Conservative Government Has Future-oriented Approach to Disability Issues

14 April 2011

On 8 April 2011, Canadians had their first look at Here for Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada’s 2011 Platform. The Conservative Platform references initiatives undertaken on disability issues by the Harper Government. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national human rights organization of people with disabilities working for an inclusive and accessible Canada, called upon all Parties to address disability issues in their Platforms.

Since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, the Harper Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve the circumstances of Canadians with disabilities. The Conservative Government created the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) which helps families build a nest egg for family members with disabilities. “This is a great program which puts money in the bank accounts of young Canadians with disabilities and will be there in the future to contribute to their well-being,” stated Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator and a member of the Experts’ Panel which developed the RDSP for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. The Conservatives established the Enabling Accessibility Fund which contributes resources to making Canadian communities more accessible. Under the Conservative Government, Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRDP) in March 2010. Steve Estey, Chairperson of CCD’s International Development Committee, joined Foreign Affairs Minister Cannon at the UN for Canada’s ratification of the CRPD. The Harper Government has also funded national disability organizations. These are all positive, future-focused measures.

Canadians with disabilities have also been calling upon the Harper Government to address today’s problems: crushing poverty, unacceptably high unemployment, systemic discrimination and barriers to full citizenship and equal participation. The disability community has developed a National Action Plan, endorsed by over 100 organizations, suggesting short- and long-term measures to address these issues. “CCD was disappointed that the Conservative Platform did not include any of the measures called for in the community’s Action Plan,” states Tony Dolan, CCD Chairperson.

The Conservative Government also defunded the Court Challenges Program (CCP), which provided access to justice to Canada’s equality seeking community to litigate Section 15-based test cases. CCD used CCP funding to challenge VIA Rail’s purchase of inaccessible passenger rail cars, a case in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of accessible transportation without barriers and usable by people with disabilities. PALS, which was Canada’s premier data base on people with disabilities, was discontinued by the Conservative Government. “This loss will make it more difficult to track whether the situation of Canadians with disabilities is improving or if we are becoming further marginalized,” stated Marie White, Past Chairperson of CCD. The Conservative Government has indicated it will appeal the Jodhan decision ordering the Government of Canada to make its web sites accessible to people who use screen readers. The disability community cannot understand why the Harper Government wants to spend money fighting the case rather than get down to business and address the barriers on their inaccessible web sites.

“CCD reminds the Conservative Party that Canadians with disabilities need a government prepared to address both present and future needs. We need measures focusing on disability-related supports, labour market participation, implementation of the CRPD, poverty eradication and full inclusion and accessibility,” stated Tony Dolan, CCD Chairperson.


For More Information Contact:

Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, Tel: (204) 947-0303
Tony Dolan, CCD National Chairperson, Tel: (902) 569-2817
Marie White, CCD Past Chairperson, Tel: (709) 739-8233