CCD Chairperson's Update: April 2012

With the end of March, we said goodbye to the old fiscal year, and made our acquaintance with the new fiscal year.  In this Update, we look back on the accomplishments of our 2011-12 fiscal year and provide a bird’s eye view of some things to expect during the next 12 months.

April 2012 and the Coming Months

30th Anniversary of Charter of Rights and Freedoms

This month we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  In Celebrating Our Accomplishments, Yvonne Peters’ article “A Missed Wedding, a Landmark Protest and a Legal Victory” describes the role that she and CCD played in having disability included in Section 15 of the Charter.  On 26 April 2012, Senator David Smith spoke in the Senate about the importance of the Charter and a reception followed.  Vangelis Nikias attended on CCD’s behalf.

CCD Lodges Complaint with Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

CCD has complained to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) about Global Television’s 16x9 episode, “Taking Mercy.”  In “Taking Mercy”, Annette Corriveau discussed why she believes her two adult children with disabilities should be euthanized.  Rather than including interviews with people with disabilities with differing views on euthanasia, “Taking Mercy” provided Arthur Schafer and Robert Latimer a platform for their pro-euthanasia views.  CCD’s complaint brought to the attention of the CBSC how the episode violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Equitable Portrayal Code.  One of the principles of the code is that portrayal of an identifiable group should be comparable to the group’s “actual social and professional achievements, education, contributions, interests and activities”.  Rather than interviewing people with disabilities who have a valued social role, Global reinforced the erroneous stereotype that it is better to be dead than living with a disability.

On the Ottawa Scene

Vangelis Nikias attended a forum hosted by Dignity for All, which is a campaign to end poverty.

Deborah Stienstra’s latest book, About Canada: Disability Rights, was recently published by Fernwood Publishing.  In this book, Deborah Stienstra argues that disability is not about “faulty” bodies that need to be fixed, but about the institutional, cultural and attitudinal reactions to certain kinds of bodies, and that neoliberal ideas of independence and individualism are at the heart of the continuing discrimination against “disabled” people.  Vangelis Nikias attended the Ottawa launch for this new publication.

Mark Your Calendars

This year’s End Exclusion will be held on 28-29 November 2012 in Ottawa.  You won’t want to miss this important event, organized by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the Canadian Association for Community Living and Canada Without Poverty and sponsored by CCD’s research project Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship.  End Exclusion is an opportunity to hear from some of Canada’s leading researchers on poverty and disability issues.  End Exclusion is a forum where members of the disability community share their ideas on how we should be tackling the disproportionate level of poverty experienced by Canadians with disabilities. 

The Past Year -- April 2011-March 2012

CCD Spoke Out to Decision Makers

CCD Met Key Ministers—“A Voice of Our Own” is our motto and high ranking Cabinet Ministers heard CCD’s voice.  Chairperson Tony Dolan met with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty about the Budget, the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), and the need for the Disability Tax Credit to be refundable.  CCD discussed labour market issues, the Social Development Partnerships Program and the Department’s new data collection strategy with Minister Diane Finley, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and National Defense Minister Peter MacKay heard from Steve Estey, International Committee Chairperson, about implementing and monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). CCD addressed access with the Hon. Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Transport.

Senators Heard CCD’s Message—On 7 March 2012, Tony Dolan appeared before the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

CCD Appeared before CRTC— John Rae and Jim Roots were witnesses before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). They made CCD’s case for regulation of telecommunications providers to ensure accessible services to people with disabilities.

Elections Canada Consulted Us—CCD assisted Elections Canada undertake outreach to disability groups about how to make voting accessible. 

CCD Delivered Human Rights Message to Federal Employees—CCD explained how to make human rights real for people with disabilities at the Second Federal Government conference about the CRPD for public service employees.

Supreme Court Improved Access to Justice for People with Disabilities

CCD and DAWN Canada intervened in the D.A.I. case, in which the Supreme Court was asked to determine whether people with intellectual disabilities are required to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of a “promise to tell the truth” in order to testify.  The case involved a woman with an intellectual disability who was prevented by the court from testifying against the person accused of sexually assaulting her.  CCD’s intervention argued people with disabilities should not face additional barriers when testifying in court and should have equal and meaningful access to justice.  In February, the Court ruled people with disabilities who promise to tell the truth to the court ought to be permitted to testify. The decision ensures that all Canadians, including people with disabilities, have access to justice and are treated equally before the courts; people with intellectual disabilities will be permitted to testify, just like all other individuals.

CCD Shared Recommendations for Addressing Employment Barriers

HRSDC invited CCD to the Stakeholder Engagement Meeting on Employment Barriers for Canadians with Disabilities, held on 8 February 2012.  CCD developed and circulated a 14-point summary of key recommendations.  CCD’s paper provided community members a consistent message for HRSDC.

Intervention in Education Case at Supreme Court

In March, the Supreme Court heard the Moore case, which seeks equal access to education for students with disabilities.  The Court granted CCD intervener status. CCD described for the Court how the legal duty to accommodate students with disabilities should be met. Yvonne Peters, Gwen Brodsky and Melina Buckley were CCD’s co-counsel for this case. The Moore case was CCD’s second intervention in the 2011-12 fiscal year. (The D.A.I. case was the other case.) Despite the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program, which funded equality rights challenges, CCD continues to undertake interventions to advance the equality of people with disabilities. For this work, CCD has recruited a top-notch Human Rights Committee, which blends expertise from the disability and legal communities. 

International Committee Chair Speaks at UN

The United Nations invited Steve Estey, Chair of CCD’s International Committee, to speak on civil and political participation during the annual UN Conference attended by countries that have ratified the CRPD.

Monitoring the CRPD

CCD is working with the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) to promote a Canadian approach to monitoring the CRPD, which meets the standard required by the Convention. Meetings occurred in June and October. CASHRA invited CCD to present at its conference in June 2012 in Winnipeg.

Researching the Duty to Accommodate

A research collaboration between CCD and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) partnered three prominent advocates on equality rights, Gwen Brodsky, Shelagh Day, and Yvonne Peters, to investigate how the duty to accommodate is eliminating barriers for persons with disabilities in Canada and how it can be used to address long-standing systemic barriers. The CHRC website published the results in “Accommodation in the 21st Century”.

End Exclusion 2011

End Exclusion is now the event to attend in November.  In 2011, 150 participants listened to Laurence Parent, Laurie Larson and Sharon Murphy share personal reflections about poverty, heard reviews of poverty reductions strategies underway in Canada and shared their ideas for policy reform with leading researchers on poverty. 

The evening before End Exclusion, CCD hosted a gala where community members recognized political allies who helped make Canada more accessible and inclusive.  CCD honoured Sen. David Smith, the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney, the Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, the Hon. Jim Flaherty, the Hon. Steven Fletcher, the Hon. Diane Finley and the Hon. Peter MacKay. CCD presented the honorees Celebrating Our Accomplishments, an anthology where community members chronicled progress since 1981.

CCD Produced Resources on Disability Issues

CCD’s project Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship generated a series of fact sheets that present statistical information about the disability community in a “user-friendly” format. Some recent titles are: Gender, Disability and Low Income, Trying to Make the Grade: Education, Work-related Training, From Coast to Coast: Provincial Rates of Low-Income among Canadians With and Without Disabilities, On the Home Front: Poverty, Disability, Housing and Help with Everyday Activities, and Low Household Income and Disability: Income Sources, Employment and Employment Discrimination.