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CCD Chairperson's Update: March 2012
This month, CCD worked on issues of long duration, such as the need for substantive accommodation of people with disabilities, and, on a new issue, a proposed change to the eligibility requirements for the Old Age Security (OAS) system. As eradicating poverty is one of CCD’s priorities, CCD engaged vigorously on the OAS issue. CCD informed Canada’s elected officials about how OAS intersects with disability benefits and explored the effects of these intersections on the lives of Canadians with disabilities. At the moment, the effect seems to be an extended period of poverty for some people with disabilities. Through letters and meetings, CCD encouraged elected officials to prevent OAS reform from having an adverse impact on people with disabilities.
CCD Intervenes in Access to Education Case at Supreme Court
On 22 March 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the case of Jeffrey Moore, a student with a learning disability who has fought for years to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to education. CCD intervened in this case to ensure the right of students with disabilities to equal access to education is confirmed by Canada’s highest court.
CCD Speaks Out on Budget 2012
In response to the Federal Budget, CCD provided a disability analysis of the Government’s spending plan. CCD acknowledged the Government’s improvements to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) and its addition of $30 million over three years to the Opportunities Fund, which assists people with disabilities, obtain employment.
CCD raised a red flag about the Federal Government’s proposed reform of the Old Age Security (OAS) Benefit, which calls for an increase in the age of eligibility, from 65 to 67. CCD is critical of the reform, as it has been described to date, because it means that some people with disabilities will be living in poverty longer. OAS provides a richer benefit than almost all provincial programs. In addition, CCD identified questions needing an answer:
- Will raising the age of entitlement trigger a change in the Old Age Exemption in the Income Tax Act?
- Will Long Term Disability and Workers Compensation policies now extend benefits to age 67?
- Will Canada Pension Plan benefits also change the age of eligibility?
- Will this apply to both the early retirement and full benefit?
- How will provinces respond to persons with disabilities and others remaining on social assistance for a longer period of time? Will it result in reducing those benefits or limiting future improvements?
- How will OAS and GIS eligibility changes affect eligibility to other services such as pharmacare, subsidized housing, home care, etc.?
- OAS intersects with many other programs accessed by people with disabilities, thus the disability community needs answers to these questions.
Social Policy Committee Chairperson Meets with Kellie Leitch
On 29 March 2012, Marie White, who chairs the CCD Social Policy Committee, and Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, met with Dr. Kellie Leitch, MP, who is the Parliamentary Secretary of the Hon. Diane Finley, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Ms. White explained to Dr. Leitch that presently many people with disabilities look forward to turning 65 because OAS is a higher benefit than some provincial programs. Some people with disabilities will be living longer in poverty as a result of the proposed change. CCD urged that the Federal government ensure people with disabilities would not be made worse off by the proposed OAS reform.
OAS Is a Disability Issue
In response to speeches made before the Budget was presented to the House of Commons, on 21 March 2012, CCD wrote to all Members of Parliament to inform them about how Canadians with disabilities would be affected by raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) benefits. CCD’s correspondence asked, “If Budget 2012 raises the age of eligibility for OAS, will you commit too ensuring that there is no negative impact on Canadians with disabilities and that a disability lens analysis is undertaken in regard to all future reforms.” An offer was made to meet with any Member of Parliament who wished to gain a better understanding of how OAS is a disability issue.
CCD Appears Before Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology
On 7 March 2012, Tony Dolan and Vangelis Nikias presented CCD’s priority issues to the Committee: poverty eradication, disability-related supports, employment, citizenship, access and inclusion. The Senators were reminded that people with disabilities are moms and dads, workers and job seekers, caregivers and recipients, young and old. The issues of people with disabilities are Canadian issues. CCD informed the Senators that to be effective, all public policies must take into account the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
Disability and Immigration
On 28 March 2012, Marie White and Laurie Beachell met with policy advisers in the office of the Hon. Jason Kenney, MP, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. CCD was on a fact finding mission regarding how the Department is working with the Immigration Act’s provisions on excessive demand. (Immigrants who are perceived to pose an excessive demand on Canada’s health and social service systems can be denied permission to immigrate to Canada.) CCD requested from the Minister information about: the number of denials related to excessive demand, whether a particular disability group is denied more frequently, and what instruction and training is given to people performing excessive demand assessments.
CCD Informs MPs about Discriminatory Immigration Practices
On 23 March 2012, CCD wrote all Members of Parliament to inform them about the Kim family who was being denied permanent residency because of a child with a disability. CCD explained how Canada has removed biases that prevented immigration by people of certain religious faiths, some ethnic groups and women but continues to allow negative stereotypes about disability to influence decision-making about potential immigrants with disabilities. CCD encouraged MPs to work for immigration practices that conform to the standard of non-discrimination established by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Technical Advisory Group on Data Collection Strategy
On 28 March 2012, Laurie Beachell and Marie White participated in a meeting of the Technical Advisory Group which is working to develop a new data collection tool which will replace the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS), Canada’s flagship database on disability. During the meeting, participants had the opportunity to view demonstrations of new products for generating statistical information that may become available to the community.
Global TV's "Taking Mercy" Portrays Death as Preferable to Life with Disability; CCD Seeks Redress
CCD has taken Global TV to task for negative portrayal of people with disabilities in an episode of 16x9, called “Taking Mercy”. In “Taking Mercy” a parent of two people with severe disabilities argued for euthanasia. As these individuals do not speak, their parent made the case that their quality of life was so poor that it would be better for them to be dead than living with disabilities. “Taking Mercy” did not include any spokespeople from the disability community, who could provide an alternative viewpoint, describing how people with disabilities enjoy their lives, are making contributions and do not want their lives ended because others think that disability is synonymous with a poor quality of life. To offset the harm done by “Taking Mercy”, CCD has called for Global to air a new piece which would include members of the disability community. CCD submitted a complaint about the program to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. The Canadian Association for Community Living made a similar complaint.
Pushing for Museum Access
This month, John Rae, a CCD Vice Chair, Jim Derksen, a member of our Human Rights Committee, Valerie Wolbert, of People First and a member of the Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship research team, and Laurie Beachell participated in a meeting of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Access Advisory Committee. Museum staff updated participants on new and continuing projects. Due to funding shortfalls, the opening of the Museum has been pushed back to 2014.
New Paper on Human Rights Available
Three prominent advocates on disability issues, Gwen Brodsky, Shelagh Day, and Yvonne Peters joined forces to research the extent to which the duty to accommodate has been successful in eliminating barriers for persons with disabilities in Canada and how it can be more effectively used to address long standing systemic barriers. They share the results in the paper, “Accommodation in the 21st Century”, which was supported by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and CCD, through its project, Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship.
Council elected two new Members-at-Large: Steve Estey and Steve Freygood. Congratulations and welcome! CCD extends its thanks to everyone who let their name stand for election. An impressive group of candidates ran for office, demonstrating a strong interest in CCD’s work.
CCD thanks retiring Members-at-Large, Mary Ennis and Susan Ralph, who were also on the Executive Committee.