Q&A with Kerri Joffe of ARCH Disability Law Centre

ARCH Disability Law Centre is a specialty legal clinic dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of persons with disabilities in Ontario. For over 35 years, ARCH has provided legal services to help Ontarians with disabilities live with dignity and participate fully in our communities.  ARCH provides summary legal advice and referrals to Ontarians with disabilities; represents persons with disabilities and disability organizations in test case litigation; conducts law reform and policy work; provides public legal education to disability communities and continuing legal education to the legal community; and supports community development initiatives. More information is available at www.archdisabilitylaw.ca.

Kerri is a Staff Lawyer at ARCH Disability Law Centre. She has been involved in disability rights litigation at various tribunals and courts, including the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Ontario Superior Court. Kerri has made law reform and policy submissions to various levels of government, legislative committees and administrative bodies. She has authored law reform reports for the Law Commission of Ontario and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Before joining ARCH, Kerri worked with several human rights organizations, including Equitas and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In 2006, Kerri completed McGill University’s joint program in law and social work and received her LL.B., B.C.L. and Master of Social Work degrees with great distinction.  Before attending law school, Kerri worked with adults with mental health disabilities and children labelled with intellectual disabilities.

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

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

ARCH is one of the 16 disability advocacy organizations and supporters that worked together to write the Canadian Civil Society Parallel Report. ARCH lawyers wrote parts of the Report, participated in meetings with representatives from the other 16 organizations, and shared our ideas with colleagues from organizations working on issues that affect people with disabilities in Canada.

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

The UN`s review of Canada is happening at an important time. The Government of Canada recently finished its public consultation on the proposed federal accessibility legislation and will now work on creating this new law. The development of this new law is an excellent opportunity to implement relevant CRPD principles and rights for persons with disabilities in Canada. ARCH made submissions to the Government of Canada explaining which Articles of the CRPD can be made part of the federal accessibility legislation (see: https://goo.gl/44xQSW ). We hope that our work in Geneva will assist the UN Committee to make strong recommendations urging Canada to fully implement the CRPD, including by way of the new federal accessibility legislation.

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

ARCH works on a variety of disability law issues from a cross-disability perspective. We are particularly interested in concluding observations that address the issues we focus on, such as inclusive education, legal capacity, living independently and participating in the community, and access to justice. We hope the Concluding Observations will include recommendations for removing legal barriers that prevent full implementation of the CRPD in Canada.

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

It is always inspiring and exciting to be working closely with so many disability organizations and supporters from across Canada. ARCH looks forward to continuing this work and strengthening these collaborations.

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

ARCH will use the Committee`s Concluding Observations to support our law reform and public legal education work.  In our law reform work we make written and oral submissions to governments and policy makers about improving law and policy for persons with disabilities. The Concluding Observations are written by a committee of experts on disability issues, and will help to make our law reform submissions more persuasive. In our public legal education work we provide workshops to disability communities about their legal rights under Canadian laws and under the CRPD. ARCH regularly uses the CRPD in our test case litigation work, and will use the Concluding Observations in this work where appropriate.