CCD Chairperson's Update - February 2014

Some of our provincial member groups are celebrating their 40th anniversary.  This year, the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities and the PEI Council of People with Disabilities hit the big 40!  In 2013, Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities and the Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities passed this milestone.  So, it is time to celebrate, reflect on our roots and consider our future.

In the 1970s, the founders of the Canadian disability rights movement, organized groups at the national and provincial levels that would devote themselves to changing laws, policies and practices that disadvantage Canadians with disabilities.  To this day, we continue to pursue the vision of our founders: a Canada where people with disabilities have full enjoyment of human rights.  With diminished resources for this work, we acknowledge that not every important issue can be addressed with the same vigor and that progress on many fronts is frustratingly slow.  Despite the frustrations and the roadblocks, many accomplishments have been achieved, because people with disabilities continue to inform Canada's decision makers about how to undertake barrier removal.

We are not insignificant in numbers. The 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) reports that about 3.8 million people, or 13.7% of Canadians aged 15 and older, have a disability. Women (14.9%) report disability more often than men (12.5%).  When our organizations first began, there was no Canadian database on disability.  The CSD, along with its predecessors, exists because the disability community convinced the Government of Canada of the need for it and then played a role in its design.  For example, CCD participated on a technical advisory committee on data collection created by the Hon. Diane Finley, who was then Minister of HRSDC.  The information provided by the CSD to governments and researchers throughout Canada will play a significant role in creating an adequate supply of services and programs that will be used by Canadians with disabilities. 

Every inclusive measure that we work toward entails many small cumulative undertakings before our goal is achieved.  In these monthly updates, CCD reports on the incremental actions that we have been taking in support of our goal of an inclusive and accessible Canada.  In February, CCD took its human rights message to Elections Canada, Canada Post, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, post-secondary students, Canada's Senators and the general public through the media.  We also prepared for the future by holding discussions about new initiatives with member groups, other organizations and leaders in our sector. ~ Tony Dolan, Chairperson

CCD Signs Open Letter in Support of Bill C-279 (Gender Identity)

CCD endorsed an open letter to Canadian Senators, urging their support of Bill C-279, which will ensure equal protection under the law from discrimination and hatred based on gender identity.

The letter reads as follows:

Equal Rights for All

In Support of Bill C-279: An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity)

Dear Senators,

The following organizations, representing a broad cross section of civil society groups from across Canada, urge the Senate to pass Bill C-279, the Gender Identity Bill, as drafted and without delay, to ensure that the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Criminal Code protect the human rights of all people in Canada.

We recognize the violence and discrimination faced by the trans/transsexual/transgender/ intersex/two-spirit/gender variant (“trans”) community in Canada. In a recent nationwide survey, 74% of transgender youth reported experiencing verbal harassment in school, and 37% reported experiencing physical violence. Transgender individuals in Ontario face unemployment over three times the national rate and many more are underemployed. As a result of discrimination and bullying, the trans community faces high rates of mental health issues. Rates of depression are as high as two-thirds; 77% of transgender individuals in Ontario report having considered suicide, and 43% have attempted suicide at least once.

Given the extreme vulnerability to human rights abuse faced by trans people in Canada, Bill C-279 will help to prevent discrimination and ensure that those who commit hate crimes are held to account. By amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to include gender identity, the Bill will be an important step in ensuring that trans people have access to the justice and equality for which Canada is internationally-renowned and for Canada to meet its international human rights obligations.

We support Senator Nolin’s statement that, “if discrimination based on the gender identity of some prevents them from having an opportunity equal to that of other individuals to make for themselves the life that they are able and wish to have, to the extent of being a source of prejudice and causing a strike against the human dignity of those individuals, such discrimination must become prohibited and in so doing guarantee the equality of rights pledged for all by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” And we stand with Senator Mitchell’s statement that, “these are individuals… They are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers and they are Canadians and they are our neighbours...[We can respond] by taking a step to change the lives of these important Canadians who have been discriminated against psychologically and brutalised violently all too often. We can stand up and do the right thing.”

We call on the Senate of Canada to pass Bill C-279 to help fully protect the human rights of all people in Canada.

519 Church Street Community Centre, Action Canada for Population and Development , Action positive VIH/sida, Affirm United, AIDS Committee of Newfoundland & Labrador, AIDS Committee of Simcoe County, AIDS Community Care Montreal, Amnesty International Canada, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, British Columbia Services and Employee's Union, Canadian AIDS Society, Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange, Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Canadian Association of Social Workers, Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, Canadian Federation of University Women, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Treatment Action Council, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Women's Foundation, Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation, Capital Pride, Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health, CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network, Communities Addressing Suicide Together , Congregation Shir Libeynu, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, CUPE Pink Triangle Committee, Dragonstone Counselling, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, First United Church, Ottawa, Gender Mosaic, Global Network of People Living with HIV North America, Greenpeace Canada, HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario, HIV/AIDS Regional Services, Independent Jewish Voices – Canada, Institute for International Women's Rights - Manitoba

Canada's First Report: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

This month, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments made public Canada's First Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will review this report to determine Canada's level of compliance with its obligations under the CRPD.  In March 2010, Canada ratified the CRPD, thus committing to protecting, promoting and advancing the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Following the report's release, the Canadian Press interviewed Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, and he took Canada to task for not naming an independent body, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, to monitor Canada's implementation of the CRPD.

The Metro, which carried the Canadian Press article, reported,

"He [Beachell] also chastised the government for failing to adhere to Article 33 of the UN convention on disabled people that requires Canada to designate an independent monitoring mechanism to “promote, protect and monitor” the implementation of the convention.

The report states that Canada “implements this article at both the federal and provincial/territorial levels through a variety of mechanisms such as courts, human rights commissions and tribunals, public guardians, ombudspersons and intergovernmental bodies.”

Other countries, including the U.K., Germany, France, New Zealand and Australia, have designated their national human rights bodies as their independent monitoring agency, but Canada has failed to appoint the Canadian Human Rights Commission to the role.

“This convention was the first to require the naming of a monitoring body, and the government has chosen not to do so, it’s chosen not to name the Human Rights Commission or another body,” Beachell said." Read more.  

On 20 February 2014, David Langtry, the Acting Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, commented on Canada's report, "The Canadian Human Rights Commission recognizes and commends the federal, provincial and territorial governments of Canada for the multitude of initiatives, programs and policies designed to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canadian society, as enumerated in Canada’s First Report under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)." He also announced that the Canadian Human Rights Commission will be preparing its own shadow report, commenting on Canada's international obligations to persons with disabilities.

Nongovernmental organizations submit shadow reports to UN treaty monitoring bodies to draw attention to issues overlooked by their government or to provide clarification on matters presented in their government's report.  Community members interested in shadow reports may want to examine, as an example, For Independent Living, Equal Rights, Accessibility, and Inclusion, a civil society report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2013 by the  BRK-Allianz, which is an alliance of German non-governmental organizations regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  CCD's International Committee has been monitoring how our counterparts in other countries have been developing shadow reports.

Since the report's release, CCD has been studying its contents and will begin to develop a plan regarding a formal response to Canada's report.  Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments spent approximately four years in the preparation of this report.  Likewise, CCD will take the time necessary to develop a substantive analysis of Canada's First Report, which will serve as a baseline for the development of future reports.  The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will expect Canada to report every four years.

Raising Awareness of the CRPD among Post Secondary Students

On 6 February 2014, Vangelis Nikias, CRPD Project Manager, participated in a panel discussion at Humber College that was held for a class studying human rights and development.  The students also heard from community members Yin Brown and Penny Parnes, and Caroline Abbott, Christian Blind Mission Canada.  In addition to Vangelis's comments about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the students also heard about the Marakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The CRPD promotes access to information by people with disabilities. 

CCD Explains the Cross-Sectional Provisions of the CRPD

February is Black History month.  On Feb. 26, CCD's Vangelis provided an overview of CRPD to ERDCO (Ethno-Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario).  Vangelis emphasized cross-sectional provisions, which touch on multiple grounds of discrimination and are of particular relevance to people with disabilities sharing other minority statuses.

Accessible Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) a Venue for a JUNOs Week Celebration

As part of the activities leading up the JUNO awards, a reception will be held at the CMHR on 28 March 2014.  Representatives from the Canadian music industry attending this event will be among the first to enjoy the iconic CMHR building, which, through the influence of the Canadians disability community, has adopted the principles of universal design and promises to be one of the most accessible museums in Canada.

On 6 February 2014, the CMHR checked in with its Inclusive Design Advisory Council.  Jim Derksen, a member of CCD's Human Rights Committee, John Rae, the Co-chair of CCD's Access to Technology Committee and Laurie Beachell, CCD's National Coordinator, participated in the meeting.

Update on Canada Post

Following the meeting that CCD had with Canada Post, Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra wrote to CCD.  "You have provided some thoughtful input and suggestions… We look forward to working with you on potential solutions," stated Mr. Chopra. 

CCD Council member Carlos Sosa is keeping the issue before the media.  On 20 February 2014, Canada Post announced the communities where it would end door-to-door service and introduce community mailboxes.  Carlos was interviewed by both CTV and CBC about the impact of this change on people with disabilities.

Elections Canada Advisory Committee

CCD National Coordinator Laurie Beachell has been named to a new advisory panel at Elections Canada.  Since the Hughes case, CCD has been working with Elections Canada to improve access to the electoral process. 

Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship – CURA Project Moving Forward

The project's principal researchers, Yvonne Peters and Michael Prince met to fine tune the synthesis paper being prepared by Michael.  The paper will describe the main policy recommendations that are the outcomes of the research to date. 

Helping Chart Future Directions

On 1 February 2014, Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, participated in a membership meeting called by the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD), where members were invited share their views on how the organization should manage its short, medium and long term activities in the face of dwindling revenues from the federal government.  Laurie has also been assisting the League address leasing issues. 

Directing New Activities

On 21 February 2014, the CCD Council of Representatives held a meeting by conference call.  The following issues were addressed by the Council: fundraising, a joint project on future collaboration with Independent Living Canada, and the Annual General Meeting.

The Budget of Canada and People with Disabilities

In the 2014 Budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took aim at the high level of unemployment of people with intellectual disabilities and provided $15 million over three years to the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) for their Ready, Willing and Able initiative, an important new jobs strategy.  CCD applauded both the Government of Canada and CACL on this initiative which will see more people with intellectual disabilities join the ranks of the employed. "Increasing the diversity of Canada's workforce will benefit both employers and employees through the addition of new talents," stated Tony Dolan, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).

Congratulations CCB!

The Canadian Council of the Blind is marking its 70th year in operation and, on 6 February 2014,  Vangelis Nikias, CCD's CRPD Project Manager, attended the CCB celebration, the organization's Annual White Cane Dinner.  At the dinner, attended by approximately 100 people, CCB presented the 2014 White Cane Person of the Year Award and the 2014 President's Award.  CCB Patron, the Hon. David C. Onley, the Lieutenant Government of Ontario was a special guest at the dinner, as was Mr. Quanzhou Chen, Chairman, CiHang Group. 

Preparing to Undertaken Public Education about the RDSP

Laurie Beachell and representatives from the PEI Council of People with Disabilities and the Saskatchewan Voice of Persons with Disabilities have been participating some "train the trainers" sessions held by Employment and Skills Development Canada (formerly Human Resources and Skills Development Canada), to prepare us to increase public awareness of the Registered Disability Savings Plan.


Motion M-430 – Strengthening Employment for Canadians with Disabilities

In a previous Update, CCD shared information about Brant MP Phil McColeman’s Private Member`s Motion M-430 – Strengthening Employment for Canadians with Disabilities.  On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, the House of Commons gave its unanimous support to M-430, passing with the support of all parties by a margin of 292 -0.

“Phil McColeman deserves a great deal of credit for his hard work and commitment to improving job opportunities for Canadians living with disabilities,” said the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada.  “His advocacy and his Private Members Motion has helped bring the very real opportunities that exist for Canadians with disabilities to participate in the workforce into the national spotlight.  That is why Budget 2014 responds directly to the proposals in his Motion and delivers innovative new initiatives to help persons with disabilities gain meaningful employment.”

“My Private Members Motion called for concrete steps to help create job opportunities for the over 800,000 Canadians living with disabilities who are ready, willing and able to enter the workforce and it is wonderful that all parties have provided their unanimous support,” said Brant MP Phil McColeman. “It has been exciting to witness the recent momentum building in Ottawa in support of persons with disabilities and their inclusion into Canada’s labour market, and it is terrific to see Minister Kenney’s strong commitment to these issues.”

M-430 called for additional initiatives to improve the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities, including a new focus on young people with disabilities through programs like the Youth Employment Strategy, improvements to Labour Market Agreements for People with Disabilities, and with new approaches to ensure that government programs are adaptable, flexible and able to capitalize on innovative strategies happening at the community level across Canada.

McColeman’s Motion also issued a call to action in the private sector where the Panel found that real leadership is imperative to break down barriers, build accessible workplaces and eliminate myths and stigmas that are often associated with hiring people with disabilities. One of the main impediments to participation is lack of awareness on the part of employers.

NEADS Accepting Applications for National Student Awards and Holly Bartlett Memorial Award: Deadline April 15, 2014

The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) is now accepting applications for the NEADS National Student Awards Program and the Holly Bartlett Memorial Award. These awards are offered to encourage full access to post-secondary education for persons with disabilities enrolled in undergraduate, graduate or professional degree programs at recognized Canadian universities, or in certified diploma programs at Canadian colleges. Six outstanding applicants, who meet the criteria of the Student Awards Program, will be receiving an award in the amount of $3,000 to support the costs of their tuition and student fees. One deserving applicant will receive the Holly Bartlett Memorial Award in the amount of $1,000.

Funding for the NEADS Student Awards is provided this year by Scotiabank (1), Imperial Oil (3), Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services (1) and private donors. "We are very proud of the NEADS Student Awards Program, and our 62 recipients over its first seven years," said Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, NEADS' Senior Advisor and the director of the student awards program.

"This program is the first of its kind in Canada, and was created to recognize overall excellence among students with disabilities in all aspects of post-secondary education. Our winners to date all embody the very best qualities of academic and community involvement. We hope that the program continues to grow, and we look forward to this year's crop of outstanding applicants."

"Holly Bartlett was loved by all who knew her", said Frank Smith, NEADS' National Coordinator.  "It was my privilege and pleasure to work with Holly while she served on our Board of Directors. Holly's accomplishments, in a life that was way too short, were phenomenal. We believe that the Holly Bartlett Memorial Award is a fitting tribute because it will help other students with disabilities realize success in post-secondary education. This is the fourth year for the Award in Holly's memory." NEADS has given out 3 Holly Bartlett Awards since the inception of this program.

For more information, please contact the NEADS office: National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), Rm. 426 Unicentre, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, tel. (613) 380-8065, or go directly to our NEADS Student Awards/Holly Bartlett Memorial Award website.

EPC Registers a Win in BC Court

This month, Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), informed CCD that EPC had "won a tremendous victory … in the Bentley case. The Bentley case sought to define oral feeding as health care in order to withdraw feeding from Margaret Bentley. EPC intervened in the Bentley case. We argued that oral feeding does not constitute health care, but rather basic care and withdrawing it constituted neglect under the law. The BC court agreed that oral feeding does not constitute health care but rather basic personal care and the withdrawal of oral hydration and nutrition for an adult that is not capable of consenting constitutes neglect under the law."

COD-NL's Scholarship Program

The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – Newfoundland and Labrador (COD-NL), in partnership with Scotiabank and Husky Energy, will provide three scholarships to high school students with a disability who will be entering post-secondary in September 2014. Application forms may be obtained from: Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – Newfoundland and Labrador Telephone: (709) 722-7011. Fax: (709) 738-0071, Email:  Read more