should continue to move forward while a disability act is being considered.

CPPD Roundtable

Laurie Beachell participated in a meeting of the CPPD Roundtable, which focused on future initiatives that might be undertaken and the CPPD’s evaluation process.

Universal Periodic Review

This month, Steve Esety presented CCD’s views on international human rights, particularly the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Canada, to the Senate Committee on Human Rights and to a Heritage Canada consultation. Steve focused on the historic “invisibility of disability” in the mainstream international Human Rights discourse and how over the past few years there has been a shift to include disability issues – with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and also the inclusion of disability issues in the UPR. The presentation also focused on significant challenges in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Mines Action Canada

International Development Committee member Mary Reid is now a Vice Chairperson of Mines Action Canada. Mary Reid has also just taken up the position of Director of the newly established disability policy office in Newfoundland.
Congratulations Mary!

Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC)

CCD nominated International Development Committee member Yutta Fricke to stand for election to the CCIC Board of Directors. Yutta is now a CCIC Board member.
Congratulations Yutta!

Honourary Doctor of Laws Presented to CCD Volunteer

This month, Jim Derksen, a longtime supporter of CCD, was recognized for his outstanding contribution to the disability movement and indeed to all of Canada.
I am pleased to share a statement made in the Manitoba Legislature by MLA Jennifer Howard concerning Jim’s record of achievement.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the invaluable contributions of Jim Derksen, who joins us here today. Mr. Derksen has been a leading advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in Canada and internationally for over 30 years. This past Tuesday he became “Dr. Derksen” when the University of Manitoba presented him with an honourary Doctor of Laws at their May Convocation.

Jim’s tireless efforts were integral to ensuring the rights of people with disabilities were recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He helped to organize many advocacy groups—such as the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, Disabled Peoples’ International, and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. His expertise is called upon by federal and provincial governments, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations. He was the founding Executive Director of the Manitoba Disabilities Issues Office, serving my predecessor, the Honourable Tim Sale.

Under Jim’s leadership, the first provincial strategy for people with disabilities, Full Citizenship was developed. Currently, Mr. Derksen is an advisor to VP-NET, the Vulnerable Persons and End of Life Care New Emerging Team, a group of researchers looking at end of life care issues for people with disabilities. They continue to build bridges between people with disabilities and the palliative care community.

Later today, the Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities will proclaim this week “Access Awareness Week”. I cannot think of a better way to kick it off than by this House paying tribute to a champion of accessibility and inclusion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On Thursday, 28 May 2009, CCD held a reception for Jim where community members had the opportunity to celebrate with Jim and acknowledge his contributions.

Congratulations Jim!