A Voice of Our Own: October 2006

Issue 24 No.4

Court Challenges Program and Other Programs Cut—On Tuesday, 26 September 2006, a variety of Canadian programs and groups learned that the Canadian Government would no longer fund them. Some programs affected are:

  • Youth Employment — $55.6 million. -Some youth employment agencies receive federal funding for part of their budgets.
  • Industrial Programs (i.e. Technology Partnerships Canada) — $42.2 million.
  • Medical Marijuana Research Program — $4 million.
  • Adult Learning and Literacy Skills Program — $17.7 million. Non-profit organizations use federal funding for development programs and research.
  • Court Challenges Program — $5.6 million. The Court Challenges Program of Canada provided funding to ordinary Canadians to undertake constitutional challenges against federal laws or programs.

Canadians with Disabilities Need the Court Challenges Program

For the past 30 years, people with disabilities have been striving to experience what is common place in the average Canadian family: attending the neighborhood school, getting a job and paying taxes, voting in elections, having children. Unfortunately, Canadian society still places barriers in the way of people with disabilities who want a good family life. Usually the discrimination against people with disabilities is not perpetrated maliciously. Rather, rules and practices have been put in place that do not take into account the real differences that exist between people with disabilities and people without disabilities. The Court Challenges Program empowered people with disabilities to appeal to the court, an independent third party, to have their voices heard and their rights considered when government laws and policies failed to take into account their needs and aspirations. By saying no to the Court Challenges Program, the Canadian Government is saying yes to continued discrimination against persons with disabilities.

As a result of court cases funded by the Court Challenges Program,

Deaf people can participate fully in Canadian society by requesting that a sign language interpreter be provided to enable them to communicate effectively with their government representatives.

People found not criminally responsible because of a mental disability are guaranteed a hearing to determine if institutionalization is necessary or if some other form of treatment would be more effective.

People with mental disabilities who reside in institutions have the opportunity to vote.

All Canadians should take pride in our political system, which up until Tuesday, was prepared to take a second look at how it treated people with disabilities and correct instances of unequal treatment.

By allowing unequal treatment to continue, Canada loses the productive contributions of people with disabilities. People with disabilities encourage the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program; because we need its help to challenge the barriers that keep us unemployed, out of school and collecting welfare checks when what we really want is to be working, raising families and contributing to our communities.

The Court Challenges Program-For years, the Court Challenges Program has funded various legal challenges against Canadian laws and programs that contravened Section 15 (Equality Rights) of the Charter. Immediately following the Government's announcement, the equality seeking community and the language community came together to provide the Canadian public and the Prime Minister information about the value of the Program to the community. A letter was developed by the community and shared with the Prime Minister. The letter, which was signed by close to 200 groups, including CCD, is as follows:

October 4, 2006

Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street, Ottawa,
K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister,

We write today to ask you to reinstate the Court Challenges Program. Only by reinstating the Program can you demonstrate that your government intends to respect the human rights of Canada's people.

The Canadian Constitution establishes important constitutional rights, including the rights of official language minority groups to education and government services in their primary language and the rights of everyone to equality before and under the law and to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. However, these rights are empty unless the individuals and groups they are designed to protect can exercise and enforce them.

Since the Charter was adopted 25 years ago, successive federal governments have recognized that they have a responsibility to ensure that disadvantaged minorities have funding to take Charter cases forward.

The Court Challenges Program, by providing modest contributions to the cost of important test cases dealing with language and equality rights, has made these constitutional rights accessible to Canadians. Without the Court Challenges Program, Canada's constitutional rights are real only for the wealthy. This is unfair. And it does not comply with the rule of law, which is a fundamental principle of our Constitution.

The Honourable John Baird has been quoted in the press as saying that it does not make sense "for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government's own laws in court." This statement implies that: 1) lawyers are the prime beneficiaries of the Program and 2) the government should not support challenges to its own laws. On both counts, deeper analysis is needed.

First, the beneficiaries of the CCP are individuals and groups who believe that laws and policies discriminate against them or deny them their language rights. They cannot go forward without lawyers to represent them, since constitutional challenges are legally complex. Secondly, when a country like Canada enacts constitutional rights it takes for granted that residents, when they believe the government is violating their rights, can and will challenge the offending law or policy. If residents cannot use their rights because of financial barriers, then Canada's constitutional democracy is hollow. Governments must care that the rights they embrace are not meaningless, and the CCP has provided a simple and modest way of ensuring that they are not. We should emphasize that what the CCP provides is far from universal access to the exercise of constitutional equality and language rights. The CCP provides only limited funds for selected test cases.

Critics of the CCP dislike some of the cases that it has supported: cases related to same sex marriage, voting rights for federal prisoners, criminal law provisions regarding hitting children. The fact that some individuals or groups do not agree with some of the test cases funded by the Program is not a reason to cancel it. No one among us is likely to agree with every single test case that appears. The point of a constitutional human rights regime is to ensure that diverse claims, perspectives and life experiences are respected and taken into account in the design of laws and policies. The equality guarantee and the language rights in the Constitution were designed to help minorities, whose views and needs may not be reflected by governments, to be heard on issues that affect them closely. Cancelling the Court Challenges Program mutes their voices further, and makes Canada a meaner, less tolerant society.

The Minister of Justice, the Honourable Vic Toews, has questioned the accountability of the Court Challenges Program. This is not a sustainable objection. The Court Challenges Program has an established track record as an effective and accountable institution that promotes access to justice. It provides quarterly reports on its activities to the government and publishes an annual report with statistics on the number and types of cases that it has funded. The annual reports are public documents and are available on the CCP's website: www.ccppcj.ca. It has been evaluated on three separate occasions by independent evaluators, most recently in 2003-2004, and received an extremely positive report each time.

The CCP is subject to some legal restrictions on disclosing information about cases that are before the courts. This information is protected by solicitor-client privilege and cannot be released by CCP, in the same way that legal aid organizations cannot divulge information about their clients. The CCP's responsibility to protect this information was affirmed by a Federal Court ruling in 2000 (L'Hirondelle v. The Queen).

In short, Prime Minister, criticisms of the Court Challenges Program are feeble, and the need for the Program is strong. It is disturbing that your Government, in a budget-cutting exercise, would take the step of cancelling this Program that is considered by many Canadians a cornerstone of our justice system.

Commitment to the protection of the Charter rights of disadvantaged individuals and groups is one of Canada's core values. Prime Minister, you recognized this commitment in the last election campaign, when you stated that if elected, a Conservative government would "articulate Canada's core values on the world stage," including "the rule of law", "human rights" and "compassion for the less fortunate."

In May, 2006, your Government appeared before a UN Committee in Geneva to defend its commitment to human rights in Canada, and described the Court Challenges Program as evidence of this commitment. Your Government wrote to the UN Committee: The Court Challenges Program (CCP) provides funding for test cases of national significance in order to clarify the understanding of the rights of official language minority communities and the equality rights of disadvantaged groups.

It is not possible for the government to support all court challenges, but this uniquely Canadian program has been successful in supporting a number of important court cases that have had direct impacts on the implementation of linguistic and equality rights in Canada. A recent evaluation found that there remain dimensions of the constitutional provisions currently covered by the CCP that still require clarification and the current program was extended to March 2009.

The cancellation of the Program stands in contradiction to the position that you and your Government have taken publicly on the Charter and human rights.

Finally, canceling the Program shows profound disrespect for the francophones who live in provinces outside of Quebec, the anglophones in Quebec, and for all Canadian residents who may need the protection of equality rights, including women, Aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, members of racialized minorities, immigrants, refugees, lesbians and gay men, children and seniors.

The laws of Canada are never perfect. Those who need to point out the imperfections in our laws, in order that they may live on an equal footing with others, deserve to be heard. By canceling the Court Challenges Program, your Government has indicated that they will not be and do not deserve to be.

Please reverse this decision and give us back a Canada that supports human rights.

Disability Related Cases Funded by the Court Challenges Program

The following are summaries of some disability-related cases funded by the Court Challenges Program:

R. v. Latimer, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 3

Robert Latimer was found guilty of murdering his severely disabled daughter. In 1997, Mr. Justice Noble granted Mr. Latimer a constitutional exemption from the mandatory minimum sentence of ten years incarceration for second-degree murder, on the grounds that, in Mr. Latimer's circumstances, this minimum was a cruel and unusual punishment that violated section 12 of the Charter. The judge sentenced Mr. Latimer to two years less a day, with one year to be served in a correctional facility and one year confined to his farm. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned this sentence, imposing the minimum ten-year sentence.

The Supreme Court of Canada considered the validity of the ten-year minimum sentence. Mr. Latimer argued that it was not constitutional because he was not permitted to avail himself of the defense of necessity and because the sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Groups representing persons with disabilities intervened in this case to argue that a reduced sentence would constitute a form of discrimination against persons with disabilities and would increase their vulnerability to physical harm.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the defense of necessity was not available to Mr. Latimer. The Court said that the trial judge was correct to remove the defense from the deliberations of the jury since there was no air of reality to such a defense in this case. Mr. Latimer did not himself face any peril, and his daughter's ongoing pain did not constitute an emergency.

The Court also found that the minimum sentence of ten years was not cruel and unusual punishment. Considered together, the personal characteristics of Mr. Latimer and the particular circumstances of this case did not displace the gravity of the crime of murder. The Court determined that the mandatory minimum sentence of ten years plays an important role in denouncing murder.

Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817

Many decisions affecting people in Canada are made by government officials who exercise considerable discretion. This judgment encourages the consideration of human rights values in such determinations.

This case involved a challenge by Ms Baker, a Jamaican-born woman, who worked illegally in Canada as a domestic worker for a number of years. After the birth of her fourth Canadian-born child, she suffered post-partum psychosis and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. After undergoing treatment at a mental health facility for one year, she applied for landed immigrant status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Her application was denied and she was ordered deported. The Immigration Officer noted that she would be a "tremendous strain" on the social welfare system for the rest of her life.

The Supreme Court of Canada stated at the outset that it was deciding this case in light of the duty of fairness and the principles of natural justice which govern public officials in their everyday dealings with the public. Nonetheless, the Court's approach provided an opportunity to address many of the equality considerations at play in the case. In reviewing the fairness of the decision-making process, the Court found that the immigration official showed an impermissible bias against single mothers and women with a psychiatric history. Additionally, at least in the immigration context, the Court found that officials whose exercise of discretion has a serious impact on the lives of the people involved, must make "reasonable" decisions which take into consideration the values expressed in domestic and international human rights. In Ms Baker's case this meant that when deciding whether she, as a mother, may remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, the Immigration Officer should have given very serious consideration to the impact of his decision on her children.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada was ordered to reconsider Ms Baker's application in light of this ruling. Ms Baker was granted permission to remain in Canada.

R. v. Mills, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 668

Mr. Mills, who was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, wanted to obtain records of visits she made to a counseling agency and a psychiatrist, for use in his court case. He did not want to follow the procedures for accessing these records which are imposed by Bill C-46, arguing that these sections of the Criminal Code violated his right to a fair criminal process. Bill C-46 sets out the process and the factors that a judge must use when an accused person goes to court to ask for a victim's private records. The provisions attempt to balance the accused person's right to know the case against him and make a full defence with the complainant's rights to privacy and equality. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench agreed with Mr. Mills that the provisions went too far in protecting victims' rights and declared Bill C-46 unconstitutional.

The victim, L.C., was permitted to appeal this ruling directly to the Supreme Court of Canada. Groups representing women, children, service providers and mental health consumers intervened in the case to explain why Bill C-46 is needed to protect the equality rights of sexual assault victims.

A majority of the Supreme Court of Canada found that the provisions of Bill C-46 do not interfere with an accused person's right to a fair criminal process under sections 7 and 11(d) of the Charter. The Court pointed out that the scope of these rights is not unlimited and must take into account the rights and interests of other people involved in the process, namely the survivors of sexual assault who must report the crime and testify in court. Sexual assault victims, who are primarily women and children, have historically been subject to bias and stereotype within sexual assault trials. The Court made it clear that equality is an integral component of the concepts of fairness and justice, particularly in the criminal law.

Owen Lloyd Swain v. Her Majesty the Queen, [1991] 1 S.C.R. 933

Swain was the first case to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the Charter rights of persons with disabilities. A coalition of three groups representing persons with disabilities was granted intervenor status.

This case challenged the constitutionality of the criminal law as it pertained to persons found "not guilty by reason of insanity." At issue in this case was: 1) whether the defense of insanity could be imposed on an accused against his or her wishes; and 2) whether a person found not guilty by reason of insanity should automatically be imprisoned in a psychiatric facility for an indefinite period of time.

The Court recognized that:"…for centuries persons with a mental disability have been systematically isolated, segregated from the mainstream of society, devalued, ridiculed, and excluded from ordinary social and political processes."

In light of important Charter values and the historical context of discriminatory treatment of disabled persons, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the common law rule permitting the Crown to present evidence of insanity contrary to the accused's wishes violated Charter rights. The Court also held that the requirement of automatic, indefinite confinement of accused persons who are acquitted by reason of insanity was not constitutionally valid.

To learn more about the efforts to have the Court Challenges Program re-instated go to www.savecourtchallenges.ca

CCD National Coordinator Appointed to Advisory Panel-During the summer, the Minister of Finance announced the establishment of a new advisory panel that will advise the Minister on ways to help parents save for the long-term financial security of a child with a severe disability and Laurie Beachell was appointed to this Panel. The panel will provide their findings and recommendations in a letter to the Minister of Finance.

The Terms of Reference are as follows:

The panel will examine a range of potential vehicles, assess their relative advantages and disadvantages, and recommend appropriate instruments that could be implemented. The panel will examine:

  • Existing ways for parents to save for a financially dependent child with a severe disability, and their adequacy.

  • Potential new savings vehicles including a tax-deferred and tax pre-paid savings plan.

  • The panel will consider the following issues in assessing the relative advantages and disadvantages of potential vehicles, and in developing its recommendations:

    • The relative effectiveness of proposed measures in promoting savings, rather than unintended uses such as income-splitting;

    • Appropriate eligibility requirements to ensure that any new vehicle is targeted to financially dependent children with a severe disability;

    • Other rules/parameters (e.g., limits, treatment of withdrawals/income for federal income and tax purposes, treatment on death);

    • Potential implications of new vehicles on an adult child's eligibility for provincial disability benefits;

    • How potential instruments could be integrated with other more general measures aimed at improving the tax treatment of savings;

    • Administrative feasibility; and

    • Potential take-up, government revenue costs.

Introducing Claredon Robicheau, A New Representative on the CCD Council

A man in a wheelchair in front of a building.
Claredon lives in Digby County Nova Scotia. He is the oldest of six siblings of which four are wheelchair users. He completed a Bachelor of Commence Degree from St. Mary's University. After 15 Years with the TD Bank, Claredon moved back home to commence a full time volunteer career.

He served: five years as a board member of a Regional Health authority, a board member of CACL Clare branch, as chair of a community health board, is past chair of the Nova Scotia League for equal opportunities (NSLEO) and is a board member of Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC). Claredon currently serves on the board of NSLEO, co-chairs MDC Social Action Committee and is Acting chair of the NS community based Transportation committee.

Claredon biggest project is founder and volunteer Executive Director for 10 years of "Le Transport de Clare" a fleet of accessible vehicles that runs over 180,000 kms a years in his municipality of Clare. Pictured is Claredon in November 2001 when he presented the MDC position paper on stem cell research to the Federal Standing Committee on Health.

British Columbia Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (BCCPD)

For the past two years, BCCPD has been helping the We Survived Woodlands Group mount a campaign for justice and compensation. The Group consists of former residents of Woodlands School, an institution for children with severe disabilities, that was closed in 1996.

In August, former residents who experienced sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse for years at Woodlands learned of the provincial government's awaited compensation package. The package is based on a detailed points system. People receive points for different kinds and degrees of abuse, for example, 45 to 60 points for "persistent incidents of anal and vaginal intercourse," or 26 to 35 points for "one or more incident of oral intercourse."

Survivors and advocates were stunned by the insensitivity of this proposal. Even worse, to be eligible for compensation through this system, survivors must prove their abuse by undergoing a medical examination or providing medical records from incidents that happened decades ago. Many of the survivors are elderly and many are non-verbal. We feel it is unconscionable to make compensation contingent upon proof of abuse.

The Woodands Group is urging Attorney Genera Wally Oppal to end this insulting process to ensure survivors do not have to go through a highly legalistic and adversarial process. Instead, the Group is proposing an out-of-court settlement based on a "common experience payment." Within such a settlement, all former residents would be guaranteed compensation without having to tell their story again or prove their abuse. We think this is the only fair solution.

This is a long-standing tale of abuse, denial and delay. BCCPD is committed to supporting the We Survived Woodlands Group until they receive fair compensation for their experiences while in the province's care.

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities

ACCD Seeks Answers from Leadership Candidates

With the conservative party leadership election set for November 25 (second ballot on December 2 if necessary), ACCD, along with many other advocacy groups across the province, has been persistently educating candidates on disability issues in Alberta. By the end of September, six of the nine candidates had visited the ACCD office to talk about disability issues. As well, we will have representatives at all eight of the all-candidate forums being held across the province.

For Albertans, this leadership campaign is particularly important, because the new leader of the Conservative Party will also be the Premier of the province. ACCD is committed to educating candidates about disability issues and educating people with disabilities about the leadership election processes. Through our newsletters and our information line, we have encouraged members to be a visible presence throughout the leadership race.

There are 332,000 people (of voting age) with a disability living in Alberta. At the last leadership race, 78,000 votes were cast. If the disability community joins together, we will have a huge impact on the outcome of the leadership race. Some of the questions that ACCD members will be asking at the forums are:

  • How do you plan to address the crisis faced by Albertans with disabilities due to the lack of available personal care attendants?
  • How will you address the lack of accessible and affordable transportation for Albertans with disabilities that currently limits their opportunities for employment and community participation?
  • What do you see as a solution to providing accessible, affordable housing for Albertans with disabilities?
  • How would you address the gaps in service that Albertans with disabilities presently face as they transition from childhood through their senior years?

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities

A survey is being conducted approximately ten years after the Provincial Interagency Network on People with Disabilities (PIND), started developing a plan to see an Office of Disability Issues and a Disability Action Plan (DAP) implemented in Saskatchewan. The purpose of the survey is to determine how the is working; suggestions on change; a look at the Office of Disability Issues and the role it plays, as well as where it should be housed and what supports are needed for it to be more effective. The survey was sent out to 85 persons, which include: consumers, government departments, and community-based organizations. It is the intention of PIND to share the results of the survey with the Minister responsible for Disability Issues and meet to discuss recommendations for improvement.

Municipal elections are taking place in Saskatchewan in October. Many people with disabilities have been taking part in the election proceedings by hosting town hall meetings as well as, meet the candidates meetings. This is very encouraging to see and hopefully, the candidates become more aware and knowledgeable of disability concerns here in Saskatchewan.

Federal Government cuts are also an issue with us. Because we receive some of our project funding from some of the departments cut, at this time we are unsure how the cuts will affect the projects applied for.

The Voice would like to thank SaskPower for it's financial support in providing us with the funding to update our "Self-Help Guide for Independent Living" document. Without the support of SaskPower, we could not have afforded to update the document at this time. This will be the third printing of the Guide; it has proved to be a valued product in Saskatchewan for people with disabilities, their families, and community based organizations as well as government departments.

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities

The League has had a very busy summer! As the election wrapped up, it brought about issues that needed to be re-addressed due to the cabinet shuffle, with the appropriate Ministers. Ensuring that we do not lose momentum, we have been in contact with all of the Ministers and MLA's to bring them up to speed with what NSLEO, and the committees it supports, are involved in. We have had positive responses and have set up meetings with several ministers to discuss our ongoing initiatives.

Some of the initiatives NSLEO is currently working on include:

Emergency Preparedness: NSLEO Chair's the Emergency Preparedness Committee and has been involved for the past three years in developing an Emergency Response/Preparedness Strategy for persons with Disabilities in Nova Scotia. The committee consists of several Provincial agencies including the Department of Emergency Social Services, Emergency Health Organizations both Provincial and Municipal, Disabled Persons Commission and several advocacy organizations representing varying types of disabilities. To date, the committee has developed an information brochure with tips for specific disabilities, established two provincial 1-800 emergency hotline phone numbers (voice and TTY) for access to critical information (road conditions, location of shelters, updates on extreme weather reports, etc) and developed a cross-disability network for information sharing. Work has begun on the development of protocols for emergency responders and emergency shelters and we are in the process of developing a sign language DVD version of the brochure. Further information on the committee, its initiatives and important tips on how individuals should prepare themselves in case of an emergency can be found in Issue 68, the Fall edition of the Abilities Magazine.

Accessible Nova Scotia: NSLEO also Chair's the Accessible Nova Scotia Committee who's focus is on making Nova Scotia an accessible province for all citizens and visitors alike. The committee presented a proposal to the Minister of Tourism prior to the last election and is trying to secure a meeting with the new Minister to address the same proposal. The Committee is in the process of developing its own website which will be available soon at: www.accessiblens.ca.

Status of Women: NSLEO continues to provide input and support surrounding women with disabilities in Nova Scotia to the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. NSLEO sits on the working groups and delegates will be participating in their upcoming workshops/roundtable discussions ensuring that the issues affecting women with disabilities in Nova Scotia are addressed.

NSLEO Position Papers/Report Cards: Staff and Board members of the League have been busy researching and drafting recommendations on the issues they have identified as priorities in Nova Scotia this year to be presented to political Caucus in early October. NSLEO's annual position papers and presentation material will be available in mid October. NSLEO has also been busy collecting the information necessary to do their annual evaluation (Report Cards) on the political Parties and their actions and attention to the issues affecting persons with disabilities in this province.

Partnership for Access Awareness Nova Scotia (PAANS): The PAANS Youth Coordinator is busy developing the Speakers Bureau Program which connects schools to individuals with disabilities who are willing to share their experiences with students in order to increase awareness and foster confidence in children. The Youth Coordinator has also been researching the development of a Mentorship Program for students with disabilities in Nova Scotia.

Program Outcome Measurements Workshop: The Board and staff will partake in a workshop in November hosted by the United Way that will provide our affiliate groups with the necessary information to effectively evaluate and report on their group's outcomes.

Staff Changes
Jen Powley who has been working as the Coordinator of NSLEO for the past two years has returned to school to advance her education. Bernadette McKeough, who has been working with NSLEO for almost 4 years, will take over as Coordinator of the League. Judy Peitzsche has recently joined the NSLEO team. Judy has a degree in Public Policy and Social Research from St. Francis Xavier University.

Enjoy the fall everyone!

PEI Council of the Disabled

Affordable, Accessible Housing - The Council has started a campaign aimed at improving the supply of accessible and affordable housing in PEI. The "Affordable Homes, Accessible Homes" campaign is being kicked off by our annual Fall Policy conference, with the same name, in October and a housing focus in our work in this Fall's municipal elections. The objectives of the Campaign are:

  1. To have Municipal and/or Provincial governments enact a requirement that a fixed percentage of units in any new multi-unit residential building be constructed to be accessible.
  2. To have the Federal government re-institute the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, or a similar program.
  3. To have Municipal, Provincial and/or Federal governments make specific commitments to assembling and supplying land for affordable housing that includes an accessible component.
  4. To have the Provincial government agree to retrofit more existing seniors and family PEI Housing Corporation units [in areas where people want to live] to make them accessible.

We are anticipating provincial and federal general elections, along with the November 6 municipal elections and will include this focus as a part of our work in those elections. Several other events will be included in the campaign, aside from election work

Summer Tutoring Program - The Council has completed its first Summer of offering its new Summer Tutoring Program for children with disabilities. The program is aimed at ensuring that students with disabilities don't lose ground in their education over the Summer months. The Summer Tutoring Program worked with over 140 children from one end of the province ot the other - virtually all of the children that had applied for services. The program is serving 140 children with disabilities this Summer. A Co-ordinator and 13 University students [many of whom were in the Bachelor of Education program] worked as Instructional Assistants with the children on an individual basis, with each working with about ten students in a geographical area. The IAs had between one and three one hour sessions with each child each week, normally in the child's home, and worked on the retention of skills most needed by each child. The program was funded by federal and provincial student employment programs, the PEI Ministry of Education and Easter Seals. While this was the Council's first year with the program, it had been run with great success by another NGO [recently dissolved] for 19 years, serving thousands of children with a wide variety of disabilities.

A man in front of a projection screen.Simple Solutions - The Council's resource manual for Non-Government Organizations or eliminating barriers to volunteering by people with disabilities, "Simple Solutions", has had international exposure now. In August, Council Executive Director Barry Schmidl had the opportunity to do a workshop on it at the 60th anniversary World Gathering of Mensa International held in Orlando, Florida [in his not so secret identity as President of Mensa Canada and member of Mensa International's Board]. This was a great opportunity to pass on information about eliminating barriers to volunteering to people who are often in leadership positions in business and non-profit organizations around the world. There were actually 2 opportunities to speak on "Simple Solutions" as he also was given time to talk about it at the International Board meeting that was held at the same time as the larger event. (Pictured above is Barry Schmidl presenting the workshop on "Simple Solutions in Florida).

"RunMan" - The Council was a partner with an Island family and a number of businesses, in assisting with raising funds to bring an internationally known speaker on autism and law enforcement to the Island. Alex Bain (pictured above), nicknamed "RunMan", ran the length of the Island over a 2 week period in July. The run was a success and Dennis Debbaudt spoke to law enforcement, first responders and the general public in 3 well attended sessions in late September.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

AEBC Meets with the Minister of National Revenue Concerning New System of Blindness Verification

Beryl Williams and Judy Prociuk from AEBC's Saskatoon Chapter met with the Honourable Carol Skelton, Minister of National Revenue, concerning the need for a method of blindness verification by the federal government, as provided for in membership resolution 2005-08, so that we do not need to obtain a doctor's letter each time we wish to qualify for programs and services.

2005-08: Registered blindness identification:

Therefore, be it resolved at this Convention in Ottawa, April 2005, that Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians [AEBC] actively advocate, through all appropriate Government authorities, for the provision of an appropriate system of registration for Canadians, who fall within the eligibility criteria required for all current and future public and private exemptions, benefits and services available to them across Canada.

After a wide-ranging discussion on various options, Ms. Skelton said she would send the four recommendations from AEBC's brief to the health minister as well as to the minister of HRDC and would then get back to us by e-mail. For further background on this issue, please see AEBC's Brief on our website at: http://www.blindcanadians.ca/press_releases/index.php?BriefID=33

AEBC Active in Ontario Human Rights Fight

The introduction of Bill 107: the Human Rights Code Amendment Act into the Ontario Legislature, has prompted considerable controversy among human rights advocates in Ontario. The Bill is designed to overhaul the way in which human rights complaints are dealt with in Ontario. Both sides agree the Ontario Human Rights Commission could use improvement. Supporters of the Bill believe the proposed new system will greatly streamline the consideration of individual complaints and give more time for work on systemic cases, while opponents fear the new system will only weaken the current level of protection and make it tougher for complainants to gain redress from discrimination.

Three days of public hearings took place in August in London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay respectively, and further hearings are to be scheduled in Toronto this fall. The AEBC has applied to appear at the Toronto hearings, and is currently preparing a Brief, which will be available soon in the Briefs section of the AEBC website, www.blindcanadians.ca, or by requesting a copy directly by writing: info@blindcanadians.ca or calling toll free at: 1-800-561-4774.

AEBC Active in Human Rights Cases

Making use of the legal protection that is in place is important in enforcing our rights. As a human rights organization, the AEBC is called upon from time to time to assist both members and non-members in pursuing cases before human rights commissions or the courts.

Previously, we have reported on AEBC's involvement in the Via Rail case. The AEBC is also currently involved in cases regarding inaccessibility of Canada's electoral system, access to the education system, the extent to which a driver's licence can be considered a bona fide occupational requirement, and access to commercial websites. For further information, please contact John Rae at: rae@blindcanadians.ca.

New Mailing Address

Effective immediately, please use the following address when sending
material to the AEBC:
P.O. Box 20262
RPO town Centre
Kelowna, BC V1Y 9H2.

National Educational Association od Disabled Students - NEADS

NEADS Announces —Equity Through Education Project: Phase II

Equity Through EducationOn May 17th 2006 the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) became one of four Canadian recipients of donations from the second Equity Through Education program supported through BMO Capital Markets.
Our new project, which commenced in the spring of 2006, will continue to support equitable opportunities for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities. The focus for the next Equity Through Education initiative will have three aspects:

  • Scholarships for students and an award for campus groups;
  • Demonstrations and consultations to enhance our job site - the NEADS Online Work System (NOWS) and;
  • Development of a mentorship program.

Scholarships for Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities and an Award for Disabled Students Groups on Campus to improve student life

A major barrier to access to post-secondary education for students with disabilities is financial in nature, as disability-related academic accommodations are often expensive, and students who are not eligible for government loans programs are concomitantly not eligible for disability bursaries provided by these agencies. While disability scholarships and awards are one way of alleviating this barrier, currently, only a limited number of scholarships are available for post-secondary students with disabilities to defray their education costs (tuition and disability-related accommodations). Most of these scholarships are limited in financial scope; apply to a single part of the population of persons with disabilities; or are entrance scholarships. The great majority of these scholarships focus on the undergraduate college and/or university experience, and do not extend to graduate or professional programs.

We will award up to four individual NEADS Equity Through Education Scholarships per year, for three years, at a value of $3,000 each. These scholarships will be offered to encourage full access to post-secondary education for persons with disabilities who often have greater barriers to participation in higher education and extra costs because of their disabilities. The tuition scholarships will be awarded in the following categories of study: University undergraduate (Arts and Science); Graduate/Professional; and College. Students must be registered in a post-secondary institution and provide documented proof of registration. The award will be offered to outstanding applicants, who meet the criteria of the program, as selected by an Equity Through Education Scholarship Selection Committee to be identified by the NEADS board of directors. The scholarships will be paid directly to the post-secondary institution (in the students' accounts) that the recipients are attending to defray the cost of tuition fees for post-secondary study.

Secondly, we will award one NEADS Equity Through Education Organizational Project Award per year, to be granted to a post-secondary campus group of students with disabilities or access committee addressing disability issues at a university or college, to support innovative programs/initiatives to improve campus life for students with disabilities. The amount of this award will be determined by a selection committee based on the features and merits of the winning proposal, but will be approximately $5,000.

Development of the NEADS Online Work System (NOWS) through demonstration forums for employers and students

The NEADS Online Work System (NOWS) is a bilingual, online service where employers can post opportunities and search for job-ready candidates with disabilities. Students and graduates with disabilities can register to look for employment in their fields of interest and can upload their CVs to be viewed by recruiters from registered employers. NOWS has grown tremendously since its launch in 2003; currently, over 1180 students and graduates with disabilities, as well as 70 employers, from different sectors of the economy, registered to use the site.

NEADS is extending the development and awareness of the NEADS Online Work System www.nows.ca and recruiting additional employers to the site. Our goals are to enhance the multi-sector representation of the NOWS registrants and to encourage the employers to use our job site more frequently to post employment opportunities, to allow students and employers, in a one-day event, to learn about the features of our free job site and to use the NOWS service as an important tool in their career and recruitment searches/strategies.

Three to four NOWS events will be held in 2006/2007, and three to four will be held in 2007/2008. These interactive forums, with demonstrations provided by members of our webteam, would be held in different regions of the country in accessible hotels with disability accommodations provided - as required - including sign language interpretation. One of the events in 2006/2007 will be held in conjunction with the NEADS National Conference in Ottawa, with the employer luncheon taking place the Friday before the conference.

Additionally, we will expand NOWS to allow Career Centre and Employment Resource Centre professionals access to the benefits currently offered to students. These new users will have the ability to search for jobs and print them for students and graduates they serve. The screening process for these new accounts will be similar to that of employer accounts.

To further supplement NOWS outreach to employers and its ongoing development, NOWS will be profiled at up to three conferences per year. NEADS will host a NOWS booth at the exhibition/tradeshow portion of these conferences. Exhibits will be focused on conferences and tradeshows targeted at employers and HR professionals - with an emphasis on recruitment, equity and retention.

Development of the framework for a National Mentorship Program

Well-structured and appropriate mentorship experiences can help students to make a more successful transition into the employment market. Students with disabilities, who often face more barriers and obstacles when looking for work than their non-disabled peers, can benefit greatly from such a program.
NEADS will capitalize on the networks established and issues identified by NEADS over the past 20 years, the establishment of the NOWS website, and specifically during the 2005-2007 Job Search Strategies Forums (JSS) Project, and to meet an identified need arising from the JSS Forums, by developing a framework and piloting an extern/peer mentoring program for students with disabilities in post-secondary education.
The mentorship program must be inclusive of a broad range of sectors (including science/technology, biotechnology, university/college, government, financial, etc.). The Program would be designed to have both English and French components. Previously established mentorship programs in post-secondary education settings can be used as models to build this program.
For further information on this project please contact the NEADS office: National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), Rm. 426 Unicentre, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, www.neads.ca or info@neads.ca

MuchMoreMusic AccessAbility Scholarship

MuchMoreMusic and the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) are proud to announce the 2nd annual MuchMoreMusic AccessAbility Scholarship. The $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to a person with a disability who best demonstrates skill, talent, excellence and enthusiasm in pursuing a future in the broadcast industry.

Open to: students with permanent disabilities who are attending a post-secondary institution in the field of broadcasting

(The field of broadcasting may include, but is not limited to, Mass Communications, Media Arts, Broadcast Communications, New Media Studies, Radio and Television Production, Video Production, Journalism, and Design. Other programs must be approved by MuchMoreMusic).

Deadline: November 1, 2006

Application form, scholarship criteria and other details at www.muchmoremusic.com/scholarship

If you are interested in receiving postcards promoting the scholarship, email us at scholarship@muchmoremusic.com with your full mailing address and specify the number of cards you would like.

We encourage individuals, schools and organizations to distribute the cards so that students with disabilities pursuing a future in the broadcast industry are aware of the opportunity.

Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada

45 years later… Where do we stand!

By Mercédes Benegbi, Executive Director
Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada
Presentation offered in the framework of the "Motherisk Update 2006 Conference"
"Establishing a New Benchmark for Drug Evaluation during Pregnancy"
May 10th, 2006, Toronto

"The Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada (TVAC) was founded in 1988 and is the only organization in North America to work with and for Thalidomide victims. Our mission is to empower our members and to improve their quality of life through various programs and customized services. With the return of Thalidomide on the market, TVAC also took on the mandate of informing the public on the devastating effects of this medication and to promote awareness and caution when using any teratogenic products currently available".

We thank you Dr. Koren for having invited TVAC.

Forty five years ago, by negligence, lack of professional conscientiousness and a very poor sense of responsibility, our health system leaders failed in their duty. They allowed the Thalidomide medication to be marketed, a drug that was "not approved" by our American neighbours. In addition, our government only forced the manufacturer to withdraw the drug from the Canadian market three full months after Germany, Great Britain and Australia did and this, despite all the toxicity warnings that they received.

Consequently, more than one hundred Canadians were born with major birth defects, forever affecting their quality of life and their ability to participate as full members of the community. Moreover, this does not take into account those who did not survive or the families that were affected. To this very day, the Canadian government remains in denial of its responsibilities and its obvious negligence in relation to the Thalidomide tragedy and has left the victims virtually uncompensated.

"Avoiding one's responsibilities never makes one less guilty!"

This human tragedy, which has inevitably proved the foetus' vulnerability, later gave rise to an unprecedented awareness and initiated vigilance and an ultimate warning with regards to the use of pharmaceutical products and other potentially toxic substances during pregnancy.

The thalidomide disaster has enabled the world to understand and has clearly proven that a foetus is an integral part of the pregnant woman. Considering what has happened in the past, have we truly imposed all the possible safeguards necessary to protect our pregnant women who are fundamental to the wellness of our future generations?

With the 45 years of experience gathered from the Thalidomide tragedy, what responsibilities have we assumed as a society towards the "cradle of humanity", that is to say pregnant women, with regards to toxic substances, medications or drugs to which they are exposed?

I bring these questions forward in the hope of shedding some light on the following situation:

In order to fill obvious needs at the national level and in a preventative capacity, MOTHERISK took the initiative of providing authoritative information and advice to pregnant women and their doctors on medications, alcohol, elicit drugs and their potential adverse effects. MOTHERISK also took on the mandate of addressing diverse pharmacologic and safety issues left unanswered to this day on pregnancy, in addition to maintaining university and graduate level training and education programs in the field of toxicity during pregnancy.

Their noble mission has spread all across Canada. Yet, MOTHERISK still remains exclusively funded by the Ontario provincial government and private companies. Working with a limited team of professionals who must be available to cover a global schedule of 9 to 5 for all Canadian time zones, MOTHERISK listens attentively and compassionately to pregnant women facing their particular medical conditions.

To this day, we still wonder what recognition does Health Canada concede to this brilliant and national scale initiative? And where are the other initiatives and great projects of this order?

It would be commendable for our Canadian government to humanely and scientifically show pro-activity and leadership with regards to its duty to implement all the necessary measures and provide favourable conditions to ensure the protection and the blossoming of women's health during their pregnancies.

To that end, shouldn't our government prove it holds the health of Canadians at heart and assemble the various medical societies, professional corporations and patient groups in order to rally the necessary support and expertise to assure that the best practices available in the world are offered for the well being of pregnant women and for the protection of the developing child? Where does our government stand today, as far as its duty to gather, maintain and disseminate existing scientific data on the various medications available in Canada and their desirable or undesirable impact on pregnancy? Does Health Canada have in place an appropriate follow-up process for pregnant women taking medications to register their effects? Do they support research on this specific matter? Why doesn't Health Canada have an official department exclusively dedicated to pregnancy?

Doesn't this current lack of priority unintentionally place pregnant women in a hazardous ignorance and extreme solitude when they must take an ultimate and necessary decision? And what are the consequences?

"Avoiding one's responsibilities never makes one less guilty!"

How is it that in today's world, children are born in Canada with birth defects caused by drugs such as Accutane, when we have full knowledge of its teratogenic properties? Do we sufficiently take into account the contra-indications when we write a prescription? Is the wording of the contra-indications always written adequately and precisely?

Why are teratogenic drugs such as Accutane available in Canada, not subject to more restrictive and safer distribution programs?

And when the government approves the manufacturing of a generic medication with teratogenic properties, shouldn't the exact same distribution controls and education programs to the appropriate healthcare professionals also be mandatory?

Finally, 45 years later, following the Thalidomide tragedy, what do we have to offer to pregnant women and to humanity?

We hope that the Thalidomide tragedy never disappears into oblivion and that the personal suffering of the members of our group prevents suffering in future generations. Then we can say that our fate will have served a purpose, that it provided an awareness of the respect of life and its fundamental source. That exceptional measures for safe distribution of any medication for pregnant women, when necessary, be applied with such rigour, that it will forever prevent any fœtus' exposure to toxicity and that another generation of human beings not pay the price with their mutilated bodies or their lives, due to negligence. Also, and nothing less, that the target population of pregnant women be finally considered with unconditional respect for the integrity of their life and health. Our future generations depend on it!

Deonthology, ethics and professionalism cannot be measured in simple situations, but rather in complex situations that require a major and integral reflection on cultural, social, scientific and humanitary factors. From a personal and professional point of view, I only wish that in the future, we always consider the best interest of both the pregnant women and her fœtus in order to preserve their health and dignity in courses of action surrounding the development, marketing and prescription of medications or potentially toxic substances to treat or relieve sicknesses or discomforts, either pre-existing or associated to the pregnancy.

In conclusion, I wish that our individual and collective willingness protect us forever from all interests that would be contrary to the well being and respect of our so fragile, unique and wonderful community that are the human beings.

Thank you.

That we always consider the best interest of both the pregnant women and her fœtus in order to protect their health and dignity in courses of action surrounding the development, the marketing and the prescription of medications or potentially toxic substances to treat or relieve sicknesses or discomforts, either pre-existing or associated to the pregnancy.

Presentation and position adopted unanimously on April 29th, 2006 by the Board of directors of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada

People First of Canada

People First of Canada Celebrates 15 Years!

The end of September was a busy, exciting time for People First of Canada!

Over 100 people joined in the celebration of the 15th Anniversary of People First of Canada. In conjunction with the celebration, a Roast was held to honor Mr. Patrick Golding, a 25+ year volunteer who has decided to retire this year from our organization.

Awards were presented to Peter Park, (Ontario) who received the 2nd Annual Pat Worth Award for his outstanding contribution and commitment to community inclusion.

Shane Haddad, from Saskatchewan was
awarded the CCD Award.

People First of Canada is pleased to announce the new Executive members for the 2006-2008 term:

Shane Haddad (Saskatchewan) - President
Heather Tracey (Nova Scotia) - Past President
Richard Ruston (Ontario) - 1st Vice President
Cathy O'Donnell (New Brunswick) - 2nd Vice President
Karen Westcott (Newfoundland/Labrador) - Treasurer
Cécile Bellemare (Quebec) - Francophone Representative

People First of Canada along with Community Living Manitoba co-hosted a two day forum prior to the AGM called "Closing Institutions…. Opening Communities." With an audience of over 150, many people had the opportunity to hear powerful personal stories from keynote speakers Peter Park, Paul Young, Bill Hogarth and Harold Barnes, all who have lived lives of segregation, congregation and isolation, as well as learn about issues facing people in institutions across this country.

History was in the making on Friday morning, when, live, from the conference, responding to the failure of the Manitoba government to close an institution that houses 380 people with intellectual disabilities, Community Living Manitoba has filed an official complaint with the province's Human Rights Commission.

The complaint follows 18 months of failed negotiation with the government to provide alternative living for residents of the Manitoba Developmental Centre (MDC), a 116 year-old facility located in Portage La Prairie.

The complaint, which names the Ministry of Department of Family Services and Housing, the Public Trustee, The Commissioner of Vulnerable Persons, and the Executive Director of the Manitoba Developmental Centre, is made on behalf of the residents.

The government's decision to pour $40 million into re-furbishing the institution "flies in the face of the Government's own 'Full Citizenship - A Manitoba Strategy on Disability' Report which acknowledges the human rights of all, the right to be free in the community and not be locked up under the rigid systems of an institution. This sort of housing is contrary to social policy trends in Canada today where the closure of institutions is a recognized and accepted trend," Community Living Manitoba says in a press release.

Beyond claiming an inability to execute the recommendations of this report, Community Living Manitoba also charges that the institution provides lower standards of living and medical care than would be available in the community.

The complaint charges that the Commissioner of the Vulnerable Persons Act, which guarantees as autonomous the decision making rights of any vulnerable person, is party to "an ongoing discriminatory act based[…]on the mental disabilities of the 380 individuals remaining [in the centre]

The complaint also purports that more cost-effective means of caring for these individuals - 32 percent who are deemed to have "profound" disabilities - are available in community placements.

In the overview of the complaint, Community Living Manitoba also points to institutionalization as being incompatible with the "values recognized and affirmed by the United Nations."

It reads: "Institutionalization is a shameful chapter in the struggle for equality and for the recognition of basic human rights. What was once considered acceptable treatment is now seen as an affront to human dignity and an obstacle to achieving individual potential. There is now general agreement that institutional care means a poor quality of life because it perpetuates dependence, reduces choice, and offers little opportunity for skill development."

A UN Convention to Protect and Promote the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities

A message from DPI Chair, Venus Ilagan

August 25, 2006, is a day to celebrate! On August 25, 2006, we achieved something that has been long been the dream of our membership: A UN Convention on our human rights!

Twenty-five years ago at DPI's 1st World Congress, in Singapore, we recognized the need to unite and to fight for our human rights as disabled people. With this victory we are united as never before! With the adoption of the draft convention by the Ad Hoc Committee, we can celebrate a major victory on the long road to equality and we should be very proud of this achievement.

At the beginning of the current negotiations process DPI made clear our view that there were no human rights to which disabled people do not lay claim. The draft instrument accepted here recognizes and entrenches our rights in the UN Human Rights framework, and in this way is a huge victory for us all.

The new Treaty will be of immense value to us as we continue along the path to the full realization of our rights! In closing we wish to take a moment and thank especially the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee, Ambassador Don MacKay from New Zealand, along with all the government delegations, the Bureau, DESA and the Secretariat, and of course our NGO colleagues from around the world, all of whom have worked so hard to bring us this remarkable new instrument. We look forward to the UN General Assembly move to adopt this Convention at its upcoming session so that we can begin the important processes of ratification and implementation of this Convention!

A Voice of Our Own

is produced through the resources provided by Human Resources Development Government of Canada.

(Articles appearing in "A Voice of Our Own" may not represent positions held by CCD)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities

926-294 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3C 0B9
Phone: 204-947-0303
TDD: 204-943-4757
Fax: 204-942-4625
Toll Free: 204-947-0303
Email: ccd@ccdonline.ca