A Voice of Our Own: April 2008

Volume 26 Issue 2

In this Issue:

International Update

CCD Member Group Quarterly Update

Tracy Latimer—the Victim; Robert Latimer—the Murderer

By Marie White and Laurie Beachell

Robert Latimer served seven years in prison for killing his disabled daughter. Now the Saskatchewan farmer is determined to clear his name, and to prove he did nothing wrong. The 54-year-old from Wilkie, Saskatchewan, is emerging from jail a man transformed -and not the way corrections officials generally like to see. Missives penned by Latimer over the last four years to everyone from cabinet ministers to the Supreme Court itself seethe with language belying his popular image as a stolid farmer befuddled by the tempest around him.

The venom practically drips from the pages. Prosecutors have employed "slander, trickery and deceit" against him. The courts have swallowed "fabricated" evidence "fraudulently designed" by police and the Crown to secure a conviction. Critics who worry that mercy killings leave the definition of mercy in the eye of the killer are "parasites" who "regurgitate" false information purveyed by legal authorities bent on winning a landmark case.

Latimer does not see his case as closed, and the bitterness he feels is not the sort to be mollified by early release from prison. And recently, with the eyes of the country once again glued to his case, he made good on his rhetoric. No sooner had an appeal panel ruled that he should receive day parole, overturning a previous parole board decision in December, than Latimer confirmed an earlier stated wish to live in a halfway house in Ottawa -not in Saskatchewan near his wife and two kids. Being in the capital, his supporters explain, will enable him to make his case to federal politicians and justice officials in one last long shot at clearing his name.

Whatever the explanation, the man's sudden determination to wage polemics is no minor development. The 2001 Supreme Court decision affirming Latimer's life sentence with no chance of full parole for 10 years had given temporary closure to the frightening debate on how the legal system should treat people who think they're doing the right thing by ending the lives of those in pain. Now, with Latimer's story back on the front burner, advocates for the disabled fear a renewed push to relax the laws surrounding so-called mercy killings.

THAT THE LAW took eight years to put Latimer behind bars is a measure of the contradictory feelings he and his case unleash. From the day he loaded Tracy into the cab of his pickup, ran a length of tubing from the tailpipe to the cab and turned on the ignition, Latimer said he was practicing mercy, and more importantly, acting out of necessity.

He never quite persuaded a jury to trust his judgment on that, as ultimately he was convicted of second-degree murder. Prosecutors successfully argued that the Latimers did have options, in the form of better pain management or institutional care. Unfortunately, neither the jurors nor most other Canadians seemed keen to lump him in with common killers. The jury of his second trial asked for leniency in sentencing. The judge agreed, exempting him from the minimum and imposing a sentence of one year in jail and one served in the community.

The higher courts were less interested in the defendant's intentions than in the high-handedness of his actions. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal set aside the exemption, reinstating the mandatory life sentence, and its decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. Subsequently, on Jan. 18, 2001, Latimer began his prison sentence.

For disabled activists, the decision was manna, reining in what they saw as an increasingly permissive attitude toward mercy killing. They were relieved to see that one of the central institutions of our society—the one that bestows equality—saw this for what it was, and there was a huge sense of relief.

The degree to which that now changes is up to Latimer, and there are conflicting signals about exactly what his "advocacy" will entail. One source close to Latimer, who sought anonymity because the person has not been authorized to speak, said the parolee is intent on refuting the Supreme Court's conclusion that there were alternative pain medications available to Tracy. Again and again, Latimer has complained that neither Saskatchewan prosecutors, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, nor the Supreme Court has identified those alternatives. "The biggest reason why this court cannot give me an answer to my frequently asked question is that the claim of such a medication is a fraudulent fabrication of the Saskatchewan Justice Department prosecutors to bolster the charges against me," Latimer wrote in one letter. "Honest people would not continue to endorse bogus claims that generate such slander."

What kind of reception this kind of hyperbole will get on Parliament Hill is, to say the least, uncertain. While Latimer has received quiet moral support from individual MPs—especially those from Saskatchewan, the response to his letters to officials in Ottawa has thus far been cool. Four different federal justice ministers have rebuffed his entreaties over the years, issuing responses like: "I cannot speak for the Supreme Court by explaining the reasons for a decision it has rendered:" Staff of the Supreme Court itself wrote to him in July 2003, advising him, "There's nothing further the Court can do for you:"

As for the general debate about euthanasia, assisted suicide and mercy killing, political support has been tepid and individualistic. In May 2005, Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde introduced a private member's bill to legalize assisted suicide but it died when an election was called the following winter.

SO WHY are persons with disabilities expressing concern about Latimer's release and stated intentions? The answer lies not in any fear that Latimer will get a new trial, but in his potential to act as a catalyst, mobilizing public sentiment that has been dormant since the Supreme Court sent him to prison back in 2001. Any climate of permissiveness is frightening for persons with disabilities because they worry it would leave them at the mercy of caregivers who think they know best.

For Latimer's critics, the best weapon will undoubtedly be the Supreme Court decision itself. In its 7-0 decision, the court rejected all of Latimer's grounds for appeal, saying his sentence was not, as he maintained, cruel and unusual punishment, and that Latimer's altruistic motivations were outweighed by the fact he was in a position of trust. What's more, they ruled out the notion that what he did was a merciful way out of a dire situation. "Tracy's situation was not an emergency," the judges added in one particularly devastating passage. "The appellant can be reasonably expected to have understood that reality." It was, in short, a starkly different impression of Latimer's actions than the one painted by his supporters.

In the 1990's a Senate Committee concluded that mercy killing should remain a punishable offence—and so it must. There is no one among us who should presume to judge the quality of another's life and fate. Tracy Latimer's life and death is the best example of this tenet as we know her father, Robert Latimer, judged his twelve year old daughter's life and found it wanting—and so he murdered her.

Murder is not mercy.

Let there be no more murders of people with disabilities.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Enters into Force

On April 3, 2008, the Republic of Ecuador deposited its instrument of ratification for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This means the CRPD will come into force on May 3, 2008: the Convention, along with an Optional Protocol that will allow individuals and groups to petition for relief, will be legally binding.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the entry into force of the first international treaty on the human rights of persons with disabilities. "It is a historic moment in our quest for realization of the universal human rights for ALL persons, creating a fully inclusive society for all," Mr. Ban's spokesperson Marie Okabe said in a statement celebrating the rapid progress of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in December 2006. "The Convention will be a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities," she said, pointing to discrimination, segregation from society, economic marginalization, and lack of opportunities for participation in social, political and economic decision-making processes.

As many as two-thirds of United Nations Member States do not have any legal protection for people with disabilities even though they comprise one in 10 of the global population. "The Convention, together with its Optional Protocol, is deeply rooted in the firm commitment of the international community to rectifying the egregious neglect and dehumanizing practices that violate the human rights of persons with disabilities," Ms. Okabe concluded, calling on all States that have not yet done so to accede or ratify it without delay.

"Canadians with disabilities are hoping that Canada will soon ratify the CRPD, demonstrating to all Canadians that this country is committed to advancing the human rights of persons with disabilities," states Marie White, CCD Chairperson. "Additionally, the disability community is counting on the Government of Canada to ratify the Optional Protocol, which provides a mechanism of last resort for individuals to have human rights violations redressed."

Steve Estey observes Canada's Ambassador to the UN sign the CRPD

Steve Estey observes Canada's Ambassador to the UN sign the CRPD

The CRPD's development process at the United Nations was very open and people with disabilities and our organizations were integrally involved in every stage of the Convention's creation. For example, the Canadian Government named Steven Estey, the Chairperson of CCD's International Development Committee, to the Canadian delegation which participated in the drafting of the Convention. CCD is disappointed that to date, for the CRPD ratification process, the Government of Canada has not chosen to replicate the transparent and collaborative process of the Convention's development stage.

Canadians with disabilities, through provincial and national voluntary associations, are anxious to consult with all levels of government about how the CRPD can provide guidance, regarding the advancement of human rights protections for persons with disabilities. "Governments need not feel threatened by the Convention, because other than in the area of civil and political rights, it accepts the principle of progressive realization of rights," states Marie White, CCD Chairperson. "There is no expectation that every aspect of the Convention be implemented immediately upon ratification. The Convention acknowledges that change may have to be phased in over time."

CCD at the Supreme Court of Canada

On 20 February 2008, CCD was at the Supreme Court of Canada as an intervener in the Honda v. Keays case. Frances Kelly and Gwen Brodsky were CCD's legal counsel in this intervention.

The Honda v. Keays case has been described by some as the most important wrongful dismissal/accommodation case of the last decade. Mr. Keays worked for 14 years at Honda's assembly plant in Alliston, Ontario. He was fired in 2000 after being unable to work because of chronic fatigue syndrome. Mr. Keays had taken a two-year disability leave, but was forced to return to work in 1998 after his insurance benefits ran out. In his wrongful dismissal suit, Mr. Keays won $500,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal and failure by Honda to accommodate his disability. This award was reduced by the Ontario Court of Appeal to $100,000. Honda asked the Supreme Court to overturn the award of damage. Hugh Scher, who chaired CCD's Human Rights Committee for a number of years, is Mr. Keays' lawyer.

The central message CCD made to the Supreme Court relates not to the accommodation issue which is addressed by others but rather to the issue of access to justice. CCD wishes the Court to understand that not all individuals will have the resources to take their complaint to the courts and secure significant damages awards. CCD supports the reading of human rights law into employment contracts but also wants to ensure that Canada has a robust human rights system that allows individuals to have their human rights complaints addressed without significant costs for the individual complainant.

The Court grants intervener status to those with a unique perspective to share and CCD's access to justice issue brings another component to the Court's understanding of the implications of this case.

While a very worthwhile activity, litigation is also a very expensive undertaking. CCD has established the CCD Disability Rights Defense Fund which seeks donations in support of CCD's litigation work.

Why Support the CCD Disability Rights Defense Fund

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) has been involved in many of the landmark cases that have helped to bring down barriers that were preventing the full and equal participation of Canadians with disabilities. CCD has used the Canadian legal system to advance jurisprudence on the following issues:

  • the accommodation of people with disabilities in employment (Bhinder and O'Malley cases),
  • access to long term disability benefits (Gibbs case),
  • how equality is defined under the Charterof Rights and Freedoms (the Andrews case),
  • inclusive education (Eaton case),
  • the right of deaf people to have interpreters in medical settings (Eldridge case),
  • the application of the proscribed legal penalties when the victim of a killing is a person with a disability (Genereux and Latimer cases), and
  • the equal protection of the law (Latimer case).

CCD intervened in these cases to share with the court a disability rights perspective on the issues under consideration. Through CCD's intervention, the presiding judges had the opportunity to benefit from the collective experiences of the disability rights community and the analysis of human rights by legal experts fully informed by disability experience.

There are always new cases making their way through the legal system. In many instances, the judges need to hear the disability rights perspective on the issues being resolved. Your contribution to the CCD-Disability Rights Defense Fund will assist CCD participate in cases of critical importance to people with disabilities.

You can contribute to CCD via www.canadahelps.org.

End Exclusion 2007 Highlight

One of the prominent features of End Exclusion 2007 was David Lepofsky's speech about a Canadians with disabilities act. To review other presentations made at End Exclusion please visit www.endexclsuion.ca.

A Canadians with Disabilities Act

An Address by David Lepofsky

(This is an abridgment of a presentation made at End Exclusion, 22 November 2007.)

I had the privilege of chairing the coalition of consumer groups and service providers that led the campaign that resulted in the successful enactment of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. And because of that I was asked to speak about bringing to a reality the plank in your Action Plan, which is a fabulous Action Plan, for achieving the enactment of a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act. My understanding of this comes from not just my ten years in that role but almost 30 years as a volunteer, advocating on disability issues.

Disability is a function of the environment that we have created. Equality is about creating a barrier free society, one in which the barriers, whether they are physical or technological or legal or bureaucratic, are removed and new ones are never created again. A Canadians with Disabilities Act is an important tool to get us there. Why do we need it? What should it do? How do we get there?

The only legal means we have to remove barriers right now is by filing complaints against them one at a time under the Charterof Rights and Freedoms or Human Rights Codes. That is a harrowing process--believe me I know. I decided a decade ago to take on the Toronto Transit Commission to get them to do something as obvious, simple and universally valued as announcing all subway stops. I had to sue them and spend years in litigation. And I won. That was the case of Lepofsky v. TTC Number One. Now, you would think that if they have to announce all subway stops, they would surely have to announce all bus stops too, but the TTC didn't think so. Ergo Lepofsky v. TTC Number Two. I'm delighted to tell you after this harrowing ordeal we won both.

I can tell you late breaking news that just became public. Two things are of significance. One—a column written by me was published in the Toronto Star, where for the first time I revealed that I just recently learned from a Freedom of Information request that the TTC spent 450,000 taxpayer dollars to defend those lawsuits. They spent almost a half a million dollars not doing equality but opposing it. That is what we are up against.

The second thing I could tell you is that just last afternoon the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal rendered a final decision in the second case, finding the TTC to be lacking in safeguards needed to ensure these kinds of accommodations are provided. It ordered a number of ground breaking remedies, including requiring all senior management to be appraised annually on how effectively they achieve accommodation for people with disabilities at the Toronto Transit Commission.

This is ground breaking but alas it's accompanied by bad news because you see every other transit provider in Ontario is not following suit. We have to fight them one at a time. It is accompanied by worse news because the Ontario Government, in its infinite wisdom, and in the face of opposition from the organized disability community, decided to gut the Human Rights Commission of most of its investigation powers and to privatize the enforcement of human rights in Ontario. So you have to find your own lawyer to do your own case. I can do it. I'm a lawyer. Most others cannot. They created a legal clinic with $3 million a year. Based on what the TTC spent, if you match dollar for dollar, they could fight six cases a year for the whole province.

We need a Canadians with Disabilities Act to require that barriers be identified and removed without us having to sue and litigate them one at a time.

Here's the good news. There's lots. First, you don't have to invent what that kind of law looks like. We did that in Ontario. That's not the last word but we have the first word.

We have got all the information resources you could possibly want on how to wage such a campaign, and on what to look for in this kind of legislation. If you want to know about the history of how we got from there to here, I have written a detailed article. Contact us at aodafeedback@rogers.com and we will be happy to email it. You can learn all about our 10-year campaign to win this legislation by visiting: http://www.odacommittee.net.

You can learn about our 2.5 year long campaign to get it effectively implemented by visiting: http://www.aodaalliance.org

That is only part of the good news. We have also learned in Ontario that the case for a strong disability act can be fought on a footing of nonpartisanship. We got all three otherwise very fractious political parties to unanimously approve a resolution we drafted setting out 11 principles that a strong disability act should include and that became the yardstick by which all subsequent actions were measured. We also got the three otherwise fractious parties to support the final bill that passed two years ago. If it can be done at Queens Park, it can be done on Parliament Hill.

We have the advantage in that the incumbent federal government has committed to a disability act in their election platform. Hold them to that promise.

We have a minority government. Social justice advocates fighting for legislation love minority governments. This is where you ask each party to outbid the others for what they would put in a disability act.

Next we have learned in Ontario that the disability act movement can become very effective as a way of energizing the grassroots. We don't count how many formalized members we have. We count how many supporters we have. If they pick up the phone, call a call-in radio program, write or email an MP or take some other action to promote a disabilities act, whether or not they are part of a formal organization or not, they can be and have been supporters, and very effective foot soldiers. Over the ten years they were. I could tell you confidently that most of the people who fought this battle I never met: They got our ideas; they shared them; they used them; they added to them in their own communities.

Don't worry about how many people are in this room or how many people are in an organization. We started as a coalition of 20 people. The movement just grew. People joined because they saw there was action and there was hope for progress.

We also learned that it is important to tell the public that this pertains to them too. I want you to raise your hand if (a) you don't have a disability now and (b) you are certain you will never get one. I didn't see any hands. In fact, I never have, when I asked that question, and it isn't just because I happen to be blind. We are a minority of everybody. We make it clear that a disability act is not about what people without disabilities can do for us but what we can do for people who don't yet have their disability, so when they get theirs their opportunities are better than ours.

A disabilities act can be presented as a money maker not as a cost. Every store with a step in front of it loses business from people with disabilities. Spend the money on a ramp in lieu of a step and it will pay itself off time and time again. We want a disabilities act that over time will make money for business.

Let me turn to how you do it. There is no way to get the entire disability community to be unanimous about anything. It is unrealistic, so don't try. Aim instead for harmony. Some people want to fight for a disability act and some people want to fight on other issues. People should focus on the matters that matter for them. The genius of your action plan is that it covers so many important issues that people in this room or outside can choose the issues that matter to them. They don't have to fight on all of them. They can pick one.

Next, I would like to suggest to you that during an election there are in fact two election campaigns that are fought at the same time. One of them is the one you see in the media—the fancy advertisements, the pundits, the leaders' debate. We tend not to be able to get into that very closed campaign. It tends to be narrowed to two or three issues. Some issues may be irrelevant and some relevant but it is very hard to break in because there's only one or two that the pundits and media seem to give significant air time for.

The other campaign is the one that happens at the grassroots, at the door step. We can have a huge impact there. If you write a single leaflet, then put it on a web site and get people to print it out and email it, you can have people handing it out at bus stops or shopping malls. All you need is a printer and some paper and one person who has written the leaflet and you can have it handed out all over the country.

We found that coming up with action strategies that enable individuals who want to do something that gives them a handy-dandy way of doing it is key. If you go to our web site, you will see our action kits, which are good examples of how in three or four pages we give people a menu of ideas that they can pick from. Let's give people some common ideas that they could work from whether or not they are working alone, with a formal organization, or whether they are just together with a couple of friends deciding to print up a leaflet and start handing it out. These kinds of strategies can and do work.

Finally, whichever issue it is you are fighting on, it's important that the issue touch individual lives. Somebody would call me up and say David the thing that matters to me is accessible restaurants. I'd say fine, fight for accessible restaurants. For somebody else, it's public transit—go make that the issue. We found the concept of the barrier against persons with disabilities was the concept that brought this movement into sharp focus for so many. It was the mirror where we could see our own experience.

For a blind person, it may be the lack of information in an accessible format. For deaf people, it may be the lack of sign language when using a public service. For someone in a wheelchair, it may be stairs when you want to get on a bus. The barriers out there are the thing that unites us. We are strongest when we let people touch those barriers as part of their own life and see a disabilities act as a tool for tackling them.

We used to play a game at our initial meetings—what's my barrier. Everybody would come, sit around the table and talk about barriers that they have experienced or seen. We learned from each other. Then we became stronger when we spoke about each other's barriers. At a program, we would have a blind person talking about the need for sign language, a deaf person talking about the need for ramps, a person in a wheelchair talking about the need for Braille. When the government hears that kind of message, they know we can't be divided.

So, let me conclude with just a couple of points. The biggest enemy to our success is not governments that don't care, bureaucracies that are too busy, and politicians busy with the headline of the day. That's not the biggest problem. The biggest impediment between us and a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act is the feeling by most of us that we can't make a difference. As long as we feel that way, we won't make a difference. We learned from the Disability Act movement in Ontario, we just need to let people feel that everything that they do helps.

I have often said speaking in Ontario to the Disability Act Movement that winning a strong disability act is like chopping down a tree. If you stand in front of a tree and push, you can't knock it over. If you pick up an axe and swing it once, you just make a dent. That's all you could do. We know that one person swinging an axe hard enough and often enough could chop it down. Two people working together with an axe could chop it down more quickly, but they have to be careful to work together, not swinging the axe against each other. And we know that if we work in a larger group and take our turn and work together, we could eventually chop that tree down even more quickly. When it comes to winning a strong disability act, provincial or federal, every person who writes an email to a member of parliament about the disability act is already taking a swing of the axe. Everybody who reads what is online about the disability act or shares it with somebody else is swinging the axe. Enough swings of the axe and we could win federally what we have in Ontario, and even more.

If you want to be a successful advocate, follow the role model of a new born baby. The world's best advocate is a new born baby. Why a new born baby? A new born baby follows the three laws of advocacy. Here they go. Picture the new born baby. Number one, know what it is you want to get. Number two, make your message loud, clear and simple. And finally, picture the new born baby doing this—don't stop till you get what you are after.

At A Bookstore Near You: Dissonant Disabilities Women with Chronic Illness Explore Their Lives

Former CCD staff person Diane Driedger, along with her co-editor Michelle Owen just published a thoroughly researched and well theorized new book on disability issues—Dissonant Disabilities Women with Chronic Illness Explore Their Lives. While at CCD, Diane worked in the organization's international program, assisting the CCD International Committee and overseas partners collaborate on self-help projects that would assist people with disabilities empower themselves. Michelle Owen is a sociologist at the University of Winnipeg.

cover of Dissonant Disabilities: Women with Disabilities Explore Their Lives

Dissonant Disabilities: Women with Disabilities Explore Their Lives

Dissonant Disabilities Women with Disabilities Explore Their Lives is a collection of essays by women with chronic illness who speak out about various aspects related to living with a chronic illness. The essays address the following questions: How does society react to women with chronic illness? How do women living with chronic illness live with the uncertainty of their bodies, in a society that desires certainty? Do women with chronic illness disturb the workplace and does the workplace disturb women with chronic illness? What is the impact of chronic illness on women's relationships?

The editors assembled the collection of writings under four themes: Clashing Expectations, Unpredictable Bodies, Disturbing Work and Traversing Dissonance. There is also an extensive bibliography, index and a list of web resources.

The topics addressed in the various essays will be of great interest to people involved in CCD's network. Take, for example, Susan Wendell's article "Notes from the Bed: Learning from Chronic Illness", in which she addresses the concept of suffering through a disability lens. As the Canadian disability rights movement's experience with the Latimer case demonstrates, the nondisabled world's perceptions about suffering can have lethal consequences.

Anjali Dookeran and Diane Driedger

The cover art is by the late Anjali Dookeran, a Winnipeg artist who also had a chronic illness. The art is from an untitled work in her Red Series. The editors dedicated the book to Ms. Dookeran. In the accompanying photo, Ms. Dookeran and Ms. Driedger, who is also an artist, are featured with their paintings, which were subject of a two-woman show.

The editors ensured that this book is available in alternate media. For information about the alternate media format, visit: www.womenspress.ca.

The editors want to hear from readers. Write to them c/o M. Owen, Dept. of Sociology, The University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Manitoba, R3B 2E9.

International Update

A New Voice Shouts to the Commonwealth—Nothing About Us Without Us

Youth with disabilities and older people from 16 Commonwealth countries came together from March15-17, 2008 in London to launch a unique Commonwealth Disabled Peoples' Forum, the purposes of which will be to provide a link between the organizations of people with disabilities in all Commonwealth countries and all the political structures of the Commonwealth.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) from November 25-27, 2007 in Kampala, Uganda, the civil society challenge to CHOGM was to mainstream disability in sustainable development, to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to adopt disability inclusive policies. This cannot be achieved without a strong, democratic forum of youth and adults with disabilities to ensure implementation.

We had a vibrant and dynamic series of meetings to consolidate the vision, constitution and activities of the Forum. The youth met separately to devise their own creative methods of self-representation and organization. We came together in a final agreement of how to go forward together. It is essential that the voice of young people with disabilities be heard clearly in the work of the CDPF. They are the future leaders and builders of our shared vision of a Commonwealth built on equality, human rights and respect for diversity.

The major focus of our work in the next two years, including a major conference before CHOGM in 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago, will be to ensure that Commonwealth countries sign, ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). As Rachel Kachaje said at the launch of the CDPF, hosted by the Commonwealth Foundation at Marlborough House, "Disabled people see that hope springs out of the Convention—hope for a new, inclusive world where disabled people can be seen as fully human."

We, Disabled Peoples' International, North America and the Caribbean are very proud to have been part of this exciting new beginning and look forward to working with our disabled colleagues to ensure our full inclusion in all the nations of our shared Commonwealth.

CCD Member Group Quarterly Updates

British Columbia Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD)

New Wrongful Death Legislation Sought

For the past few years, BCCPD has been closely involved in a campaign to bring new wrongful death legislation to BC. In recent months, we have stepped up the campaign by producing a report and devoting an edition of Transition magazine to the issue.

It all begins with BC's current Family Compensation Act (FCA), which governs in cases of wrongful death. Wrongful death refers to a range of causes from reckless driving to poor medical care to faulty use of equipment. The FCA does not recognize forms of loss other than those causing a direct financial impact. This leaves families without the legal means to seek justice when the wrongful death of a loved one leads to a loss of guidance, care and companionship or for the damage caused by stress and grief. Children, seniors and people with disabilities, who may not represent a measurable financial loss, for example, are among the classes of people whose lives are not fully "valued" or respected after they die.

In practice, this means that a family who loses a 70-year-old mother or a 14-year-old daughter due to questionable medical actions, for example, have no legal support to seek answers in court or obtain compensation and justice because their loved one was not a breadwinner. It is our view, and the view of our main campaign partners, the Coalition Against No Fault in BC and the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, that this law is discriminatory.

We are therefore seeking a new act to enable family members, who suffer the loss of a loved one due to the harmful actions of others, to obtain justice. The provincial government is in the midst of a review of the current legislation and we will be pursuing a substantially new act, rather than minor changes to the current Act.

Links to our report and Transition on this issue can be found on the Publications page at our website: http://www.bccpd.bc.ca.

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD)

ADF Recommends Annual Increase to AISH

On January 21, the Alberta Disabilities Forum (ADF) Low Income working group addressed the provincial Cabinet Policy Committee in an attempt to encourage the government to consider annual increments to AISH program benefits. The Policy Committee is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on policies, programs, and legislation and for hearing public and private submissions pertaining to a variety of issues, including disability issues.

Bev Matthiessen, executive director at ACCD and chair of ADF's Low Income working group, felt cautiously optimistic after the meeting. She said, "Working group members gave a succinct, well planned presentation, and I felt the policy committee listened carefully and thoughtfully to our message. Minister Melchin commented on the amount of work ADF accomplishes with limited resources."

The presentation began with an introduction to ADF's mandate and to the need for annual increments to the AISH benefit. Then one member of the working group talked about annual increases in housing costs, another addressed the issue of medical costs, and another spoke about the costs of food, clothing, and socializing. After the presentation, Bev Matthiessen urged the committee to act on the following three recommendations:

  • Alberta Disabilities Forum members urge the Government of Alberta to recognize, in principle, the critical importance of an annual increase in the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped benefit rate, including the modified AISH benefit rate.
  • Alberta Disabilities Forum members urge the Government of Alberta to increase the AISH benefit rate annually, by an increment of no less than the increase in the cost of living.
  • Alberta Disabilities Forum members recommend that the Government of Alberta establish a permanent body of equal representation from stakeholders such as elected officials, government representatives, and AISH recipients. We recommend that this body conduct annual (rather than bi-annual) income support amount reviews, and that it establish a process for annual adjustment of the AISH benefit.

ACCD, along with ADF, will continue to work alongside the government to ensure continuing improvements to the AISH program.

Battling the Human Resources Shortage

Alberta's current human resources shortage has the disability community reeling. Every week, ACCD hears how difficult it is for persons with a disability to recruit and retain caregivers, how challenging it is to meet staffing requirements at assisted-living complexes, and how the safety and health needs of persons with disabilities are at risk. Larry Pempeit, Managing Director of the Canadian Paraplegic Association Alberta Division says, "The labor shortage in Alberta has made many individuals who have severe disabilities feel vulnerable and afraid of losing our independence. Many times we do not know whether our caregivers will be there to help us get up in the morning or to go to bed at night, and the lack of trained attendant care has restricted our abilities to lead normal lives. We do not want to give up our independence, yet many of us face the prospect of moving into an institution."

In response to the situation, a number of grassroots and government initiatives have been undertaken:

  • A coalition of community-based human services organizations called Who Cares, Alberta? is working to raise awareness about the impact of the human resources shortage on the social services sector. The Who Cares, Alberta? website provides news about the issue, a mail-in campaign, and the opportunity to share how the labor shortage is affecting you.
  • On November 5, the Stelmach government announced a $26.1 million investment to assist agencies that support children and youth, adults with developmental disabilities, and other vulnerable Albertans in recruiting and retaining staff.
  • The Alberta Council of Disability Services has published and is distributing a Careers that Matter newsletter. The newsletter encourages readers to consider working with people with developmental disabilities, emphasizing the opportunity for a meaningful career helping people with developmental disabilities achieve their potential.

While individuals and groups are taking steps to address the labor shortage, the crisis is far from over. The City of Calgary, for example, called on the provincial government for "at least $100 million in Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funding by 2010." As well, Jan Reimer, Provincial Coordinator of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, states: "Our contracted agencies are in an absolute crisis—funding has not risen to match the growth in population and need for services or with the pressures of the current labor market, and if agencies cannot find or retain staff, our communities will lack vital human services."

If you'd like to learn more about this issue, visit the Who Cares, Alberta? Website: http://www.whocaresalberta.com.

Projects and Research

Men with Disabilities

In November, 2007, ACCD invited a number of its members to attend a meeting that focused on issues that affect their lives as men with disabilities. At the meeting, five men with disabilities shared their experiences, impressions, and understanding of the unique situations faced by men living with a disability.

During the discussion, participants repeatedly returned to three common, and often overlapping, issues: societal assumptions about masculinity, employment, and relationships. ACCD used these three areas to focus a discussion paper on masculinity and disability. We expect to have the discussion paper posted on the ACCD website soon.

Women's Shelters

Ever since the completion of its research document STOP Violence Against Women with Disabilities: Break the Silence, which was produced in 2001, ACCD has been concerned about the inaccessibility of women's shelters in Alberta. In the summer of 2007, the Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Education Fund accepted our proposal for a project that aims to enhance shelter accessibility.

To date, ACCD has hosted focus groups with women's shelter staff and management, interviewed women with disabilities who have used women's shelters, conducted accessibility assessments at shelters, and undertaken a literature review of pertinent materials. Based on the information we've gathered, we are developing a training curriculum that aims to increase awareness about the issues that women with disabilities face when accessing women's shelter services.

As well, we are developing a standardized, but flexible, best practices template that women's shelters in Alberta can use to better accommodate women with disabilities who are fleeing violent and abusive situations. The template is based on the Functional Needs Assessment tool currently used by several Alberta-based emergency services organizations when responding to practical accessibility issues.

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities

Girl Power and More

The Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities learned last week that we received funding from the Status of Women to continue with the work on abuse that we have been doing for over 3 years.

The next phase of our work will focus on young women, ages 13—21. We have already had two "girl power" camps and found that the young women involved are enthusiastic about learning how to protect themselves; develop self esteem; dating; employment; as well as many other topics that are of interest to them.

The Voice will also be working with First Nations/Metis women to address abuse issues and to develop materials that will be culturally and language sensitive.

Another part of our project will be to host a provincial conference that will be exclusive to abuse of persons with disabilities.

New Provincial Government

Saskatchewan now has a new government. We are currently waiting for the first budget that is brought down by this government. Donna Harpauer, Minister responsible for Disability Issues, has informed us that her two priorities are: children first and disability second. This government also says they recognize the importance of Community Based Organizations, so with that, we are expecting significant increases to core funding.

In 2007, the Voice received requests from over 7000 people for assistance in some form, from advocacy; information/referral; research; income; CPP Disability.

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities

Caucus Meetings

Members of the Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities Executive met with the Liberal, NDP, and Government Caucus of Nova Scotia on March 5, 2008 in Halifax. NSLEO presented its annual issues paper and recommendations for action. Below are some highlights from the paper which can be found on NSLEO's website (www.novascotialeo.org)

Address the Need for Improved Access Within Nova Scotia & Support the Development of a Resource For Businesses On How to Improve Access: NSLEO has been working each year to address the issue of accessibility within the province. We acknowledge the government's leadership in making a commitment to ensuring all government buildings are accessible by the year 2020 and would like to see a similar goal for the whole province. We would like to see a province that would encourage business owners, through consciousness of accessibility issues, to do the right thing by making their business open to everyone.

Support Bill to Research Accessibility Legislation: Public and private sector policies are needed to advance the full citizenship, inclusion, and human rights of people with disabilities. However, disability organizations do not have the resource capacity to carry out the research and share the knowledge that can lead to policy changes. NSLEO would like to see Legislation (Bill 121) advanced that would have the Disabled Persons Commission research disability legislation enacted in other areas, and to determine if it would be beneficial for the Province of Nova Scotia. NSLEO maintains that without political will and leadership in addressing the need for accessibility in Nova Scotia we are falling behind.

Re-Invest in Wheelchair Recycling Programs for Adult And Children: NSLEO has been advocating for a technical aid program in Nova Scotia for as many years as it has been in existence and has applauded the Government of Nova Scotia when the need for a wheelchair program was finally recognized in 2005 with the investment of $500,000 in a pilot wheelchair recycling program for children, which was soon followed by a similar program for adults in which they invested 1 million dollars over two years. NSLEO is a member of the Steering Committee created to ensure that the program is used to benefit as many Nova Scotians as is possible, given the allocated funding for the program.

Support Poverty Reduction in Nova Scotia: On December 13th, 2007 the Nova Scotia Government passed Bill 94, An Act to Establish a Poverty Reduction Strategy Working Group in Nova Scotia. Claredon Robicheau is NSLEO's representative sitting on the Nova Scotia Poverty Reduction Working Group which meets every second week. The group will have a Strategy that will be released for public consultation in June 2008.

Accessible Transportation Options for Nova Scotians: Accessible transportation is a life-line to economic, educational and health care opportunities, as well as simple needs. For many individuals who cannot transport themselves, reliance on public or community accessible transportation systems is a necessity. Currently Nova Scotia has nine Dial-A-Ride (Community Based) systems throughout the province. These non-profit, volunteer-run transportation systems are considered invaluable to the members of their respective communities. There are however MANY parts of Nova Scotia where individuals have NO options available for accessible transportation.

Support the Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Disabled

Increased Investement In Disability Supports: Disability supports are the supports required to ensure and enhance the full citizenship, rights and participation of persons with disabilities. Without adequate and accessible disability supports, persons with disabilities and their families are being denied their rights to participation, inclusion and citizenship.

The Issue paper and recommendations were well received and each party has made a commitment to work closer with NSLEO in the future to address the MANY issues presented and discuss further, the recommendations made. NSLEO has begun the process of working with each party in order to establish a committee that will consist of members from each party, including the government of Nova Scotia. The ALL PARTY committee will meet on a more regular basis to discuss the issues within the disability community and find possible solutions that we can work on together.

members of nsleo with Premier and Nova Scotia government members

Members of NSLEO with the Premier and members of the Government of Nova Scotia March 2008

Partnership for Access Awareness

Access Awareness Week in Nova Scotia will be June 1st—June 7th this year. The Theme for AAW this year is "Accessibility for All—The Business of Inclusion". Geoff Fleming has been hired as the PAANS Coordinator and has just launched the new PAANS Website (www.paans.ca). One of the goals for this year is to engage businesses in creating an inclusive and accessible province for everyone to enjoy. The kick off to the week will be the Legislative Breakfast and Proclamation Ceremony where issues of inclusion and accessibility in Nova Scotia will be discussed.

Nova Scotia Pharmacare Program Launched

A new program that will help Nova Scotians with the cost of prescription drugs was announced November 26, 2007. Nova Scotians who are eligible will benefit from the Nova Scotia Family Pharmacare program starting March 1, 2008. Being in the program will give Nova Scotians peace of mind in case their medical needs change and they require prescription drugs. In some cases, these drugs can cost thousands of dollars.

According to a 2000 Health Canada study, about 180,000 Nova Scotians, almost 19 per cent, have no drug coverage. The Family Pharmacare program is available to all Nova Scotians and everyone is encouraged to enroll.

The program, which requires no premium or fees to enroll, will also have a cap on annual out-of-pocket costs for eligible drugs at a percentage of a family's income. It will provide the greatest benefit to those who need it the most.

Are you ready?

The Nova Scotia Guide to Disaster Preparedness is complete and the NS Emergency Preparedness Committee has raised enough funds to print 25,000 copies of the booklet (which is available in both French and English as well as alternative formats). The booklet is available in Sign Language on DVD thanks to the Deafness Advocacy Association of Nova Scotia and Public Safety Canada. The booklet will be officially launched during National Emergency Preparedness Week May 4th-10th. The PDF format of the booklet will be added to our website shortly. If you would like a copy of the booklet sent directly to you please send a request to the NSLEO office.

Disability Community Capacity Building

NSLEO held a Board meeting and information Sharing Session in Halifax in February. Several guests form unrepresented communities in Nova Scotia were invited to attend the meeting and share information from their respective communities with the group. NSLEO discussed their priority issues and strategies for addressing them within the next coming months.

During the meeting it was identified that there is a need in the disability community for building capacity. NSLEO has begun planning several Town Hall meetings throughout the province of Nova Scotia with the goal of collecting more information on issues affecting individuals with disabilities living in our rural communities. NSLEO will also be working to build capacity and generate energy in promoting and supporting initiatives that will encourage inclusion within our communities across the province.

NSLEO has committed to work with all its members groups to promote and encourage our communities to apply for and submit proposals to the Federal Governments recently announced "Enabling Accessibility Fund".

Nova Scotia D-Task Force

NSLEO has been working with People First of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Association for Community Living and the Canadian Mental Health Association of Nova Scotia on developing a strategy to address the issues of deinstitualization in Nova Scotia. The D-Task Force is in the process of developing position papers, which will be presented to government officials and department and institution representatives. NSLEO attended the most recent Deinstitutionalization forum, which was held in New Glasgow on March 19th.


NSLEO would like to congratulate CCD and all those individuals involved in the recent victories in rulings with the VIA RAIL case and "One Person One Fare".

PEI Council of the Disabled

PEI Disability Services Review

PEI's provincial Disability Services Review Committee held well attended public consultations across the Island in February, March and early April. The Committee is mandated to look at the Disability Support Program and all other disability services offered by the provincial government. The Committee also received a large number of written submissions.

members of the disability services review committee

Several members of the disability services review committee listening to a presentation at the public consultation in the town of Souris

The Council's presentation, and the 20 page written submission that went with it, were the Council's thoughts on a wide range of disability services and issues—from accessible public transit to the Disability Support Program and from accessible, affordable housing to use of plain language by government.

Some of the Council's many recommendations to the Committee included:

  • To increase the shelter component of Social Assistance to the level where recipients can afford the average rent, in the PEI housing market, of a unit of accessible housing.
  • To require that any new single family housing built include a washroom and bedroom on the main floor with doorways wide enough to accommodate standard wheelchairs as well as an entrance easily adaptable to the addition of a ramp, as is the case in the European Union.
  • To eliminate the life time limits in the DSP and replace them with a system in which capital or other significant costs are allowable, after a review of the individual's need for the item or service.
  • To revise the appeal mechanism for the DSP to include at least one relevant professional from outside the DSP and at least one representative [and preferably more] of disability NGOs on any committee hearing an appeal, and to require that the person's DSP worker inform them in advance that they may bring one or more advocates or supporting individuals with them.
  • To have each government department review the programs which they offer to identify and remove barriers encountered by persons with disabilities through developing, implementing and making public their plans for barrier removal.

The Committee will submit a "Phase One" report to the provincial government that includes the views of those who participated verbally or in writing. The "Phase Two" report, expected in late Summer or the Fall will be a report and recommendations to Government on what should be done with disability services in PEI.

Council Builds the Voices of Island Disability Groups

Nancymarie Arsenault leading workshop

Work Abilities program Co-ordinator Nancymarie Arsenault delivering a workshop on "Rick and Liability" at the Building Our Voice 2008 conference

On April 7th the Council held a volunteer leadership skills development conference, "Building Our Voice 2008". Modeled closely after a very successful conference in 2005, it was intended to build the volunteer leadership capacity of Island disability NGOs. Twelve skills workshops, on topics from Problem Solving to Advocating with the Media, were run, with three running simultaneously in four sessions during the day.

MLA Briefing Days

The 2007 provincial election resulted in 20 out of the 27 MLAs being new, all of whom are on the Liberal government side of the Legislature. Mid-May will see people with disabilities from each provincial riding meet with their MLA to brief them on housing, disability supports and accessibility issues, and how they affect their constituents. The two-day effort is similar to a successful one done in 2001 by the Council and is intended to inform MLAs about primary provincial-level disability issues.

Around the Block

The Council's seventh annual theatre project, "Around the Block" is well under way. Ten "youth at risk" project participants learn employability and life skills as well as how to produce a theatrical performance, while putting on a 20 to 30 minute show that sensitizes children to disabilities and disability issues. The crew take their show on the road to schools across the province in May.

A New Name

After much consultation with the membership and the staff, looking at all the options, and researching other names across the nation and around the world, the Council's Name Change Committee has decided on a new name for our organization—the "PEI Council of People with Disabilities". The name was approved by the Board, with more than a two-thirds vote, as required in the by-laws, and will be presented to the members at the Annual General Meeting in June for final approval.

A Departure

After eight years, Executive Director Barry Schmidl is leaving the Council in late April. He has moved to a position with the Nova Scotia government but is still working with the Council during the transition to his successor.

Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians

AEBC Welcomes Two New Chapters

The AEBC is delighted to welcome two new chapters to our organization—Nanaimo and Halifax. This brings our current number to 12 chapters, from Halifax to Victoria.

Hybrid Vehicles Pose Real Danger to Pedestrians!

men with signs and leaflets

AEBC leaflets Author Show

On March 27 and 28, members and friends of the AEBC distributed leaflets at the Ottawa-Gatineau Auto Show to increase awareness of the dangers of the quiet, hybrid automobile. This is an issue that should be of concern not just to persons who are vision or hearing impaired, but to all pedestrians.

Following leafleting on Friday, Shelley Ann Morris, AEBC's Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter's Secretary commented: "Most people commented that they 'just didn't know' how serious the issue was or how dangerous quiet cars could be. We even approached parents with young children as kids are also at risk."

We distributed a Press Release to the media, which resulted in an appearance on Ottawa's CB C Morning Show, and the following newspaper article:

Stealthy Hybrids a Hazard: Blind in city report close calls with vehicles

Tracey Tong
Metro Ottawa, March 27, 2008

Hybrid vehicles may be good for the environment, but local advocates say they're not so great for blind people.

An unforeseen side effect of more hybrid cars on Ottawa streets has been a spike in the number of near run-ins blind people have had with the near-silent vehicles, according to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, which plans an information session today outside the Ottawa International Auto Show to highlight the problem.

"Unfortunately, these new hybrid or quiet cars and buses can be dangerous to pedestrians, especially pedestrians who are blind or have low vision," said John Rae, first vice-president of the AEBC. "Many near accidents have already occurred."

Hybrids use less fuel and emit less exhaust by switching their power source to battery-electric motor at lower speeds. But they are nearly silent when in fuel-saving mode, and that's causing a new hazard for blind pedestrians, the AEBC says.

"Obviously, it's the wave of the future. We want people to know they are a danger to blind people in particular," said group member John Southern, who is totally blind.

"With a regular car, a (blind) person can listen for the flow of traffic," he said. "But with a hybrid you can't do that. Before long, all cars are going to be hybrid and it will be a real problem."

Southern emphasized the group is not against hybrids. "We care about the environment as much as anyone else," he said.

But the group is demanding manufacturers build a low, audible signal into the car, which is activated when the vehicle is in silent mode.

Southern is asking people contemplating a hybrid to express their interest in such a feature to the dealership.

CRTC Prepares for Consultation

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will be issuing a Public Notice to consult with Canadians with disabilities later in 2008 about access to radio, television and telecommunications. On March 6, 2008, a consultant who is helping the CRTC prepare for the consultation held a wide ranging telephone interview with members of AEBC on such topics as:

  • Regulatory bodies, including the CRTC must read Human Rights and Charterprinciples into all of their work and decisions.
  • The CRTC must also look at access to products, as the "broadcasting system" must be seen as a whole and the Broadcasting Act covers adaptability of new technology, including the digital box.
  • Cable companies often do not flow through the DVS part of a U.S. program. The current 7-year license cycle hurts accelerating DVS availability, and the AEBC fears the move to digital TV may reduce access to DVS programming which is already far too limited.
  • The CRTC should make it easier for citizens to participate in CRTC hearings by using emerging technology to enable interested parties who live outside the Gatineau area to appear and watch its proceedings.
  • More cell phone features are menu driven; buttons are getting smaller; access software is expensive; lower cost phones are not available in Canada.
  • Getting technical support due to a growing number of visual menus, reduces independence, and lack of understanding of adaptive technology by providers, can lead to having to send out a technician with cost charged to the user.

The AEBC looks forward to participating in the Consultations once the Public Notice is released, which is expected to occur this fall.

2008 AEBC AGM Set for Toronto

The AEBC's 2008 AGM will take place at the Days Inn in Toronto over the long May weekend. The weekend will include the usual range of annual reports, election to our national Board of Directors, discussions on future direction and library services and a Saturday night boat ride. For further information, contact National Secretary, Marcia Cummings at: info@blindcanadians.ca.

DAWN CANADA DisAbled Women's Network Canada
RAFH CANADA Réseau d'Action des Femmes Handicapées du Canada

100% accessible: DAWN's goal for women's shelters

Women's shelters are a crucial resource for women fleeing abuse. To women with disabilities, who experience much higher rates of abuse than nondisabled women, this refuge is essential. But unfortunately, these women's services, already underfunded, are often not accessible and available to all women with disabilities. DAWN-RAFH Canada hopes to uncover the access issues that shelters are experiencing and to encourage them to become more accessible.

Developed and tested in 2007, DAWN-RAFH Canada is conducting a National Accessibility and Accommodation Survey (NAAS) focusing on women's shelters across Canada. The survey allows the shelter to do an in depth audit of its facilities. Completing the NAAS provides immediate impact and examples of many inexpensive and simple accommodations that can implemented right away. Following completion of the NAAS, follow up information and resources are provided to administrators so that they can develop a strategic plan to improve their shelters' accessibility with 100% accessibility as a goal.

DAWN-RAFH Canada will use the results of the survey to provide online and printed toolkits for ongoing use by women's shelters and to develop other resources for increasing accessibility to shelters for women with disabilities. Ongoing training and development for shelter and outreach workers is another important part of this initiative.

From April to July 2008, Special Projects & Research Assistant, Sujata Dey, will be surveying shelters across Canada. An online version will also be available through DAWN-RAFH Canada's website. The survey looks at all aspects of accessibility from environmental sensitivity issues to attendant care issues, to mental health issues, to help for mothers with disabilities who come to shelters. DAWN-RAFH Canada's Special Projects and Research Coordinator, Diane Driedger, who has been involved in many research projects concerning the issues of women with disabilities, will be analyzing and compiling the data in preparation for presentation at the first World Conference of Women's Shelters in September 2008. DAWN-RAFH Canada together with Women with Disabilities Australia will be co-presenting on a Panel on Best Practices.

We are looking for representatives from all over the country to help us conduct the survey in their local communities. If you are interested please contact Sujata at sujatadeyqs@gmail.com or through the National Head Office at:

110 Ste-Therese, #005,
Montreal, QC H2Y 1E6
Toll Free: 1-866-396-0074
Email: admin@dawncanada.net

National Network for Mental Health

The National Network for Mental Health (NNMH) is the only non-diagnostic specific mental health consumer/survivor organization that is national in scope and service in Canada.

Currently the NNMH is involved in a number of activities and projects as they relate to mental health consumers/survivors living in Canada.

BUILT Network

The largest project by far is the "BUILT Network". The Building Up Individuals Through Learning and Teamwork (BUILT) Network Customer Service Representative program originated in North Bay, Ontario, in May of 2002. The program was developed specifically to provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to come together as a team to increase workplace skills and ethics. The length of the program is seven weeks and areas that are covered include Personal Development, Customer Service, Personal Sales, Computer Fundamentals, MS Office, and Professional Development.

Currently there are offices in New Westminster (BC), Calgary (AB), Winnipeg (MB), North Bay (ON), St. Catharines (ON), Moncton (NB), and an on-line program for persons in any other community across Canada. To date, more than 500 people have returned to the workforce through this program, and the project has been nationally recognized through the Canadian Council on Learning.

Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH)

In 1998 the NNMH met with other mental illness/health stakeholders to form the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH). CAMIMH was born out of a need for the mental illness/health to see mental illness and mental health at the forefront of the national agenda, and to ensure that a national strategy on mental illness and mental health was a Canadian reality.

It is through the efforts of CAMIMH that the profile of mental illness and mental health has been raised. In the years since the formation of the alliance, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology underwent a four-year study on the state of mental illness, mental health and addictions in Canada. A number of recommendations were forthcoming out of the study which included the "Out of the Shadows At Last" Senate report outlining recommendations for action on May 09, 2006. One of the recommendations included a Mental Health Commission, and another was for a national strategy on mental illness and mental health in Canada.

Since that time, CAMIMH, most recently under the leadership of Constance McKnight, Chair, and National Executive Director of the NNMH, has been working closely with the MHCC.

Leaders within the NNMH and consumer/survivor constituency nationally have a voice, and many are involved in the many committees and at the Board level of the MHCC.

The NNMH, therefore, is currently expending a number of its human resources to the work of the newly announced Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the recent Federal Budget Announcement of a $110 million commitment to homelessness, mental health and addiction via the MHCC.

Other activities of the NNMH are countless. The organization is a founding member of an international coalition of national mental health consumer/survivor driven coalitions called "Interrelate", is Secretariat to the Canadian Coalition of Alternative Mental Health Resources, speaks to numerous audiences on a routine basis about building partnerships and consumer/survivor capacity building, and publishes the NNMH Bulletin monthly.

For more information please see www.nnmh.ca, www.ccamhr.ca, www.builtnetwork.ca.

People First of Canada

Global Forum for Inclusion 2008

People First of Canada is pleased to announce that they, along with Inclusion International, will be co-hosting a 1-day International Gathering of Self-Advocates on November 17-18, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario at the Westin Hotel.

Self-Advocates will share experiences and information from their own countries, review the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, identify common issues, and look at ways to strengthen a global self-advocacy movement.

This will be an amazing opportunity for people to learn and share their experiences with others. Mark your calendars—raise some funds—and join us in Ottawa! It will be an event to remember!

Coming to a Theatre Near You in Fall 2008!

We are proud to present

"Free our People"

A film made by People First of Canada in conjunction with The National Film Board of Canada.

The journey began in August 2007, when a very excited group of people left Winnipeg Manitoba in an RV to tour across the Prairies to raise awareness about persons still living in institutions. Their travels took them through Portage la Prairie, Dauphin, Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Red Deer, finally ending in Calgary Alberta. With the help of a media crew to film this amazing journey, survivors of institutional living across the prairies told their stories and experiences and shared about what life was like living in an institution. These incredible stories have been put together to create this remarkable film to be shared by many. A must see!

Details on release date and location will be shared soon.

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.)