CCD Chairperson's Update: May 2010

Building An Accessible and Inclusive Canada

In May, many Canadians are out in their gardens planting seeds so that they will have produce to harvest later on in the year. Like these avid gardeners, CCD also plants seeds—seeds of change. Unlike vegetable and flower seeds, the seeds that CCD plants often take more than a season to show results. This month, we at CCD have been nurturing some issues—data collection, disability income, immigration, accessible voting, and access to technology—which are taking a long time to yield robust results. Like Canada's gardeners, CCD takes a long-term approach to its work and will be nurturing these issues until they yield the results sought after by the disability community. In this month's Update, I will share information about the activities of CCD's Social Policy Committee, Human Rights Committee, Access to Technology Committee, and National Council of Representatives.

Social Policy Committee

Data Collection on Disability Issues

This month, the Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, held discussions with CCD on her Department's new strategy for collecting statistical data about people with disabilities. Governments and others use this data when they are planning services and programs that will be used by Canadians with disabilities. Statistical data is also used when researchers are seeking to determine if people with disabilities are moving closer to the goal of equality with other Canadians or if ground is being lost in this quest. At this point in time, CCD continues to have many questions about the Department's new strategy. In the coming weeks and months, CCD will be working with Department officials to resolve these concerns.

CCD had been calling for the Department to fund PALS 2011 but HRSDC has decided that a new strategy on disability data is required. They are promising a more efficient and timely approach to data collection. CCD will be holding the Government of Canada to these goals.

CCD's Social Policy Committee has been monitoring Canada's data collection strategy.

CCD Supports Nortel Workers on Long Term Disability Benefits

When Nortel went bankrupt, its employees on Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits found themselves in a nightmarish situation. They are losing their LTD insurance benefits, which they contributed to from their salaries when they were working for Nortel. This is happening because there is no requirement that employer LTD programs be insured. CCD has written to all MPs and Senators in support of Nortel's employees on LTD and called on them to "find ways of protecting the income and benefits of the Nortel employees on long term disability benefits and of also addressing the similar problems that many other Canadians may face in the future." Senator Eggleton's Bill S-216 seeks to provide protection for those on LTD.

Negative Stereotypes about Disability Continue to Dominate Canada's Immigration System

Canada disqualifies people with disabilities from immigrating to this country if it is believed their disabilities will place an excessive demand on Canada's health and social services. This approach only focuses on deficits and ignores the contributions that will be made. A Federal Court judge recently ruled against the Barlagne family, who are seeking to remain in Canada despite Immigration Canada's efforts to send them back to France because they have a daughter with a disability.

CCD has written to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney urging him, in the short term, to act on humanitarian grounds and allow the family to remain in Canada and in the long term to amend Canada's immigration law to eliminate its biases against people with disabilities. Write to Minister Kenney, if you believe that the Barlagne family should not be discriminated against because they have a little girl with a disability.

Human Rights Committee

Access to Voting

Yvonne Peters, Jim Derksen and Laurie Beachell met with representatives of Elections Canada to discuss the measures that Elections Canada will be implementing as a result of the decision in the Hughes Case. The Tribunal ordered Elections Canada to consult with CCD. Like Mr. Hughes, the complainant in the case, CCD is seeking to eliminate barriers at polling stations on Election Day. Mr. Hughes, who uses a mobility device, was not able to find a usable route to the ballot box that did not include stairs. As a cross-disability organization, CCD is seeking to educate Elections Canada on a wide range of barriers.

Access to Technology Committee

The Committee met by conference call this month to develop the foundation for a work plan for the next year. CCD will be doing a research project on the Evolution of Access. The results of this study will assist the Committee to set its agenda. The Committee will be recruiting new members in the coming months.

National Council of Representatives

New Members at Large

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Susan Ralph and Mary Ennis are the two new Members at Large on the CCD Council. CCD's Annual General Meeting will be taking place in June in Winnipeg. The National Council of Representatives will be electing a new Executive Committee at the AGM.