CCD Chairperson's Update - Highlights of June 2014 Council Meeting

UN Special Rapporteur Surprised by Canada's Performance on the CRPD

In Winnipeg, Manitoba on 6 June 2014, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national organization working for an accessible and inclusive Canada, held a meeting of its National Council of Representatives, which focused significant attention on readying the organization to begin the work related to a future submission of a shadow report regarding the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Steve Estey, Chairperson of the CCD International Committee, facilitated the National Council's deliberations on the CRPD.  Mr. Shuaib Chalklen, UN Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, assisted CCD in its deliberations.  Vangelis Nikias, CRPD Project Manager, participated to provide technical advice on the Convention.

Earlier in the year, Canada published the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities First Report of Canada.  Canada ratified the CRPD in 2010.  Two years following ratification, a country is obliged to submit a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Canada's report includes information from Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The UN CRPD Committee will review Canada's report then issue questions and comments regarding Canada's progress on the human rights of persons with disabilities.

Through shadow reports, civil society organizations have the opportunity to bring information beyond what is in a government's report to the attention of the CRPD Committee.  Typically, in shadow reports, community groups address silences in a country report and clarify misleading information.  CCD is looking forward to the shadow report phase of its ongoing work on the CRPD.

CCD asked its member groups to review Canada's report and address the following questions:

  • Do you find any major inaccuracies in what your government has said?
  • Are there any major omissions? (I.e. information that you would have expected to see in the report but did not)
  • Does the report ignore or violate the spirit of the CRPD?

In summary, the answer to these questions is that Canada's report by no means tells the whole truth, regarding the human rights story of Canadians with disabilities.  The lived experience of people with disabilities was absent from the report.  Through shadow reporting issues deemed important by community members can be put before the UN Committee.

While Canada ratified the CRPD, it has not yet ratified the Convention's Optional Protocol, which would allow Canadians with disabilities who have experienced human rights violations to take their concerns to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Optional Protocol establishes two additional mandates for the Committee:

  1. The receipt and examination of communications from individuals or groups about rights violations and
  2. The undertaking of inquiries in the case of reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of the Convention.

During his presentation to Council, Special Rapporteur Chalklen, provided an overview of the situation of people with disabilities globally and how the UN has been responding to the disability community.  He also commented on Canada's progress on disability rights.  "I was surprised to hear yesterday that Canada did not ratify the optional protocol to the Convention.  I'm really surprised by that.  I'm very disappointed by that and that you have a reservation on Article 12 as well, stated Chalklen.  "That's disappointing.  I hope it changes in future that Canada withdraws the reservation on Article 12 and that they ratify the optional protocol, because that disempowers you considerably on two major achievements on a global level."

The UN Special Rapporteur is mandated to interface among Governments, the UN system and organizations of people with disabilities, to advance the disability agenda in the following areas:

  • Raising awareness of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other UN frameworks;
  • Promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in development programs;
  • Promoting inclusive international cooperation;
  • Collaborating with stakeholders, including organizations of persons with disabilities.

Following the Council meeting, Steve Estey, Chairperson of the CCD International Committee, travelled to New York to participate in the 7th UN Conference of States Parties.  The thematic discussions for this session were: incorporating the CRPD provisions into the post-2015 development agenda; youth with disabilities; and national implementation and monitoring.