Q & A with CRPD Shadow Report Committee Member Frank Folino

It is the Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC)’s mission to promote and protect the rights, needs, and concerns of Deaf people who use American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). CAD-ASC is the oldest organization, founded in 1940, that provides consultation and information on Deaf issues to the public, business, media, educators, governments and others; conducts research and collects data of Deaf people in Canada.

CAD-ASC is affiliated with our international organization, World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), which is an international non-profit and non-governmental organization of Deaf associations from 133 countries. According to the WFD, it has a consultative status in the United Nations and is a founding member of the International Disability Alliance (IDA). WFD promotes the human rights of deaf people in accordance with the principles and objectives of the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and other Human Rights Treaties. WFD’s legal seat is in Helsinki, Finland where the WFD Secretariat operates.

Frank Folino has been the President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC) since 2013. Under his leadership, CAD-ASC has seen an increase of the visibility of the President’s involvement in promoting and defending human rights issues for Deaf people in Canada. He currently serves on numerous advisory groups that increase awareness of the Sign language rights and accessibility rights of Deaf people, including Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Association Visual Language Interpreters of Canada. He represents Canada on international stage, working with the United Nations, North America’s Advisory Committee at World Association of Sign Language Interpreters, World Federation of the Deaf, and others.

CAD-ASC uses hashtags to promote the dialogue towards our Deaf community in Canada: #ASLandLSQCanada #LSQetASLCanada #CRPD2017 and #CDPH2017.

Frank will meet with the CRPD Committee to increase awareness of the issues that he elaborates on in this Q & A.

1. Describe your work with the CRPD Shadow Report Committee.

CAD-ASC has led the area on focusing the Sign language rights for Deaf people in the Shadow Report. We have submitted information for the Shadow Report that focus on issues pertaining to Deaf people in Canada. We also illustrate our lived experiences as Deaf people through our specific cultural and linguistic identity with our national Sign languages, where we are faced with language and communications barriers in areas of health services, interpreting services, education, employment, broadcasting and telecommunications, access to information, political participation, the justice system, culture, sports, and others.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also sets a framework for Deaf people’s rights, filling an important gap in international human rights legislation. The articles of the Convention that relate directly to Sign languages are:

  • Article 2 – Definition
  • Article 9 – Accessibility
  • Article 21 – Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information
  • Article 24 – Education
  • Article 30 – Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport

There are at least 40 countries around the world that granted a legal protection to recognize Sign languages as official languages. We want to see Canadian government grant legal recognition of our national Sign languages through legislation that is accessible, equitable and sustainable for Deaf people across Canada because it brings clear benefits in terms of improved access to information and services.

2. How do you hope your work in Geneva might positively affect the implementation of the CRPD in Canada?

CAD-ASC is excited to be present in Geneva because we are the only national not-for-profit organization with the focus on human rights issues for Deaf people on our national Sign languages and accessibility. We will be able to prove that Canada has not recognized our national Sign languages. Recognizing them protects the fundamental human rights of Deaf people.

We refer to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) because it ensures the right to Sign language recognition in Article 21. Recognizing our national Sign languages as a language that constitutes, together with the definition of accessible communication, an important step towards the social inclusion and human rights of Deaf people.

3. What would be the most important concluding observation(s) that the committee could offer your particular organization?

We would like to see the Canadian government recognize our national Sign languages because it will allow the recognition, promotion, and protection of our human rights to Deaf people’s first languages in Canada: American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). The recognition of ASL and LSQ will value the linguistic identity of the Deaf community as we integrate into both English and French societies.
We also expect to see an outcome of bilingual education that is the key to linguistic and cultural identity that provides Deaf children with the opportunities to achieve full citizenship, education and employment. This in turn will facilitate social and cognitive development with ASL and LSQ proficiency at an early age and also will lead to high levels of English/French literacy. Deaf children are entitled to an opportunity for success in life, academically, socially, and emotionally, that language acquisition can provide.

The fundamental human rights of Deaf people to full citizenship will include quality of services and the promotion of accessibility for Deaf individuals. It allows them access health services, education, interpreting services, employment, access to information, broadcasting and telecommunications, political participation, the justice system, culture, sports and others. Sign language interpreters are essential to the Deaf community in Canada with their hard work to bridge the two communities of Deaf and hearing people. We expect that the Canadian government will influence policy in an inclusive approach and listen to the Deaf experts when they deliver advocacy and services during policy development.

4. What do you look forward to most as your work with the Committee continues?

We continue to focus on our work to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all Deaf persons through legal protection and equal opportunities in Canada with the recognition of our national Sign languages. This will be the turning point in advancing the human rights of Deaf people and give them full citizenship in the civil society.

5. How will you use the concluding observations in your work in the future?

We will continue our ongoing work to promote human rights of Deaf people with ongoing advocacy concerning the CRPD and 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), related to Deaf people in Canada through United Nations human rights conventions, which are a) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, b) International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, c) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, d) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and e) Convention on the Rights of the Child.