Annual Report: 2006-2007

CCD Chairperson: Marie White

During my morning walk on a local trail, I was reflecting on the advances in technology and assistive devices which enable persons with disabilities to participate in a range of settings and sectors. Simultaneously I lamented the settings and sectors which remain less welcoming or closed to us and contemplated our communities on-going labours to challenge the underlying reasons for this exclusion - these being misconceptions, misperceptions, stereotypes and misinformation about who we as persons with disabilities are and the continuum of skills and abilities we have.

Why do we persevere when others would give in? I think it is because patience is a virtue which we have mastered. Our recent victory in the VIA case highlights our capacity for persistence. While at the national level, we do not always begin our efforts to chip away at the systemic barriers in a coordinated manner, our commonality of intent and purpose soon draws us together and helps us to delineate effective action.

CCD is and always has been an integral player and leader on the national disability front. We make every effort to seize opportunities presented to us but we do so with a critical eye - one which assesses each opportunity based on its potential impact on persons with disabilities for and with whom we seek needed transformation. We seek protection of our rights, recognition of our status as citizens and elimination of those entrenched systemic barriers which block our path to equality.

We are successful in our efforts when we have a common vision and clearly articulated goals. We are successful when we have as our catalyst - passion. We are successful when we never forget for whom and with whom we are working - those whose voices are quieted or silenced due to exclusion.

CCD is successful because we have a staff which is incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated. We are successful because we have fostered excellent partnerships and have a diverse Council which brings its many skills and abilities to its work.

CCD is successful because we are committed to that which is right. Let that always be our motivation.

National Coordinator's Report

CCD National Coordinator: Laurie Beachell

This past year has been one of new beginnings. Following the election of a Conservative minority government in January 2006 much of CCD's work has been to develop new working relationships with new Ministers and their political staff. In some instances this work has been relatively easy and we have found some new champions of our issues and in other instances we appear to be making no progress.

The main achievements of the past year include more recognition and focus on disability issues within Federal Budget 2007 than we have probably seen in a decade. This frankly has come about from the Minister of Finance, James Flaherty's personal commitment to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. Second, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay became personally engaged in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on March 30, 2007 Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations took part in the signing ceremony and signed the Convention on behalf of the Government of Canada. Between these to milestone events CCD made history with its win at the Supreme Court of Canada in our case against VIA Rail's purchase of inaccessible passenger rail cars. Not only did we win the argument but costs were awarded to CCD. These three milestone events all create opportunities for new initiatives.

Those that know me know that I am not usually this positive and I assure you I have not changed my stripes. While new opportunities exist, at this point in time CCD has had no contact with Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Monte Solberg. When Diane Finley was Minister of HRSD nothing moved forward on the disability file and since the change this past January we still see no coordinated action. There appears to be no movement even on the Party's stated policy of bringing forward a National Disability Act. Communication with the Department of Transport has been virtually nil and the current Minister seems committed to implement the Liberal Government's poorly considered reforms related to the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation. We have been dismayed by the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program at the same time as we were elated by the Government of Canada's announced operational funding for the Canadian Museum on Human Rights. Advocacy has once again become a dirty word and access to new technologies appears to be nowhere on the political radar although for the disability community this may be the new barrier to equal participation in community life.

It has been a year of new beginnings and at this point in time it is impossible to predict the future. CCD must remain true to its principles, seek opportunities for reform no matter how small or large and continue to demonstrate that the work we do has considerable value for all Canadians.

Thank you to very supportive Board and Committee members and to the staff at CCD who continue to make this work both rewarding and interesting.

Auditors' Report

To view the financials, please see the PDF version of this annual report, or contact CCD to obtain the report in alternate format.

Canadians with Disabilities Celebrate
Historic Achievements

Spring 2007 will go down in the history books of the disability rights movement as one of those incredible moments in time when disability issues got the attention they deserve. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) witnessed the achievement of four significant milestones. CCD celebrates these achievements and acknowledges the commitment and leadership that made them possible.

Canadians with Disabilities Win Battle with VIA Rail at Supreme Court of Canada

After a seven year legal battle with VIA Rail, CCD won its case. The Supreme Court of Canada, on March 23rd, ordered VIA Rail to refurbish passenger rail cars bought in 2000 to make them accessible to persons with disabilities. The Supreme Court said:

"The fact that there are accessible trains traveling along some routes does not justify inaccessible trains on others. It is the global network of rail services that should be accessible".

"The twin goals of preventing and remedying discrimination recognized in Canadian National Railway Co. v. Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission) cannot be accomplished if the creation of new, exclusionary barriers can be defended on the basis that they are no more discriminating than what they are replacing. This is an approach that serves to perpetuate and exacerbate the historic disadvantage endured by persons with disabilities".

a group of people in front of a stairway.

Representatives of the disability community at the
Supreme Court of Canada re: CCD v. VIA Rail.

". . . Members of the public who are physically disabled are members of the public. This is not a fight between able-bodied and disabled persons to keep fares down by avoiding the expenses of eliminating discrimination. Safety measures can be expensive too, but one would hardly expect to hear their cost justifies dangerous conditions. In the long run, danger is more expensive than safety and discrimination is more expensive than inclusion".

Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, who is quadriplegic, said "Unfortunately when these cars were bought, common sense seemed to be lacking in this particular case". CCD will be celebrating the Supreme Court decision on June 8th at a National Forum on Transportation Access, being held in Winnipeg in advance of the CCD National Council meeting. CCD wishes to acknowledge the community leadership of Eric Norman (deceased), Pat Danforth, and Lucie Lemieux-Brassard, the commitment and expertise of our legal counsel David Baker and Sarah Godwin of Bakerlaw, along with Ron Woollam who provided technical design expertise to this long hard fought battle.

CCD is justifiably proud of standing firm on this issue and at considerable costs remaining true to the spirit and principles of the disabilities rights movement. A message has been sent, heard and understood - Canadians with disabilities will not tolerate blatant discrimination, we are citizens of Canada and are entitled to the same access non-disabled Canadians take for granted.

Canada Signs United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On March 30th Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations, with Steve Estey and Dulcie McCallum in attendance, signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on behalf of the Government of Canada. This is a historic event. A committed core of disability activists in Canada worked for over 5 years to develop a Convention document of which Canadians with disabilities and other equality seeking sectors can be proud. These volunteers worked with a broad range of disability organizations, government officials and other equality seekers to ensure that Canada played a significant role in the development of the Convention. Steve Estey, Chair of CCD's International Committee, along with Dulcie McCallum and Anna MacQuarrie of CACL, Mary Ennis and Venus Ilagan of Disabled Peoples' International and a host of others provided tremendous commitment and energy to this process.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Peter MacKay's hard work to make it possible for Canada to sign the Convention is applauded. Minister MacKay became personally engaged in this issue, recognized the value of the Convention and intervened personally with provincial governments to ensure that on March 30 Canada was signatory to the Convention. CCD thanks Minister MacKay for his leadership and commitment. Canadians with disabilities are proud to see Canada once again playing a significant international leadership role on disability issues.

Budget 2007

On March 19 Minister of Finance, Hon. James Flaherty, brought down his second budget. Budget 2007 has more focus on disability than our community has seen in over a decade. Minister Flaherty announced creation of:

  • A Disability Savings Plan: An initiative to assist families with children with severe disability save for the long term financial security of their children.
  • A Mental Health Commission: "with $10 million over the next two years and $15 million per year starting in 2009-10. This commission will lead the development of a national mental health strategy".
  • A Working Income Tax Benefit Entitlement for low income Canadians with an additional supplement for persons with disabilities.
  • New Labour Market Investments: "$500 million annually starting in 2008-09 under a new labour market strategy to be developed with provinces and territories. The funding will be allocated on a per capita basis and used to provide training opportunities to those unable to access training under current EI programs." Persons with disabilities are specifically identified as beneficiaries of this initiative.
  • An Enabling Accessibility Fund of $45 million over three years to "contribute to the capital costs of construction and renovation related to physical accessibility for persons with disabilities."

Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator of CCD, was one of three people appointed to the Disability Savings Expert Panel. Minister Flaherty has a strong commitment to issues of persons with disabilities. In a meeting a few weeks following the budget CCD was informed that the Budget commitments "were not the end game but just the beginning". Disability issues often have only moved forward when champions with a personal commitment to our issues step forward. CCD applauds Minister Flaherty's excellent beginning and looks to him for continued leadership on disability issues.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

On April 20th Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Winnipeg operational funding for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. This Museum will be the first national museum to be operated by the Government of Canada outside of Ottawa. Jim Derksen, CCD Policy Advisor, attended the announcement. CCD is tremendously excited by the potential of this initiative. Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, has been part of the preliminary Content Advisory Committee to Applebaum the museum design consultants. It is anticipated that over 10,000 students annually will tour the Museum and learn about the human rights struggles of many, including persons with disabilities. CCD applauds the Prime Minister's commitment to this exciting and visionary initiative.

The issues of Canadians with disabilities are issues of all Canadians and are of national importance. It is important to:

  • Celebrate our victories,
  • Recognize leadership,
  • Identify next steps, and
  • Move forward to Build An Inclusive and Accessible Canada.

CCD is a national umbrella advocacy association of persons with disabilities with over 30 years experience in advocating for the improved status of Canadians with disabilities. CCD can be contacted at

International Development Committee Report

Chairperson: Steve Estey

Members: Mary Ennis, Angie Allard, Jim Derksen, David Shannon, Jason Mitschele, Yutta Fricke, Chris Lytle, Mary Reid.

The year 2006-07 was a historic year for the Committee because the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) passed some very significant milestones. The Convention has been the Committee's major focus for the last five years.

  • The fiscal year ended with a victory celebration for the Committee, when on 30 March 2007, Canada participated in the signing ceremony for the Convention at the United Nations. Steve Estey, CCD's International Committee Chairperson, was invited by the Government of Canada to be part of the Canadian delegation on hand at the United Nations for this momentous event.
  • Via a press conference and correspondence, CCD along with other disability organizations, particularly the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centers (CAILC) and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), vigorously encouraged Canada's New Government to be part of the historic signing ceremony for the Convention at the United Nations.
  • Steve Estey was a member of the Canadian delegation, which participated in the Ad Hoc Committee meetings in August at the UN, which completed the legal drafting of the Convention.
  • In preparation for the finalization of the Convention's text, CCD held a community consultation on the Convention in Ottawa 19-20 May 2006. All members of the Committee attended this event, along with representatives from many other consumer organizations, and human rights advocates.
  • Steve Estey participated in the North American Caribbean Regional Meetings of Disabled Peoples' International and was elected to the Executive Committee as Information Officer.

Transportation Committee Report

Chairperson: Pat Danforth

Committee Members: David Baker (Legal Counsel), Bill Crawford, Ron Ross, Claredon Robicheau.

This year, CCD won a major victory in the VIA rail case and continued to advocate on a long-standing principle-one person/one fare. The highlights of our work during 2006-07 were as follows:

  • On 23 March 2007, in CCD v. VIA Rail, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned a decision of the Federal Court of Appeal which had allowed VIA Rail to run inaccessible passenger rail cars with impunity. The Supreme Court sent a clear message to VIA Rail, and indeed all Canadians, that service inaccessible to Canadians with disabilities will not be tolerated.
  • On 19 May 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the VIA case. David Baker, CCD's legal counsel for this case, presented CCD's arguments to the Court. CCD Transportation Committee Chairperson Pat Danforth attended the proceedings, as did other CCD representatives and supporters.
  • A number of disability community groups intervened in the VIA Rail case. The interveners from the disability community were: a coalition of organizations consisting of CCD's member group AEBC, Trans Action Now, an Ontario-based coalition, the Canadian Association for Community Living, the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, DAWN Canada and CAILC.
  • CCD continued pursuing its complaint at the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) addressing the one person/one fare principle. CCD's position is that travelers with disabilities who need to travel with an attendant should not be required to pay an additional fare. David Baker is legal counsel for this case.
  • The CCD Transportation Committee submitted comments to the Canadian Transportation Agency about CTA's voluntary code of practice on station and terminal accessibility. CCD spoke out loud and clear about the fact that it no longer accepts voluntary codes of practice. CCD's experience with VIA Rail has proven that voluntary codes do not result in access.
  • CCD expressed concerns about Bill C-11 to the Minister of Transport. Bill C-11 will remove a commitment to access from the Canadian Transportation Act's declaration section. This change is more evidence of a waning commitment to access in the federally regulated transportation system.

Human Rights Committee Report

Chairperson: Yvonne Peters (Equality Rights Lawyer)

Members: Gwen Brodsky (Equality Rights Lawyer, Vancouver, BC); Frances Kelly (Equality Rights Lawyer, Vancouver, BC); Pat Danforth (Transportation, Equity and Diversity Advisor, Victoria, BC); Peter Tonge (Lawyer with Legal Aid Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba); Jim Derksen (Disability Policy Advisor, Winnipeg, Manitoba); Stefanie Marinich (Lawyer and Employment Equity Consultant, Toronto, Ontario); Dean Richert (Lawyer in General Practice with an Emphasis on Equality Rights, Winnipeg, Manitoba).

During 2006-07, the CCD Human Rights Committee worked on several important legal interventions

  • The Committee meets regularly by conference call to consider intervening in cases of significance to people with disabilities. The Committee selects cases based on a set of criteria it has developed.
  • CCD intervened in the case of Bob Brown v. National Capital Commission, which is at the Federal Court. CCD intervened in the case to present our views on a universal approach to design, the duty to accommodate and how government should consult with the disability community. The Committee selected ARCH and Ena Chadha as legal counsel for this case.
  • The CCD Human Rights Committee assisted CCD develop its factum for the Supreme Court case against VIA Rail, regarding the inaccessible Renaissance cars. Following the decision, the Committee began the process of undertaking a legal analysis of the decision.
  • In the fall, when Canada's New Government announced it would no longer fund the Court Challenges Program (CCP), CCD's Human Rights Committee shifted into high gear and became part of an information sharing and letter writing effort with other equality seeking groups to demonstrate how the CCP provided access to justice to Canadians experiencing discrimination and unequal treatment. To date, the Canadian government has not reversed its position on funding for the CCP.
  • CCD undertook a research project, which examined how well the processes of the Canadian Human Rights Commission meet the needs of persons with disabilities who bring complaints of discrimination to the Commission. The undertaking of this research project has resulted in improved communications between the Canadian Human Rights Commission and CCD.
  • A new member will be participating on the Committee in 2007-08, as Ravi Malhotra, who is a member of the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law, joined the Committee in April.

Access to Technology Committee Report

Chairperson: Kier Martin

Members: Gary Birch, Jason Mitschele, Brain Moore, Barbara Anello, Michelle Murdoch.

The highlights of the Committee's work during 2006-07 are as follows:

On behalf of CCD, Kier Martin has been participating in the activities of the Disability and Information Technologies (Dis-IT) Research Alliance, which is examining how information technologies can increase the quality of life and the inclusion of Canadians with disabilities in four theme areas: workplaces, e-learning, retail and public services, e-democracy.
The Community Co-Director of the Dis-It project, Gary Annable, has been working out of the CCD office throughout the duration of the project.

Kier Martin has been CCD's representative at meetings addressing the disposition of the Deferral Account, that has been designated for use on disability issues. The CRTC decided that 5% of the Deferral Account would be used to improve telecommunications access for persons with disabilities. The disability community has been organizing and holding meetings to determine how the money should be used. The CRTC decision which left the money with the telecommunications companies was not the disability community's first choice. From the point of view of the disability community, it would have been preferable if an external fund had been created for the purpose of encouraging the ICT industry to develop accessible devices.

CCD Award 2006

BCCD -- Valerie Thoem
ACCD -- Travis McNally
SK Voice -- George Ward
MLPD -- Steven Fletcher MP
COPHAN -- Marie Turcotte
NS-LEO -- Ron Levy
PEI Council -- Laurel Smyth
CAD -- Patrick Lazure
NEADS -- Kimberley Gerritsen
NNMH -- Loïse Forest
TVAC -- Aline Vachon
People First -- John Cox
AEBC -- John Rae
NWT Council -- Josie Gould