Chairperson's Update - November 2013

Showing Solidarity

If you would like to help people with disabilities in the Philippines affected by recent natural disasters, CCD will be transferring donations to KAMPI, an organization of people with disabilities in the Philippines.  KAMPI is a member of Disabled Peoples' International (DPI).

The recent earthquake and typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines means that there are newly disabled people who will be needing assistance to adjust to their new status and people with existing disabilities facing additional hardships as a result of the devastation caused by these natural disasters.  Due to attitudinal and physical barriers, people with disabilities encounter discrimination when seeking to access disaster relief.  One way of ensuring that people with disabilities receive disaster relief is by donating directly to existing organizations of people with disabilities operating in disaster affected countries.

Up until 13 December 2013, CCD will be collecting donations that it will send by wire to KAMPI.  If you would like to make a donation please send a cheque to CCD, 909-294 Portage Ave, Winnipeg, MB R3C 0B9.  When you send your cheque, please make a note that your gift is for KAMPI.


Who and What is KAMPI

KAMPI is the national federation of 246 cross-disability, grassroots organizations of persons with disabilities in the Philippines.  Established in 1991, KAMPI joined Disabled Peoples International in 1996 and has remained a DPI member until today.  Headquartered in Quezon City, Philippines, KAMPI has a small Secretariat Office manned by 2 fulltime staff (both persons with disabilities) and supported by volunteers.  The organization is led by a 15-member Board of Governors.  It is widely recognized for its work to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities relative to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) which was ratified by the Philippines in 2008.

KAMPI is well known for its successful implementation of a national rehabilitation program for poor children with disabilities called “Breaking Barriers for Children” (BBC) where centers which provided a comprehensive package of services, were established in 120 cities and municipalities in the Philippines.  This project benefitted 14,000 children and young adults with disabilities who were provided services such as physical and occupational therapy, pre-school training, medical assistance, school placement, provision of assistive and technological devices to the beneficiaries, supplemental feeding and other services required by children with disabilities.  BBC was a pioneering initiative for Filipino children with disabilities in the Philippines implemented by KAMPI from 1995 to 2011 through funding from the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA).  In 2011, the centers were turned over to local government units and other NGOs when DANIDA’s support ended.  Since then, KAMPI continued to provide technical assistance to the centers which are now funded and operated by local government units as facilities attached to the city/municipal social services offices.

After the turnover of the BBC, KAMPI focused its efforts more in advocacy work for the effective implementation of the CRPD and inclusion of persons with disabilities in services provided by both national and local governments including education for youth with disabilities, job placement, healthcare and provision of livelihood assistance to persons with disabilities who are not able to access jobs in the open labor market.

Who will benefit from the donation 

Main beneficiaries of the donation are persons with disabilities, including children and their families who have been hard hit by both the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit the central parts of the Philippines sometime in October and those who were ravaged by super typhoon Haiyan on 8 November which left massive destruction in all 10 provinces where the typhoon made landfall.  Needs of those hardest hit by the calamities can be categorized as “immediate” and “long term”, as follows:

Immediate: food, potable water, clothing, medicines, assistive devices/technical aides, school supplies for the children, and even shelter for those who have lost their homes;

Long term: For the adults - seed money to start livelihood activities for persons with disabilities and their families who have lost all of their farm animals and equipment as a result of the typhoon; materials to rebuild their houses destroyed by both the earthquake and the storm, assistive devices for those who lost their wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids, etc. in the flood waters brought about by the storm.

For children with disabilities – provision of physical/occupational therapy, pre-school training, educational/school supplies; tuition fees, supplemental feeding, etc.

What is going to be provided to them

Their most immediate need for food, clothing and medicines.  If the donation warrants, materials for them to build their houses will also be most helpful – as well as seed money for livelihood activities.

Additional information

KAMPI as an umbrella organization which has run projects for over 15 years has both the experience and capacity to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of whatever donations will be received for use to assist persons with disabilities affected by the typhoon. 

By Venus M. Ilagan
Past Chairperson, DPI
Secretary General, RI

National disability leadership demands justice for Betty Anne Gagnon

On 31 October 2013, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench handed down its decision in the case addressing the death of Betty Anne Gagnon, a woman with an intellectual disability who died while in the care of her sister and brother-in-law.  While the accused originally faced multiple charges ranging from manslaughter to forcible confinement, all charges, with the exception of failure to provide the necessities of life, were dropped.  The accused, Denise Scriven and Michael Scriven, were each sentenced to twenty months in prison for failure to provide the necessities of life.  The maximum sentence is five years.  CCD member group, DisAbled Women’s Network Canada / Reseau d’action des femmes handicapées (DAWN-RAFH Canada) issued a press release following the sentencing.  DAWN-RAFH informed the public that, "…The DisAbled Women’s Network Canada / Reseau d’action des femmes handicapées (DAWN-RAFH Canada), the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) are urging that Betty Anne Gagnon’s tragic and completely preventable death not be in vain and are calling for an inquiry into the horrific circumstances surrounding her final months and death, the systemic failures that led to this outcome, and for much stronger accountabilities going forward.  The national disability community also remains profoundly concerned that such blatant and intentional harm resulting in death is not, at a minimum, recognized as manslaughter in the criminal justice system."  Addressing violence against women with disabilities has been one of DAWN / RAFH's priorities since the organization's earliest days.

CASHRA 2014: Accommodation Works! Toward a More Inclusive Society

Save 11 – 12 June 2014 on your calendar, because these are the dates for CASHRA's conference which will focus on accommodation.  "This event will provide a learning environment for key human rights issues and underscore the importance of commitment to the objectives of international, federal and provincial human rights legislation," states David Langtry, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and President of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA). CASHRA is the umbrella organization of Canada's federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions.

Accommodation is a very appropriate theme for this conference because failures to accommodate generate many human rights complaints, especially from people with disabilities.  .

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has been consulting with CCD, because the Commission is seeking to ensure the conference is accessible and the program examines accommodation in a way that includes the perspectives of people with disabilities.  On 20 November 2013, Anne Levesque Co-chairperson of CCD's Human Rights Committee, Vangelis Nikias, CRPD Project Manager, and Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, met by conference call with Commission representatives to review plans to date.  The 2014 conference will be held in Ottawa. 

Vangelis participated in the meeting to share his knowledge of the CRPD and the implications of Article 27 (Work and Employment).

In Subsection(i), it states, "Ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities in the workplace". 

In addition to accommodation, universal design, another concept of interest to people with disabilities, will be considered at the CASHRA conference. 

The CRPD provides the following definitions for these terms:

“Reasonable accommodation means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;"

“Universal design means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.  Universal design shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed."

CTA Consults with CCD

On 13 November 2013, Pat Danforth was consulted by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) about how the Agency discharges its mandate.  CCD shared recommendations that would make it easier for community members to have complaints resolved.

CCD Participated in ILC AGM

On 1 November 2013, Laurie Beachell was a guest speaker at Independent Living Canada's Annual General Meeting which was held in Ottawa, Ontario.  Laurie outlined the challenges facing organizations that have been funded by the Social Development Partnerships Program and elaborated some future steps that ILC and CCD could take together to strengthen the voice of people with disabilities in Canada.

Opening Minds

On 18 November 2013 in Ottawa, CRPD Project Manager Vangelis Nikias attended the Mental Health Commission of Canada's launch of its interim report, Opening Minds. 

A Panel of Experts (Heather Stuart (Queen’s University), Senior Consultant and Youth Project, Scott Patten (University of Calgary), Healthcare Provider Project, Keith Dobson (University of Calgary), Workplace Project, and Rob Whitley (McGill University), Media Monitoring Project) also made presentations.

There are many sections of the CRPD which relate to the work of the Mental Health Commission.  For example, Article 8 of the CPRD focuses on awareness raising. 

Vangelis attends events like "Opening Minds" to acquaint Canadians in a wide variety of sectors about how the CRPD relates to their work.  If you would like Vangelis to participate an event that you are planning, please send him an email (

International Development

Vangelis Nikias, CRPD Project Manager, attended the CCIC Annual Policy Conference, which had as its theme - "Canadian Leadership for a Better World".  The goal of the conference was to develop consensus around a policy agenda for international cooperation for 2015 and beyond.  CCIC held the conference to kick-start a process to do the following:

  • Articulate the Canadian international development community’s vision for a “better world” and what is required from all development actors to promote Canadian leadership towards this goal;
  • Situate the discussion about international development within a broader conversation around leadership for Canadian foreign policy;
  • Develop a political and public engagement strategy for the sector, and a corresponding plan of action, for promoting Canadian leadership for a better world in the lead up to 2015.

Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addresses international cooperation.  This article sets out the following measures that signatories to the CRPD could undertake:

  1. Ensuring that international cooperation, including international development programmes, is inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities;
  2. Facilitating and supporting capacity-building, including through the exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practices;
  3. Facilitating cooperation in research and access to scientific and technical knowledge;
  4. Providing, as appropriate, technical and economic assistance, including by facilitating access to and sharing of accessible and assistive technologies, and through the transfer of technologies.

Vangelis attended to share his knowledge about the CRPD with Canada's development community.

CCD Executive Committee

The CCD Executive Committee met by conference call on 20 November 2013.  During the meeting, the Committee discussed diversifying CCD's funding, the Carter case, the Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship project, fund raising for people with disabilities affected by the disaster in the Philippines, working with Elections Canada to make the electoral process more accessible and planning for the Annual General Meeting.

New Developments


CCD has received funding from Employment and Skills Development Canada to enhance its funding base.

CCD Council Member Dr. Gregor Wolbring Awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

CCD congratulates  Gregor for having received this well-deserved honour!

NNMH Launches New Website

On 29 October 2013, CCD member group, National Network for Mental Health (NNMH) showcased it new website.  Some exciting new features are: a new design and navigation structure, survey questions of the week, consumers' fourm, blogs, and more.  Congratulations to Julie Flatt and her team at NNMH for a great new presence on the web!


Neil Squire Society Researching Banking and Payment Needs of Persons with Disabilities

The Neil Squire Society would like to gain a greater understanding of the way people with disabilities handle their everyday banking and payment needs. As part of this project they are seeking people with different disabilities who are willing to complete a short survey about the barriers they face when doing their banking and paying for items and services.

For more information about the Neil Squire Society survey please visit .


Toujours Vivant/Not Dead Yet Speaks Out About Murder-Suicide Case


The media interviewed Amy Hasbrouck with regard to the murder-suicide case involving, Mohammed Walji, Shyroz Walji and 21-year-old Qyzra Walji, who was a young woman with a disability.  Amy wrote the following commentary about the case.

Listening to Qyzra

By Amy Hasbrouck

The reporter asked if I’d heard about the situation there in London, Ontario.

No, I hadn’t.  A family – parents and an adult daughter with physical and communication disabilities – had been found dead October 31 in an apparent murder suicide.

Stalling for time to compose myself and offer a coherent reaction, I explained that many people with disabilities feel a connection to each other through the shared experience of discrimination and devaluation.  I said that when one of us is killed, that connection feels more intense and painful.

“Not knowing the circumstances, I can’t comment on what happened.”  But living as a disabled person and being a disability rights activist, one learns a few things.

To explain the prevalence of negative attitudes about disability, I showed him how to do a Google instant opinion survey.

“Open a Google search window.  Type in the incomplete phrase ‘disabled people are…’ and Google…” there was a slight catch in his breath.  He found it. “…provide some unpleasant options.”

Disabled people are “disgusting, annoying, scroungers, useless.”

I described my study called Misplaced Mercy, on prosecution and sentencing of parents who kill their disabled children.  The study showed that parents who killed disabled children received more lenient treatment by the criminal justice system than when the child was not disabled.

I talked about the reasons parents give for killing their disabled kids – “mercy” killing, fear of letting their child go, stress (even when they reject proffered help), shattered expectations, and how the people in the criminal justice system – police, coroners, district attorneys, judges, juries – shift their sympathy from the disabled person to the perpetrator.

When the phone call was over, I looked for more information about the young disabled woman – Qyzra Waljia – who was killed.  I didn’t want her life to get lost in the media stampede of conjecture, like Tracy Latimer.

Unlike Tracy, Qyzra Waljia grew up in the internet era, and left some electronic footprints that were easy to trace.  An article in Girls Life magazine when she was 13, another article in the London Free Press newspaper three years ago, a facebook page, information on workshops on using Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) that she led.  Qyzra said she was just like any other person.

But from her words and the way others described her, Qyzra showed herself to be a vibrant, compelling person.

In the Girls Life article, Qyzra said:

“When I moved to Canada and got a wheelchair, I truly understood how different I was from other kids. I was happy to be mobile, but it made it so much more obvious. Most kids are very nice, but there are always some who say mean things like, "Oh, look at that big girl drooling!" (another thing I can't control). Maybe they think I don't understand, but I do and it crushes me.

“Even though my life can be pretty hard at times, I hate it when people say, ‘Poor little girl!’ It makes me feel down. What helps is when people encourage me, such as when I do my homework well and they say, ‘Wow, you did such a good job!’ That gives me courage to do more. Between my parents, the day camp staff and people at our church, I get a lot of encouragement. Then, there are my friends – some ‘normal’ and some with special needs. I love hanging with them. We flip through magazines together – my favorite thing to do – for hours, and they do my hair and makeup.

“My mind works quickly, and I want to communicate as fast as I'm thinking but can't. I'm challenged physically, not mentally, but most people don't get that. They assume I'm mentally impaired, but I'm not. That's hard.

“At times I think, ‘I'm 13, and this is so unfair!’ When I feel that way, I don't want to do anything. I pull myself out of the mood by watching a funny movie. Once I laugh, I'm OK.

“Most frustrating, though, is having everything done for me. I have to be fed, bathed, dressed and changed every day.  Imagine your mom changing you like a baby. It's not fun. But my parents are amazing, so I deal … and try to keep my spirits up.

“Helping other kids with hardships really makes me happy. When Hurricane Katrina hit, I had my father send cans of food. I hate seeing anyone suffer. I'd love to be a mentor to kids with special needs. I want to set an example for them, and that's very motivating to me, especially when I feel down.”

Qyzra already knew how words and attitudes can crush; I thought about the role that beliefs about her disability played in her life and death; moving from Tanzania, living in Canada, dying in Canada.  Which led back to the link between the treatment of parents who kill their disabled children, and the current push for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Mercy killing, Tracy Latimer, “Poor little girl”.

Qyzra saw how the toxic effects of pity could bring her down, learned that pity is a poisonous lie.  She figured out a way to survive, to fight back, with humour, with generosity, with family and friends.

With all the Qyzra went through to live, only to have her life stolen, it feels somehow obscene for other people to throw their lives away through assisted suicide or euthanasia.  If a young girl can figure out how to deal with her disability, insults from other kids, barriers to getting around, learning and having a social life, and make it through adolescence, it seems like a grown-up, with a lifetime of knowledge and experiences at their disposal, should be able to profit from life while they still have it.

EPC Conference

April D'Aubin, CCD Research Analyst, attended the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) Conference in Toronto, 8-9 November 2013.  The conference provided an opportunity to learn from some key leaders in the international campaign to prevent the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Shortly after the conference, EPC Europe was launched in Brussels.  The following link shares a short video from the launch.