March 11th A Historic Date for Disability Rights in Canada

March 11 is a notable day in Canadian history, because on March 11, 2010, Canada became the 82nd country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which reaffirms that persons with disabilities enjoy the protection of all human rights.  On this day in 2010 disability community members, Steven Estey, CCD International Committee Chairperson, Traci Walters, IL Canada, and Bendina Miller, Canadian Association for Community Living, and then Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the UN in New York, to hand over the  papers for ratification.  "Nothing About Us, Without Us" had been our approach to all CRPD activities, and we were proud to meet the Secretarey General on this important occcasion.  In a news conference at the UN, we welcomed ratification with joy and celebration, noting then that in fact our work was just beginning.  Below is a timeline of CRPD-related highlights since ratification.

2011 – In an open letter to the Governments of Canada 130  organizations from across the country called for the Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments to work with persons with disabilities, disability organizations, and the public on the full implementation of the CRPD, by taking all appropriate actions to remove barriers experienced by Canadians with disabilities.

2012 - CCD began to urge Canada to file its First Report to the UN CRPD Committee, which was due that year.  Countries that have ratified the CRPD have an obligation to report on their implementation activities two years after Ratification, and then every four years after that.

2013 - CCD and other disability organizations commented on the Government of Canada's outline for the First Report.  CCD and others had hoped for a more fulsome consultation in keeping with obligations described in CRPD Articles 4 (3) and 35 (4).

2014 – The Government of Canada submitted its First Report to the CRPD Committee in Geneva.  Disability community organizations then began to evaluate the Report and consider how to respond.

2015 – CCD convened a national roundtable on a Shadow Report, bringing together over 50 leaders from Canada’s disability community, who then asked CCD to establish a secretariat comprised of a cross-section of the disability community.  Through a Shadow Report the disability community will have the opportunity to share its perspective on both Canadian successes in advancing the status of Canadians with disabilities while at the same time acknowledge the gaps and barriers that remain and propose solutions and positive ways forward.

2016 – Details for establishing the secretariat, with support from the Government of Canada, are just now being finalized, with a view to working with organizations of people with disabilities from across Canada during the spring to develop input to feed into the CRPD Committee as it prepares the List of Issues for Canada, which it will present at its August meeting. 

Before it meets with a country to discuss its record on disability, the Committee develops a List of Issues to get a better understanding of the information in a country's report.  Information submitted to the CRPD Committee by organizations of people with disabilities before the List of Issues is finalized may influence the List of Issues raised by the CRPD Committee with a country.  The country is expected to provide a written response to the Committee's List of Issues.  Similarly, organizations of people with disabilities can prepare their own response to the List of Issues.

One the basis of these responses the Committee will convene an “interactive dialogue” with Government representatives and Civil Society organizations during a half-day formal meeting, surrounding the formal meeting. There will be many opportunities for informal discussions between committee members, government delegates and civil society groups present in Geneva.  This meeting is scheduled for the spring of 2017, and following it the CRPD Committee will very quickly issue its Concluding Observations, which we hope will form the basis for ongoing engagement between Civil Society and the Government of Canada as we move toward implementation of the CRPD, and a truly inclusive and accessible Canada for all Canadians.