A Voice of Our Own: Winter 2011

Volume 29, Number 1

On the CCD Agenda

CCD Member Group Updates


On the CCD Agenda

CCD Intervenes at Supreme Court on Access to Justice for Victims of Discrimination

On 13 December 2010, CCD appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in Mowat v. Canada (Attorney General), an appeal about access to justice for victims of discrimination. The CCD was granted leave to make written and oral arguments in this matter.

This case involves a woman, Ms. Donna Mowat, who filed a human rights complaint after she experienced sexual harassment at work. According to the Federal Court of Appeal, Ms. Mowat, whose sexual harassment complaint was largely successful, was entitled to only $4,000 in compensation, although her legal fees to bring her complaint forward were nearly $200,000.

In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide if those who experience discrimination should be reimbursed for their legal costs relating to filing human rights complaints. According to David Baker, counsel for the CCD in this matter "Very often, the legal fees to file complaints and to have them heard by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are more than what is awarded as compensation to successful complainants. As a result of this, even when victims of discrimination win their cases, they are very often out of pocket several thousands of dollars."

CCD argued that the human rights legislation must be accessible to people who experience discrimination. This is particularly important for people with disabilities who represent the largest proportion of complainants before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

"People with disabilities rely on the human rights legislation to challenge systemic barriers faced by all people with disabilities in housing, employment and services. Without compensation for legal costs, the CCD would not have been able to challenge VIA Rail's purchase of inaccessible cars," says Laurie Beachell, of the CCD. "More recently, Peter Hughes' successful human rights complaint against Elections Canada led to significant changes in polling stations during elections."

David Baker, of bakerlaw and Paul Champ, of Champ and Associates, represented CCD.

Federal Poverty Reduction Plan Must Address Disability Poverty

Can you imagine living on less than $10,000 a year? Many Canadians assume that people with disabilities are well provided for. Few, unless they have a family member with a disability, understand that disability and poverty are largely synonymous—disability can lead to poverty and poverty can lead to disability. Many a newly disabled Canadian has been shocked to learn that the average Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit is only $810.70 a month and that is only if you meet stringent eligibility requirements. The myth of robust disability pensions means that:

  • Canadians who become disabled and unable to work are unprepared for the financial hardships which are ahead of them.
  • Few beyond the disability community have been calling for social policy reform that would eradicate disability poverty.
  • Many born with disability live their whole lives in poverty, or long to become 65 because benefits are better for seniors.

In light of the reality of disability poverty, CCD welcomes the HUMA Committee report, "Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada", which calls for a comprehensive plan and funding to address poverty.

The disability community has developed its own National Action Plan on Disability that outlines short and long-term recommendations for improving the economic and social position of people with disabilities. Chief among these is making the Disability Tax Credit refundable for those who do not have a taxable income. This recommendation is echoed in the Parliamentary Committee Report.

"We are pleased that the MPs who developed the "Federal Poverty Reduction Plan" report were guided in large part by the disability community's National Action Plan," stated Tony Dolan, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national human rights organization of people with disabilities. "Their report contained important recommendations that have the support of Canadians with disabilities. These recommendations are a step in the right direction," stated Marie White, Chair of CCD's Social Policy Committee. "CCD eagerly awaits the Government's response to this report and hopes that its response will be an improvement over its September 2010 response to the Senate Report on Poverty. The Government response failed to recognize that poverty eradication requires a broad spectrum of measures from the Federal Government that goes way beyond employment measures," stated Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator.

Community Expectations: Implementation and Monitoring of the CRPD

Laurie Beachell, CCD's National Coordinator, presented the following comments on 10 December 2010 at the conference, Honoring the Convention: A Call to Action in BC.

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. It is both a pleasure to attend this conference and to leave behind, even for a few days, the piles of snow in Winnipeg.

Before addressing the topic at hand, the implementation and monitoring of the first human rights instrument of the 21st century, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), I would like to make a couple of historical references.

It is important for those of you here, who may not have had the opportunity to experience the development of our recent human rights history in Canada, to know that CCD has been centrally involved in the inclusion of disability in the Equality Section (S. 15) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our provincial affiliates and other allied disability organizations have also participated actively and effectively to ensure strong protection of disability in provincial and territorial legislation. CCD continues to monitor human rights progress for persons with disabilities in Canada.

Following the inclusion of disability in the Charter, CCD, very often in collaboration with other human rights proponents and lawyers, has sought to make sure that equality and non-discrimination have not just stayed principles on paper, but are implemented to the benefit of Canadians with disabilities, both present and future. Some examples of this effort are the following:

CCD has been a strong advocate of the Court Challenges Program and we remain committed to its re-establishment.

CCD has intervened in numerous court cases or tribunals in order to bring to life the legal principles of equality and non-discrimination. The most recent examples are Elections Canada and VIA Rail. But we have also been involved in Andrews, Eldridge, Eaton, Latimer, Rodriguez, Moore, Auton, Grismer, and others. Next week, CCD will again be before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Mowat case, a case about the Court's ability to order interim award of costs.

The final example of CCD's work—and this is important because it underlines the role of an always evolving political climate—is our effort to avoid the creation of a two-tier human rights system during the constitutional reform battles in the late 80's and early 90's.

CCD has also been active in promoting human rights at the international level. Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) was established as a result of Canadian initiative. With CCD's support, CIDA has been DPI's main funder for decades. We played a strong role in the formulation and adoption of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

The Problem of Invisibility and the Convention

Notwithstanding the Standard Rules, other United Nations documents, and a brief reference to disability in the Universal Declaration of 1948, by the late 90's, a consensus developed among disability and human rights advocates that persons with disabilities were invisible in the UN human rights system and processes.

This conclusion led to yet another call for the elaboration of a thematic convention to make sure that the international community agreed without equivocation that persons with disabilities enjoy fully all international human rights.

CCD was very happy that initial hesitation on behalf of some states parties gave way to a wide agreement which saw the adoption of the UN Convention in December of 2006. It is acknowledged that instrumental in overcoming reluctance and moving forward was the participation of persons with disabilities, especially their representative democratic organizations, in New York, as well as in countries around the world. Steve Estey, Dulcie McCallum and Anna MacQuarrie have shown outstanding leadership on CRPD and are the leading experts on the topic at the community level.

As you know Canada was one of the first countries to sign the CRPD in March of 2007, and we ratified it in March of this year.

It is of critical importance to point out that throughout this process, at every stage: the elaboration, the decision to sign, and the decision to ratify, CCD, CACL, and many others played a key role, always pushing forward. We expect that we will play a similar role in raising awareness about the meaning of the principles, as well as the specific measures of the Convention going forward.

I want to return to the elaboration process to underline two extremely important points:

First, we had a strong Canadian delegation with participation by both CCD and CACL. In addition, throughout the elaboration process, the Federal government worked with us to consult with the community. We had the opportunity to comment on draft text and articulate our views. CCD, CACL and other Canadian NGOs were also able to attend the negotiating sessions in New York and make their contributions, working with a growing disability caucus.

To a large extent, this collaborative and participatory approach enabled the Canadian delegation to make a positive contribution to the development of the final text. The final text, in our view, is very strong. It combines sound human rights principles with specific measures intended to give effect to these principles.

Second, because of the participatory model I mentioned above, and because of the strong Canadian constitutional and legal framework, the Convention bears unmistakable Canadian influence. For example, Article 5 (Equality and Non-discrimination), the first clause states:

"States parties recognize that all persons are equal before and under the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law."

It reads like S. 15 of the Canadian Charter.

Community Expectations—Implementation

Current Situation

Based on the experience of persons with disabilities and related research, CCD thinks that exclusion, poverty and isolation are a shared reality for too many of the 14.3% of Canadians who have a disability and approximately one-third of First Nations and other Aboriginal Canadians who have a disability. Sadly, the outcomes are predictable. We know that:

  • Canadians with disabilities disproportionately live in poverty.
  • Over two million Canadian adults with disabilities lack one or more of the educational, workplace, aids, home modification or other supports they need to participate fully in their communities.
  • Over 56% of working-age adults with disabilities are currently unemployed or out of the labor market. For women with disabilities the rate is almost 60%.
  • According to the International Labor Organization, the annual loss of global GDP due to the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labor market is between US$1.37 trillion and US$1.94 trillion.
  • Many persons with intellectual disabilities remain warehoused in institutions, including group homes and congregate care facilities, across this country.
  • Slightly more than half of Canadian children with disabilities who need aids and devices need more than what they receive.
  • Rates of violence and abuse against people with disabilities, in particular women with disabilities, are among the highest for any group in Canadian society.

While progress has been made over the past 25 years, many Canadians with disabilities and their families continue to experience daily barriers to their full and equal participation in Canadian society. The personal, social and economic costs of exclusion are too high to be ignored. Immediate action is needed to address the high rates of poverty facing Canadians with disabilities and its causes and the lack of access to disability supports that perpetuate barriers and exclusion and keep people with disabilities and their families invisible and marginalized.

From Vision to Action

The above situation reflects a gap that exists between our Canadian vision as, for example, articulated in the Charter and by politicians from time to time and the lived experience of persons with disabilities. In fact, the gap between vision and lived experience is a gap between legal obligations, on the one hand, and programs, services, and practices, on the other. The most recent Federal Court decision, regarding accessibility of federal government websites, constitutes an indisputable example of this gap. On Nov. 29, 2010, in a case involving Donna Jodhan (Applicant) and (Attorney General of Canada (Respondent), the Federal Court concluded:

"the Treasury Board, a centralized agency, has not exercised its power to enforce the accessibility requirements on the departments and agencies, and has not earmarked funds for this purpose"

The finding of the Federal Court is not news to the disability community. Our hopes and expectations are that the Canadian governments will work with us to achieve, progressively, an Accessible and Inclusive Canada.

The CRPD provides a concrete way whereby we can review and examine our programs and services. The questions we need to answer over the next few years are:

  • Do we have the types and levels of disability supports programs and services that our domestic legal framework requires?
  • Are we living up to the promise of our human rights laws?

The CRPD is a useful way of reviewing our programs and answering the above questions.

"Do we have equal benefit and protection of the law?"

Let me emphasize that this question arises regardless of the CRPD. For example, the In Unison framework signed by Canadian governments in 1998 speaks to this. It's something we have agreed on already in Canada officially and at a high level—First Ministers.

Therefore, it would not suffice for us to say now: we are in compliance with CRPD, therefore, no substantial further action is required. Yes, we are in legal compliance, but our practices, programs and services are not in compliance.

I believe that this approach is very reasonable and consistent with the actions that have enabled us to make progress to this point. The Hon. Diane Finley, who is responsible for disability issues, speaking on November 25th this year, said that:

"Our ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities earlier this year demonstrates the government of Canada's commitment to removing obstacles and to creating opportunities for people with disabilities."

"With the ratification, Canada is committed to reviewing, on an ongoing basis, the situation of people with disabilities."

Specific Measures: Bridging the Gap

Bridging the existing gap involves reviewing existing programs, services, systems and practices, using both our domestic and international legal frameworks as lenses.

The CRPD, being a recently formulated document and being the result of collective contributions by both states parties and especially persons with disabilities, provides an excellent up-to-date guide by which we can take very specific steps.

All of the issues I raised above, for example, poverty, exclusion, unemployment, lack of disabilities supports, particular disadvantage of women with disabilities, violence, children's issues and education, can be improved if we move to bring our programs, services, systems and practices into compliance with the measures set out in particular CRPD articles.

In moving forward, in addition to the article regarding the purpose of the CRPD, article 4 on general obligation as a whole, and article 5 (already mentioned), there are three other overriding principles that I want to flag.

In Article 4.3 the CRPD codifies the idea that persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations, are to be closely involved by states parties in the development of legislation, policies and issues of relevance to them. This is recognition of the irreplaceable contribution persons with disabilities have made to the progress we have achieved so far. It is also recognition of the determination of persons with disabilities never again to be objects of the actions of others. In New York, this principle was articulated as: "nothing about us without us". Based on 4.3, as well as our experience, our community now has a non-negotiable expectation to be a strong participant in reviewing existing legislation, programs, services, policies and practices, implementing and monitoring the CRPD.

Second, the progressive realization principle in article 4.2 means, in our view, that, while measures in relation to economic, social and cultural rights are to be taken over time, progress must be made constantly. This provision is not to be read as a permanent postponement loophole. The article itself calls for "full realization". This is another clear community expectation.

Third, in support of the "constant progress" expectation, let me refer to two other provisions of the CRPD. First, in the purpose of the Convention, it is clearly agreed that "the purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights…" (emphasis added) Second, Article 28 "adequate standard of living and social protection", a key article regarding economic and social rights, provides, among others, that:

"1. States parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions,"… (emphasis added)

I think these provisions of CRPD validate the expectation of persons with disabilities, that socio-economic progress is imperative.

Article 33 addresses both implementation and monitoring. In Canada, where provincial/territorial jurisdictions will play a key role in implementing parts of CRPD, the coordination function becomes especially significant. We are encouraged that the Council of the Federation has placed CRPD on its radar. However, we believe strongly that we are still in the beginning. Both F/P/T, as well as interdepartmental solid coordination mechanisms and processes need to be put in place. So far, we know that the Minister of HRSDC has been given the lead responsibility on interdepartmental coordination, F/P/T matters, and the data that will go into the first Canadian report due in March of 2012. The Office for Disability Issues within HRSDC has been named as the focal point for development of an implementation plan. We think that a more senior—perhaps a cabinet-level committee—is required if CRPD implementation is to proceed in a robust manner.

While we had some discussions with officials, we have not yet really been engaged yet on these issues.

Our expectations and what we will be pushing for in the next months are: that solid transparent coordination mechanisms be put in place, that appropriate resource allocations be made, and that persons with disabilities participate actively in the appropriate processes.

While there are other specific articles and measures that, no doubt, we will address in future opportunities, I want, before moving to monitoring, to mention article 12. Article 12 is very important for many reasons.

Nevertheless, I want to make a couple of quick points: First, through the content of article 12, states parties recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life. This includes the capacity to act. States also undertake to provide support for the exercise of legal capacity by persons with disabilities.

Second, it is important to recognize that the Canadian delegation and, in particular, Dulcie, contributed to the formulation of this article. It may not be widely known that this article was negotiated up until the closing moments of the negotiation process. It is my understanding that the Canadian delegation played a very positive role in ensuring that the final wording was as progressive as possible.


The disability community places a great deal of importance on the monitoring process and methods.

We know that the long-term advancement of our issues will depend upon appropriate mechanisms being established to ensure good implementation and monitoring processes are in place.

We will work hard to make sure that the full range of methods contained in article 33 are implemented. This means independent mechanisms, including appropriately resourced roles for human rights commissions. Government auditing mechanisms, as well as parliamentary committees may be other options.

We are especially pleased with the role of civil society and, in particular, of persons with disabilities in monitoring contemplated by CRPD. We will be pursuing the implementation of this part. I cannot, at this point, report any concrete progress, but, I can assure you, we will insist on its full implementation. Other countries have already taken concrete steps in this respect. A recent and very encouraging approach has been adopted in New Zealand, where the government has funded a coalition of six disability organizations to monitor implementation. This responds very concretely to 33.3 which calls for involvement by civil society and in particular persons with disabilities and their organizations in the monitoring process.


I want to close by reiterating that, in our view, the CRPD is a very useful instrument, bringing together human rights principles and specific measures to be adopted to the benefit of society, including persons with disabilities. The participation of persons with disabilities has been key in its elaboration and will be key in its implementation and monitoring.

Ratification, above all, means that our political leaders must translate their rhetorical support into concrete, results-oriented action. This means going beyond current processes and mechanisms, and, yes, allocating necessary resources.

Let me close by quoting Prime Minister Harper who stated on September 21st this year speaking at the United Nations that:

"At this Summit, our discussions should be less about new agreements than accountability for existing ones. Less about lofty promises than real results."

CCD agrees wholeheartedly.

Introducing Vangelis Nikias: CCD's CRPD Staff Specialist

In November 2010, Vangelis Nikias, a former Chairperson of CCD's Human Rights Committee, joined the CCD staff for three years to assist the organization with its work regarding the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Vangelis responded to the following questions to acquaint Voice of Our Own readers with this new undertaking by CCD.

Question: Vangelis, what career path have you followed and how has it brought you back to CCD?

Vangelis: While this is the first time that I am joining the CCD staff (a very exciting development for me), in a way I have never left CCD ever since I first became associated with the organization in the early 80's. I chaired the Human Rights Committee for several years and served on the Social Policy Committee for several more. These and other similar involvements proved very significant both in my work life and in my personal development. While I hope I have contributed something, I credit CCD for much of what I have learned and achieved over the years. I would say to people reading this article—especially younger ones—that becoming involved in grassroots organizations is a very rewarding experience, notwithstanding the occasional frustration.

My nine years of professional adjudication experience combined with having chaired the CCD Human Rights Committee proved very useful during the CRPD elaboration process.

What brought me "home" on a fulltime basis is the interaction with many colleagues, the learning, the successes, even the setbacks and the mistakes. And, above all, the hope for continuous progress. Continuous progress is one of the overarching principles of CRPD and the key guarantor of its realization is the effective participation of persons with disabilities. CCD is the organized voice of Canadians with disabilities.

Question: You were one of the members of the official Canadian delegation to the United Nations that helped draft the wording of the CRPD. Does the CRPD have any components that reflect the fact that Canadians helped craft this international law?

Vangelis: Canadians, both at the level of the official delegation and through the NGO community, participated very actively throughout the elaboration process. In fact, we were one of the first official delegations to include persons with disabilities, including representatives of disability organizations. We intervened on every article and we did so throughout the process.

At the same time, in preparation for each negotiating session, we worked with CCD and other interested groups by reviewing issues and even specific wording. This approach proved very useful.

There are some articles that can be mentioned in particular:

On the key concepts of equality and nondiscrimination, we drew heavily on the language of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Even a cursory reading of article 5 of CRPD would remind one of S. 15 of the Charter.

We relied a lot on our experience in Canada when dealing with the challenges of the definition of disability debate (article 1 and paragraph (e) of the CRPD Preamble). The "evolving concept" of disability and the "effective participation" formulation are, to a large extent, though not exclusively, due to our efforts.

The Canadian delegation had the lead on article 12, which reaffirms that "persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere as persons before the law". In article 12, we succeeded in finding language that, it is hoped, will make a positive difference in the lives of many people the world over.

We also led successfully in seeking balanced and acceptable wording on article 24 concerning inclusive education.

The inclusion of "accessibility" as a principle in article 3 and the "peer support" language in article 26 on rehabilitation came directly from the Canadian delegation.

On article 4, for example, in relation to the general obligation of states parties to consult with representative organizations in policy development, again we worked with other likeminded participants. In doing so, we relied on our experience in Canada going back to the 70's and 80's. In fact, early on, there was a memorable moment when some states were resisting the extent to which the NGO community was participating in the proceedings. Our head of delegation at the time, Gilbert Laurin, made a passionate intervention in favor of strong participation by disability organizations. This intervention caused almost the entire "humanity" gathered in room 4 of the UN Building to explode in applause, and the recalcitrant states to seek a face-saving way of not insisting on their approach.

The participation of persons with disabilities has been immortalized in the motto: "nothing about us without us". As I mentioned it's one of the state obligations in article 4. It's also an innovation in terms of monitoring of international instruments as it is written into article 33 concerning monitoring and reporting.

The difficulty on the role of non-state participants had been brewing for a while and we were deliberating about the Canadian intervention. Our "spectacular" intervention did not come out of the blue, so to speak. We relied on Canadian history. For example, I remembered during those discussions the effective participation by Jim Derksen in the Obstacles process. I kept in mind Alan Simpson's relentless wheeling up to the microphone during the endless constitutional conferences in the early 90's. Alan always urged us never to miss an opportunity to raise disability rights.

The problem of "invisibility" of persons with disabilities was not new. I recall in the mid 90's we were worried about the absence of any reference to disability in a draft document leading to the Social Summit that took place in Copenhagen. Laurie sent me to New York to see what we could do during one of the preparatory meetings. CCD found an accessible version of the draft document. When I arrived in NY, I linked up with Henry Enns who was there on DPI business. Working with other disability representatives, we managed to get the Canadian Mission to help in including disability references in the next draft.

All this history of seeking participation contributed to the position/intervention by our head of delegation I mentioned above.

The wording of CRPD reflects a collective effort. It is negotiated language. This means that all of us had to put some water in our wine. To the extent that interpretations or corrections will be needed in the future, I think the built-in role of persons with disabilities will be the safety valve to ensure that changes will be appropriate.

Question: Canada ratified the CRPD in March 2010. What does this mean for Canadians with disabilities?

Vangelis: By ratifying the CRPD following consultations with the provinces and at the unanimous urging of the House of Commons, Canada has reaffirmed our adherence as a country to the principles and aspirations of the first international human rights instrument of the 21st century. Of equal significance, Canada has agreed to the importance of the specific measures contained in CRPD, measures which are intended to give effect to the principles and ideals in CRPD. In practice, this means that as a country, we now must embark on a process of becoming more familiar with the specifics of CRPD. We must review our existing programs and services using CRPD as a lens. It also means that we must, over time, put into place operational policies and programs in support of the paradigm shift the Convention entails. One of the key principles of CRPD is: "Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity". Accessible transportation and information systems, for example, can no longer be considered by designers, producers and service providers as exceptions. Besides, Canadian substantive equality and human rights principles have already set us in this direction. We have now reaffirmed that this is where we are going.

If I can speak personally for a moment about the practical implication of the above principle, I would say that over the years I have worked and have been active in various settings. CCD distinguishes itself in that it applies the principle of accessibility and acceptance. In CCD, I am not viewed with suspicion if I say that this PDF document did not convert well and I cannot read it with my screenreader.

Question: What are some key milestones that Canadians with disabilities watch for as the Government of Canada begins to address its obligations under the CRPD?

Vangelis: In fulfillment of article 35, Canada must submit a comprehensive report in April 2012. The credibility of this report and its effectiveness as a basis on which we are going to make progress and measure it in the future will be greatly enhanced through engagement of the disability community.

The implementation of CRPD entails putting in place appropriate mechanisms of reviewing existing policies and programs, planning actions, monitoring and evaluating results, reporting information about the progress we make. All this has to happen with the involvement of the disability community and in cooperation with the provinces and territories.

The positive Canadian contribution during the negotiation process was, to a significant extent, due to the meaningful consultation with the disability community. I am convinced that this must continue in the years to come during the implementation.

Question: What does your project with CCD entail?

Vangelis: CCD, its members, friends and other interested Canadians will have to lead the effort to convince Canadian jurisdictions to implement specific CRPD measures. My hope is that I will assist in this effort by acting as a resource to CCD, its member organizations and other interested groups through the development of awareness material, presentations, workshops and other mechanisms we may find practical.

Question: What challenges will CCD face with respect to this undertaking?

Vangelis: In a political arena of competing priorities, it is challenging to turn the support decision-makers express into concrete action.

Another challenge will be for a diverse community to strike the appropriate balance of priorities and timing. Although we want to see expeditious implementation of measures on poverty alleviation, disability supports, labor market participation and accessibility measures, realistically speaking, progress will be gradual.

Question: How can grassroots Canadians with disabilities help ensure Canada meets its obligations under the CRPD?

Vangelis: We have to work together to understand the paradigm shift. We have to explore the scope of specific articles and measures and analyze barriers we face using CRPD as a lens. We have to keep in mind that Canada, along with many other states, has committed to implement these principles and measures. We have to share all this with our colleagues, friends, classmates and, of course, with political leaders.

Steven Estey had the brilliant idea of starting the grassroots involvement by organizing a session in Nova Scotia on article 29 which concerns political participation. Other CCD affiliates and other groups may want to do something similar, or, they may identify that other areas are more of a priority for them. We are going to be there to assist them with what they choose to address.

The goal is to do whatever it takes to make the principles and the 50 articles of CRPD real for Canadians with disabilities, to help in the effort to achieve an accessible and inclusive Canada.

Finally, we cannot forget the leadership roles played by both the Canadian disability community and Canada internationally. CRPD now offers us a new framework through which to make further contributions in the future.

CCD Member Group Updates

BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD)

Financial Literacy

Last year, we completed a major educational project (with the generous support of the Law Foundation of BC) on the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). The project included a 50+ page guide, videos, workshops and kits for organizations. We continue to provide one-on-one assistance for people wanting to learn more about the RDSP and with applying for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), the first step to opening an RDSP.

All our RDSP materials are available at http://www.bccpd.bc.ca/rdsp.htm and can be mailed free of charge on request. Developing these resources, we looked at some income issues with fresh eyes, such as "What do people with disabilities need to know about finances and asset building?" and "What other kinds of assets are there other than financial assets?" And, most of all: "Many people with disabilities are living on extremely low incomes and struggle to afford the basics, so how can we talk about asset building?"

So, for our Winter 2010 Transition (http://www.bccpd.bc.ca/transwint10.htm), we put together an edition on "Rethinking Your Assets." This edition looks at a broad definition of assets–including family and friends, housing, self-esteem, employment skills–and of financial literacy that includes developing money skills and gaining confidence. We also look at a host of ways to spend less, and share resources and skills.

We have partnered with the Family Services of Greater Vancouver to provide a free 4-week program starting in February called Money Skills that will focus on budgeting, banking, credit and consumerism. These community-based workshops are specifically designed to help people who live on limited incomes.

We are very pleased about the recent changes to the RDSP that the Federal Government recently announced regarding "carry forward" and "roll over" provisions. People with RDSPs will now be able to claim unused grant and bond entitlements for a 10-year period. And from July 2011 proceeds (or a portion thereof) from a deceased person's Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), and Registered Pension Plan (RPP) can be rolled over, tax free, into the RDSP of a financially dependent child or grandchild with a disability.

We'll continue to help our clients understand and benefit from the range of income supports they may be able to access: from disability benefits programs to savings programs such as the RDSP.

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD)

The Alberta Health Act: An Update

Alberta is well on its way to having its very own health act. With the acceptance of all 15 recommendations contained in the Alberta Health Act consultation report, Health and Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky introduced the proposed Alberta Health Act on October 25, 2010. This marked the first phase in implementing the report's recommendations.

The report recommended a set of principles to guide the health system, as well as a commitment to gather input from Albertans. There was also a recommendation to establish a health charter that sets out expectations and responsibilities within the health system, and a health advocate, whose role would be to address citizen concerns with the health system as they relate to the health charter.

Speaking on behalf of the government, Minister Zwozdesky said that the full scope of the recommendations and the direction given by Albertans during community consultations on the Alberta Health Act has been embraced. He also said that valuable input received from Albertans will help the government move forward with Premier Ed Stelmach's vision to build the best performing, publicly funded, health system in Canada.

Minister Zwozdesky went on to say that the vision began with the establishment of a single health delivery arm for Alberta, and continued with the introduction of predictable, stable funding through the 5-year funding plan for Alberta Health Services in this year's provincial budget.

On November 30, the Alberta Health Act 2010 was passed by the Legislative Assembly and will come into force upon proclamation. To read or obtain a copy of the Alberta Health Act 2010, visit the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website at www.assembly.ab.ca.

A Provincial MS Strategy in the Works

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky recently established a working group to enhance care for Albertans affected by multiple sclerosis. The MS Connector Services Working Group will focus on developing a Provincial MS Strategy to enhance care and services, and to develop a support model for Albertans affected by MS.

ACCD has long been supportive of the MS Society's efforts to engage the provincial government on this important issue, and—for the past several years—we have been a part of the MS Community Advisory Council. ACCD proudly contributed to the document that served as the catalyst for the Working Group's formation.

The MS Society spent three years meeting with stakeholders from across Alberta, including people living with MS, to gather input for a submission to the Alberta Government. The submission that was presented to Alberta Health and Wellness outlined the priorities of Albertans with MS and the need for a provincial strategy to address these priorities.

In addition to representatives from the MS Society and Alberta Health and Wellness, members of the Working Group will also include representatives from other government departments, Alberta Health Services, MS Clinics (Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer), and representatives from the University of Alberta and the MS research community. The Working Group is Co-chaired by Susan Williams, Assistant Deputy Minister, Alberta Health and Wellness.

The MS Connector Services Working Group has an 18-month mandate that includes reviewing programs and services offered to individuals with MS as well as the latest research developments and best practices for MS. Based on this information, the working group will develop recommendations and a provincial strategic framework to support coordinated access to community programs and services. The working group is committed to sharing information as this approach has the potential to inform how services could be coordinated for other significant illnesses.

The Case of Tracy Latimer

On October 24, 1993, Robert Latimer wrapped his daughter Tracy in a blanket and placed her in the cab of his pick-up truck. He connected a hose to the truck's exhaust pipe, ran it through the window, and filled the cab with carbon monoxide. Tracy died from asphyxiation at the age of 14.

When the description of Robert Latimer's deed is phrased in this way, without mention of Tracy's severe disabilities, the act of murdering a child sounds as it should: horrific. But various media stories focused on Tracy's disabilities and to many, Latimer was seen to have committed an "act of mercy" rather than murder. The resulting public dialogue largely took a similar tone. Latimer's supporters insisted that Tracy's murder was committed out of mercy for a child with no quality of life, since Tracy—who couldn't speak, walk, or perform any of the tasks that many of us take for granted—was said to be in constant and terrible pain. At odds with this summary of Tracy's lived experience were the opinions of educators and caregivers who actually worked with her. They described her as a young girl who loved many things, including music, and who showed great joy at the sight of horses, despite her constant physical pain.

The Latimer case sparked an intense debate in this country regarding euthanasia and the way in which Canadians see and value the lives of those who have a disability. Calls for leniency and even absolution for Robert Latimer belied a deep ignorance of the frightening precedent such actions would create. Wisely, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that treating Latimer's crime as anything less than murder would have essentially shown that a different set of rules were in place for those who choose to end the life of a person with a disability. Robert Latimer was charged with second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

On December 6, 2010, Robert Latimer was granted full parole. As news of Latimer's parole made headlines, pockets of sympathetic public dialogue resurfaced, casting Latimer as the victim of an insensitive justice system. This should cause us to pause and reflect. How has our society's view of people with disabilities changed 18 years after the murder of Tracy Latimer, if at all?

The Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities believes that the life of each person with a disability has as much value as any other person. Canada's laws are in place to protect each of us from the kind of fate that Tracy Latimer suffered. We must be unbending in the universal application of these laws, especially when the victim is unable to defend him- or herself, as was the case with Tracy Latimer. "If we choose to extend this courtesy of forgiving crimes committed by parents only to parents of children with disabilities," says University of Alberta professor Dick Sobsey, "we increase the danger to the most vulnerable group of children." Canada's justice system exposed Robert Latimer's crime for what it was, and he has served his time for the murder of his daughter. Moving forward, we must never cast him as the victim. Tracy Latimer was the victim, and her murder was, by no measure, a merciful act.

Project Update: Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta

ACCD's Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta project has come a long way since we began work in February, 2010. After months of rigorous writing and research, our project team is nearing the completion of our final report, which will soon be made available.

ACCD has also completed 10 site audits at medical facilities in various locations throughout the province. The results of the site visits will be presented in the form of descriptive case studies. This method allowed us to collect data from a range of settings that provide health and medical services.

ACCD's audit tool is designed so that auditors begin in the parking area and make their way along exterior and interior paths of travel, through the waiting room, and into the examination or diagnostic area.

The ACCD Audit Tool measures the following areas of accessibility:

  • Exterior parking, driveways, and walks
  • Entrances and doorways
  • Exterior and interior ramps and stairs
  • Interior path of travel and doorways
  • Elevators
  • Washrooms
  • Counters
  • Waiting rooms
  • Examination rooms
  • Emergency features

The project's second phase is now underway. ACCD is developing a communications and educational media campaign that allows us to disseminate our findings and recommendations to medical professionals, the disability community, and the general public.

The importance of the Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta project rests on the belief that Albertans with disabilities are entitled to the same health and medical services as everyone else. The outcomes of this project will not only benefit Albertans with disabilities but any Albertan who, at some point in his or her life, might acquire a short- or long-term disability, and seniors and people who have age-related disabilities. If the goal of Alberta Health Services is to shift its focus from institutional to community-based health and medical services, then the starting point should be assuring that doctor offices, medical clinics, and medical imaging technology are accessible to every Albertan regardless of ability or disability.

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities (SVOPD)

"Silent Voices Conference"

The Silent Voices Conference took place in October, and it was attended by approximately 100 people. We were a little disappointed in the registration, but for the first of its kind and the topic, we expected as much. Some of the lessons learned: Definitely look for funding to bring more consumers to the event. Approximately 45 of the participants were consumers; however, we have to do better.

The evaluations completed by the participants show definitely that another conference of this caliber should be hosted again in another two years. A planning committee is already in place ready to go to work to organize the next one. Possibly, the next venue will be Regina.

Individualized Funding

A committee has been set up to work with the Government in an attempt to improve participation in the Individualized Funding Program. To date, there are approximately 70 people in the province on the program. The Ministry of Health has developed a brochure promoting the program. The committee is critiquing the material and providing feedback to the Ministry.

Girl Power Camps

Work is continuing on the Girl Power Camps. One is scheduled for January and two more for February.

In an attempt to include young men in the program, the Voice has applied for additional funding for a program consultant to work on developing a series of 6 workshops that young people could attend. These workshops will have a variety of topics ranging from "How to keep yourself safe"; "Cyber Bullying"; "Sexting/Texting"; "Employment topics"; etc.

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Elections Canada Tests Assistive Voting Device

by Bonnie Bieganski

In October 2010, Elections Canada conducted a test of the new assistive voting device during the federal by-election in Winnipeg North. MLPD was asked by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) to be part of the consultative process with Elections Canada. The assistive voting device enables electors with disabilities to mark their ballots independently while protecting the privacy of the vote. The device has an array of accessibility features that are especially useful for electors with visual impairments or limited dexterity.

Diane Driedger, Harry Wolbert, and I attended a townhall meeting at TenTen Sinclair for a demonstration of the device to learn about the device and had an opportunity to see the accessibility features in use. The voter selects the language and accessibility features then waits for the visual and/or audio instructions. The device includes an easy-to-read screen, a high-contrast screen with text that can be made bigger, tactile braille buttons, a sip-and-puff attachment that allows voters to select options using their breath, a rocker paddle and audio with adjustable volume and speed. All accessibility features are further enhanced with an audio and/or visual review function to allow the voter to make their selection and provide the opportunity to confirm the selection before printing the ballot.

Privacy is often of high priority for people with disabilities because the medical world, that we're particularly familiar with, offers little privacy so in the areas of life that privacy is offered, it is valued. The assistive voting device offers privacy to the elector with disabilities in a variety of ways. The device is positioned so that the monitor faces a wall. The device also has a privacy screen and headphones. The device has a printer that marks a regular ballot using a mark that is similar to one marked by hand. There is also a secrecy box placed over the printer to further ensure the secrecy of the ballot. The elector, or if requested, an election officer, will reach inside the box, retrieve the ballot, re-fold it in the same way as it was previously folded and return it to the deputy returning officer who will place it in the appropriate ballot box. After the polls close, officials will count the ballots according to the usual process. With this new assistive device technology, Elections Canada is making privacy possible in another area of one's life, voting.

Another benefit to the assistive voting device is that it gives greater independence to an elector with disabilities who may otherwise need the assistance of another person. For that reason in itself, I would try the assistive device technology. Would I recommend this new voting device to you? It is my personal belief that one can benefit greatly by trying new things. Although it might be different or awkward at first and it might not even work for you, the only way to know is by trying. You just might gain a new sense of independence! However, it is always your choice. Electors with disabilities still have the option to use alternative assistive methods, such as:

  • Ask a friend, spouse, common-law partner, relative or an election officer to assist with marking the ballot
  • Vote by special ballot—this allows electors with disabilities to vote by mail, at a local Elections Canada office or at home in the presence of an election officer and witness

Other services and tools available to electors with disabilities are:

  • a Braille voting template for people with visual impairments
  • a large-print list of candidates
  • sign language interpreter services (must be requested ahead of time)
  • help with registration at the advance polls and on election day, upon request on-site assistance and level access to polling sites

The disability community in Canada is now awaiting Elections Canada's final report about the use of the device in this by-election and whether it might be used in future federal elections. MLPD applauds the efforts of the Government of Canada to work towards private and independent voting for all citizens.

Changes in Handi-Transit

by Nick Ternette, Chairperson, MLPD Transportation Committee

The suggestion in a recent article in the Free Press that the city is moving cautiously to expand access to those with Alzheimer's or dementia is just not true. The fact is, Handi-Transit was pressured! Five years ago, the Alzheimer's Society filed a human rights complaint against Handi-Transit with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission on the grounds that they were refusing rides to people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, thus violating their human rights. They were successful and once the Human Rights Commission ruled, Handi-Transit had to sit down with them to formulate new policy.

On the issue of Handi-Transit fares, it will be as a result of pressure put on by students' and seniors' organizations, that the Manitoba Human Rights Commission will again force the hand of Handi-Transit to provide equal fares to students and seniors who take regular transit. As there are only 12 students registered with Handi-Transit, it would be a minimal cost to provide a reduced bus pass (20% off a regular adult bus pass). On the other hand, seniors presently make up 52% of Handi-Transit's ridership and 70% of total Handi-Transit registrants. Reduced seniors' fares would result in a $240,000 loss for Handi-Transit. So, while Handi-Transit has accepted the equalization of fares between seniors and students, they will hold off implementing them until 2013.

All these changes are being done within the new fare collection technology—that is, a "Smart Card" being developed for regular transit. However, Handi-Transit won't be able to have "Smart Cards". There won't be a need for cash or tickets, but rather a photo identification (this would result in a $10,000 saving in the printing of tickets and Handi-Transit passes). Two mechanisms are being looked at for billing. One is that clients will be sent a billing once a month with fares deducted from their account on the days of their trips. The second mechanism would be a once a month billing for the trips they have taken and they can send a cheque in the mail. Consideration has to be taken into account that some clients would have cognitive difficulties with receiving a monthly bill and would prefer to pay up front each time.

There is even discussion concerning attendant fares where attendants could ride free of charge when travelling with clients who require attendants (which would be a revenue loss of $160,000). Attendants currently pay regular fare, even if they have their own bus pass, when accompanying a client on regular transit. This is definitely discriminatory and needs to be looked at!

So, the city must turn its mind now to how to manage Handi-Transit when the number of elderly will double in a couple of decades. Presently we have 95,400 seniors in Winnipeg. Within a decade there will be 125,100 seniors (65+). In 2030, it is projected that we will have 167,500 seniors. Remember to take into account that 70% of those people will be registered with Handi-Transit and 52% will use it regularly, as well as decisions like those made by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission vis-a-vis discrimination against people with Alzheimer's or dementia and equalization of fares between regular Transit and Handi-Transit will have a significant financial impact on the entire Transit system now, not, as the Free Press suggested, in a decade.

RebELLES with a Cause

by Bonnie Bieganski

Hi! This is Bonnie (Administrative and Resource Support Staff, MLPD) here bursting with excitement at an upcoming opportunity to be involved with greatness!

The Winnipeg RebELLEs of the Manitoba FemRev collective is organizing the 2nd RebELLEs Pan-Canadian Young Feminist Gathering to be held in Winnipeg, May 20-23, 2011. When I heard about FemRev, I was immediately interested but when MLPD had a much informative and inspiring meeting with Lissie Rappaport, one of the organizers from the Winnipeg RebELLEs, I knew I had to get involved!

It is important that young disabled womyn will have a presence at the 2nd Pan-Canadian Young Feminist Gathering so let's make it a good one! I am so excited to get involved with the Winnipeg RebELLEs and hope that you might be, too!!!

The objectives of the 2011 Gathering are: to empower young women and girls and to mobilize, energize and strengthen the feminist movement, provide opportunities for women and girls to develop leadership skills, share analyses and strategies for action, collectively work to improve the lives of young women, and to work within diversity in order to make meaningful contributions to the communities we are a part of. It is a fantastic opportunity to collectivize our struggles and make create concrete plans for change. Doesn't this sound great?!

For more information, visit http://www.rebelles.org

They can also be found on Facebook, just search: FemRev—new rebELLEs OC

Living The Edges—A Disabled Women's Reader
- edited by Diane Driedger, INANNA Publications and Education Inc., Toronto

A Book Launch To Remember
by Emily Ternette

book cover: Living The Edges

On Monday, December 6th, McNally Robinson Booksellers in Grant Park hosted a book launch for Living The Edges—A Disabled Women's Reader, compiled and edited by our very own Provincial Coordinator, Diane Driedger! What seemed fitting to me about that particular date was that it was the anniversary of the "Montreal Massacre" where 14 women were killed at École Polytechnique, and December 6th is now a "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women". Women are being recognized and given a voice. This event couldn't have fallen on a more meaningful date! Women with disabilities' voices were being heard!

There, about 40 of us sat, to hear those voices who shared their stories in this unique book. I say unique because the women's stories came in various forms—poetry, prose, visual art and researchers explaining their work and their findings. The women represented in the book came from all socio-economic backgrounds and educational levels, and many types of disabilities, and were from many parts of Canada. We were honoured to hear from a number of Winnipeg women that night who bravely stood in front of us and spoke their truth—their story.

I came away from the book launch that night feeling uplifted and proud of my women peers! It's not easy to tell your own story—much easier to tell someone else's. And what was so powerful about this particular night was that we were hearing the stories in the book by the women themselves!

The book is available from amazon.ca.

Winnipeg contributors celebrate

Winnipeg contributors to Living the Edges celebrate the book's launch.

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario

It is not mine alone to win but ours not to lose

by Donna Jodhan

It is not very often that one gets an opportunity to go head to head with the government of their country and it is not something that is for the faint of heart. I have always known this and as I sit here contemplating the latest developments in my Charter challenge, I can only tell you that the one thing that keeps me going is this: Belief! I believe in what I have been doing since 2006 and if I had to do it all over again, then I surely would. I have never sought any monetary compensation or any personal gain for myself; it is all for our blind, sight impaired, deaf/blind, and print disabled kids of the future and for our community as a whole.

On November 29, 2010, Judge Michael Kelyn handed down a landmark decision when he ordered the Federal Government to make all of their websites accessible within 15 months and he retained jurisdiction over the auditing process of his decision. It was a landmark victory for me and my supporters. I was humbled, delighted, and excited and at the same time I did not view this as a defeat for the Canadian Government. Rather, I viewed it as a wake-up call for them to work with blind, sight impaired, deaf/blind, and print disabled Canadians to make their websites equally accessible to all.

On January 10 2011, the Canadian Government filed an appeal in response to Judge Kelyn's landmark decision. The Canadian Government has decided to appeal the Judge's entire decision. This is probably one of the saddest days for blind, sight impaired, deaf/blind, and print disabled Canadians. For not only has the government gone against the very laws that it coined in its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it has also contradicted the spirit of its signing of the United Nations treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities, which it ratified in March of 2010.

This seems to indicate a complete lack of respect for the law by our esteemed government and in addition; it may also be perceived to be that the government probably views us as nothing more than second class citizens.

In an economy where the government continues to preach restraint, it continues to waste precious financial resources on court cases that should never have come to court in the first place. What is most confusing is that this government does not seem to mind spending your money and my money when it comes to preventing a specific group of Canadians from claiming and protecting their legitimate rights.

I am shocked to see that this is happening! I am saddened that this government would seemingly go out of its way to continue to defy its very own laws and I am deeply troubled that it continues to do this despite the fact that the court has ruled that my rights as a Canadian were violated under the Charter of Rights.

Words cannot really express my feelings as I sit writing this article with snowflakes silently racing down my window panes; feelings of great sadness, disappointment, surprise, and a deep sentiment of shock and shame for a government that continues to blatantly ignore the rights of blind, sight impaired, deaf/blind, and print disabled Canadians.

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, and as sure as the snow will always fall in January, I and my supporters will never give up! We are here to stay and we are here to ensure that the future for our community will be protected no matter what. We must not give up! We must fight to ensure that all print disabled kids can look forward to an Internet where accessibility is a reality and not just a nice feature to have.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you for your support! To the AEBC, the CWDO, and the rest! Thank you!

Youth Activist Forum (YAF)

by Dale Stevenson, on behalf of CWDO and the Youth Activist Forum Planning Committee

Under Citizens with Disabilities—Ontario, and partnering with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a group of people with and without disabilities have come together to plan a Youth Activist Forum (YAF) about disability. The Forum will be held at Carleton University in Ottawa, June 2-5, 2011.

The purpose of this event is to highlight the successes and evolution of activism within the disability community and to inspire youth to become involved. This interactive event will be led by mentors from disability movements with the aim of fostering an interest in all forms of disability activism from letter-writing, to blogging, to radical symbolic politics. There will be a strong focus on building alliances in order to bring disability to other activist agendas and to generally promote an intersectional approach.

The Youth Activist Forum aims to:

  1. Inform participants of the forms activism can take, thereby making their involvement accessible.
  2. Address and reconsider the 'problem' of low youth involvement in disability organizations.
  3. Contribute to the evolution of disability movements in Ontario by discovering and creating new activist tools and fostering an intersectional approach while also encouraging other movements to include disability issues.
  4. Foster a network of mentors, youth leaders, and community organizations.

Planning for the Forum is going extremely well. Participants will gain first-hand experience of activist art with performances by Propeller Dance, mixed-ability dance group; Alan Shain, a comedian and story teller; and Leslie Freeman, a poet and dancer.

YAF will also have workshops where youth participants will learn from and interact with established Canadian and American disability activists, including Joe Stramondo from ADAPT, Steve Estey from CCD's International Development Committee, and many others.

Through experiencing this wide and exciting array of disability activism, participants will find a form that is accessible to them. This event will help them find their strengths as activists and discover their role in the disability community.

This event will end with a coffee house night where participants will have the opportunity to perform or display examples of the types of activism that resonate for them personally.

Stay tuned for updates including more details on how to participate in this exciting event!

If you are interested in making a donation to the Forum, please contact: dalealanstevenson@gmail.com.

PEI Council of People with Disabilities

PEI Human Rights Award

The past year has been a busy and exciting year for the Council and it came to a close with us being presented with the PEI Human Rights Award. The award is given "in recognition of exceptional achievement in promoting human rights and equality in the province of Prince Edward Island". After 36 years of commitment to the movement and hard work by countless people it was a wonderful day of celebrating our successes and renewing our energy for the work that still needs to be done.

Doug Currie, Marcia Carroll, Peter Doucette, Justice Gerard Mitchell, Anne Nicholson

Minister of Education: Doug Currie, Executive Director PEI Council of People with Disabilities: Marcia Carroll, Chair of the Board of Directors PEICOD: Peter Doucette, PEI Police Commissioner: Justice Gerard Mitchell and PEI Human Rights Commissioner: Anne Nicholson.

Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

This year a celebration was hosted by the Disability Action Council (DAC). Islanders living with disabilities were invited to meet members of the DAC and to express their hopes and concerns to the members as they work towards implementing the 49 recommendations of the Disabilities Services Review Final Report 2009. The event was well attended and Minister Janice Sherry spoke to a large crowd and gave an update on the work completed by DAC and explained the plans for the coming year. International Day was also proclaimed in the Legislature thanking all the community groups that work on behalf of the disability rights movement, and an informed debate was held by Government and Opposition on the current supports given to Islanders living with Autism. Also, the PEI Council of People with Disabilities, in partnership with the PEI Government, published a two page center spread celebrating the work that has been done and encouraging all involved to continue.

Working with Government to Bring Change

Council staff and volunteers have been busy meeting with all levels of Government to ensure the rights of Islanders with disabilities are met. At the municipal level we continue to push for a City Bylaw that would ensure that all multi-unit new buildings with 10 or more units will have an accessible unit and that all public spaces within the building are accessible to people with disabilities. We have also been involved in the Public Transit Review and are pleased that the final report has identified accessibility as a key priority if the system is to become viable for all citizens.

Municipal elections were held in November and the Council surveyed all mayoral candidates on the issues of housing, designated parking and barrier free design of all public spaces. The results of the survey were featured in our provincial newspaper in a full page commentary and many people expressed that the result assisted in them choosing their candidate!

At the Provincial level we made a presentation to the Standing Committee on Health, Wellness and Seniors and we were very pleased to see many of our recommendations in their report made to the Legislative Assembly. A presentation was also made to the Deputy Ministers' Committee on Social Development and a good discussion followed on the services and programs needed to support Islanders living with disabilities.

We also had the opportunity to spend the day with Nancy Milroy-Swainson, Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. A dialogue was held that included discussion around employment equity, policy development, the Disability Tax Credit and the RDSP. Discussions were very informative and all involved felt the day had value.

Our Core Programs

The Council continues to offer our core programs such as: Employment Services, Community Access, Designated Parking Permits and Snoezelen Room. Each year several thousand Islanders living with disabilities turn to the PEI Council of People with Disabilities for these services, and we are pleased that we are a well utilized community based resource.

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities-Newfoundland and Labrador (COD)

Living in Community—A Response to the Close to Home Consultation Document

Living in Community is a position paper written in response to the Close to Home—A Vision for Long-Term Care and Community Support Services consultations. The Department of Health and Community Services, under the leadership of Minister Jerome Kennedy, has visited various centres around the province asking senior citizens, consumers of long term care and community support services, and interested organizations, their opinions of the proposed strategy.

In cooperation, disability community groups met and discussed their views surrounding the strategy and decided to partner and proactively compose a response paper. Also available to organizations by the Department of Health were the opportunity to meet with the Minister in roundtable sessions, and community consultations whereby individuals made presentations to a panel.

Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, CHHA; Canadian Paraplegic Association, CPA; Canadian Health Awareness Network, NL, CHANNAL; Coalition of Person with Disabilities, COD-NL; Don Gallant and Associates; Independent Living Resource Centre, ILRC; Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, LDANL; Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Community Living NLACL and People First endorsed and supported the document.

  • Key points focused around the idea of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 19 of this Convention states that; Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement.
  • Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to pre-vent isolation or segregation.
  • Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.

What we understand is, that to fully satisfy all the necessary supports and accommodations of persons with disabilities, there is no one size fits all; and full citizenship means that each Canadian is included in society in a way that has meaning to the individual. These pivotal concepts must be applied when considering all of our long term care options and access to community support services.

COD-NL looks forward to continuing to work with community partners and government at all levels to address Long Term Care and Community Support Services.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)

AEBC Applauds Landmark Web Access Court Decision

Below you will find an extract from the landmark federal court decision released on November 29, 2010, along with a News Release from the AEBC. We congratulate Donna Jodhan for pursuing this action, and are particularly happy the court is retaining jurisdiction, an action that is quite unusual:

Extract from Court Decision

  1. This application for judicial review is allowed and the applicant is entitled to a declaration under section 18.1 of the Federal Courts Act that she has been denied equal access to, and benefit from, government information and services provided online to the public on the Internet, and that this constitutes discrimination against her on the basis of her physical disability, namely that she is blind. Accordingly, she has not received the equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on her physical disability and that this is a violation of section 15(1) of the Charter;
  2. It is also declared that the applicant's inability to access online certain departmental websites is representative of a system wide failure by many of the 146 government departments and agencies to make their websites accessible. The failure of the government to monitor and ensure compliance with the government's 2001 accessibility standards is an infringement of section 15(1) of the Charter since it discriminates against the applicant and other visually impaired persons;
  3. It is also declared that the government has a constitutional obligation to bring itself into compliance with the Charter within a reasonable time period, such as 15 months;
  4. This Court will retain jurisdiction over the implementation of this declaration and the Court will resume its proceedings on the application of either party if necessary to ensure the effect of this declaration is properly implemented; and
  5. The applicant is a public interest litigant and is entitled to her legal costs including disbursements in the fixed amount of $150,000.

AEBC News Release

"Blind persons all across Canada join in celebrating the landmark decision in Donna Jodhan's victory in her Charter of Rights case against the federal government for its failure to provide "equal access to, and benefit from, government information and services provided online to the public," says Robin East, President of the nationwide Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.

This Charter challenge was all about access to information and usability of federal information and websites.

"It is very regrettable that rightsholders of Canada were forced to go to court and fight to gain access to information. This should not be an issue in 2010," added East. "Blind, partially sighted, and deaf-blind Canadians must not be closed off from accessing Government information forms and applications."

"I launched this case for all blind Canadians and for the kids of the future," says a jubilant Donna Jodhan upon hearing of the successful outcome of her case.

"Blind Canadians want to be able to access information on websites independently and privately, just as our sighted counterparts can," added Jodhan. "Today an increasing number of job applications and purchases are carried out electronically, and we must not be left on the sidelines," added Jodhan.

"We hope this decision will send a signal to all website designers and organizations that it is time that accessibility gets included in all websites," said John Rae, 1st Vice President of the AEBC. "It is time that governments use taxpayers dollars to remove barriers to our equal participation in society rather than wasting time and money fighting individual Canadians with disabilities like Jodhan," added Rae.


It's fair to say that Canadian citizen Donna Jodhan knows a lot about accessibility. A specialist consultant in the field with more than 16 years' experience, her company has worked with numerous clients, including financial institutions and the University of Toronto. She has obtained Systems Engineering Certification from Microsoft and won various technical awards from IBM.

Jodhan's problems began in 2006, when she was unable to create a job profile on the Government of Canada's employment website—the point of access for all federal government job opportunities. When trying to complete a section of the form (the 'date available' field) she simply received an error message each time. She attempted to contact the site's owners, but the phone number provided was out of service.

Jodhan was forced to seek assistance from a sighted government employee to create a job profile, but was still unable to review any of the information entered, as she was not given any user identification or password.

In addition to the problems with job applications, she was also unable to complete a 2006 online Census form from Statistics Canada. The form was only fully accessible to users who are blind or have significant vision loss who used the most recent version of the JAWS screen-reader—an expensive piece of technology, costing around $1,000 Canadian at the time. Jodhan was again forced to rely on sighted assistance from a government employee to complete the Census, which she regarded as an invasion of her privacy.

Furthermore, Jodhan found she was unable to access information on Canada's national consumer price index and unemployment rate, again on Statistics Canada's website, as the information was only available in a PDF file, which had not been adapted for screen-readers. Jodhan was informed by government employees that no alternative formats were available.

Audible Pedestrian Signals Are All About Safety

Chirping crosswalk changes its tune; Safety matters

Jeanne Armstrong
National Post, Dec. 23, 2010

Canadian municipalities are finding themselves on opposite sides of an odd debate: whether to change the sound used to help the visually impaired safely cross the street.

The reason for the proposed change? The chirping sound that has become commonplace at crosswalks from coast to coast sounds too much like the northern cardinal.

A report by the Transportation Association of Canada recommends that cities replace the high-pitched bird chirp signal because it was causing visually impaired pedestrians to stray from the crosswalk path.

Halifax announced at the beginning of December it would refit its 27 audible pedestrian signals (APS) with a four-note tune, otherwise known as the "Canadian Melody," becoming the most recent Canadian municipality to scrap the chirp.

The Canadian Melody was first heard in Montreal, where it was dubbed the "Montreal Melody."

The name was changed in 2008 by the Transportation Association to reflect a national push for the new tune.

A spokesperson for the city of Ottawa, which has 500 APS systems in place, said that 25% have been refitted to play the Canadian Melody.

Hamilton has also reportedly begun making the change.

But for a tune that is being dubbed the "Canadian Melody," it's being implemented inconsistently from coast to coast. Roberto Stopnicki, director of Toronto traffic management, said the city is not about to stop the sound of birds chirping on its streets anytime soon.

Toronto has received few complaints about the issue, Mr. Stopnicki said. "If we were to start to change the sound we would have to … start a very large education advisory program," he said. Of the approximate 2,200 pedestrian signals Toronto has in place, about 20%, or 450 of the signals, are APS operated, Mr. Stopnicki said.

Calgary, which has 73 APS signals, and Vancouver, which has 400, have said they have not yet considered switching their APS signals to play the Canadian Melody.

Robin East, president of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and a blind person himself, said he has no problem with the chirp, nor has he heard of any formal complaints.

"There's really no serious confusion in my mind… It's quite distinct from other birds," he said.

Mr. East said visually impaired Canadians need consistency at their crosswalks, no matter the tune. "Just make it one way or the other—we'll understand and get by with it."

Dec. 3 News Release: International Day of Persons with Disabilities A Time for Celebrating Achievements

The following was released by AEBC's Toronto Chapter in recognition of December 3rd, the International Day of Persons With Disabilities:

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) provides our community and the public at large with a time to spotlight the individual and collective achievements of persons with disabilities across Canada, and this year, we have plenty to celebrate.

Richard Quan, President of the Toronto Chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians said: "I know that I am expressing the shared sentiments of all of us when I tell you how proud we are of Lynda, John, and Donna."

"On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, all the forces of the universe have managed to be aligned here in Toronto to recognize the accomplishments of these three important members of our community," adds Quan.

"Shouldn't Lynda's contributions to a number of organizations have been recognized well before today? Is it so strange that John's lifetime of dedication to the labor movement was recognized in his lifetime? Finally, with the positive decision in Donna's landmark litigation for accessible websites for those who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted, isn't it easy to see why AEBC members are celebrating these achievements on this year's International Day of Persons With Disabilities?"

On December 3, Lynda Spinney, Treasurer of AEBC's Toronto Chapter, will be one of several recipients of Toronto's Unsung Hero Awards at a ceremony at Variety Village.

These awards are presented annually to Torontonians who have not been previously recognized for their outstanding participation in the civic life of our community.

On November 29, Donna Jodhan, AEBC's Second Vice President, won her landmark Charter of Rights case against the Government of Canada over its inaccessible forms and websites.

On November 12, John Rae, AEBC's First Vice President was presented with the National Union of Public and General Employees "Solidarity Award" for his many years of leadership on Human Rights in Canada's trade union movement.

What is the IDPD?


Established by the UN General Assembly in 1982, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) aims to promote a better understanding of disability issues. It provides an international focus on the rights of persons with disabilities as well as the gains to be derived from the integration of such individuals in every aspect of the life of their communities.

International Human Rights Day News Release—Access to Information: A Critical Human Right

In recognition of the UN's annual Human Rights Day, December 10, Robin East, President of the nationwide Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), is calling for increased access to print materials, something most Canadians take for granted.

"Imagine a world in which you could read only about 5% of what you currently can access and read. How would this affect your life?" challenges East. "That's the situation currently facing persons who have a print disability. Ninety-five percent of published materials are not accessible to us."

"We are living in an information society and a knowledge-based economy which makes it vital for all of us to be able to access information at a moment's notice. This requires being able to access information independently without sighted assistance. We can only do this if websites and their related web content, web information, and forms are made truly accessible to everyone."

Donna Jodhan of Toronto recently won a landmark case against the Government of Canada that requires the federal Government to bring all of its websites into compliance within 15 months.

"We hope this decision will send a clear signal to all website developers and organizations that 'accessibility' must become a higher priority," says East, "And the AEBC is anxious to collaborate with organizations to help make this happen." "We are calling for increased access to print materials, which is a basic human right, that most Canadians take for granted with their publicly funded libraries," says East. Persons who are blind and other Print Disabled Canadians must rely on the charity of the CNIB to provide their reading material. CNIB has stated clearly on numerous occasions that it will close down its charitable library on March 31, 2012 and CNIB has further stated that their accessible library service is both unsustainable and fundamentally inappropriate.

Organizations of the print disabled have been working with Library and Archives Canada to develop a publicly funded replacement, "but these efforts are progressing at a snail's pace," adds East. "We are in desperate need of a national publicly funded library system for Canadians with print disabilities", East states.

Blind and other print disabled Canadians need to be assured that we are not left behind. It is society's duty through its public infrastructure to ensure that all blind and other print disabled kids can look forward to a future where "accessible" is not just merely something that is nice to have but a reality.

Background Information

The United Nations has designated December 10 as the day to recognize the work currently taking place, and to focus on the need to advance human rights protection worldwide.

Just Appointed

AEBC's First Vice President, John Rae, has been appointed to Elections Ontario's newly created Advisory Committee on Accessible Elections. "I feel passionate about making Canada's electoral process at all levels fully accessible, and hope this new Committee will help make a difference for all electors with a disability," said Rae, upon hearing of his appointment.

The Process of Civic Engagement

by John Rae

John Rae is First Vice President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, and a member of CCD's National Council. The following are notes for a presentation at ARCH Disability Law Centre's 30th Anniversary Symposium, Toronto, December 13, 2010.

Pursuing civic engagement in a democracy can take many forms, from organizing our own groups, writing letters to the appropriate officials or the editor of one's local newspaper, monitoring and making presentations to Parliamentary committees, filing legal challenges, pickets and demonstrations, to today's increasing emphasis on participating in the electoral process by voting, as campaign workers or even as candidates hoping to get elected to office.

Self Organization

In the early to mid 1970s, long before the forward looking motto of the 1981 International Year of the Disabled Person, "Full participation and Equality" became prominent throughout our community, the focus was on organizing our own groups. We observed the gains being made by the civil rights and women's movements in the United States, and decided it was time to organize our own groups to provide persons with disabilities with our own vehicles for self expression and collective action.

This development was partly a reaction against what Jim Derksen, former Chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, often calls the "rehabilitation industry," like CNIB, the Canadian Rehabilitation Council for the Disabled and others. Persons with disabilities too often find ourselves surrounded by a bevy of professionals—doctors, social workers, counselors, therapists and researchers—who surround us, sometimes acting a bit like a flock of vultures, ready to decide what's best for us and what we need, study us, diagnose us, overly medicalize us, speak for us, but too rarely employ us or let us decide what's "really" best for us and to have input into or direct what they say and do.

The 70s were the right time to begin self organizing, and our organizations gave many of us our first chance to participate in work that directly affected our lives, and many of us who jumped in developed skills in research, policy development, speaking and personal confidence that have stood us in good stead throughout the rest of our lives. That is why, whenever anyone asks me what is the greatest legacy that our movement has left, many are surprised when I respond that, in my view, it is the personal development in individuals who have participated directly in this important work.

In those old days, those unrepresentative agencies provided services and also assumed the role as our spokespersons, though they had never asked for nor been given a mandate or right to play that role. Even today, this point remains a sore spot and source of some discord within parts of the disabled community as increasingly we insist in being in the forefront, determining our own needs and destiny, and speaking for ourselves, as is the right of citizenship in any democracy.

The New Paradigm of Rightsholders

Robin East, President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians has developed a new phrase, "rightsholders," to distinguish us and our organizations from all the other groups that government and other decision makers love to lump together under the umbrella term, "stakeholders." We are tired of having a stake driven into our wants and desires.

While it may be true that many groups have a "stake" in the outcome of a decision or piece of legislation, we who live our lives every day with our own disability know best what we need, and must be accorded a preeminent role in determining the content of every piece of legislation and policy that affects our lives.

The ODSP Action Coalition is a true partnership between recipients and service providers. This organization believes firmly in involving consumers at every level and in all of its work. Each Committee, including its Steering Committee has two co Chairs, one of whom is an ODSP recipient. The views of consumers are valued, and are encouraged to get involved and participate actively in all of its work.

What Does Our History Tell Us?

If we look at our history over the past 40 years—and yes, we do have a history, a history that needs to be better documented—it shows very clearly that most of the major advances we have seen did not come about through the magnanimity of Canadian society, though it talks a good line about such topics as human rights and the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Rather, most of the progress we have achieved has resulted from hard work, struggle and the occasional threat.

A primary case in point was gaining coverage for persons with disabilities under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Persons with disabilities were the very last group to be included, and that only happened at the last minute.

After months of presenting briefs, attending meetings, and monitoring the Committee that was deliberating over what became Canada's new Constitution, the disabled community had become extremely frustrated, as we knew time was running out on this process. One weekend, a rumor began to spread around Ottawa that bus loads of persons with disabilities were preparing to descend on Parliament Hill—picture it, persons in wheelchairs, scooters, canes and dogs and our allies—and some even say I was responsible for circulating that rumor … Later that week, Jean Chrétien rose in the Committee and accepted the amendment that added persons with disabilities to the list of groups now covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

How many persons would have made the trek onto Ottawa? We will never know, but I can tell you that discussions were underway to organize such a demonstration, one I am glad we did not have to do.

Today, it is said that demonstrations are an outdated method of civic engagement, but I am not so sure. What I do know is few groups are using that tactic these days, and reaching today's group of insulated elected officials has become more difficult than ever before in Canadian history.

During my many years in advocacy, I have learned many things, but two things stand out more than all the others; you must do your homework and must never threaten to do anything you aren't prepared to do.

Working Together Can Work!

After 35 years in this work, you can understand I have become more than a little cynical when it comes to the outcomes from our work. However, in recent memory, there is one example that shows collective efforts can succeed.

When the Ontario government introduced its so-called Poverty Reduction strategy, community groups worked together, appeared before the Standing Committee on Social Policy singing the same tune, and succeeded in getting about half of our proposed amendments adopted. I just wish we had done as well with the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly which deliberated on Bill 231, the Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2010.

Access to Elections

Casting one's vote in an election is said by many to be the most important act a citizen performs in any democracy. When it comes to elections, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians has been actively involved in pressing for increased access to the electoral process for many years, particularly at the federal level. Progress has been painfully slow, but finally Elections Canada tested accessible voting machines during the November 29, 2010 by-election in the constituency of Winnipeg North.

Our goal focuses primarily on achieving our desired outcome and much less on methodology. Electors who are blind demand the opportunity to vote independently and in secret like all other electors and to be able to independently verify how we cast our vote, something sighted electors take for granted. I was very excited that, for the first time in my life, during the most recent municipal election in Toronto, I used a fully accessible voting machine that enabled me to do exactly that. It was a great day for me!

The Hughes Case

Rev. Peter Hughes has had his own range of access problems in attempting to vote. On March 17, 2008, Rev. Peter Hughes set out with his walker to vote in a federal by-election at St. Basil's Church, a beautiful, old building in downtown Toronto. It has three entrances.

At the front door was "a handicap" ramp, but Entrance #1 was locked. A cryptic, yellow Elections Canada sign pointed toward entrance #3. At entrance #3, when he opened the door, he was startled to find a flight of stairs leading downward. It was clearly not an accessible entrance.

A person who appeared to be an EC official told him he could either come down the stairs or walk around the building (to entrance #2. After considering his options, Mr. Hughes decided to go down the stairs on the seat of his pants, which he found to be a risky and humiliating experience.

They then put the walker back together and he walked down the hallway to the election polling stations in the basement hall, where he found the tables were placed too close together, blocking his path. EC officials had to re-arrange the tables, so Mr. Hughes could eventually mark his ballot.

Mr. Hughes was persuaded by Elections Canada officials to exit out a back entrance. Once again, he was confronted with obstacles such as heavy doors and a very narrow steep and icy ramp that he could not use without assistance.

His departure, however, was no easier. EC officials offered to help him leave through the back way, entrance #2, adjacent to the parking lot. Mr. Hughes had to walk up a "steep, narrow ramp," which was only "marginally possible" for use with his walker. The two doors leading out to the parking lot were heavy, steel doors. Mr. Hughes' walker had to be folded in order to get it through. Outside the doors, he confronted snow on the ground which hadn't been sufficiently cleared. It was barely wide enough for his walker's wheels, and certainly not wide enough for a person using a wheelchair. He described the entrance at the back as a "freight/emergency entrance". In his view, it was demeaning and not dignified, and remarked that it doesn't affirm a person as an actual person, but signals they should be handled as freight.

On June 5, 2008, Mr. Hughes filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) against Elections Canada, and approached CCD which obtained standing as an interested party before the Tribunal. CCD retained ARCH Disability Law Centre to prepare written and oral arguments on his behalf.

In October 2008, a federal election was held, and Mr. Hughes received a voter information card, complete with a universal access symbol, advising him to cast his vote again at St. Basil's Church. Hoping that the access issues had been resolved, Mr. Hughes went off to cast his vote only to discover the access issues had not been resolved.

In December 2008, Mr. Hughes's complaints regarding both the by-election and general election were referred to a tribunal. A hearing took place in October 2009. Mr. Matthew D. Garfield's decision ruled that the Complainant had substantiated his complaints and that Elections Canada had engaged in a discriminatory practice contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act, and sets out a 12 point order which requires Elections Canada to undertake a number of activities to avoid similar complaints, which include:

  • Paying $10,000 to Mr. Hughes for the pain and suffering he experienced.
  • Ceasing from the practice of situating polling stations in locations that do not provide barrier-free access, subject to the standard of bona fide justification and the duty to accommodate.
  • Conducting a review of policies and guidelines dealing with accessibility developed by Elections Canada.
  • Including a requirement in lease agreements that polling locations provide level access and are barrier-free.
  • Reviewing, revising and updating training material and programs with respect to accessibility.
  • Developing a process for dealing with, and responding to, written and verbal complaints concerning access, and providing regular progress reports to the Tribunal on the activities it ordered to rectify the complaints.
  • Consulting with voters with disabilities regarding access issues, including CCD and ARCH, which have begun.

The actions required by the Tribunal are being monitored by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Court Challenges Program

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) was founded in 1978 to provide funding for official minority language cases based on sections

93 and 133

of the Constitution Act, 1867.


In 1985, section 15 of the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect, providing Canada's first constitutional guarantee of equality, and the Program's mandate was expanded to include challenges to federal laws, policies or practices based on sections 15 (equality), 27 (multiculturalism) or 28 (sex equality) of the Charter. Also, the federal government entered into a five-year contribution agreement with the Canadian Council on Social Development, so that the Program could be administered in an arm's length manner from the Government of Canada.

In September 2006, the Government of Canada summarily cancelled this important Program, despite a 2003 independent evaluation that endorsed the Program's purpose and operation, and despite the renewal of the contribution agreement with Heritage Canada until March 2009.

Cancellation of this Program is a major blow to all equality seekers, as rights without the means to enforce these rights are no rights at all! Effective enforcement of legal rights must be for everyone, all groups and not just the wealthy.

During its history, the Court Challenges Program supported challenges and interventions of national importance, giving rise to the rich body of equality jurisprudence in Canada; a body of jurisprudence that is internationally respected and emulated. Some examples of some cases include:

  • Amending employment insurance benefits rules that discriminate against parents of children with disabilities;
  • Expanding the common law definition of marriage to include same-sex unions; Challenging VIA Rail's decision to purchase used rail cars that were not accessible; Challenging the sex discrimination in the Indian Act's status entitlements; and
  • Supporting Donna Jodhan in her landmark victory against the Government of Canada over website and information access.

Landmark Charter Access to Information Case

And before I close, I must say something about the recent victory in the landmark Charter case of Donna Jodhan and the Canadian Human Rights Commission v. The Government of Canada regarding website access. On November 29, 2010, Federal court Justice Michael Kelen ruled:

  1. This application for judicial review is allowed and the applicant is entitled to a declaration under section 18.1 of the Federal Courts Act that she has been denied equal access to, and benefit from, government information and services provided online to the public on the Internet, and that this constitutes discrimination against her on the basis of her physical disability, namely that she is blind.
    Accordingly, she has not received the equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on her physical disability and that this is a violation of section 15(1) of the Charter;
  2. It is also declared that the applicant's inability to access online certain departmental websites is representative of a system wide failure by many of the 146 government departments and agencies to make their websites accessible. The failure of the government to monitor and ensure compliance with the government's 2001 accessibility standards is an infringement of section 15(1) of the Charter since it discriminates against the applicant and other visually impaired persons;
  3. It is also declared that the government has a constitutional obligation to bring itself into compliance with the Charter within a reasonable time period, such as 15 months;
  4. This Court will retain jurisdiction over the implementation of this declaration and the Court will resume its proceedings on the application of either party if necessary to ensure the effect of this declaration is properly implemented; and
  5. The applicant is a public interest litigant and is entitled to her legal costs including disbursements in the fixed amount of $150,000.

The AEBC is delighted that the court will remain involved, as the Tribunal did in Rev. Hughes's case, and hope this will ensure the Government of Canada implements Justice Kelen's order.

The AEBC also hopes this landmark decision will send a clear signal to all other organizations and developers of website and online content that they must make it a priority to provide their information in an accessible manner.

Donna's case was made possible because it was launched before the current government cancelled the Court Challenges Program, a move which makes it much tougher to go to court to uphold and expand rights under the Charter. This Program must be reinstated!

Bringing Us into the Mainstream

Our task of civic engagement would be greatly advanced if more of us were employed in government offices, corporate boardrooms, media newsrooms, political offices and even legal clinics. When I was an employee of the Ontario Government, the workplace accommodations I needed, technical equipment and personal readers, were covered from a central fund, and my friend, the late Carol McGregor so wished a similar fund would have been available to her employer while she worked at Injured Workers Consultants, but it wasn't, and she and her employer struggled. When the Attorney General announced some new funding for clinics, ARCH proposed that the Ontario Government should create a similar centralized fund to assist transfer payment organizations, including community legal clinics, to more readily and effectively fulfill their legal obligation of accommodating their employees short of undue hardship. But, sad to say, this proposal did not even make the final list submitted to the government from the clinics.

Time for All Governments to Start "Walking the Talk" on Full Access

When you consider only four instances, Via Rail, David Lepofsky's two TTC cases, and Donna Jodhan's recent victory, governments are wasting huge sums of taxpayers dollars fighting against increasing accessibility that will help bring Canadians with disabilities into the mainstream, something they all claim to support. It's time they stopped wasting taxpayers money, and work more collaboratively with rights holder organizations and our allies to make Canada a real leader in providing access and inclusion. It is time they showed some real commitment and began to walk the talk!

Canadian Association of the Deaf

In the News

CAD issued News Releases for two issues. The first issue was that CAD/the Deaf Community supports calls for a national infant hearing screening test. It is important that newborns be quickly identified as Deaf or hard of hearing and be provided with a support structure as early as possible. Deaf experts provide valuable assistance in recommending and implementing languages including Sign language.

The second issue was that CAD supports changes to the eligibility requirements for the disability tax credits. We have responded that Deaf people with cochlear implants always look the same Deaf people. We look forward with them in fighting for the rights and equality of Deaf people in Canada.

CAD Board Has New Secretary

Marie Josee Blier from Ottawa and AOSF (Association Ontarienne Des Sourds Francophones) became the new CAD Secretary and she will serve till June 2011. Congratulations to her and welcome her to the CAD Board. She is the LSQ person on the Board.

CAD Receives Donation

CAD received a donation of 150 free Blackberry devices from Research in Motion (RIM), the company that makes Blackberries and 6 months free service from TELUS. We distributed all of the devices to the Deaf Community through partnership with the affiliates.

DisAbled Women's Network (DAWN) Canada/Réseau d'action de femmes handicapées (RAFH) Canada

Alliance des femmes handicapées du Québec: A new feminist group for promoting the rights of women with disabilities in Québec

by Laurence Parent

On September 29th, 2010 more than forty women gathered at the YWCA in Montréal for the Alliance des femmes handicapées du Québec's (AFHQ) first General Assembly and Nominating meeting. I had the privilege to participate in this assembly and live and share this historical moment for the women with disabilities rights movement in Québec.

The Alliance was founded on December 4th, 2008 by women with disabilities from diverse origins and abilities. This first General Assembly was a crucial moment for the newly born organization. A Board of Directors was elected for the first time and Bylaws were adopted by members. Despite the fact that the large part of the General Assembly was dedicated to administrative questions, the main objective was certainly to bring together women with disabilities.

When I entered the room where the assembly was taking place, I had difficulty to find an available space around the large round table. Even though I have been involved with the disability rights movement for a few years, faces around the table were mostly unfamiliar to me. Women of different ages, origins and abilities were talking to each other. Some of them looked like long time allies while others were meeting for the first time. Wassyla Hadjabi, one of the AFHQ's Founders, opened the Assembly by welcoming all the participants. She told us all a little bit of the history that preceded the founding of the Alliance with great emotion.

Twenty-five years ago, the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada (DAWN-Canada) was founded by seventeen (17) women with disabilities. During the following year, Maria Barile—one of the DAWN's founders, also helped with establishing Action des femmes handicapées-Montréal (AFHM) with three other women with disabilities living in Montréal. Since that time, both organizations have worked hard on various issues. Their greatest challenge has been to unveil the particular oppression lived by women with disabilities and to denounce it. AFHM quickly became the organization that gave a voice to women with disabilities within the Montréal disability rights movement. By adopting a feminist approach to disability rights issues, AFHM accomplished something that has never been done in Québec before.

Hadjabi remembered what Maria Barile often told her: ''Women with disabilities didn't exist before. We were persons with disabilities without a sex and a gender. Period.'' Year after year, the diverse forms of discrimination experienced by women with disabilities started to be recognized and taken into account by policy-makers and disability rights advocates.

Despite some important headway, women with disabilities continue to be stigmatized and discriminated against. Women with disabilities remain poorer than their able-bodied sisters and are still at greater risk to experience violence reminded Hadjabi. This is why the foundation of the Alliance is necessary argued Hadjabi. ''We hope that women with disabilities, wherever they live in Québec, will now be able to break out of their isolation,'' she said with conviction.

After the welcoming speech, participants reviewed the new Bylaws. Despite the dryness of this procedure, women participated with great interest. When a woman had difficulty with understanding a rule or a concept, she asked for more explanations without hesitation. The ambiance of mutual respect between women sharing similarities but also significant differences probably made it easier for women to speak. They were from different places and had different physical and mental abilities. Some English-speaking women participated with the assistance of an interpreter. I was impressed to see a feminist group based in Montréal representing Québec diversity so well and in such a very natural way!

One of the rules that got a lot of questions from participants was about the definition of an individual member. Who can be a member of the Alliance? Can able-bodied women have a seat on the Board of Directors of the Alliance? What is the definition of a woman with disabilities? The Alliance decided to embrace an inclusive vision of what defines us as 'a woman with disabilities'. For the organization, a woman with disabilities is a woman who identifies herself as such—not more complicated than that! The Alliance rejects the medical definition of disability that is still very predominant in Québec society and firmly believes in the ability of women to define themselves. Furthermore, it has been decided that able-bodied women will be welcomed to sit on the board of directors. However, the Executive positions will have to be occupied by women with disabilities.

Once the Bylaws were adopted, Ms. Hadjabi presented some of the issues that the Alliance will work on. The ultimate objective of the Alliance will be to fight against all forms of violence, discrimination, marginalization and exclusion towards women with disabilities. Issues such as mothering and sexuality have been identified as priorities since they continue to be neglected. Employment will also be one issue particularly important for the Alliance since a lot of its member are unemployed or have lower incomes than men with disabilities. Because it is frequent that the work of women with disabilities is undervalued, members reminded the newly elected Board of Directors of their responsibility to make sure that future Alliance's employees will be decently paid for their work.

Because we often hear that disability rights organizations have great difficulties in mobilizing their members, the idea of founding a new organization such as the Alliance could easily have been written off as a waste of time. Except if you were there, and you participated in the first General Assembly of the Alliance on September 29, 2010. Then you would know, what I know—that women with disabilities still have the strength to get together and the courage to continue to fight against the discrimination that is still far too commonplace to this day! The founding of the Alliance is part of a critical historical period for the Québec disability rights movement which is still somewhere between great darkness and a not too quiet revolution that many of us are still fighting for.

meeting participants

Participants at the Alliance des femmes handicapées du Québec's (AFHQ) first General Assembly and Nominating meeting

You Want to Become a Member?

Here is some information.

Community members: Any organization (local, regional or national) composed of a majority or exclusively of women with disabilities or any group or committee of women with disabilities. They must subscribe to the Alliance's mission and objectives.

Individual members: Any woman who self-identifies as a woman with disabilities and subscribes to the Alliance's mission and objectives.

Allied members: Any woman who lives in Québec or any Québec-based organization (local, regional or national) composed exclusively or predominately of women, wishing to collaborate with the Alliance on common objectives can become an allied member.

For more information: Phone: (514) 861-6903 or Email: alliance.femmes.handicapees.qc@gmail.com

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

Equity Through Education Student Awards and Holly Bartlett Memorial Bursary

OTTAWA, December 22, 2010—The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) is now accepting applications for the NEADS Equity through Education Student Awards Program and the Holly Bartlett Memorial Bursary.

These awards are being offered to encourage full access to post-secondary education for persons with disabilities enrolled in undergraduate, graduate or professional degree programs at recognized Canadian universities, or in certified diploma programs at Canadian colleges. Up to 12 outstanding applicants, who meet the criteria of the Equity Through Education Student Awards Program, will be receiving an award in the amount of $3,000 to support the costs of their tuition and student fees. One deserving applicant will receive the new Holly Bartlett Memorial Bursary in the amount of $1,000.

Funding for the Equity Through Education Student Awards is provided by BMO Capital Markets' Equity Through Education Program, a charitable initiative aimed at creating a more diverse workplace by offering educational opportunities to people who are most in need of support. In May 2006 NEADS became one of four Canadian recipients of donations from the second Equity Through Education trading day. At that time, NEADS announced the Equity Through Education Student Awards program.

"We at NEADS are very proud of the Equity Through Education Student Awards Program, and our 33 recipients over its first four years," said Mahadeo Sukhai, NEADS' Senior Advisor. "This program is the first of its kind in Canada, and was created to celebrate overall excellence among students with disabilities in all aspects of post-secondary education. Our winners to date all embody the very best qualities of academic and community involvement. We hope that the program continues to grow, and we look forward to this year's crop of outstanding applicants."

"Holly Bartlett was loved by all who knew her", said Frank Smith, NEADS' National Coordinator. "It was my privilege and pleasure to work with Holly while she served on our Board of Directors. Holly's accomplishments, in a life that was way too short, were phenomenal. We believe that she should be honored and the Holly Bartlett Memorial Award is a fitting tribute because it will help other students with disabilities realize success in post-secondary education."

For more information, 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, or go directly to our Equity Through Education Student Awards website: http://www.neads.ca/en/about/projects/ete2/scholarship/

About Equity Through Education

The Equity Through Education charitable program was launched by BMO Capital Markets in 2005 to support the notion that gaining an education is a means of improving lives. Funds raised through Equity Through Education are donated to charitable organizations whose mission includes improving access to education and training for bright, deserving people who otherwise might not have the opportunity. To date, Equity Through Education has raised $9.6 million.

About the Holly Bartlett Memorial Bursary

The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) is proud to announce the establishment of the Holly Bartlett Memorial Award. The award is being created in memory of Holly Bartlett, former NEADS board member and accomplished community leader who passed away in March, 2010 in Halifax at the age of 31. The Holly Bartlett Memorial Award will be provided in the amount of $1,000 to one outstanding college or university student with a disability. The award is being offered to encourage full access to higher education to persons with disabilities who often have great barriers to participation and extra costs because of their disabilities.

Applicants must be registered in a Canadian post-secondary institution and provide documented proof of registration. The award will be paid directly to the winner's college or university to defray the cost of tuition and other student fees.

NEADS' Financial Aid Portal

NEADS has launched the most comprehensive post-secondary financial aid portal available anywhere. Check out http://www.disabilityawards.ca today if you are looking for funding to attend Canadian college or university programs. The website includes comprehensive information on federal and provincial student grants and loans programs, plus over 300 bursaries, scholarships and awards for students with disabilities available from non-governmental organizations, private sector companies and post-secondary institutions.

http://www.disabilityawards.ca is a fully searchable database of funding sources, which allows students and others to create their own personal accounts to customize funding enquiries.

NEADS' Upcoming Events

The association will be holding two Job Search Strategies Forums in the coming weeks. We will be in Vancouver on February 4th and in Toronto on March 11th. These are free events designed to help post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities to prepare for the employment market. Those interested can find out more on the NEADS website and register to attend online.

Access-Ed: Promoting Universal Design in Higher Education

The ACCESS-ed Project is a model demonstration project. It is one of about two dozen demonstration projects to ensure a quality higher education for students with disabilities that are funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education.

The purpose of the project is to develop and test a process for delivering low-cost universal design of instructional, information media, and physical environments to higher education campuses. The project is directed by Dr. Roger O. Smith and includes a broad interdisciplinary team based in the Rehabilitation Research Design & Disability (R2D2) Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The ACCESS-ed Project has developed and presents products and resources for the implementation of universal design on post-secondary campuses. In addition to its own products, ACCESS-ed compiles and indexes a database of universal design resources from other available sources to incorporate a comprehensive set of information and resources.

Visit ACCESS-ed at: http://access-ed.r2d2.uwm.edu/

People First of Canada

Mark Your Calendar: Upcoming Events

People First of Canada has the following events on its agenda:

  • People First of Canada Board Meeting, Friday, April 1, 2011, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • People First of Canada Annual General Meeting, Friday, October 14, 2011, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • People First of Canada President, Richard Ruston, will join Michael Bach of CACL and a team from the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre—www.mdac.info to provide a workshop on supported decision making and the UN Convention. The workshop will be for advocates, government representatives and NGOs based in Hungary and Central Europe. The program will include a presentation and discussion by Richard of 'The Freedom Tour', as well as meetings with self-advocates based in Hungary. As well, he will be sharing the experience of People First of Canada in calling for an end to guardianship and institutions.


Scott Simser, A Deaf Lawyer, Nominated by Green Party of Ontario

In Kanata, west of Ottawa, Scott Simser was officially nominated by the Green Party of Ontario constituency association in the local riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills to run in the general election of Ontario currently scheduled to take place on October 6, 2011. It is Simser's first time running for a party as an official candidate. Simser looks forward to the upcoming discussion of issues affecting all Ontarians in this election. To date, only one deaf person has been elected to public office in Canada—Gary Malkowski of the Ontario Legislature from 1990 to 1995.

Simser is a lawyer as well as a certified accountant. His landmark case on behalf of the Canadian Association of the Deaf in the Federal Court of Canada led to improved access for the deaf and hard of hearing citizens to the Government of Canada. Mr. Simser has appeared in front of parliamentary committees to advocate for human rights. He was awarded the CCD Award by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. He is a former Treasurer of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (Ontario Chapter) and of the Advocacy and Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities (ARCH).

Currently one immediate issue facing Simser as a candidate is securing funding for sign language interpreters or real-time captioning when canvassing or taking part in policy discussions and debates. In Ontario, there is no mechanism for the government or any agency to pay the necessary disability-related costs of an official candidate in municipal, provincial, or federal elections. While the Ontario general election is still eight months away, it is crucial that the question of how to obtain funding for sign language interpreters or real-time captioning be resolved. If you have any ideas or wish to help, please let Mr. Simser know at scott@simserconsulting.com. A compelling international precedent for the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life is Article 29 of the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As well, donations to fund Mr. Simser's campaign are welcome! Donations may be made on-line at Mr. Simser's local constituency association, www.cmmgreens.ca, by clicking on the "Donate" button (be sure to choose the Green Party of Ontario (GPO) option) and the constituency association will ensure these funds go to Simser's campaign when the writ drops. Tax receipts will be forwarded to contributors.

Improvements to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

On March 4, 2010, the Government of Canada, through its Budget 2010, announced two enhancements to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), grant and bond. We are pleased to advise that the legislation to enact these changes received Royal Assent on December 15, 2010. The 'carry forward' and 'roll over' provisions will provide Canadians with disabilities and their families with more flexibility when saving for the future.

Please find below some questions and answers, explaining these new provisions.

What is the carry forward?

As people with disabilities and their families may not be able to contribute regularly to their RDSPs, the carry forward allows beneficiaries to claim unused grant and bond entitlements for a 10-year period (starting from 2008, the year RDSPs became available). In order to claim unused grant and bond entitlements, the beneficiary must be eligible to receive the grant and bond (at the time of the claim, the beneficiary must be aged 49 or under).

Grant and bond entitlements are based on the beneficiary's family income. The grant amount also depends on how much is contributed to the RDSP. For unused grant entitlements, the matching grant rate will be the same as what would have applied in the year the entitlement was earned.

When does the carry forward come into effect?

The carry forward comes into effect on January 1, 2011.

As it will take time to develop the electronic system to process these transactions, the functionality to administer the carry forward will not be available immediately. Therefore, 2011 carry forward entitlements are expected to be paid into RDSPs in early 2012.

Is there a special application form for the carry forward?

Whether an individual already has an RDSP, or opens an RDSP in January 2011 or thereafter, a special application form will not be required for the carry forward. Grant and bond entitlements will be calculated automatically.

What is the roll over?

The proceeds (or a portion thereof) from a deceased individual's Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), and Registered Pension Plan (RPP) can be rolled over, tax free, into the RDSP of a financially dependent child or grandchild with a disability.

The amount of money rolled over into an RDSP will form part of the $200,000 lifetime contribution limit. For example, if there is already $50,000 in private contributions in an RDSP, the amount rolled over from an RRSP, RRIF and RPP cannot exceed $150,000.

A matching grant will not be paid on RRSP, RRIF and RPP contributions.

When does the roll over come into effect?

The roll over comes into effect July 2011. This measure will be effective for individuals who pass away after 2007.


The RDSP is a long-term savings plan that helps people with disabilities, and their families, save for the future. To be eligible, a person must be:

  • under the age of 60;
  • a Canadian resident with a social insurance number; and
  • eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (Disability Amount)

There is no annual contribution limit to the RDSP, but there is a lifetime contribution limit of $200,000.

To help people save, the Government of Canada will pay a matching grant of up to $3,500 a year, depending on the amount contributed and the beneficiary's family income. There is a lifetime limit of $70,000 in grant payments.

The Government of Canada will also pay a bond of up to $1,000 a year into RDSPs of low- and modest-income Canadians. There is a lifetime limit of $20,000 in bond payments. No contribution is necessary to receive the bond.

Grants and bonds will be paid until the year the beneficiary turns 49.

For more information about the RDSP, grant and bond, please visit www.disabilitysavings.gc.ca or call 1 800 O-Canada (1 800-622-6232). TTY users may call 1-800-926-9105. A detailed brochure—available in alternate formats such as large print, Braille, audio cassette, CD, DAISY, and computer diskette—is also available by calling these numbers.

Should you wish to make an inquiry by e-mail, please send your message to rdsp-orgs-reei@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca.