Chairperson's Update - October 2015

CCD Applauds Cabinet Appointments for Kent Hehr and Carla Qualtrough

Prime Minister Trudeau pledged that his Cabinet would be more reflective of Canadian society.  The Hon. Kent Hehr and the Hon. Carla Qualtrough, both people with disabilities, are now at the Cabinet table, where they will have the opportunity to contribute their experiential knowledge of barriers to full and equal participation for Canadians with disabilities as public policy is created.

Mr. Hehr is Canada's new Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.  Ms Qualtrough is the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

Mr. Hehr is a former chairperson the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), a CCD member organization.  This is the first time a past-chairperson of a national Canadian disability rights organization has been appointed to the Federal Cabinet.

Congratulations, Minister Hehr and Minister Qualtrough!

You and Your MP

On election night, a record number of new MPs were elected from all parties. Now it’s time to get to know your new MP and to urge action on the issues CCD and other disability organizations raised during the election campaign.

The work done in between elections will be crucial in achieving the change Canadians voted for on October 19.

Monitoring Liberal Government's Disability Agenda

At, you will find a citizen initiative promising to track progress on the Liberal Party's election promises.  While the Trudeaumetre website is silent on the Liberal's commitments on disability issues, CCD's volunteers will be focusing their attention on the new government's disability agenda.  During the election, the Liberal Party wrote to CCD and promised to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), stating, "The Liberal Party of Canada pledges to fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and take substantive action to address the barriers faced by Canadians with disabilities."  A National Disabilities Act, another commitment of the Liberal Party, could be a way to implement the CRPD.  Whatever the method, CRPD implementation needs to be a collaborative undertaking involving Federal/Provincial/Territorial and First Nations governments and the representative organizations of people with disabilities.

Real Change, the Liberal Platform, included commitments of interest to the disability community, such as investment in employment and training, infrastructure, homecare and an exploration of online voting.  CCD will monitor these and other commitments for compliance with the principles of access and inclusion.

Refundable Disability Tax Credit Campaign Continues

We know that we have asked a lot of you recently, but we are going to ask you to do more:  Communicate your support for a Refundable Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to Justin Trudeau, Canada's new Prime Minister.  You can do this by visiting the website #DTCforall and signing the petition.  A refundable DTC would provide money to Canadians with disabilities living on the lowest incomes for disability-related supports and other necessities.

The current non-refundable DTC does not benefit people with disabilities who do not have a taxable income.  For about 750,000 people with disabilities - the DTC is of no assistance because they are not earning enough money to benefit from tax credits.

During the Federal Election campaign, which drew to a conclusion on 19 October 2015 with the election of a Liberal Government, CCD sought support from all federal political parties for a number of policies geared to promote access, inclusion and participation for Canadians with disabilities.  Chief among these measures was the refundable Disability Tax Credit, a first step toward alleviating disability poverty.

As poverty alleviation was a key commitment of the Liberal Party, we are hoping to increase the momentum behind the #DTCforall campaign to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are not ignored when the Liberals craft their tax and poverty reduction measures.

CCD Appears Before External Panel for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada

On 29 October 2015 in Winnipeg, Rhonda Wiebe, Co-Chairperson of CCD's Ending of Life Ethics Committee (EOLEC), Jim Derksen, EOLEC member, and James Hicks, CCD National Coordinator, met with the External Panel for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada.  Earlier in the month, CCD submitted a brief to the Panel.  This Update summarizes considerations CCD brought to the Experts Panel.

In response to the Supreme Court of Canada's (SCC) ruling in the Carter case, the Harper Government appointed the External Panel.  The Panel consists of Catherine Frazee, Dr. Harvey Chochinov and Benoît Pelletier, who are collecting input from Canadians about assisted suicide.

In Carter, the SCC found that the sections of the Criminal Code prohibiting assisted suicide were unconstitutional because they prevented competent and consenting adults, with grievous and irremediable medical conditions that cause enduring suffering, from obtaining a physician-assisted suicide.

CCD and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) co-intervened in the Carter case, presenting disability rights arguments against assisted suicide.  There were over 20 interveners representing a variety of views and communities – religious, legal, medical, disability and pro and con assisted suicide.

Regardless of the SCC decision, CCD continues to be opposed to doctor-assisted suicide because it discriminates against people with disabilities who are steered away from suicide prevention and assisted to die.

The Expert Panel is hearing from Canadians about:

  • Assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia;
  • Eligibility criteria and definitions of key terms;
  • Risks to individuals and society; and
  • Safeguards to address risks and procedures for assessing requests for assisted suicide.

The Panel will submit a final report to the Ministers of Justice and Health in the Fall of 2015.

Assisted Suicide Not Euthanasia - CCD recommended that Canada's new legislation only addresses physician-assisted suicide and not euthanasia.

Eligibility Criteria and Definitions - CCD explained that, in and of itself, disability is not a grievous and irremediable condition, thus the presence of disability should not be a criterion for doctor-assisted suicide.

CCD proposed that assisted suicide be limited to competent adults who have a medical diagnosis of an irremediable condition likely to cause death within one month and who have access to high quality disability-related health supports, including palliative care.

CCD urged the drafters of the legislation to take special care when defining the following terms: physician-assisted death, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, grievous and irremediable condition, intolerable and suffering.

Risks to Individuals – The starting point for CCD is that people with disabilities are at a greater risk than others of being made vulnerable to inducement to accept an assisted suicide and that conditions such as poverty, isolation, discrimination, gender, age, devaluation and lack of disability-related supports are critically important to determining if a person may be vulnerable to inducement.  When discussing risks, Rhonda Wiebe employed an intersectional analysis, explaining that women with disabilities, people with intellectual disabilities, people with lived experience of mental illness and survivors of trauma are at greater risk of being made vulnerable because they are more likely to experience violence and coercion.

Risks to Society - CCD explained that legalized assisted suicide sends a negative message about the value and status of people with disabilities.

Safeguards and Procedures - CCD called for assisted suicide legislation to establish an independent administrative review panel that would adjudicate whether an individual meets the legislation's criteria for a physician-assisted suicide.  A particular focus of the review panel would be to ascertain whether a person requesting an assisted suicide is experiencing conditions that make him or her vulnerable to inducement to commit suicide and whether all alternative courses of action have been considered.  CCD also called for a monitoring system, annual public reports to Parliament and provincial/territorial legislatures and measures of redress in the event of wrongful physician-assisted suicides.

Uber and Accessibility

The folks at Uber have married old and new technology – smartphones and taxi service.  Smartphone users can use an app to hail a ride from an Uber driver.  Unlike traditional taxi service, Uber is unregulated at this time.  The disability community's experience with unregulated service is that a voluntary approach does not deliver robust accessibility.

CCD's Transportation Committee has been monitoring the response to Uber.  CCD is concerned because, to date, the conversation has focused on licencing, with little attention being focused on access and the human rights of persons with disabilities. 

The City of Ottawa has contracted KPMG to develop a report about Uber and a Private Members bill about Uber is being considered in Ontario.  Uber was a topic of conversation when representatives of CCD met with Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.  "This is becoming a national issue and could have implications right across the country. All that is being discussed is licensing and no attention to accessibility under human rights legislation," states Bob Brown, Co-Chair of CCD's Transportation Committee.