Chairperson's Update June 2023

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) 47th Annual General Meeting

Election Results

CCD held its Annual General Meeting on June 14.  The following were elected to the CCD Executive Committee:

  • 1st Vice Chair: Ingrid Palmer,
  • Secretary: Ian Young,
  • Member-at-Large: Fran Odette.

About the Elected Members

Ingrid Palmer is the CEO and founder of Focus On Ability, an organization committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion as well as to share stories and narratives from a marginalized, intersectional lens that spotlights triumph, resilience, and strength.

As a partially sighted Black woman, former Crown Ward in the Ontario child welfare system, and GBV survivor, Ingrid proudly represents the racialized, intersectional, gender diverse populations with disabilities in Toronto.

She has and continues to advocate for persons with disabilities in child protection, in education, in housing, and poverty sectors for over 10 years.

Ingrid conducts anti-ableism training, participated in the creation of training modules for service providers on supporting children with disabilities, speaks on panels to raise awareness of parents with disabilities, presents to government bodies on the gaps in accessible housing, decent work, as well as created alongside a team of persons with disabilities, media content promoting the joy, value, and power of the disability community. Ingrid has worked with Local, Provincial, and Federal Governments to bring forward the voices of many in the disability community.

Ian Young is currently based in Edmonton, Alberta. He spent two terms as a board member of The Voice of Albertans with Disabilities, and another year as an advisor, and he continues to support, collaborate, and communicate with VAD.

He has been involved with CCD for 11 years, as an Albertan representative and then as a Member-at-Large.

Human rights are Ian’s passion and he is a certified Human Rights Facilitator. He completed 4 years of Humanities 101 through the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia.

Fran Odette - For over 25 years, Fran Odette has dedicated herself to social justice and equity, with a particular focus on issues affecting women with disabilities and Deaf women.

As Program Manager at Springtide Resources, Fran collaborated with Cory Silverberg to create and implement the Sexuality and Access Project, an initiative that provides information and workshops aimed at promoting violence prevention through healthy sexuality and sex-positive programming.

Fran's own lived experience and commitment to advocating for self-determination and agency for individuals with disabilities informs her work, which involves working closely with service providers, including healthcare practitioners who serve marginalized communities, to ensure that programs reflect a human rights perspective that emphasizes respect and dignity.

She has delivered workshops on social justice, disability, and inclusion to audiences across the province and the country. Fran also teaches a course on critical disability studies in the Assaulted Women and Children's Counsellor and Advocate Program, the Social Service Worker Program, and the Liberal Arts and Sciences Division.

Fran has co-authored articles on gender, disability, and access to equitable health services and, with Cory Silverberg and Dr. Miriam Kaufman, authored a book titled "The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability – For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness" (Cleis Press).

Making Room for Change

CCD has now approved our 3 year plan, centering our energy in human rights and disability justice work. To that end, we have adopted the theme "Making Room for Change" which reflects the current disability social justice movement’s, strategic direction of inclusion, intersectionality and solidarity.

We were honoured to host two incredible speakers at our AGM:  Kasari Govender and Raji Mangat.  Both speakers are powerful change makers in Canada today.

About our Speakers

Kasari Govender took office as B.C.’s first independent Human Rights Commissioner on September 3, 2019. Her role is to lead the promotion and protection of human rights in British Columbia through the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. 

Kasari has devoted her life to promoting human rights, with a focus on the rights of those most marginalized and vulnerable. From 2008 until 2019, Kasari held leadership positions at West Coast LEAF, including as Executive Director from 2011. Earlier work includes pivotal roles in establishing the Rise Women’s Legal Centre, a non- profit legal clinic in British Columbia. 

Kasari earned her law degree from the University of Victoria and her Master’s Degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, U.K. She has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia and as an instructor at Simon Fraser University. In 2019, her work was recognized by the Women Lawyer’s Forum with their Award of Excellence. 

In addition to her role as Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari is a mother, an aunt, a daughter and a sister. 

At the core of Raji Mangat’s wide-ranging legal career is a commitment to using the law as a tool for positive transformation. Her recent work has focused on access to justice, the impact of detention on women, and family law.

Raji holds a law degree from the University of Victoria, a master’s degree in international affairs from Carleton University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from the University of British Columbia. After completing law school, Raji clerked for Justice Frank Iacobucci at the Supreme Court of Canada. She was called to the Ontario bar in 2004, to the New York State bar in 2005, and to the BC bar in 2011. She has practiced administrative and constitutional law since returning to the West Coast in 2012.

Raji serves on the boards of Health Justice and the Vancouver Public Library. Outside of work, Raji likes to make paper crafts, binge on Netflix, and meander along city streets in search of coffee.

The Road to 50

We are gearing up for our 50th anniversary.  In preparation for this milestone, we created an Elders Council which encouraged us to collect the stories that illustrate the history of our collective work to achieve access and inclusion. This month, Heather Walkus had a number of conversations with Catherine Frazee about the history of the disability rights movement in Canada.

Catherine Frazee is a professor emerita at Toronto Metropolitan University, where, prior to her retirement in 2010, she served as a professor of distinction and co-director of the Ryerson RBC Foundation Institute for Disability Studies Research and Education. She was also acted the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 1989 to 1992.

Catherine just published Dispatches from Disabled Country, which was published by UBC Press.


Intersectionality, Making Room for Change

CCD celebrated National AccessAbility Week by holding a webinar on Friday, June 2 from 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. ET.  : Intersectionality, Making Room for Change

National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) takes place every year starting on the last Sunday in May. It is a time when accessibility and inclusion are promoted across communities and workplaces and a time to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities. It is also an opportunity to recognize the efforts of Canadians who are actively removing barriers and ensuring persons with disabilities have an equal chance to participate in all aspects of Canadian society.

The webinar was part of project that the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, National Educational Association of Disabled Students and CCD are working on together.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) was founded in 1976. Our organization is a Council of members of provincial, territorial and national organizations run by people with disabilities and people who are Deaf and individuals from many communities that are many times pushed to the margins and not at the tables of influence and change or heard and as a result, continue to be systemically oppressed. We believe that working in solidarity as an intersectional, cross disability, social justice organization, is the only way to make change and ensure no one is pushed aside. The basis of our organization centres itself in human rights and disability justice work. We have a long history of successful precedent setting litigation of cases and as an intervener in cases that have greatly impacted advancing, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. 

At the webinar, Ben Akuoko (CCD Council member), Elliot Dewhirst (CCD Council Member), and Lisa Spencer (Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society (NDMS)) shared their perspectives on intersectionality. Heather Walkus moderated the webinar.

Dialogues on the Edge: Point of Entry

On June 27, 2023, on Multiculturalism Day, we were honoured to attend at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, “Dialogues on the Edge: Point of Entry”, a showcase of multidisciplinary performances sharing the stores of Indigenous, Black, refugee and Deaf people, and people with disabilities. Dr. Jenelle Rouse, who is part of the CCD Council, and two of her colleagues from Black Deaf Canada, performed interpretative dance which presented two important Black Deaf histories. Following the performance Michael Bach conducted a dialogue with the audience. 

Human Rights

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

Carly Fox, Chairperson of CCD’s International Committee, attended the Conference of States Parties to the UNCRPD as part of the Canadian delegation.

Federal/Provincial/Territorial Forum of Ministers on Human Rights (FMHR)

Heather Walkus, CCD Chairperson, attended the FMHR, which was co-hosted by the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia, on June 19-20, 2023, in Halifax.

The Forum of Ministers on Human Rights brings together FPT ministers to discuss matters related to implementation and monitoring of Canada’s international human rights obligations. Time was allocated for a discussion between civil society organizations, such as CCD, and FPT ministers.

In advance of the meeting, CCD, and other civil society organizations, sent a joint letter to the FMHR calling for the following, which of course will take more than one meeting to achieve:

  1. A new legal framework for international human rights implementation in Canada.
  2. Initiation of an engagement and consultation process for Canada’s 4th Universal Periodic Review.
  3. A genuine and meaningful role for the following groups and institutions in implementing international human rights in Canada: i) Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, including Indigenous women’s organizations, ii) Civil society groups, especially those working directly with marginalized and subordinated communities and groups, iii) Parliament and legislatures, iv) municipal governments, and v) Federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions and tribunals.
  4. Ensure that accountability and access to justice and effective remedies are the hallmarks of Canada’s approach, at all levels of government, to international human rights implementation.  Access to justice and effective remedies is critical for all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.


Regulating Small Air Carriers for Accessibility

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is beginning to work on regulating small air carriers for accessibility.  As part of this work, the CTA is investigating the environment in which small carriers operate.  The CTA invited Heather Walkus to join the team that visited Whitehorse and Dawson City. 

CTA Decision about Emotional Support Animals

On June 23, 2023, the CTA issued a final decision on Emotional Support Animals. It decided that The Agency determined that carriers are only required to accommodate dogs as ESAs, and only under specific conditions.
Persons with Disabilities would have to meet the following conditions for their Emotional Support Dog (ESD) to be accepted in the passenger cabin:

  • They must provide proof from a physician or medical health professional that they are being treated for a mental health disability and that they require an emotional support dog (ESD) to accommodate that disability;
  • They must submit, at least 96 hours in advance of travel, a veterinary certificate identifying the dog and the person with a disability, and confirming the dog's current vaccination and health status. If the timing for the veterinary certification has not otherwise been prescribed in the jurisdiction of the country, province, state or territory where the person travels to or from, the certificate must be dated within two months prior to the date of initial travel set out in the itinerary;
  • The ESD must fit comfortably in an appropriate animal carrier that must fit and be kept at the seat — or in the case of air travel, under the seat in front—of the person with a disability for the duration of the trip. The animal carrier must also meet the carrier’s conditions and restrictions for carriage of animal carriers in the cabin, and the ESD must remain in the carrier for the duration of its time in the passenger cabin; and,
  • They must demonstrate that the ESD meets all travel, entry or exit requirements of the country, province, state or territory they travel to or from, which includes providing all required documentation, as applicable.

Congratulations to Disability Without Poverty: Bill C-22 Passed into Law

We applaud everyone at Disability Without Poverty for all the hard work that went into the Canada Disability Benefit legislation. The leadership of Rabia Kehdr, Michelle Hewitt and the whole Disability Without Poverty team was tremendous. We look forward to working with you on the next chapter of the Canada Disability Benefit, where the mechanics of the Benefit will be developed.  Along with everyone in the disability community, it is our expectation that the Government of Canada will remain true to its commitment that the disability community will be meaningfully involved in this next stage.

Pan Canadian Disability Coalition’s Collective Impact Project

New Video Series Just Completed

Heather Walkus volunteered to be a member of the Steering Committee of the Collective Impact Project.  One of the outcomes of the project was the development of four videos, which focused on how to hold accessible meetings, court cases focused on disability issues which established important human rights principles, intersectionality and inclusion.