CCD Chairperson's Update: February 2011

Calling Canada to Action on the CRPD

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is one of CCD’s main priorities. The purpose of the CRPD is “…to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.” The CRPD clarifies that people with disabilities “…include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” During the month of February, CCD volunteers shared with the Government of Canada a plan of action for implementing the CRPD that would make the promises of the Convention meaningful in the daily lives of people with disabilities. In support of this goal, CCD engaged in conversations with Canadian decision makers focusing on: disability and development, barriers in the transportation system, data collection on disability issues, a barrier free electoral process, accessible telecommunications and building awareness about the CRPD and support for its implementation.

CCD Meets Hon. Chuck Strahl, Minister of Transport

On 17 February 2011, Pat Danforth, Chairperson of the CCD Transportation Committee, accompanied by Laurie Beachell and Vangelis Nikias, met with the Federal Minister of Transport to make him aware of the barriers that people with disabilities experience when they travel in Canada. Pat Danforth informed Minister Strahl about barriers such as the:

  • greater use of small planes (CRJ’s) with inaccessible cargo holds that cannot accommodate mobility devices. (Even the CRJ, which is over 60 seats, presents a barrier.),
  • installation of new technology – touch screen technology used in ticket and baggage claim dispensers and in-flight entertainment systems, new security body scanners, etc.- all of which are inaccessible to persons with disabilities,
  • individual complaint model at CTA, which results only in individual solutions not systemic change,
  • potential withdrawal of service by Greyhound to small communities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario,
  • a challenge of individuals’ right to travel independently (Morten case).

During the meeting Minister Strahl acknowledged the expertise of CCD’s Transportation Committee. He agreed that as a result of the Supreme Court decision in VIA v. CCD the voluntary codes of practice have become de facto regulations. The Minister supports access, agreeing that new services should be designed in an inclusive manner and not retrofitted after the fact. The Minister did not rule out the possibility that the Government would regulate the transportation industry if it continues to create new barriers to access. Minister Strahl seems open to appointing a transportation expert with a disability to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). CCD is very optimistic about building a collaborative working relationship with Minister Strahl and his department.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

A Call to Action--CCD and CACL have been encouraging the Government of Canada to develop a plan for implementing the CRPD to begin realizing the commitments made to Canadians with disabilities when the CRPD was ratified in March 2010. In February, 126 disability organizations added their voices to the CCD-CACL Call for Action.

Minister Diane Finley Receives the Call to Action—Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is the lead department addressing the CRPD. CCD and CACL shared the Call to Action with Minister Finley.

Raising Awareness in the House of Commons—On the 7th and 9th of February, Steve Estey, Vangelis Nikias and Anna MacQuarrie met with MPs from the Liberal and NDP caucuses to raise their awareness about the CRPD.

Connecting the Dots

To achieve public policy reform, it is often necessary to have statistics to prove the case that a particular change is needed. CCD National Coordinator Laurie Beachell has been co-chairing an HRSDC Technical Advisory Group (TAG) focusing on developing a new database on disability. CCD participates in an effort to ensure that the data collected will be sufficiently robust to support the community’s policy agenda. This group met 16-17 February 2011 in Ottawa to continue planning the Government’s replacement for PALS.

Disability on the Global Stage

In February, Judy Heumann, who advises Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, on disability issues, was in Canada and Steve Estey, Chairperson of CCD’s International Development Committee, was invited to participate in a number of activities with Ms. Heumann, including presentations at McGill University. While in Canada, Ms. Heumann met with officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and, on 8 February 2011, she also made a public presentation at the US Embassy which was streamed to US Consulates across Canada. Jim Derksen participated in the session at the US Consulate in Winnipeg.

Ms. Heumann was one of the founders of the American Independent Living movement and, along with CCD, participated in the activities of Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) during the 1980s. A number of years ago, Ms. Heumann participated in a CCD Council meeting, sharing information with the Council on the ADA.

On 22 February 2011, Laurie Beachell participated in CCIC’s meetings which were held in Winnipeg. CCIC has undergone significant funding cuts by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). CCD has been encouraging CIDA to develop a policy on disability and development, so this was an opportunity to learn more about the latest developments within CIDA and to share CCD’s policy agenda on development.

CCD Makes Submission to the CRTC

Some of Canada’s largest broadcasters are seeking the renewal of their licenses from the CRTC. CCD made a submission to the CRTC supporting AEBC’s and CAD’s position on video description services and captioning.

Accessible Voting

Since the Hughes case, where Rev. Hughes challenged the barriers he found at a poll operated by Elections Canada, CCD has been actively engaged in work to remove barriers from the electoral process. CCD challenged comments made in the Senate Committee Report, "Report on the Use of Assistive Voting Devices for Persons with Disabilities" (October 2010), which we felt was too focused on how much access would cost. CCD reminded the Senators that while General Elections are costly, they are the core component of democracy and cost is not a justifiable reason for limiting the civil rights of persons for whom print is a barrier. The Hon. Joan Fraser, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, responded to CCD, stating, “Please be assured that the goal and objective of the committee is to fully support the disabled in their quest to exercise their right to vote as effectively and as equitably as possible.” In the coming months, CCD will be continuing its work with Elections Canada.