CCD Chairperson's Update - March 2014

Backsliding on Accessibility

Regrettably, examples of accessible goods and services becoming less accessible come to the attention of the disability community with alarming frequency.  One glaring example is Canada Post's decision to end door-to-door service.  Fortunately, in the VIA Rail case, the Supreme Court of Canada spoke out and said that it is unlawful for service providers to create barriers that make services inaccessible to people with disabilities.  Going forward, we all need to be saying loudly and clearly to both service providers and governments: NO NEW BARRIERS.

You will find that this edition of the Update has been divided into two sections. The first presents the highlights of recent activities and the second section provides additional information for those seeking a more in-depth presentation.

Just the Facts…

Voting – While before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Bob Brown proposed eliminating changes in the Fair Elections Bill that would make it harder for some people with disabilities to vote or get elected. Read more.

Investing - Carmela Hutchison, a member of the CCD Executive Committee, explained to the Senate Finance Committee how to ensure fair dealings by RDSP promoters. Read more.

Resisting - Jim Derksen, Heidi Janz, and Amy Hasbrouck provided a disability rights counterpoint to the Hon. Stephen Fletcher's Private Members Bills (C-581 and C-582), which support the legalization of assisted suicide. Read more.

Reminding - CCD continues to oppose Canada Post's proposal to make their accessible service inaccessible by the elimination of door-to-door service in favor of a community mailbox service model.  CCD reminds all service providers that the Supreme Court of Canada in the VIA Rail case found that it is unlawful to create new barriers which make services inaccessible to Canadians with disabilities.  We say, Canada Post – NO NEW BARRIERS! Read more.

Testing - CCD's Social Policy Committee is planning to take Statistics Canada’s Real Time Remote Access Service (RTRA) for a "test drive".

Consulting – Goss Gilroy is interviewing people active in IL Canada and CCD about possible synergies between the two organizations.

Staying - Vangelis Nikias, the Manager of CCD's CRPD Awareness Project, will be continuing with CCD until the end of 2014, due to an extension agreed upon by the Interchange Program. 

Giving - Since 1976, the Council of Canadian with Disabilities has been a consistent innovator, promoting new measures to make Canada more accessible and inclusive.  To help keep CCD innovating donate to CCD at CanadaHelps.

Now for the Details…

CCD Shares Concerns About Bill C-23 (Fair Elections) – The House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs invited CCD to hearings on Bill C-23 (Fair Elections).  On 31 March 2014, Bob Brown was a witness before the Committee and shared CCD's concerns about the Bill's intention to:

  • eliminate identity vouching at the polls and the use of the Voter Identification Card as a valid form of ID,
  • limit Elections Canada's role in public education,
  • make changes to campaign funding rules favoring wealthy candidates and
  • put the enforcement arm of Elections Canada under the Justice Department.

CCD recommended against these proposed changes.

Disability Tax Credit - Carmela Hutchison, a member of the CCD Executive Committee, appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance hearing on Bill C-462, which seek to restrict the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit.  While before the Committee Carmela stated, "We support the intent of Bill C-462 and agree that people with disabilities should have their rightful entitlement protected from unfair fees."

Private Members Bills on Assisted Suicide – The Hon. Steven Fletcher (Conservative MP/Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba) and Manon Perreault (NDP MP Montcalm Quebec) moved and seconded two Private Member's Bills (C-581 and C-582) in support of assisted suicide. 

CCD Ending of Ethics Committee Member Heidi Janz in her online commentary summed up the disability rights critique of these misguided bills.  Dr. Janz pointed out that assisted suicide devalues people with disabilities and puts lives in jeopardy. 

In the Montreal Gazette, the Toronto Star and on Global News and in Geez magazine, Catherine Frazee and Jim Derksen explained to the public why disability rights supporters oppose assisted suicide.

In addition to speaking out the media, Amy Hasbrouck holds weekly Google Hangouts on Friday afternoons, where she provides a disability rights critique of legislative actions in support of assisted suicide. Find out information about future Google Hangouts on the Toujours Vivant/Not Dead Yet website.

Canada Post Update - People with disabilities continue to be concerned that Canada Post will end door-to-door mail delivery and some are taking action.  For example, a former member of the CCD National Council has filed a human rights complaint about Canada Post's decision to make an accessible service inaccessible. 

In December, CCD wrote to the Hon. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport explaining how community mailboxes will be inaccessible to some members of the disability community.  Lisa Raitt responded to CCD on 21 March 2014, stating "With respect to mail delivery to persons with disabilities, most Canadians, including those with disabilities, already receive their mail though venues other than door-to-door delivery. Over the past few decades, Canada Post has considerable experience in implementing solutions that meet the needs of mail recipients, including those with disabilities. Canada Post has informed me that mobility issues will continue to be an important consideration for the Corporation as it converts the remaining households still receiving door-to-door delivery to community mailboxes over the next five years." 

In her response to CCD, Minister Raitt conflates community mailbox users and apartment dwellers, thus leaving the impression that community mailbox service is the norm.  Community mailbox users with disabilities who cannot independently pickup their mail for a good part of the year due to snow and weather conditions present a challenge to Minister Raitt's assertion that " Canada Post has considerable experience in implementing solutions that meet the needs of mail recipients, including those with disabilities."  Yes, they have experience, but, when Canadians with disabilities speak publicly about Canada Post's performance on community mailboxes, they are giving the corporation a failing grade. 

CCD reminds Canada Post that the Supreme Court of Canada in the VIA Rail case ruled that Canadian law prohibits service providers from creating new barriers that make services inaccessible to persons with disabilities. 

Statistics Canada’s Real Time Remote Access Service (RTRA) CCD's Social Policy Committee has been looking into how the RTRA could help CCD improve its access to demographic information on people with disabilities in Canada.  The RTRA is an on-line remote access facility that allows researchers to run, in more or less in real-time, data analyses on survey masterfiles (microdata) located on Statistics Canada’s secure servers.  The RTRA allows researchers submit SAS programs in order to obtain descriptive statistics from a broad range of household social surveys and administrative data collections.

Once a researcher has an account they will be able to submit programs creating customized data tables through a unique system designed to return information to the user as quickly as possible.  The RTRA system is fully automated and does not require any manual intervention from a Statistics Canada employee to run the request or verify outputs for confidentiality.  A typical submission will take about an hour to process and return to the researcher, for a large volume of tables in one submission the timeline will be longer as it would if the researcher were to process the data on their own computer.

CRPD Awareness Project – The Interchange Program has extended Vangelis Nikias's position with CCD. Hence the CRPD Awareness Project will remain active until December 2014.  The CRPD Awareness Project makes it possible for organizations like CCIC and university students to have access to Vangelis's expertise on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Vangelis participated in CCIC's Annual General Meeting and discussed the Convention with law students at the University of Ottawa.

The local group, Individuals with Disabilities Equity Alliance Inc. (IDEA), invited Vangelis Nikias to Regina to be the keynote speaker at an event on 27 March 2014.  When the Government of Saskatchewan announced a new disability strategy, it promised Saskatchewan would become "…the best place in Canada for people with disabilities".  IDEA invited Vangelis to explain how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) can guide a shared vision of an accessible and inclusive Saskatchewan.  IDEA organized the event in partnership with the Saskatchewan DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) and the South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre (SSILC).

Keeping in Touch - The Executive, International and Social Policy Committees met by conference call this month to plan their agendas.  Canada.  Canada has released its first report on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and this report has been discussed by CCD's Committees.  They decided that the report would be reviewed by the CCD National Council of Representatives at the upcoming June Council meeting.

Oral History - On 10 March 2014, Carlos Sosa, a Co-chair of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities and CCD Council Representative, organized a meeting at the University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre where members of the Manitoba disability community had the opportunity to discuss potential oral history projects that could be undertaken by community members.  Representatives from CCD, MLPD, the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, Red River Community College attended the meeting.  There was consensus that Manitoba's disability community has a rich history and participants expressed an interest in continuing the conversation with the Oral History Centre because we want to make our history available to researchers examining the effect that people with disabilities have had on Manitoba and beyond.