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CCD Chairperson's Update: December 2011
During 2011, CCD was active in the areas of litigation, education, policy reform, and public awareness. Our objective was the enhancement of access and inclusion in Canada for persons with disabilities. Through this work, CCD has been working to strike down barriers which limit the social and economic participation of people with disabilities.
CCD Before the Supreme Court of Canada in D.A. I. Case
On Tuesday, 17 May 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada was asked to consider whether people with intellectual disabilities should be allowed to testify in court. Specifically, the question before the Court was 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. CCD was granted intervener status in this case. CCD argued 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. To exclude persons with intellectual disabilities from testifying in court is profoundly discriminatory. Dave Wright acted as CCD’s legal counsel in this case. We await the Supreme Court’s decision.
Cabinet Ministers Consult with CCD
This year, representatives of CCD met with a number of Cabinet Ministers. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty heard from CCD about the Budget, the RDSP, and the need for adoption of a refundable Disability Tax Credit. CCD discussed labour market issues, the Social Development Partnerships Program and the Department’s new data collection strategy with Human Resources and Skills Development (HRSDC) Minister Diane Finley. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was the topic of discussion with both Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and National Defense Minister Peter MacKay. CCD has raised various access issues with the Hon. Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Transport.
CCD International Committee Chairperson Participates in UN Meeting on the CRPD
In early September, Steve Estey was in New York for the Conference of States Parties. The theme of the fourth session was “Enabling Development, Realizing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. The following were the sub-themes of the Conference: “Realizing the Convention through International Cooperation”, “Political and Civil Participation” and “Work and Employment”. Steve was a speaker at the session on Political and Civil Participation.
CCD Appears Before the CRTC
Representing CCD’s Access to Technology Committee, John Rae and Jim Roots appeared before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). John Rae is the Co-chair of the CCD Access to Technology Committee and Jim Roots is the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of the Deaf and a member of CCD’s Technology Committee. They made the case for robust regulation which would improve access to television, the internet and telephone service for people with disabilities.
CCD also provided comments to the CRTC on Bell Canada’s Broadcast Accessibility Fund Proposal.
CCD Co-Chair an Expert Witness in Assisted Suicide Case
The Co-chairperson of CCD’s Ending of Life Ethics Committee Rhonda Wiebe was an expert witness for the Federal Department of Justice in the Carter case, which is seeking to alter Canada’s law prohibiting assisted suicide. In her affidavit, Rhonda discussed how legalized assisted suicide could have a discriminatory impact on persons with disabilities.
CCD Assists Government Educate Its Employees about the CRPD
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) organized the first government conference where Canada’s employees learned about the implications of the CRPD. Marie White, Chairperson of the CCD Social Policy Committee, was invited to give the keynote address for this conference. Steve Estey and Vangelis Nikias were also invited speakers.
CCD Develops a Partnership with the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA)
CCD is partnering with CASHRA to advance compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the provincial and federal governments in Canada. Meetings were held in June and October to further this agenda. CCD will be presenting at a CASHRA conference which will be held in Winnipeg in June 2012.
Research on Human Rights
CCD received funding from the Canadian Human Rights Commission to undertake legal research on the duty to accommodate. Yvonne Peters, Gwen Brodsky, and Shelagh Day are the researchers for this project.
End Exclusion 2011
CCD’s poverty research project Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship shared the highlights of its latest findings at End Exclusion 2011, which was held in Ottawa on 2-3 November 2011. About 150 participants had the opportunity to hear community members share the lessons they had learned through the lived experience of poverty and to hear poverty researchers Michael Prince, Yves Vaillancourt, John Stapleton and others discuss their latest findings. There were small group discussion sessions where participants shared their views with the research team.
Celebrating Our Accomplishments--On 2 November 2011, CCD hosted a gala event where community members recognized political allies who have assisted the disability community advance policy reforms. Due to this work, Canadian communities are more accessible and inclusive. Honoured at this event were Sen. David Smith, the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, the Hon. Jim Flaherty, the Hon. Steven Fletcher and the Hon. Diane Finley. Also at this event, CCD launched Celebrating Our Accomplishments, an anthology of personal reflections by community members and allies chronicling the numerous advancements which have taken place since 1981.
CCD Works to Make the Electoral Process More Accessible
CCD has established a partnership with Elections Canada to eliminate barriers in the electoral process. In 2011, CCD had ongoing discussions with staff at Elections Canada. In particular, CCD worked with Election Canada to scope out an overview of the Canadian disability community.
The Work Continues on Many Ongoing Files
In addition to our major achievements of 2011, CCD continued to pursue many of its long-term initiatives and will continue with this work in 2012. CCD submitted a brief on the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) and will be working with the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and other organizations on how financial institutions can implement the principle of supported decision-making when setting up RDSPs for people with intellectual disabilities. CCD also participated in successful public media events in support of the Barlagne family who were fighting Immigration Canada’s efforts to remove them from Canada because they have a child with a disability. CCD has been working with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to develop a replacement for the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey which the Department cancelled. This work will continue in 2012. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada extended, for one year, the grants agreements for 18 national disability groups. The Social Development Partnerships Program (SDPP) will continue and there will be negotiations on how the program might be improved. As always, CCD will work to be responsive to new barriers and emerging challenges to the equality and full participation of Canadians with disabilities.