Fundamental Disability Rights Case Goes to Supreme Court of Canada

For Immediate Release

May 17, 2011

On May Tuesday May 17th the Supreme Court of Canada will be asked to consider whether people with intellectual disabilities should be allowed to testify in court. Specifically, the question before the Court is whether people with intellectual disabilities are required to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of a “promise to tell the truth” in order to be permitted to testify.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) has been granted intervener status in this case. The CCD will argue that courts should not impose a test to allow people with disabilities to testify that is not imposed on others. Courts should focus scrutiny on the testimony given by individuals not the individuals themselves. “Courts do not test non-disabled persons’ ability to tell the truth, it is only biases and myths that suggest persons with disabilities have any less capacity to determine the truth than others.” said Yvonne Peters, legal advisor to CCD.

“To exclude persons with intellectual disabilities from testifying in court is profoundly discriminatory,” said Anne Levesque, Co-Chair of CCD’s Human Rights Committee. “It is ironic that we have strengthened Criminal Code protections for the assault of vulnerable persons and then we would disallow these same persons to testify in court,” stated Levesque.

CCD also seeks, for the first time, through this case, the Supreme Court’s understanding of Canada’s obligations having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is the first case where relevant sections of the CRPD are being presented as an interpretive tool.

“CCD is committed to ensuring the equal protection and benefit of the law for Canadians with disabilities. That protection includes the ability of all persons, regardless of disability, to have their day in court when their rights have been violated,” said Peters.


Contacts :
Yvonne Peters - 204 832-0681
Anne Levesque - 613 237-4740