Recapping CCD's Celebration of 30 Years of Achievements

2 November 2011 –We are Canadians. Disability is non-partisan. Disability issues are everyone’s issues. We work to build a more Accessible and Inclusive Canada. Much has been achieved. Let the Celebration Begin. There were welcoming comments from: Tony Dolan, CCD National Chairperson, Laurie Larsen, President CACL, and Kizzy Paris, Canada Without Poverty.

1.  Obstacles

Sherri Torjman: Did you know that in 1981 Canada appointed an all-party House of Commons Committee to identify the challenges related to disability and to propose recommendations for change?

Did you know that this was the first time such an exhaustive inventory has been undertaken on disability?

Did you know that one of the most important aspects of 1981 was that it proceeded the year in which Canada repatriated the Constitution?

Did you know that this all-party House of Commons Committee produced not only the milestone report called Obstacles but also influenced equality rights protections for persons with disabilities in the constitution?

Did you know that the chairperson of this remarkable committee was Senator David Smith?

Tonight we honour his significant contribution. Senator David Smith.

2.  Charter Inclusion

Vangelis Nikias: Did you know Yvonne Peters missed her sister’s wedding to participation in a weekend meeting of CCD (then known as COPOH) because she was outraged by the lack of legal protection for the human rights of persons with disabilities in the Charter?

Did you know that first drafts of the Charter equality rights protection excluded disability?

Did you know that the first offer of inclusion was for persons with physical disabilities only and that the community rejected this offer?

Did you know that it was the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien, then Minister of Justice in the Trudeau government that agreed to extend human rights protection in the Charter to include persons with mental and physical disabilities?

Tonight we honour the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien. He is not able to with us tonight but has asked that Senator Smith accept on his behalf.

3. Inclusion:

Laurie Larsen/Shane Haddad: Did you know that CACL’s efforts to close institutions began in 1971 when Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger came to Canada as a Visiting Scholar?

Did you know that participation of self-advocates led CACL to adopt its current name?

Did you know that a National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities with $157 million dollars, 70 % of which was new money was launched in 1986 by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney?

Did you know that the Government of Canada in the 90’s continued to support deinstitutionalization through a province-wide demonstration in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Tonight we honour the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney. He is not able to attend this evening but has named Senator Janis Johnson as his designate to accept this honour.

4. “Not A Deaf Thing”

Doug Momotiuk: Did you know that thirty years ago the first captioned television program was broadcast in Canada?

Did you know that today we can boast that Canada has the most captioned programming of any country?

Did you know that thirty years ago no communications supports were available to Deaf or hard of hearing people in hospitals and medical centres?

Did you know that the Eldridge decision at the Supreme Court of Canada now requires all medical service centres to ensure equal access to communication in medical services?

Did you know that everything we have done for Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians has ended up benefitting all Canadians? “It is not just a Deaf thing.”

Did you know that one of our long-time allies has been existence of Parliamentary Committees on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and their willingness to hold government and service providers feet to the fire?

Tonight we honour Parliamentary Committees on the Status of Persons with Disabilities through Hon. Carolyn Bennett who chaired the “perfect little Parliamentary Sub Committee” for some years.

5. Transportation Access

Pat Danforth: Did you know that 30 years ago many of us living with disabilities were denied basic transportation?

Did you that because of our efforts the 1987 Canadian Transportation Act entrenched the concept of equal access by recognizing obstacles to our mobility?

Did you know that in 2000 VIA Rail purchased inaccessible rail cars and that we had to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to get an order for retrofit of those cars?

Did you know that today in many cities people with disabilities can use regular fixed route urban transportation systems?

Did you know that only in Canada do we have a one person-one fare policy and that persons needing personal care for safety or help in flight or because of their size, do not need to pay for two seats?

Tonight we honour through the Hon. Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Transport, the good work of our political allies over the years in making Canada’s transportation more accessible.

6. Registered Disability Savings Plan

Jack Styan: Did you know that poverty is one of the most intractable issues facing people with disabilities in Canada?

Did you know that over a million Canadians with disabilities live on annual incomes of $12,000 or less?

Did you know that it took PLAN nearly five years to research the implications and refine the concept of a Registered Disability Savings Plan?

Did you know that all provinces and territories have agreed that RSDP savings will not affect provincial financial assistance.

Did you know that since it came into effect over 48,000 Registered Disability Savings Plans have been opened?

Did you know that the RSDP was created by Minister Flaherty in Budget 2007?

Tonight we honour Hon. Jim Flaherty. Minister Flaherty is attending the G20 and has asked his Parliamentary Secretary Shelly Glover to represent him.

7.  CRPD

Steve Estey: Did you know that globally the World Health Organization estimates there are 650 million people with disabilities?

Did you know that in December 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on March 30 2007, it was opened for UN Member States to sign and ratify?

Did you know that Canada was among the first countries in the world to sign the treaty that day?

Did you know that the CRPD was the fastest negotiation of a human rights treaty in UN history?

Did you that the collaboration of government and the disability community throughout the development of CRPD is unprecedented?

Did you know that Canada ratified the CRPD on March 11, 2010 and by so doing Canada turned a new corner on disability rights?

Tonight we honour the contribution of Hon. Peter MacKay in supporting our engagement, and moving forward Canada’s ratification of this milestone treaty.

8. Supporting the Voice

Tony Dolan: You should know that the catalyst for the achievements recognized tonight has been and will continue to be the voice of Canadians with disabilities?

You should know that the voice of Canadians with disabilities has been supported for over 30 years through a variety of programs, grants, and initiatives by the Government of Canada.

You should know that our mantra of “A Voice of Our Own” and “Nothing About Without Us” is equally true and needed today as it was in 1981.

You should know that the Hon. Diane Finley has since 2006 both renewed and extended the Social Development Partnership Program and we are hopeful that she will do so again.

Tonight we honour through the Hon. Diane Finley the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to support Canadians with disabilities and build a more Inclusive and Accessible Canada. Minister Finley cannot be with us this evening but she is being represented by Dr. Kelley Leitch, Member of Parliament.

9. Other Political Champions

Laurie Beachell and Michael Bach: Beyond those we have already acknowledged we are here to name a few of those political allies who have played pivotal roles in advancing the status of Canadians with disabilities. Our list is by no means exhaustive but it gives a sense of the scope of support our community has had in bringing about transformative change.

Did you know that Dr. Bruce Halliday Conservative MP and Neil Young NDP MP established one of the most non-partisan, collaborative Parliamentary Committee processes for addressing the status of persons with disabilities?

Did you know that Hon. Don Mazankowski (Conservative MP) funded CCD's 1985 Transportation Conference and a number of investments in technology that resulted in accessible buses, etc.?

Did you know that the Hon. Jake Epp (Conservative MP) created the first funding for the Independent Living movement in Canada?

Did you know that Hon. Benoit Bouchard (Conservative MP) created the first federal incentive funds for deinstitutionalization?

Did you know that Patrick Boyer, Conservative MP, wrote the first report "Equality for All" that sought to bring federal legislation in line with the Charter equality guarantees?

Did you know that Hon. Flora MacDonald (Conservative MP) was the first to take on international disability rights issues?

Did you know that Hon. Jane Stewart ( Liberal MP) and Minister of HRSDC could list our issues faster than we could?

Did you know that the Hon. Andy Scott, leader of the Scott Task Force process and report, first got interested and understanding of disability issues from driving a school bus and having kids with disabilities on his route? Andy and colleagues travelled across Canada and heard from hundreds of Canadians with disabilities. From his report came a new funding program for persons with disabilities.

Did you know that Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Liberal MP) included landmine survivor assistance in his work to obtain a treaty banning landmines?

Did you know that Wendy Lill, (NDP MP) and disability critic was also a playwright and wrote a play called "Corker" about a man with intellectual disability?

Did you know that Judy Wasylycia-Leis (NDP MP) seconded Canada's motion for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was probably the most prolific author of Press Releases addressing disability issues?

Did you now that Senator Kirby made it is his mission to create a Canadian Mental Health Commission and that he did the legwork to get provinces and the government of Canada on side?

Did you know that Senator Segal, a proponent of a Guaranteed Annual Income, has said that the first step is to address the poverty of Canadians with disabilities?

Did you know that it was the Hon. Ken Dryden (Liberal MP) that coined the phrase Building An Accessible and Inclusive Canada?

Did you know that the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin made the first significant changes to the tax system to address disability issues?

There are many other political allies and we invite you to add their name to some lists spread around the room today. We will continue to build this list as we continue to document our achievements.

10. We Invite Others to Become Our Champions

Marie White: Our list of political allies is not exhaustive. We have named many but there are others who have championed our issues internationally, nationally, provincially and local. I invite participants to add to the list other elected officials who you know have been champions of disability issues and have worked to build a more Inclusive and Accessible Canada.

Disability is of concern to all Canadians. Disability is a non-partisan issue, we are Canadians.

Tonight we celebrate but tomorrow we get back to work and we will explore ideas and policy reforms that will address in a substantive way the disproportionate poverty experienced by Canadians with disabilities. Thank you, enjoy the rest of the evening, and be here again tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. ready to continue the work of Building an inclusive and Accessible Canada.

Gifts for those honoured:

“Closing the Gap “ a pin created by Manitoba jewellery artist Hilary Druxman, in recognition of Canada’s signing of the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010. This helps support the efforts of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities and the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Manitoba.

Celebrating Our Accomplishments, produced by the Council of Canadians, with Disabilities, with over 50 stories of the major achievements of the last 30 years in improving the status of persons with disabilities and Building a More Inclusive and Accessible Canada. (Copies also made available to all participants in both French and English and alternate format. It will be posted on line after the event.)