CCD Chairperson's Update - April 2013

Collaborating with Amnesty International

On 15 April 2013, Steve Estey, Chairperson of the CCD’s International Development Committee, and Vangelis Nikias, CRPD Project Manager, met with Alex Neve, the Secretary General of Amnesty International - Canada.  Amnesty International seeks to generate action to prevent and end abuse of human rights and demand justice for those whose human rights have been violated.  The meeting focused on Amnesty's experience in civil society reports to the United Nations Experts’ Committees, similar to the one established to monitor implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Canada’s baseline report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be released in the near future.  Once the report is public, CCD will begin the process of drafting a parallel report from civil society, which the Committee will also use in its review of Canada’s CRPD implementation efforts.

CCD Encourages Foreign Affairs to Show Leadership on CRPD

Steve Estey and Vangelis Nikias met on 16 April 2013 with Foreign Affairs Canada to discuss CRPD and international human rights issues.  They raised the importance of Canada playing a continued leadership role during United Nations meetings, such as the upcoming sixth Conference of States Parties to the CRPD and the High Level Meeting on Disability and Development, which will feed into the process at the UN of establishing a new development agenda after 2015, when the current Millennium Development Goals framework will come to an end.

CCD to CIDA – Play a Role in the Achievement of Accessible and Inclusive Development

Steve Estey and Vangelis Nikias met on 17 April 2013 with staff of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to discuss the Agency’s work on disability and development.  As announced in the last federal budget, CIDA is in the process of joining Foreign Affairs Canada, though it will continue to have its own minister.

CCD again pressed for Canadian engagement and leadership at the upcoming UN meetings on the CRPD and the MDGs.  CCD has been encouraging CIDA to adopt a policy on disability and development for several years.  Such a policy would ensure that people with disabilities are included when CIDA funds initiatives in developing countries.

The global disability community consists of over one billion people, 80 percent of whom live in developing countries; hence CCD calls upon both CIDA and nongovernmental organizations to take an accessible and an inclusive approach to development.

Disability and Rights for Citizens Project

On 19 April 2013, Vangelis Nikias, in collaboration with CILT and ARCH colleagues, participated in a CRPD-related introductory session in Scarborough, Ontario, held by the Disability and Rights for Citizens (DRC) project.

The next day, Vangelis participated in another DRC workshop at the Ann Johnston Health Station.  Participants considered the following topics: reproductive rights in CRPD, healthy sexuality, the Sexuality and Access Project and parenting with a disability.

The workshop was co-facilitated by Vangelis, Melanie Moore of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) Inc., and Dan Lajoie of the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region.

CCD Responds to Susan Griffiths’ Plea for Assisted Suicide

This month, Jim Derksen, Laurie Beachell, Dean Richert and the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities’ Ethics Committee presented the disability rights case against doctor-assisted suicide in response to Susan Griffiths, the latest pro-assisted suicide campaigner, and the media coverage of her story.  CCD and MLPD spokespersons responded to views, such as those expressed by Ken Gallinger, the Toronto Star’s Ethically Speaking columnist, who, in his coverage of the Griffiths case, wrote, “Sadly, whenever this issue arises, some of the most articulate opposition comes from disabled Canadians. They fear that medically-assisted suicide somehow devalues their lives; a clear expression of their concerns is provided by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, at  But, their fears, while understandable, are ungrounded.”

The Winnipeg Free Press included CCD’s views in one of its articles,

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities is fighting the legalization of assisted suicide. National co-ordinator Laurie Beachell says the very notion is threatening to people with disabilities. The group initially supported Rodriguez, who lost her Supreme Court battle in 1993 but ended her life in 1994.  They changed their stance after Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer murdered his severely disabled daughter, Tracy. Latimer argued he wanted to end the 12-year-old's suffering. "We watched what happened in the debate around people with disabilities.  The negative stereotypes about disabilities are so pervasive," Beachell says. "For everybody else we have suicide prevention. For us, we have assisted suicide. It's mind-boggling for our community."

Beachell says the "slippery slope" argument deserves recognition. "We oppose because we don't know where's the line in the sand. We don't know where the safeguards will be put in to guard the vulnerable."

The Council has taken a position in the case of B.C. resident Gloria Taylor. She had ALS and sought the right to have her physician end her life before she became incapacitated. Taylor won her first round when a British Columbia Supreme Court judge declared Canada's laws against physician-assisted suicide unconstitutional because they discriminate against the physically disabled. Taylor died last October.

During the third week of April, when it became apparent that Susan Griffiths would likely have her assisted suicide on 25 April 2013, CCD circulated a media advisory, informing journalists of disability community members who would be available to discuss the case from a disability rights perspective.  The media advisory included an article, titled “Suicide Celebration Instead Of Suicide Prevention” by Amy Hasbrouck, of Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet. 

The media responded by doing interviews with a number of spokespersons: Dean Richert (CBC), Amy Hasbrouck (Canada AM, Winnipeg Free Press, Ottawa media, CFRA Ottawa,) Laurie Beachell (Canadian Press, Winnipeg Free Press, CTV), Ruth Enns (CBC), Alex Schadenberg (AM 900 Hamilton), to share a few examples.

During the period of heaviest news coverage about the Susan Griffiths’ story, CCD drew the attention of Members of Parliament to our perspective by sharing Amy Hasbrouck’s article with them.

The bias of the media coverage on the Susan Griffiths case has been particularly troubling.  In correspondence with CCD, Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, suggested that some coverage has crossed the line from reportage to advocacy for assisted suicide.

Background on Susan Griffiths - On 8 April 2013, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds, broke the story of 72-year-old Susan Griffiths, who was adding her voice to the pro-assisted suicide campaign.  Griffiths, who no longer wanted to live with the effects of multiple system atrophy and wanted a doctor-assisted suicide, decided to travel to Switzerland, which permits tourists access to assisted suicide services available in that country.  Before setting out for Switzerland, Griffiths invited the media into her home and her life to witness the last chapter of her story.  Griffiths also composed an open letter to Members of Parliament calling for legalized assisted suicide.  Prior to retirement, Griffiths worked in public relations at Manitoba Hydro.

CCD Transportation Committee Monitors CTA Decisions

Mary-Jane Gravelle, Director of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s Accessibility Directorate has written to the CCD Transportation Committee indicating that the Agency will be updating section 1.3 of the Code of Practice Removing Communication Barriers for Travellers with Disabilities relating to the use of automated self-service check-in and ticketing kiosks.  CCD’s Transportation Committee will be forwarding a response to the Accessibility Directorate.

This month, the CCD Transportation Committee has been discussing the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) Decision No. 146-AT-R-2013.  In recent months, the Committee has been concerned that the CTA’s decisions have not been playing a strong role in the removal of barriers in the federally regulated transportation system.

CCD Team Explores Resource Development

The staff from the provincial member organizations receiving funding from CCD met with Laurie Beachell by conference call to discuss new routes for raising funds.  CCD and its provincial member groups are starting the 2013-14 fiscal year with a 35 percent shortfall in funding because of a transformation in the HRSDC program that has been the main funder of these organizations. 

During the meeting, Jane Dyson reported that the BCCPD had recently concluded a successful fundraiser which was also a celebration of BCCPD’s 35 years of awe-inspiring work on disability rights.  Good work, BCCPD! 

Project Proposals Unsuccessful

CCD developed two proposals for HRSDC’s August 2012 call for proposals but they were unsuccessful.  HRSDC received 383 proposals and will only fund 17.  One CCD proposal focused on researching public policy on employment and the other was to investigate safeguards that would be needed in the event of the legalization of assisted.  These proposals will be redrafted for other funders.

Manitoba Making History

On 24 April 2013, the Manitoba Government introduced new legislation to remove barriers and make Manitoba an accessible and inclusive province. Another phenomenal example of disability rights themed public policy is coming out of Manitoba.  Well done!

Congratulations to Tim McIsaac, New Inductee to Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame

Former CCD Council member Tim McIsaac, who was appointed to CCD by the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD), was honoured by the Canadian Paralympic Committee for his success as a swimmer.  Tim won medals at four Paralympic Games: Toronto in 1976 (one gold, two silver, two bronze), Arnhem, the Netherlands in 1980 (four gold, one silver, two bronze), New York in 1984 (four gold, three silver) and Seoul in 1988 (six gold, three bronze).  Tim also competed at the World Games, an Olympic-style competition for blind and visually impaired athletes in 1979 and 1986, tabulating five gold, four silver and eight bronze.  He was named Canada's junior male athlete of the year in 1976 and Manitoba's athlete of year in 1982. McIsaac was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and Swimming Canada's Circle of Excellence in 2012.  Tim, I extend congratulations to you from the CCD team for this well-deserved recognition of your impressive contribution to sport.