A Voice of Our Own: August 2009

Volume 27, Issue 3

On the CCD Agenda

CCD Member Group Updates


On the CCD Agenda

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) Opposes Bill C-384

CCD believes that everyone who supports disability rights should oppose Bill C-384 which would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide and put Canadians with disabilities at risk! CCD is a national human rights organization of persons with disabilities working for an accessible and inclusive Canada.

C-384, the private member's bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada received its first reading last month. Bill C-384 was introduced by the Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament—Francine Lalonde. This is Lalonde's third attempt to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

Bill C-384 legalizes euthanasia by amending section 222 of the Criminal Code and it legalizes assisted suicide by amending section 241 of the Criminal Code.

"Called the "Right to Die with Dignity" Act, this bill threatens the lives of Canadians with disabilities. Its selling points are the notions of "dignity," and "suffering." However, the bill never explains what these terms mean. How do we measure dignity? What is suffering?" states Rhonda Wiebe, Co-Chair of CCD's Ending of Life Ethics Committee. These terms are based more on social values than scientific ones, but this bill proposes that a "medical" and "legal" solution be the remedy for people whose lives are not "dignified" and who "suffer."

"Living without dignity and suffering are common misperceptions that able-bodied Canadians have about the lives of their fellow citizens with disabilities. Bill C-384 does nothing to protect those who find themselves socially devalued in these ways," states Dean Richert, Co-Chair of CCD's Ending of Life Ethics Committee.

Social support and meaningful involvement in the community are more important for the well-being of people with disabilities than the severity of their disabilities. Assisted suicide is not a free choice as long as they are denied adequate healthcare, affordable personal assistance in their communities, and equal access to social structures and systems.

Fast Facts about Bill C-384

What does Bill C-384 do?

Bill C-384 would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

How does it do this?

It amends two sections of the Criminal Code of Canada—Section 222 and 241.

Who could avail themselves of the intent of Bill C-384?

The Bill makes euthanasia and assisted suicide available to:

  • People at least 18 years of age
    • Experiencing physical or mental pain without prospect of relief or
    • Suffering from a terminal illness.

What is terminal illness?

Bill C-384 does not define terminal illness.

Who does Bill C-384 seek to protect from charges of homicide or assisting a suicide?

Bill C-384 identifies medical practitioners duly qualified by provincial law to practice medicine.

Under Bill C-384, what steps would a person follow to be euthanized?

Bill C-384 proposes that a person would:

  • Appear lucid
  • Make two written requests, 10 days apart, to a medical practitioner, stating he/she is opting to die
  • When lucid, designate another person, to act on his/her behalf when he/she is not lucid.

What are some of the criticisms being leveled against Bill C-384?

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Newsletter June 2009: "Bill C-384 directly threatens the lives of people with disabilities and/or people with chronic conditions. People with disabilities and chronic conditions are often perceived as being without any prospect of relief."

Licia Corbella, "Legalized euthanasia leads to no choice, ever" in Calgary Herald (16 May 2009): "When proponents of euthanasia speak, they refer almost exclusively to elderly, terminally ill people in excruciating pain being the recipients of [euthanasia], as Lalonde calls it, 'ultimate compassion.' But when you read the small print, her bill includes depressed 18-year-olds who refuse 'appropriate treatments' like say, refusing to take their Prozac. So killing off depressed teens who refuse their meds is now 'ultimate compassion.' The euphemism is nauseating."

An Open Letter to Members of Parliament

June 19, 2009


The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national human rights organization of persons with disabilities working for an inclusive and accessible Canada, is alarmed by Bill C-384. I urge you to vote against Bill C-384. CCD opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia because of the adverse impact it would have on persons with disabilities. CCD submits that people with disabilities would bear the negative social consequences of any legislation that allows the killing of people perceived to be suffering.

Bill C-384 would alter the fundamental Canadian norm which prohibits killing. This is too important a value to be changed by an ill-conceived Private Member's Bill. If Bill C-384 were passed, this prohibition against killing would be altered, making it permissible to kill in certain circumstances:

  • a request maker at least 18 years of age
  • two written requests freely made seeking to die
  • the request maker appears to be lucid
  • the request maker is experiencing physical or mental pain without prospect of relief or terminal illness.

In the public mind, these circumstances are characterized as suffering. Longstanding social practices and beliefs have misled many people without disabilities to conflate disability with suffering. Unlike nondisabled people, people with disabilities do not consider themselves to be suffering. They are as satisfied with their quality of life as nondisabled people are with theirs. Nevertheless, this does not dissuade misguided people from seeking to end the lives of people with disabilities. A number of different people and organizations in the disability community, such as Dr. Dick Sobsey (University of Alberta), CCD and Not Dead Yet, have been working to increase awareness about this phenomenon and we encourage you to review the materials on their web sites.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities is certain that such negative cultural perceptions regarding disability will result in nondisabled people, influenced by erroneous concepts of compassion, to conclude that the circumstances of disability are "without relief" and they will act to secure death as provided for in Bill C-384. Subtle, and not so subtle pressures, can be placed upon vulnerable persons with a disability to motivate them to seek a death sanctioned by Bill C-384.

Canada would have a new social norm—one where people without disabilities would "help" people with disabilities by killing them. As a legislator, you are mandated by the Equality Rights Section (Section 15) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that Canadian legislation does not have an adverse impact upon persons with disabilities. VOTE AGAINST BILL C-384 TO PRESERVE THE EQUALITY, LIFE AND SECURITY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN CANADA.


Maria White signature

Marie White

What You Can Do About Bill C-384

CCD is asking everybody concerned about disability rights to write to their Members of Parliament encouraging them to vote against Bill C-384 because it threatens the lives and security of people with disabilities.

Bill C-384 is Francine Lalonde's Private Member's Bill and it would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. The Bill received first reading last month on 13 May 2009 and it is Lalonde's third attempt to get this kind of legislation passed. Bill C-384 would legalize euthanasia by amending section 222 of the Criminal Code and it would legalize assisted suicide by amending section 241 of the Criminal Code.

In 2003, CCD published "Legalizing Physician-Assisted Death: Can Safeguards Protect the Interest of Vulnerable Persons?" by Orville Endicott. (See: http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/humanrights/deathmaking/euthanasia/lpad). In this report, Endicott points out proponents of legalized euthanasia often include safeguards to protect the vulnerable, such as (1) establishment of a procedural body to ensure that safeguards are met (2) the determination that the individual's choice is indeed free and voluntary, (3) the exploration of "every reasonable avenue has been fully explored that would make dying no longer the most attractive prospect". While CCD does not accept that such safeguards can truly protect people with disabilities from unwanted deaths, Lalonde's Bill C-384 does not even attempt to include effective safeguards. This is a flawed piece of amending legislation which must be defeated.

Another organization working to defeat Bill C-384 is the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC). On the EPC web site www.epcc.ca, you will find many useful materials to assist your provide an alternative perspective on Bill C-384. For example, the EPC has a sample letter for MPs regarding the problems presented by Bill C-384, an analysis of Bill C-384 and Parliamentary Response Cards.

Dignity for All: A Campaign to Eradicate Poverty

At its June 2009 Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Council of Canadians with Disabilities endorsed Canada Without Poverty's (CWP) and Citizens for Public Justice's campaign to eradicate poverty: Dignity for All. (CWP was formerly known as the National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO).)

The Dignity for All campaign calls for:

  • Robust action by the federal government to address the structural causes of poverty in Canada.
  • A federal plan for poverty elimination that works with provincial and territorial plans.
  • A federal anti-poverty Act.
  • Sufficient federal investment in social security for all Canadians

As we all know too well, poverty disproportionately affects people with disabilities. Poverty affects more people with disabilities than people without disabilities. This is why CCD has decided to prioritize work on poverty. Our End Exclusion event has consistently had a focus on poverty and this year's End Exclusion event will be focused entirely on poverty. Our major research work, the CURA project Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship is focused on poverty. Our work on EI, the tax system and CPPD has been aimed at improving the economic position of Canadians with disabilities. The Dignity for All campaign provides us with an opportunity to work with other Canadians who are dedicated to ending poverty.

Canada Without Poverty, the lead organization for the campaign, has values and a philosophy which is very consistent with that of CCD. CWP's Board of Directors is made up of people who all have direct lived experience of poverty. Some are also people with disabilities. Like CCD, CWP approaches issues from a human rights perspective. This is very evident in how they have framed the Dignity for All campaign.

Poverty is moving onto the political agenda. In some provinces--Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba—new poverty reduction strategies have or are being developed. Politicians need to see that people with disabilities are concerned about poverty and actively working in support of poverty eradication. Participation in the Dignity for All campaign provides another mechanism for demonstrating the disability community's dedication to ending poverty.

To learn more about the Dignity for All campaign, please visit the web site that has been developed to support the campaign at http://www.dignityforall.ca.

Civil society's views on Canada's ratification of the Convention - benefits and challenges

By Laurie Beachell
CCD National Coordinator, 25 June 2009

(In June, the Government of Canada held a consultation on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Laurie Beachell made the following presentation during the consultation.)

Thank you for the opportunity to address this topic on behalf of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and others civil society organizations that have been engaged as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been developed. I read again on the plane coming here the Convention and the Optional Protocol documents. What an astounding document! With each read of it, I find its scope and language to be remarkable. Truly, the creation of the CRPD has been an energizing and exciting process.

CCD has been centrally involved in the Convention's development through Steve Estey who, as a volunteer, has done exemplary work to ensure that a Canadian disability rights perspective was heard. Not only was Steve part of the Canadian delegation but CCD was supported by HRSD to coordinate four national consultations with the disability community as the Convention was developed. Truly, this was a supported, open and productive process and one that should be replicated as we move forward to develop an implementation plan for the Convention.

I also wish to mention the outstanding contribution of Anna MacQuarrie who along with Steve is my source of knowledge and content on the CRPD.

So What Are Civil Society's Views on the Convention?

1. Ratification:

It is abundantly clear that the disability community wants the Government of Canada to move forward quickly to ratify the Convention. Civil society believes that Canada is in compliance with the Convention and it is our hope that ratification will be accomplished within the calendar year and that on December 3, 2009 we can all come together to celebrate Canada's ratification of this historic initiative.

In fact, here are my top 5 reasons for ratification:

  1. Disability is everyone's issue.
  2. CRPD establishes human rights as the approach that governments should take when addressing issues of persons with disabilities.
  3. The UN used a participatory model when developing the CRPD, involving stakeholders and particularly persons with disabilities and their organizations.
  4. Ratification will mean that Canada must develop and implement a disability action plan.
  5. Ratification will mean that there will be an international watchdog monitoring Canada's progress on protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities.

Whether the Government of Canada should ratify the CRPD is a question that civil society has already answered in press conferences, letters to Ministers, etc. We unequivocally call on the Government of Canada to move forward with ratification of the CRPD. For civil society, the unanimous support for a motion on ratification in the House of Commons over a year ago put the question to rest.

It appears to us that Ministers MacKay and Cannon are eager to move forward.

2. Reservations, Understandings and Declarations (RUDs):

RUDs can be used by countries to exempt themselves from particular provisions in a convention, or to describe how they think specific language in a convention should be interpreted. RUDs are filed by a country at the same time they submit their ratification instrument.

As Canada has traditionally not submitted substantive reservations to UN Conventions, we trust and hope that the same will be true for the CRPD. We recognize that there may be some reservations and that reservations in some instances are not necessarily a bad thing. There was a reservation identified related to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I believe it addressed adoptions and the concerns of the Aboriginal community. This reservation was considered an appropriate response and was supported by the community.

We understand there may be concerns with Article 12 "Equal recognition before the law." Quoting from Inclusion International's Toolkit "We would remind governments that Article 46 of the CRPD and article 14 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, do not permit reservations that are incompatible with the object and purpose of the CRPD. Equality and nondiscrimination along with respect for dignity, individual autonomy and freedom to make one's choices have been recognized as the general principles of the CRPD. The general principles were included to render the object and purpose of the Convention explicit. A reservation on article 12 is antithetical to each of these principles and hence not permissible by article 46 of the Convention."

CCD would suggest that if reservations are filed that we also from the outset establish a process within Canada for review of these reservations within a timely manner. We would suggest that a domestic process for reviewing reservations be established and that all reservations be reviewed both by government and civil society every 2 to 3 years. This will create a framework for progressive movement forward and hopefully for addressing issues that governments are unable to address at the present time. Of course, any reservations identified will be part of the required country review every four years. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be monitoring country reports on the CRPD and a review of reservations would be automatic at that time. Disability issues will also be a component of the Universal Periodic Review and Canada's reporting to the Council on Human Rights. CCD and other disability organizations have been active in the UPR process and have made a number of presentations as well as public statements about Canada's human rights record. Disability organizations will be even more active in the future as Canada's record is reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

3. Implementation Plan:

The disability community would be concerned if governments simply state that with anti-discrimination protections in place in both the Charter and Human Right Acts there is no need for Canada to do much more. Certainly Canada has enshrined protection from discrimination in our constitution, however at present, at the national level, there is little movement on disability issues. Marie White, National Chairperson of CCD, is quite vocal in saying that Social Policy is Homeless at the present time.

Our community expects to see an implementation plan and the establishment of a process for monitoring government's actions in relation to the Convention. It is our view that the Charter, Human Rights Acts, and the Convention place a positive obligation on governments and society at large to remove barriers to the equal participation of Canadians with disabilities. It is our view that the Convention requires action not simply a re-iteration of the status quo. To do otherwise is to leave those who are already disadvantaged by the current environment responsible for removing barriers through complaints and litigation. This is unacceptable. To leave people with disabilities responsible for law reform proposals, public education or litigation of offending legislation is simply another example of the old game of "blaming the victim."

It should be noted that as the Government of Canada has moved forward with other Conventions or international treaties such as the Landmines Ban Treaty, government has allocated resources to advance the rights of affected groups. The Landmine Treaty Ban resulted in significant funding for government and NGO activity to; promote the Ban, undertake de-mining activities and provide assistance to survivors of landmines. Additionally the Government of Canada responded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child by addressing a number of new initiatives targeted to children, providing support to NGOs for their activities and producing a report called "A Canada Fit for Children". Canadians with disabilities expect no less. Some of the things we expect to see as a result of ratification are:

  • A review of existing programs and services that address the needs of persons with disabilities and identification of new initiatives to remove barriers and/or improve access to goods and services.
  • Development of an Action Plan to improve the status of persons with disabilities.
  • Allocation of additional resources for NGOs to assist in the process of identifying and removing barriers.
  • A strengthened annual report to Parliament on the Status of Persons with Disabilities in Canada that would address key articles of the CRPD.
  • Establishment of a Parliamentary Committee focused on the Status of Canadians with disabilities. This may be a Sub Committee or a Standing Committee focused on disability. For the past 30 years a focused, nonpartisan Committee has been fundamental in advancing a disability agenda. At present it is not functioning.
  • An active Federal/Provincial/Territorial dialogue on disability that is open and inclusive and ensures the participation of persons with disabilities. Because of the nature of our federation a collaborative process with provinces is required to truly advance a disability agenda and to ensure comparable service delivery across this country. We recognize the need for governments to do their own work and meet on their own but they also must ensure input from the disability community.
  • Establishment of a specific dialogue and process to address the issues of Aboriginal people with disabilities.

4. Optional Protocol:

It is our understanding that the Optional Protocol is not being considered at this time, however, the community will continue to urge the Government of Canada to ratify the Optional Protocol. Our position on this is clear and basic: "a right without a remedy is no right at all." We would urge the Government of Canada to establish a forum for discussion of the Optional Protocol within the next two years.


I have identified some of the challenges we may encounter as we move forward, but be assured the disability community is supportive of, and excited by, the development of the CRPD and we are eager to see Canada ratify the Convention this calendar year.

The potential benefits of the Convention are huge. The Convention provides another defining point in the disability rights movement. The disability rights movement has progressed primarily from the tireless advocacy efforts of persons with disabilities, from the development of big ideas and big dreams and from the support of prominent champions and the allocation of resources. Relentless incrementalism has been the name of the game, however, the CRPD moves us into a whole new realm of possibilities and substantive expectations.

Once again our expectations are high and Canadians with disabilities will be vigilant in monitoring government's actions in relation to the CRPD. We have worked together to significantly raise the bar. Now we must work together to turn this inspiring document into clear actions that will "promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity."

Thank you.

Jim Derksen Honored by University of Manitoba

In recognition of his work on behalf of disability rights, Jim Derksen was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba on 26 May 2009. During the convocation ceremony, Jim presented a thought provoking commentary about embodiment and social construction to the assembled participants.

Jim Derksen's Convocation Address

Thank you, University of Manitoba for this honor, through me, in recognition of the work many have done in the area of disability and human rights.

I want to acknowledge my family. I am the oldest of nine children of whom six of us are still living. My mother, my remaining brothers and sisters, their partners and some of their children are here today. My courageous and beautiful children, Amara and Tom, could not be here today as they are doing the vital work of finding their own place in this world. I am here because of the love, support and teaching my family provided to me.

I want to acknowledge my many other teachers and mentors without whom I would not be here to accept this honor today. Among these legions, I will just name Allan Simpson and Professor Carl Ridd.

There's no doubt that I, as other human beings, have individually unique gifts and capacities on the one hand and impairments or disabilities on the other. These are given manifest embodied realities. There is also no doubt that beyond the given reality, we live in a world that is of our own making. This world, built of our understandings, attitudes, and values, should not be our prison, neither should we make it our idol and put it above our humanity. Rather this world should be made and remade as a tool to enable our full potential and reflect our highest aspirations.

As a very young person with a visible significant disability, I took serious note of the constructed consensus world of ideas and low expectations about disability. Finding these ideas did not agree with my own sense and experience of who and what I was and could be, I decided to actively resist and defy these constructions. It has been said that man builds his cage around himself, but the lion bursts his cage asunder. And many people with disabilities and many otherwise socially marginalized and excluded people have broken out of the cages built to capture and entrap them.

It is our nature as human beings to make the world we live in. When we build the path we are to move forward on, let us build it so that all of us can go where we truly want and need to go.

Today is an important transition for those of us receiving our degrees. The late 1940s when I was born was also a time of great transition. Human beings had made terrible idols of ideas about eugenics and imagined racial purity and superiority in the preceding decades, and then had sacrificed human beings to these falsities by the millions during the Second World War. The Allied nations that defeated this horror determined to build a United Nations and declare a framework of principles and values to prevent us from ever acting out such obscenities again. This framework is known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is now only about 60 years old. As global ideas and structures go, these human rights are young and fragile. Let us be clear in our understanding, that many older forces continue to be aligned against these fresh, new ideas of universal human rights.

It has been my privilege, working with others, to help develop human rights legislation in this country, and in the early 1980s to have the opportunity of helping, with others, to embed certain human rights values in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. More recently I've been able to work with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and many other groups to help establish the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We have set out our vision of fairness and equality rights for all persons regardless of natural diversities and long-standing prejudice and exclusion.

What then do we make of the killing fields in Cambodia? How can we explain the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, and how do we live with what is happening in Darfur today? Why does prejudice continue to limit and devalue the lives of so many? Obviously, the problem that remains is how to act out and achieve in reality the vision we have declared of our human rights. However important, it is not only important, to say the right things and agree to the right values. Indeed, I feel it is critical now to honor these values in our deeds and behavior.

We are all challenged to understand the cages we have built together, in which we are entangled and situated. Let us rise to the challenge to become lion-people, to break apart the cages that constrain us, and by so doing, give free life to the fairness and equality of the human rights we have envisioned for ourselves.

I want to commend every effort to realize our vision of universal human rights. I commend the Canadian Museum for Human Rights which is to be built and operating at the Forks in Winnipeg by 2012. I also want to commend the idea of Winnipeg joining with the City of Edmonton and the network of other cities around the world committing to and declaring themselves to be human rights cities.

All my relations. Blessed be. I am here.

Thank you.

Jim Derksen: CCD's Newest Honorary Member

By April D'Aubin
CCD Research Analyst

At CCD's Annual General Meeting, which was held on 7 June 2009, the National Council of Representatives made Jim Derksen an honorary member of the organization. CCD has only three other honorary members: Peggy Allan, Irene McGinn and David Baker. For CCD, Jim has been a true visionary leader, identifying emerging trends and helping our organization meet new challenges in a principled manner consistent with our human rights philosophy. CCD made Jim an honorary member in recognition of the significant contribution that Jim has made to the development of an accessible and inclusive Canada.

At an early stage in his life, Jim began to work on removing barriers to the full and equal participation of people with disabilities. At the University of Winnipeg, where he was a student, he met other students with disabilities different from his own and learned about the barriers they encountered. Always a problem solver, he began a service transcribing books onto audiotape, providing visually impaired students and others access to print material.

Jim joined the Company of Young Canadians learning community development skills, which he transferred to the disability rights movement. He played key roles in the development of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD), the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) and the Canadian Disability Rights Council (CDRC). Mr. Derksen served as Chief Executive Officer of various voluntary organizations: MLPD, E-Quality Employment Inc., and CCD. Mr. Dersken was Chief Development Officer for DPI. Through this work, he became an expert on disability public policy: human rights, employment, accessible transportation, international development, to name only a few areas where Jim has in-depth knowledge, which he generously shares with CCD and other organizations.

In 1980, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, which was then known as the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (COPOH), seconded Jim to the Special Parliamentary Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped. This took him to Ottawa when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was being developed. Jim successfully persuaded politicians on both sides of the House as well as Department of Justice officials that people with disabilities should be included in Section 15 of the Charter. Canada was the first country to provide constitutional protection for the rights of persons with disabilities and Jim had a very large role in bringing about this historic first.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Council on Welfare, the United Nations and the Government of Canada have consulted with Jim on disability issues. He co-chaired the Federal Minister of Transportation's Advisory Committee on Transportation of the Handicapped and served on the Canada Employment and Immigration Advisory Council.

In 1986, Jim joined the Manitoba public service, pioneering many new initiatives. As Coordinator for the Decade of Disabled Persons, he implemented the Manitoba Plan of Action for the Decade of Disabled Persons, a provincial strategy on disability. His last assignment with the Manitoba Government was as Executive Director of the Disability Issues Office. Jim retired from the provincial government in 2004.

Although Jim retired from his position with the Provincial Government, his volunteer work commitments continue to be extensive. He is on three CCD committees: Human Rights, International Development and Ending of Life Ethics. Jim also assists CCD with our work in support of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. In February of this year, Jim appeared in CCD's first YouTube video, where he discussed the key points of the End Exclusion National Action Plan.

He is a frequent, and very welcome, visitor to the CCD office. During these visits, Jim generously shares his knowledge and insights with CCD staff on current projects.

Jim is one of CCD's longest serving and most dedicated volunteers. In making Jim an honorary member, the National Council is acknowledging Jim's phenomenal contribution to CCD and sincerely inviting him to continue his in-depth involvement in the organization for many more years.

CCD Awards

The following are this year's recipients of the CCD Awards:

Pat Danforth. Nominated by BCCPD.

Donna Martyn. Nominated by ACCD.

Brad Choquette. Nominated by SVOPD.

Valerie Wolbert, Susie Weiszmann, David Weremy, Mark Blanchette, and Kevin Johnson, the co-creators of the Freedom Tour. Nominated by MLPD.

Véronique Vézina. Nominated by COPHAN.

Dorothy Kitchen. Nominated by NS LEO.

Michelle Murdoch. Nominated by COD ND&LAB.

Stephen MacDonald. Nominated by PEI Council.

Zelda Rempel. Nominated by DAWN Canada.

Dr. Chris Summerville. Nominated by NNMH.

Marie Harnois. Nominated by TVAC.

Julie Flumerfelt. Nominated by NWT Council.

Scott Simser. Nominated by CAD.

Chris and Marie Stark. Nominated by AEBC.

Member Group Updates

BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD)

BCCPD Partnering with Disability Rights Promotion International

The BCCPD is pleased to be partnering with York University and Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) on an important project. DRPI is a human rights research project conducted by people with disabilities. It is gathering data from 4 areas, including the experiences of people with disabilities in 5 Canadian cities and in 8 countries.

The project will integrate information from 4 areas of monitoring: Individual Experiences, Media, Policy and Law and Survey Datasets. DRPI's overall goal is to establish a sustainable and comprehensive monitoring system to address disability discrimination in Canada. It will focus attention on the way that systemic discrimination and social exclusion increase vulnerability to abuse, chronic poverty, unemployment, other forms of discrimination and inequitable social conditions.

Locally, BCCPD human rights monitors will interview 50 people with disabilities about their experiences in the Lower Mainland and in the Penticton area. Globally, other sections of the DRPI project will monitor systemic human rights abuses. All of the DRPI work will be used to establish a human rights monitoring system globally. This research can then be presented to policymakers and politicians—at home and around the world.

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities

Alberta's New Pharmaceutical Strategy: ADF Responds

In December 2008, the government of Alberta announced its new pharmaceutical strategy, which promises to:

  • Consolidate five provincial government drug benefit programs into one
  • Establish a public committee to balance the views of the Expert Committee on Drug Evaluation and Therapeutics
  • Move to bulk buying to save money

The new strategy strives to make drug coverage more accessible, affordable, efficient, and therapeutically effective. However, key components are troubling, and the Alberta Disabilities Forum wants to ensure that the strategy is driven by health needs rather than economics. People with disabilities must not lose benefits with the implementation of a single government drug program, and there must be a timely and transparent drug approval process. Patient education and expanding the drug list to include all medications deemed necessary for the health and wellness of persons with disabilities or chronic illnesses must be at the forefront of a revised pharmaceutical strategy.

ADF has prepared a written statement of its concerns, Response to the Alberta Pharmaceutical Strategy, which it will distribute to MLAs and present to Ron Liepert, Minister of Health. In the paper, ADF supports the government's decision to eliminate the deductible for more low-income seniors, but it is opposed to introducing income testing for other seniors and increasing the Non-group Drug Benefit Program premium. ADF is concerned that instituting income testing now may open the door to more limitations in the future - not only for seniors but also for persons with disabilities and other Albertans.

As well, ADF is concerned that the expanded drug coverage plan for Individuals with Rare Diseases is too restrictive. By limiting it to persons with rare diseases of a rate of less than 1 in 50,000, the definition excludes almost all Albertans with chronic illnesses or disabilities. For example, the number of people who will be diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in Alberta in one year is estimated to be 1 in 50,000, but the total number of people in Alberta with ALS is about 165 (1 in 20,000). Will the Alberta Pharmaceutical Strategy cover ALS cases? The answer isn't clear.

Michelle Kristinson, chair of ADF's Health Working Committee, says, "The ADF Health Working Group will continue to monitor and give input into the implementation of the Alberta Pharmaceutical Strategy. Access to medications must be timely, affordable, and include medications critical to the health and well being of Albertans with disabilities."

ACCD Continues Business Accessibility Program

Since 1996, ACCD has been conducting business accessibility assessments in Edmonton and area. This free consultation service is designed to educate Alberta's business community about the benefits of, and need for, buildings that are designed to be barrier-free. During the assessments, we record the placement and measurements of features such as parking stalls, sidewalks, entryways, passageways, treatment areas, customer service areas, washrooms, elevators, and ramps. Afterwards, the information is analyzed, and recommendations for improving accessibility are presented to business owners.

The results of the assessments aren't always encouraging, but in March, 2009, we visited a dentist's office and learned that Dr. Donald C. Yu, Clinical Professor and Director of the Endodontics Program at the University of Alberta, runs one of the most accessible dental clinics in the city.

Dr. Yu and his business partner, Dr. Glenn Bilodeau, designed Southpark Gateway Dental Clinic with disabilities in mind, an effort inspired by years of experience attending to the dental needs of residents at the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre, a non-profit long-term care facility for seniors. (Dr. Yu serves as Vice Chair of the centre's management board.)

A wide passageway connects the clinic's waiting room—which has spaces reserved for people who use wheelchairs—to an accessible procedural area that comes complete with an in-house physiotherapist trained to assist seniors and people with disabilities into the reclining chair where routine check-ups, root canals, and all procedures in between are performed daily. Yu and Bilodeau even make house calls for patients who cannot arrange transportation or are unable to attend appointments at the clinic because of a disability. Thanks to years spent working with people with disabilities, Yu and Bilodeau have a heightened awareness of barrier-free design.

Unfortunately, this level of awareness is not common among business owners. Although most people want their businesses to be accessible, they seldom know where to begin—the education provided by ACCD's business accessibility assessments is one key way to bridge this gap. With continued support, ACCD is confident our efforts to educate Alberta's business owners about accessibility will help many businesses become as accessible as the South Edmonton dental clinic of Dr. Yu and Dr. Bilodeau.

Good News in Alberta's 2009 Budget

The Alberta government's 2009 budget included a $108 million increase for Seniors and Community Supports. This is good news for the disability community. We will see:

  • A $100 per month increase for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped recipients. The increased AISH funding also accommodates an expected growth in the number of Albertans receiving AISH.
  • A 5.8% budget increase for the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program to help agencies recruit and retain staff, to assist more clients, and to improve support for those with complex needs.
  • $50 million to provide more supportive living units across the province. Minister Jablonski said, "We expect this funding will help build about 450 more units, which will support the Continuing Care Strategy to allow more Albertans to age in the right place."

Safe Haven: Enhancing Accessibility in Alberta's Women's Shelters

CCD is pleased to announce the completion of its Safe Haven project. The Safe Haven curriculum is designed to improve women's shelter access for women with disabilities by:

  • Inviting shelter workers to examine their own assumptions about people with disabilities
  • Introducing shelter workers to the functional needs approach (FNA) to assessing the needs of women with disabilities who seek their support
  • Emphasizing the importance of community partnerships to help shelters support women with disabilities

Funded by the Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Education Fund, ACCD visited women's shelters across the province, met with women with disabilities, and consulted with women's shelter staff. Using the information gathered in these meetings and through our research, we developed a sensitive and meaningful workshop that we believe will benefit women's shelter staff and the women with disabilities who access their services.

ACCD hosted two workshops, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary, to pilot the materials. Staff from rural and urban shelters attended the sessions. ACCD contracted Brenda Bannerman (BSW, MSW) to facilitate the pilot sessions. Brenda has worked as a life skills instructor for people with developmental disabilities, as a counselor in a crisis centre, and in an urban native health centre.

ACCD executive director, Bev Matthiessen and Alberta Disabilities Forum provincial coordinator, Melita Avdagovska, will be facilitating the workshop on June 23, 2009 in Peace River. Front-line staff members from women's shelters in the area will attend.

For more information on having this workshop presented at a women's shelter in your community, please call ACCD at (780) 488-9088 in Edmonton or 1-800-387-2514 (toll free).

Alberta's Continuing Care Strategy: Aging in the Right Place

In December, 2008, the Alberta government presented Continuing Care Strategy: Aging in the Right Place. Ron Liepert, Minister of Health and Wellness, announced that the strategy aims to "improve health and personal care service options for seniors and persons with disabilities by enhancing supports to help them live within the community."

This goal will be accomplished through five directives:

  • Investing in community supports
  • Building infrastructure that meets the "aging in the right place" vision
  • Changing the way long-term care accommodations are paid
  • Funding individuals based on needs and/or fund operators
  • Providing equitable pharmaceutical coverage for individuals in all types of settings

Milestones have been set in each of these areas, and implementation is scheduled to take place over the next three years. ACCD's board president, Dave Storey, notes, "We applaud the government for its decision to improve service options for seniors and persons with disabilities so they can live independently in their communities. We look forward to giving input and to working with government as the strategy unfolds."

ACCD will be monitoring the development of the strategy throughout the planning and implementation stages. We believe it is critical that adequate home care services are in place before these changes take place so that seniors and people with disabilities have the supports they need to be healthy and safe.

If you are interested in reading Continuing Care Strategy: Aging in the Right Place, you can find it on the Government of Alberta web site at http://www.health.alberta.ca/documents/Continuing-Care-Strategy-2008.pdf (PDF).

If you would like to share your thoughts on the Continuing Care Strategy, we'd like to hear from you. Please call Trudy at (780) 488-9088 in Edmonton or 1-800-387-2514 (toll free).

ACCD Welcomes New Board

At our AGM in late May, ACCD welcomed four new and six returning board members. We look forward to a productive year!

  • President: Dave Storey, Grande Prairie
  • Vice President: Doreen Gyorkos, Lethbridge
  • Treasurer: Maryetta Thielen, Milk River
  • Secretary: Karol Gouschuk, Calgary
  • Nominating: Earle Snider, Edmonton
  • Bursaries & Awards: Donalda Erickson, Lethbridge
  • Director: Margot Brunner-Campbell, Grande Prairie
  • Director: Judy Hellevang, Calgary
  • Director: Weslyn Mather, Edmonton
  • Director: Ray Royer, Edmonton

Saskatchewan Voice of Persons with Disabilities

Saskatchewan Income Program for People with Disabilities

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities has been spending considerable time assisting with the development of the Income Program for People with Disabilities. Minister Harpauer announced the program on May 13, 2009 with the roll out date of October 1st. The Voice was on the Task Team that developed the program, and we are very pleased to see that all 50 recommendations made by the Task Team have been accepted by the Government. If you wish to review the recommendations go to the Saskatchewan Government website, go to Ministry of Social Services then to the Office of Disability. At this site, you will be able to view the backgrounder, recommendations and all relevant information regarding the new program.

The Voice has been asked to continue our involvement by sitting on a committee that would work with government to develop program necessities, for example: assessments; who qualifies; phases of the program. At this stage, adequacy has not been addressed; however, the government is aware that the program will have to provide an adequate income. This committee will be appointed by the Minister and will be made up of 8 members from the community.

DISC, the Disability Income Support Committee, will be looking at adequacy as the next steps for the committee.

Work on Violence Against Women with Disabilities Continues

We are continuing our work on Abuse of Women with disabilities. We are currently having the "Living in Harmony" booklet translated into Cree, Dene and Saulteax. The Dene translation has been completed and we now have to format it into booklet form. Work has begun on organizing the Conference on Abuse in 2010. A committee is being set up and workshop topics are being reviewed.

Have a good and safe summer!

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities

MLPD Continues Implementation of Our Strategic Plan

Since our last submission to "A Voice of Our Own" in April, 2009, the MLPD continues work on the implementation of our strategic plan. To this end, we revitalized our membership and transportation committees. The Transportation Committee is focusing on Handi-Transit issues and continues to bring forward our priorities to the City of Winnipeg. Prominent issues relate to Handi-Transit's cancellation policies, scheduling of trips, driver training, etc.

On March 19, 2009, The MLPD participated in a community forum sponsored by the Joint Community/Government Committee on Employment Support for Persons with Disabilities. Discussion focused around a number of issues including: The possibility of developing and implementing a Disability Act in Manitoba, the development of a revised disability strategy in our province, transportation, housing and Employment and Income Assistance for persons with disabilities. We are currently working on the implementation of the recommendations from the forum. Several MLPD members attended the annual Health and Wellness Conference sponsored by the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, the Manitoba Government and the Independent Living Resource Centre. The League is participating in Speak Up Winnipeg, a year-long process to receive input from citizens of Winnipeg on their vision for a new development plan for the City. We are attending sessions to provide our vision of what the new plan should look like for persons with disabilities in areas such as urban design, transportation, housing, support services and city services. On behalf of MLPD, Harry Wolbert, Chairperson, attended a session on transportation safety facilitated by the Provincial Department of Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation.

Other MLPD Happenings

The MLPD continues to work on poverty, housing and transportation issues. The Ethics Committee is involved in ongoing work with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba on revisions to their statement on withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment and will be writing letters to Manitoba MPs opposing Bill C-384 to legalize euthanasia in Canada. In conjunction with other groups (including CCD) we participated in a conference call to explore a possible intervention into an inquest into the death of Brian Sinclair, a First Nations man with disabilities who died in a Winnipeg hospital emergency room without receiving the treatment he needed. We determined that we did not have the financial and legal resources to seek official legal standing at the inquest, but the MLPD will make ourselves available to media representatives covering the inquest and be in the courtroom as observers to the extent that this is possible.

To mark our 35th anniversary, the MLPD held a successful open house for its members and community organizations on April 16, 2009 with 70 members and friends attending. MLPD activities were highlighted, and several past and current members spoke personally about what participation in MLPD has meant to them. The Annual General Meeting took place on Tuesday, June 23 at the Winnipeg Public Library with over 60 persons in attendance. Jennifer Howard, MLA for Fort Rouge was the guest speaker. She outlined the main components of "Opening Doors" a discussion paper on a new Provincial Disability Strategy recently released by Manitoba Family Services and Housing. She also addressed questions from the floor. Ross Eadie, a member of the Provincial Council, led those present through a workshop to solicit feedback on transportation issues to set directions for the work of the MLPD Transportation Committee. Discussion centered on sidewalks and roads, regular transit, rapid transit and Handi-Transit.

The CCD Award was presented to the five Creators of The Freedom Tour, a documentary film based on a tour of western Canada to raise awareness of people with intellectual disabilities who continue to live in institutions. Award recipients included: Valerie Wolbert, Susie Weiszmann, David Weremy, Kevin Johnson and Mark Blanchette. A plaque was also presented to People First of Canada to hang in their offices.

Harry Wolbert was re-elected to MLPD Provincial Council by acclamation. A new Provincial Council Executive will be named in July, 2009.

Citizens with Disabilities-Ontario

CWD-O Board Members for 2009-10

Terrance Green - Chair
Pat Seed - First Vice-Chair
Tracy Odell - Second Vice-Chair, Treasurer
Melissa Graham - Secretary

Terrie Meehan - Member at Large
Christine Kelly - Member at Large
Marlene Thomas-Osbourne - Member at Large

Ann Martindale
Cindy Gorlewski
Dale Stevenson
Doug Millman
Jerry Ford
Sandra Salamon
Sara Jarvis
Sean Major
Sousan Zaribaf
Stefanie Marinich-Lee
William Goursky

Watch for these Webinars—Coming soon!

Getting to Know the Disability Movement (7:30 pm, Friday, July 17, 2009. Presenter: Christine Kelly)

What is the political disability movement? This Webinar will overview some of the key features of the disability movement, including important historical events in Canada, the United States and abroad as well as review the underlying philosophies of Independent Living and the social model of disability.

The UN Convention (July. Presenters: Dr. Marcia Rioux and colleagues from York University's Critical Disability Studies Master's and Doctoral programs)

A webinar about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. What is good, bad and unfortunate about the UN Convention? Will it make a difference in my life? Why is it important to ratify the Convention?

Healthy Eating (July. Presenter: Christine Malone)

A webinar on healthy eating, based on the Canadian food guide. Come and explore adaptive cooking on a tight budget.

DRPI (August. Presenters: Dr. Marcia Rioux and colleagues from York University's Critical Disability Studies Master's and Doctoral programs)

Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) is a collaborative project working to establish a monitoring system to address disability discrimination globally. D.R.P.I. has adopted a holistic approach to disability rights monitoring, with three focus areas: individual experiences monitoring, systemic monitoring and media monitoring. Find out more about this work and how you can get involved.

What First Time Students with Disabilities going to University or College Should Know. (August. Presenter: Melissa Graham, CWDO Board Member and Advocate)

What First Time Students with Disabilities going to University or College Should Know: The do's. The don'ts. The tricks discovered and developed by students with disabilities currently attending Ontario universities. Learn how to make the best of university from students who have been there and done that.

Re-Framing Service Issues as Human Rights Issues (September. Presenters: Dr. Marcia Rioux and colleagues from York University's Critical Disability Studies Master's and Doctoral programs)

This webinar will explain the importance of using human rights as a framework for promoting change. All too often, our concerns get treated as mere "service" issues, vulnerable to being dismissed. A human rights perspective can strengthen arguments for action and lead to sweeping, systemic change.

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities—NFLD and Labrador (COD)

COD Welcomes New Executive Director

The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, would like to take this opportunity to introduce and welcome Mr. Mark Lane as Executive Director.

It is with great pleasure that COD welcomes Mark as a member of the team. Mark is an enthusiastic and highly motivated individual who has a diversified education and employment history that will be an asset to the organization.

Mark is a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland (B.Sc.), The Fisheries and Marine Institute (Advanced Diploma of Aquaculture) and the College of the North Atlantic (Graduate Diploma in Applied Business and Information Technology). He is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) External Program at the University of London, UK.

Since 2005, Mark has served his hometown of Holyrood as their Deputy Mayor. During his tenure on municipal council he has served as the Chair of the Holyrood Economic Development Board; Chair of the Emergency Measures Organization; member of Finance Committee; Planning and Development Committee; Youth Council Liaison; and the Holyrood Volunteer Fire Department Liaison.

Mark has also served his country as a member of the Canadian Forces since 1995. He currently holds the rank of Captain with the 56th Engineer Squadron where he has served as Platoon Commander, Course Officer, Public Relations and Unit Information Officer as well as Operations Officer.

Mark is an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion, FINALY! (Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador's Youth, Positive Thinkers Club and Lodge Conception #1679).

As COD approaches our 30 year anniversary, we are entering a new and exciting stage of growth, making it a wonderful opportunity for new leadership. We look forward to working with Mark to continue to advocate for equality for persons with disabilities.

Please join COD in congratulating Mark, and welcoming him as the new Executive Director. In the days ahead, both COD and Mark will need your support and insights as we make this transition together. Mark can be reached at (709) 722-4031 or executivedirector@nf.aibn.com.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

AEBC Holds Successful 2009 Biennial Conference

This year's AEBC Conference and AGM was held at the Inn at Westminster Quay in New Westminster. Elections were held, workshops were attended, resolutions were passed, and a legion of AEBC members took a leisurely cruise down the Fraser River on an authentic paddle wheeler modeled after the sorts of ships that traveled this river some one hundred years ago.

Many of the presentations were recorded, including the president's report, elections, resolutions, and several workshops. To receive a CD of these recordings, contact info@blindcanadians.ca.

The 2009 AEBC National Board is comprised of the following members: Robin East - President, John Rae - First Vice President, Donna Jodhan - Second Vice President, Anthony Tibbs - Treasurer, Marc Workman - Secretary, Denise Sanders and Charles Bailey - Directors without Portfolio.

Resolutions dealing with such topics as copyright, advocacy, and calling out bus stops were passed at this year's AGM. For a list of all the resolutions passed this year, please visit http://www.blindcanadians.ca/governance/resolution_list.php?year=2009

Each year, the AEBC gives out two awards, the AEBC CCD Award which recognizes a long term contribution to our movement was awarded to Chris and Marie Stark of Ottawa for their many years of advocacy on behalf of blind Canadians, and the Volunteer of the Year Award went to Janet Hunt of Winnipeg. We would like to congratulate these worthy recipients.

Resolution on Role of "Rights Holder" Organizations on Advocacy

While some readers will find the term "rights holders" a bit new, the AEBC believes we must begin distinguishing between consumers—the group that is affected by decisions from other stakeholders.

2009-10: Group vs. individual advocacy

Whereas consumers are rights holders and not merely stakeholders; and

Whereas consumer organizations consist primarily of rights holders; and

Whereas, rights holders believe strongly in the concept of "nothing about us without us";

Therefore Be it resolved that the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, an organization of rights holders, take a stance that consumer organizations made up of rights holders maintain our right to advocate on behalf of ourselves ; and

Be it further resolved that the AEBC take the position that no service organization should play the lead role in advocating on our behalf in legislation, Government policy, and\or group issues as this is the rightful role for rights holder organizations; and

Be it further resolved that rights holder organizations must be adequately resourced to ensure they will be able to play their rightful role; and

Be it further resolved that service and consumer organizations continue to advocate for and on behalf of individuals.

AEBC Discusses Access Issues with Bell Canada

On April 23, Robin East, John Rae, and Marc Workman met with representatives of Bell. During the meeting, a variety of issues were discussed, including website accessibility, customer service, accessibility of telecommunications devices, and advertising accessible product information. One of the main messages brought by the AEBC was the need for increased involvement of people with disabilities.

Blind Canadians have the skills and need to be involved as trainers of customer service agents, as employees, as product testers, and as disseminators of information.

The AEBC also spoke about the need for better website accessibility and equal-pricing for accessible cell phones. Currently, in order to make many of a cell phone's features useable by blind people, third-party software has to be purchased at the expense of the blind user. The AEBC called on Bell to cover the cost of the screen-reading software in order to foster equal access to cell phone technology among blind and sighted customers.

The AEBC will continue to work with Bell and the CRTC to promote increased access to broadcasting and telecommunications services and technologies.

CNIB Cuts Cane Prices after Protest

Eric MacKinder is an active member of AEBC's Winnipeg Chapter. We congratulate him on this success on behalf of all blind Canadians.

CNIB cane prices cut after protest

Charged $85 for stick that cost $36 elsewhere

By: Lindor Reynolds
Winnipeg Free Press, June 25, 2009

Protests by a blind Winnipeg man of price gouging have caused the CNIB to slash prices on its mobility canes across the country.

"We change prices all the time," said Geoff Fitzgibbon, CNIB's national director of business operations.

"Prices go up and down all the time."

They went down this time after Eric MacKinder realized he could get a graphite cane from the Winnipeg company that produces them at half the price the CNIB was charging.

MacKinder, who originally wanted to get his graphite cane repaired, was told by the CNIB last week it couldn't be fixed.

They said a new cane would cost him $85 plus taxes.

MacKinder called the St. Boniface-based Ambutech and learned they charge $36 for the same cane.

He was outraged and called the Free Press to complain.

When the CNIB read MacKinder's story, they re-examined their pricing policy.

"The CNIB dropped the price of the canes to $45 plus tax," MacKinder said this week.

"They should be commended for doing the right thing at last."

Ambutech was also able to repair his old cane for $12.

CNIB provides its clients with their first cane free.

Fitzgibbon said the price was set at $85 because the CNIB was initially ordering them from Ambutech "in onesies and twosies."

As the graphite canes became more popular, they started buying them in bulk.

The organization purchases the canes in Winnipeg, has them shipped to Toronto and then distributes them across the country.

Part of the markup goes to cover shipping costs.

"It's ironic that this particular client happens to live in Winnipeg," said Fitzgibbon.

MacKinder says he feels vindicated, because local CNIB employees first claimed he was mistaken as to which type of cane he'd purchased.

Susan Dewalt, Winnipeg CNIB associate director of service, said the cane he bought was not graphite but a standard aluminum model they sell for $32.

"They look almost identical," Susan Dewalt, the local CNIB's associate director of service, said last week.

"The difference is the graphite (canes) are lighter and more durable."

But MacKinder bought a graphite cane and had an invoice to prove it.

"I think it's horrible that they're marking up the canes more than 100 per cent," said MacKinder, a former industrial chemist who is now living on disability.

Fitzgibbon said the CNIB would like to sell all their products more inexpensively, but what they make in profit goes directly into services for the visually impaired.

The non-profit organization has approximately 120,000 blind clients registered with them.

Groups for the disabled call for more technology innovations to make life easier

By Lisa Arrowsmith
The Canadian Press, May 31, 2009

EDMONTON—Thirty years ago, groups for the disabled in Canada fought for accessible sidewalks, washrooms and transportation.

Today their battleground is equal access to technologies such as cellphones, hand-held devices, entertainment systems and even home appliances.

"The new technology can actually be either the great liberator for people with disabilities ... or it can begin to create a whole new set of barriers that we haven't had to deal with before," said Laurie Beachell, national co-ordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

John Rae, 60, of Toronto suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease that caused him to lose much of his sight when he was in his 20s.

Since Air Canada modernized its in-flight entertainment system, which now uses touch screens, the retired Ontario government employee finds himself with nothing to do but sleep on long flights.

``You used to be able to navigate the entertainment system in an airplane by buttons on the side of your seat ... but with these flat screen entertainment systems, I no longer can. My independence has been taken away from me,'' said Rae, who volunteers with the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.

On Rae's computer, the screen technology that reads documents aloud doesn't recognize some formats that are commonly used when transmitting text, so he simply can't access the information.

"I consider it discrimination," Rae said.

"Manufacturers of technology, manufacturers of household appliances continue to develop and manufacture equipment and technology that we can't use."

Groups such as the non-profit Neil Squire Society, hope to change all that. The society, which focuses on using technology to "empower'' the disabled, is pressing Canadian regulators to force companies to make products more user-friendly for the disabled.

Last fall, hearings were held with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission where groups representing the disabled argued for better access to things such as cellphones.

"Basically (we) were trying to make the case that cellphone companies don't do a really good job of ensuring that there are products for people with disabilities that meet their needs," said Harry Lew, the society's manager of research and development.

People with physical mobility problems, who may have spasms or can't use their hands, can't use many services on hand-held devices, he said.

"So you can't access email if you're a person with a mobility impairment right now. You can't surf the web on a handset because there just aren't any solutions."

"That's the classic case where people with disabilities are lagging behind."

Jim Johannsson, a spokesman for Telus, said the company is making efforts to help people with disabilities.

He said Telus, which participated in the CRTC hearings last November, has enhanced its directory assistance capabilities by using more voice recognition technology. There is also a service that will convert emails from text into audio for those with impaired vision.

Telus has an application before the CRTC for approval of a video relay service for its deaf customers, so that one or both people on either end of the connection can use sign language.

But these systems require national standards and CRTC approval, Johannsson said, to ensure the same level of service across the country.

"We know that with technology you can allow people with certain disabilities to be incredibly productive and wherever possible we're making those investments," he said.

The challenge is determining whether governments, companies or individuals should have to pay for such services, Johannsson said.

Ontario is believed to be the only province to have passed legislation that aims to improve access to goods and services for the disabled, including information and technology.

Each year in Canada it is estimated that people with disabilities spend about $25 billion on goods and services.

Bill Adair, executive director of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, said while technological innovations are important, removing prejudice against the disabled is still at the heart of the issue.

"If you fix (information technology) and you still leave the whole concept of prejudicial attitudes towards people with disabilities intact, you really haven't done a whole lot."

Air Canada challenges deaf, blind man's right to travel alone; Burnaby athlete says he is capable

By Janice Tibbetts Vancouver Sun, Apr. 7, 2009

In a case that balances passenger safety and the rights of the disabled, Air Canada is challenging a deaf and blind man's contention that he should be allowed to fly without an attendant.

The airline will argue in Federal Court that not allowing Burnaby resident Eddy Morten to fly alone is justified discrimination.

Morten counters that he has a system for safe air travel with his service dog, he has been self-sufficient all his life, and that he has made many past trips on planes, trains and buses.

"I have never needed a babysitter," Morten, a father of two and a Paralympic bronze medallist in judo, wrote in an e-mail.

"Air Canada routinely allows people who are blind, people who cannot walk and people who may be very disabled due to aging to travel unattended. Why not me?"

Air Canada is fighting Morten in court after losing a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision in January.

The tribunal did not order the airline to allow Morten to travel alone, but said he had the right to be assessed for self-reliance rather than automatically ordered to bring an attendant.

The tribunal, ruling that Air Canada had not met its obligation to accommodate Morten to the point of "undue hardship," ordered the airline to pay Morten $10,000 in damages. Air Canada is not contesting the award.

"It's the principle we're concerned about," said the airline's spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick. "It comes down to the safety of the disabled passenger and other passengers on the aircraft." Fitzpatrick cited the recent rescue of US Airways passengers in the Hudson River as an example of a successful and quick evacuation.

The dispute between Air Canada and Morten began five years ago, when he unsuccessfully tried to book a flight from Vancouver to San Francisco without being accompanied by an assistant.

He says he was "disempowered" by the rebuff and that he should not have to shoulder the cost of hiring an attendant. While Air Canada policy has recently changed to permit attendants to travel for free domestically, the concession does not apply to international travel.

The vice-president of the Alliance of Equality for Blind Canadians said Monday that financially strapped Air Canada should be spending its limited resources more wisely than on fighting a disabled man who wants to travel independently.

"There should be no blanket exclusions," said John Rae, who believes that a person's declaration they are self-reliant should be enough. Barring that, each case should be individually assessed, particularly since there are varying degrees of impairment, he said.

Morten, who was born deaf but with good vision, has Usher's Syndrome, a condition that caused him to gradually lose his sight. Now in his late 40s, he is completely blind in his left eye and has severely limited vision in his right eye.

Morten testified before the tribunal that he knows airline safety procedures and would be able to find the emergency exits by following the lights along the aisle. He also travels with pre-printed file cards containing such phrases as "I am deaf/blind, to talk to me, please write on my palm in large block letters."

He also says that he could see an oxygen mask if it fell in front of him, and knows how to use a life vest if necessary.

The airline will also argue in court that the human rights tribunal overstepped its jurisdiction when it ruled on the case.

Air Canada said the proper body to decide is the Canadian Transportation Agency, which ruled in 2005 that the airline was justified in discriminating against Morten.

DisAbled Women's Network Canada

DAWN-RAFH Canada Demonstrates Leadership, Partnership and Networking

DAWN Canada announces the much anticipated release of the BRIDGING THE GAPS—EARLY FINDINGS OF THE National Accessibility and Accommodation Survey and a feature article (written by freelance journalist, Jennifer Towell) entitled, SHELLEY'S STORY, which highlights the impact of DAWN Canada on one woman's life, in the newest issue of Canadian Women's Health Network Magazine (Vol. 11 No. 2). (See pages 23-26) These two pieces are the culmination of two years of work and exemplify that which we can accomplish through leadership, partnership and networking.

Centennial Flame Research Award to Support New DAWN-RAFH History Project

Diane Driedger has been awarded the Centennial Flame Research Award to write the history of the contributions made by the women with disabilities of DAWN-RAFH Canada.

In 1985, seventeen women with disabilities gathered in Ottawa, with the support of funding from the Government of Canada, to talk about the concerns of women with disabilities and to make recommendations to the government of the day—the organization and the notion of feminist disability was born out of that meeting.

With this project, DAWN-RAFH will be undertaking to properly document this important and historic moment in Canadian history and the women who came together that day. This is the central theme of this project. Diane has already undertaken and published some information on DAWN-RAFH and its founders in both a historical and human rights context.

The research project will:

  • identify and biography all seventeen women;
  • gather any historic documents, photographs;
  • interview any of the women who are still alive.

In 2010 DAWN-RAFH Canada will celebrate 25 years as the first and only feminist disability organization in Canada. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is seeking information and content for important pieces of our Human Rights history in Canada—what an incredible opportunity to share the legacy of the feminist-disability human rights struggle in Canada

The Centennial Flame Award was established by the Centennial Flame Research Act. This monetary award is offered each year to a person with a disability to enable him or her to conduct research and prepare a report on the contributions of one or more Canadians with disabilities to the public life of Canada or the activities of Parliament.

The award comes from the money collected from the Centennial Flame monument on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and any money otherwise received as a donation to the Centennial Flame Research Award Fund.

National Network for Mental Health

Be the Difference

On Thursday, June 26, 2009, I was honored to have the pleasure and privilege of being a guest at the launch of the Canadian Department of Defense's Forces wide campaign themed "Be the Difference".

The impressive launch was held at the Headquarters of the Department of Defense in Ottawa, Ontario and the messaging was clearly aimed at all members of the Canadian Forces.

Aimed at all personnel, from Sergeants to Admirals, the campaign outlines how every person can make a difference in helping their colleagues meet and overcome any mental health challenges that they may encounter—in the course of their military career, and after.

Testimonials about the impact of peer support on the recovery process that family support is crucial throughout the process, and the need to seek out and utilize treatment were all key components that were heard by all in attendance.

Clearly, the significance of the campaign to society is that it is a leading institution which is demonstrating leadership through both the promotion of mental health issues as an issue that affects us all, and how peer support plays a vital role in the recovery process.

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NEADS and BMO Capital Markets announce Equity Through Education Student Awards

Ottawa, Ontario, July 16, 2009 - The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) and BMO Capital Markets are pleased to announce the 10 outstanding winners of the 2009 NEADS Equity Through Education Student Awards Program.

The winners are: Esther Berman, Maya Chacaby, Michael Dadson, Carol Anne Lapointe, Richard Francis, Larissa Fulawka, Cameron Grose, Quyen Le, Jing Yu Li and Jennifer McCumber. This year's Awards are given in the categories of University Undergraduate Studies (Esther, Maya, Larissa, Carol Anne, Jennifer and Richard) Graduate Studies (Michael, Cameron, Quyen), and College/Cégep Studies (Jing Yu). All recipients will be receiving $3,000 each to support the costs of their tuition and student fees.

Esther Berman is entering her 4th year in the Commerce, Human Resource Management program at the University of Ottawa. She aspires to become successful in the field of human resources, in either the public or private sector. Maya Chacaby is pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Arts with a specialty in Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto. Maya runs an Ojibwe language group and is interested in Cree Martial Arts.

Michael Dadson is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, completing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. His goal is to become a registered psychologist and an expert research practitioner, educator and supervisor. Carol Anne Lapointe is a recent graduate of McMaster University, with a combined Honours Bachelor of Arts in Women's Studies and Cultural Studies and Critical Theory. She is looking forward to a career working with women, either in a women's centre or in a women-centered community organization.

Richard Francis is entering the final year of a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours in Public Administration at the University of Ottawa. Richard plans to work in the public service in a policy research or analysis capacity. Larissa Fulawka is a graduate of the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Leadership. Larissa wants to become an elementary school teacher.

Cameron Grose is entering the third year of a Doctor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He is part of the Northern Medical Program which offers the opportunity to train in satellite rural communities, allowing Cameron to tailor his clinical experiences to his interest in family medicine.

Quyen Le is about to start the third year of the M.A. Counseling Psychology Program at Simon Fraser University. Quyen came to Canada as a Vietnamese refugee 14 years ago and has overcome many challenges along the way related to subsistence, language, culture, and disability to pursue her university studies.

Jing Yu Li is entering the second year of the Assaulted Women's and Children's Counselor Advocate Program at George Brown College, which provides students with a feminist analysis of the political and counseling issues related to violence against women and children. She plans work in the field, supporting women and children who have faced abuse in their lives.

Jennifer McCumber is enrolled at Ryerson University in the Bachelor of Arts in Disability Studies Program. Her career goal is to become a social worker, and a strong advocate for persons with disabilities.

"NEADS congratulates the 2009 winners of the NEADS Equity Through Education Student Awards," said Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, NEADS Past-President, and Chair of the selection committee. "There were many excellent candidates in this year's competition. The dedication, perseverance and achievements of this year's winners embody the spirit of the Awards program. We wish them all the very best in their studies, and look forward to watching their successes in the future. We are grateful to BMO Capital Markets for its generous funding of the Equity through Education Student Awards."

"We want to applaud all of this year's winners. Their remarkable achievements will undoubtedly inspire young people with disabilities to harness all of the opportunities vital to achieving success," said Eric Tripp, President of BMO Capital Markets and a champion of the NEADS Equity Through Education Student Awards program. "NEADS plays an important role in making these pursuits come to life and its mission to work together for increased accessibility throughout society ultimately results in equal access to learning."

About BMO's Equity Through Education Program

Equity Through Education®, is a charitable initiative launched by BMO Capital Markets in 2005 to help people realize their educational ambitions by giving them the means to pursue those goals. Some of the proceeds from Equity Through Education, which has raised a total of $6.6 million to date, are used to fund several NEADS initiatives including Job Search Strategies Forums across Canada, the Equity Through Student Awards Program, and development work on our job site, the NEADS Online Work System: www.nows.ca.

For more information on the NEADS Equity through Education Student Awards program please contact the NEADS office: National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), Rm. 426 Unicentre, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, tel. (613) 380-8065, www.neads.ca or Kim Hanson, Media Relations, BMO Capital Markets, kim.hanson@bmo.com, (416) 867-3996.

NEADS Welcomes Paul Cudmore to the Board

Paul Cudmore became the new NEADS Prince Edward Island Director in March. Paul, who is a Psychology major at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) in Charlottetown, brings a wealth of experience and accomplishments to our board of directors. He is an active member of the UPEI campus-wide Accessibility Committee, which is made up of faculty, students and staff. In that role Paul has been a leading player in the development of the university's multi-year $1.2 million Plan for Accessibility and Inclusion. The contribution that Paul has made to access and accommodations at his school is outstanding, as demonstrated by his work on the Accessibility Committee but also in his personal efforts to raise awareness of disability issues amongst all campus staff. Recently, Paul has volunteered to provide a professional development session related to disabilities for the Facilities Management Department at the University. Paul Cudmore is an excellent student who was recently nominated by faculty for a Rhodes Scholarship, one of only ten UPEI students nominated for this honor. He is currently a board member of the Canadian Paraplegic Association - PEI.

Welcome to the NEADS board Paul. We are looking forward to working with you.

NEADS Board Elects Executive

During the recent NEADS Board of Representatives meeting in Ottawa (June 27 and 28), elections were held to fill the five positions on the Executive Committee. Gregory Lane, NEADS Alberta Representative from the University of Alberta was elected President. Joining him are: Ian Murley, Vice President Internal (Newfoundland and Labrador Representative - graduate of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University), Devon Sivill, Vice President External (Ontario Representative - Carleton University), Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, Secretary (Open Representative - graduate of the University of Toronto), and Julie Tee, Treasurer (Quebec Representative - Concordia University).

For further information:

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) Rm. 426 Unicentre, Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6 tel. (613) 380-8065 ext. 201 www.neads.ca.


New DPI World Council Member and DPI North American and the Caribbean (DPI NAC) Regional Executive

Following its debriefing and consolidating meeting on Wednesday, 15th July, 2009, the Disabled Peoples' International North America and the Caribbean (DPI NAC) Executive is pleased to announce that the DPI NAC Regional Council elected Marie White to represent DPI NAC on the DPI World Council.

The DPI NAC Regional Council also elected Ms. White to the DPI NAC Executive as its Information Officer during its Council meeting on June 20, 2009. Ms. White is the Chair of the DPI NAC National Assembly (NA) in Canada, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

The number of individuals representing DPI NAC on the DPI World Council now stands at five.

Diane Driedger Receives Tanis Doe Award for Canadian Disability Study and Culture

The Tanis Doe Award for Canadian Disability Study and Culture was named for the activist and professor Tanis Doe, who died in 2004. The award honors an individual who dares to "speak the unspeakable" in advancing the study and culture of disability, and who has enriched the lives of Canadians with disabilities, through research, teaching, or activism. This year's recipient is Diane Driedger, a former CCD International Development Officer. Tanis was also involved in CCD, representing the Canadian Association of the Deaf on CCD's National Council of Representatives and chairing CCD's Employment Committee.

Like Tanis Doe, Diane "speaks the unspeakable" to advance the equality of persons with disabilities. Diane has made significant contributions to the fields of research, teaching, writing, activism, and art which advance the inclusion of persons with disabilities. There are two important themes in Diane's work— (1) empowerment by exercising either the personal or collective voice and (2) feminism.

Research—Diane was undertaking disability studies research before disability studies was a discipline. When Diane proposed to do her Master's thesis on the history of Disabled Peoples' International (DPI), this raised some eyebrows in the faculty of history at the University of Manitoba. Diane successfully convinced the department that this was indeed a suitable topic and went on to research and write The Last Civil Rights Movement, which was then published by St. Martin's Press, the first published work to provide a scholarly history of the international cross-disability self-help advocacy movement. The DPI history project recorded how people with disabilities became empowered, organized their own groups to speak out on disability issues and began to change how society regarded people with disabilities.

Diane has also done research on the employment barriers faced by women with chronic illness. Currently, Diane is involved in undertaking a literacy research project for Independent Living Canada.

Diane is a past board member of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW). While on the CRIAW board, Diane sensitized the organization to the concerns of women with chronic illness, as well as meeting the on-going responsibilities of a board member. Diane shared her research on the history of DAWN Canada as a presenter at a CRIAW conference.

Teaching—Diane has been teaching in the field of Disability Studies. She has taught introductory undergraduate courses in Disability Studies at the University of Winnipeg and a graduate level course on research methods at the University of Manitoba.

Diane has also done extensive teaching, particularly with women with disabilities, on the topic of writing as a tool for empowerment. While in Trinidad and Tobago, Diane conducted writing workshops with the members of DAWN Trinidad and Tobago. This resulted in the publication of a chap book of learners' writings.

Diane also lectures about art and disability, artists with disabilities, such as Frida Kahlo, and the messages that they have presented to the world, and how individuals, with and without disabilities, can use art as a medium both for personal empowerment and for communication about the culture of disability as well as other topics. In addition to lectures to university classes, Diane also presents seminars on this topic to community groups, so that her message reaches beyond the academy.

Writing—Dissonant Disabilities Women with Chronic Illness Explore Their Lives, (Women's Press 2008) co-edited with Michelle Own, is Diane's most recent publication and it addresses an under-researched and under-theorized topic—a feminist/disability studies perspective on chronic illness articulated by women with chronic illness. This is Diane's third anthology. The preceding anthologies were: Imprinting Our Image: An International Anthology by Women with Disabilities (gynergy 1996) and Across Borders Women with Disabilities Working (gynergy 1996). Diane is both a published poet, Mennonite Madonna (gynergy 1999) and a performance poet. She has used her poetry and performance to illuminate various facets of ableism, sexism, and empowerment.

Activism—Along with other community members, Diane has been responsible for founding a number of community organizations that are dedicated to the empowerment of persons with disabilities. These include: the Winnipeg Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC) (Diane was a founding vice chair of this organization.), the Port-of-Spain Independent Living Centre, the DisAbled Women's Network Manitoba (DAWN Manitoba). Diane continues to be active with DAWN Manitoba, developing briefs for the organization on topics such as provincial health reform.

As a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) volunteer, Diane worked for Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) and was on hand for the founding of the organization in Singapore in 1981. As a CUSO volunteer, Diane worked for a year in the office of DPI's North American Caribbean Regional Development Officer and developed the Region's magazine, Conquest.

Diane was also employed by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) as the organization's International Development officer. In that position, Diane worked to convince the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and nongovernmental organizations focusing on development that there needs to be a priority placed on the issues of people with disabilities when undertaking development programming.

Art—Through water color painting, installations and clay sculpture, Diane has been exploring perceptions about chronic illness and disability. For some years now, Diane's art has been reflecting upon and interpreting the themes found in the work of Frida Kahlo.