CCD Chairperson's Update: January 2010

What to Do When the House Prorogues?

CCD's answer to the question is: Continue to promote an accessible and inclusive Canada. While political parties may need to recalibrate, the disability community's National Action Plan remains a current and accurate reflection of needed policy reform in support of barrier removal. During the House of Commons' extended break, CCD's volunteers and staff are creating opportunities for getting our recommendations on the political agenda. I encourage you to meet with your Member of Parliament and discuss the National Action Plan. In this edition, I summarize CCD's recent activities.

Promoting Access for Haiti's Reconstruction

Like many others, we at CCD were deeply troubled by the devastation brought to Haiti by the recent earthquake. Our international work has shown that universal design and access can be forgotten during periods of reconstruction after disasters, as was the case in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. CCD's International Development Committee is encouraging international reconstruction efforts in Haiti to respect the access principle.

On behalf of CCD, Yutta Fricke worked through the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) on the wording of a statement conveyed to the Montreal Summit on Haiti's reconstruction. As a result, the "Canadian Civil Society Statement to the Foreign Ministers Meeting on Haiti" called for the following actions on disability issues:

"Persons with disabilities, including those newly disabled by the earthquake, will find it difficult to access food, water and shelter… We call on the Government of Canada to work with other donors and civil society to: …Prioritize the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors, the disabled, elderly, and women/girls, and ensure that their needs and priorities are addressed in the planning for Haiti’s recovery, reconstruction, and longer-term development. To this end: Ensure shelter and emergency camps are planned and built with disability access in mind. Include persons with disabilities and organizations focused on disability rights in all initiatives and stages of relief, recovery, reconstruction, and longer-term development planning…"

CCD will continue to look for other avenues where we can promote access and inclusion as principles to guide reconstruction in Haiti.

Advancing a Refundable Disability Tax Credit (DTC) for Those Without Taxable Income

When the House prorogued, Prime Minister Harper commented that the Government would be consulting Canadians about the federal budget. On 11 January 2010, Laurie Beachell met with the Hon. James Flaherty, Finance Minister, when he was in Winnipeg. Laurie raised CCD’s budget recommendations: chief among these is a refundable DTC for those without a taxable income. Laurie framed this reform as the logical next step to follow the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

CCD Council Addressed Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

CCD Council met on 22 and 23 January 2010 in Ottawa. Council held a half day workshop on the CRPD. The presenters included: Steve Estey, Chairperson of CCD's International Development Committee, Laurie Beachell, Michael Bach (CACL), Anna MacQuarrie (CACL), Harvey Goldberg (Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)), Amita Dhanda from India and Gabor Gombos from Hungary. Steve Estey introduced the session with the following comments: "This treaty is fundamentally important for our community because it changes the framework of the discussion. It moves discussion around disability issues away from the historical paradigm of charity that we have lived in our whole lives and it sets it instead very firmly in the framework of human rights." During the workshop session, the Council looked at what needs to be put in place to ensure that Canada realizes the CRPD's full promise. In particular, Council looked at how HRSDC's Office of Disability Issues could function as a focal point for coordinating Federal initiatives on the CRPD and how the CHRC could monitor Canada's progress on implementing the standards set in Convention.

CCD Seeks Leave to Intervene in Caron Case

Fighting a case in court is costly and CCD learned this lesson during its litigating against VIA Rail in support of accessible passenger trains. The Caron case focuses on the court's power to award interim costs while a case is in progress rather than waiting until its conclusion. An interim award provides a litigant with some of the resources it needs to present its case to the court. In coalition with other organizations, CCD is seeking leave to intervene in the Caron case.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) Collects Stories in Winnipeg

On 26-27 January 2010, representatives of the CMHR met with Manitobans to learn about their experiences with rights and discrimination. As a member of the CMHR's Content Advisory Committee, Laurie Beachell interviewed various rights-holders, including Diane Driedger and Emily Ternette of DAWN Manitoba.

Library Services for Canadians for whom Print is a Barrier

CNIB informed the disability community and the federal and provincial governments that it will discontinue distributing alternate media library material. Along with other disability community organizations, CCD endorsed a proposal for a new mechanism to deliver alternate media library services. Jim Derksen undertook this work for CCD.

CCD Office Welcomed Visitors from COD

In January, Michelle Murdoch, a COD board member, and Mark Lane, COD Executive Director, spent a half day at the CCD office to exchange information with CCD staff.