Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship (CURA)

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is leading a unique research alliance, focusing on poverty and people with disabilities. For the next five years, legal researcher Yvonne Peters, CCD, and Dr. Michael J. Prince, University of Victoria, Principal Investigators for this strategic initiative, will lead a team of disability community and academic researchers dedicated to bringing forward recommendations and plans for alleviating the disproportionate poverty of Canadians with disabilities.

In 2008, CCD began an important research project, which will use a disability lens to investigate poverty as it affects persons with disabilities and also formulate strategies for reducing poverty in the disability community. The CCD led team submitted its research proposal to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's (SSHRC) Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) competition, where the application was reviewed by a panel of Canadian researchers and judged on its merits. SSHRC allocated a million dollars to this project over five years. "Typically, SSHRC projects are awarded to academic institutions, but this project was awarded to CCD, vesting control and direction of the project with a disability community organization," states Yvonne Peters. "For our community, self-determination of the research process is a fundamental component of our wider disability rights work, which addresses the economic, social, political and cultural domains." Of the 92 CURA grants awarded over the years, only 10 are community led and CCD's project is one of the ten.

The foundation of a CURA initiative is a collaborative partnership between community and university researchers. In addition to CCD, the community organizations in the research alliance are: the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), National Network for Mental Health (NNMH), People First of Canada (PFC), National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO), Caledon Institute on Social Policy. The university partners are: University of Victoria, University of Toronto, University of New Brunswick, University of Manitoba, Université du Québéc à Montréal.

In summary, the research will:

  • Provide a demographic profile of poverty and exclusion from the perspective of Canadians with disabilities
  • Delineate how public and private income programs and disability support services interact in specific jurisdictions
  • Outline existing legal protections and identify needed protections for persons with disabilities living in poverty;
  • Analyze the major poverty alleviation reforms proposed over the past 20 years
  • Present reform options that will substantively improve the material living conditions and life chances of people with disabilities and their families
  • Incorporate a gender analysis in all aspects of the research

"A consensus exists that the issues of poverty and disability must be addressed however, to date advancement has been very incremental and there has been no clear understanding or consensus on staged policy reforms that would more substantively address the long-term problem," states Dr. Michael J. Prince, Landsdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria. "The Research Alliance will work to build greater knowledge and awareness of the need for reform and present specific policy recommendations that could be implemented to reduce the disproportionate poverty experienced by Canadians with disabilities."

The Research Alliance decided to structure its work under four themes: Poverty and Exclusion, Income Security and Social Policy, Poverty/Disability/Equality, Policy Reform: Roles of State and Society. Each theme is responsible for investigating a key issue.

Poverty and Exclusion

The Poverty and Exclusion theme examines the relationship between poverty and disability for the purpose of developing a demographic profile.

Income Security and Policy Reform

The Income Security and Social Policy theme will map the connections between income security and disability-related supports, as well as examine federal tax and income programs.


The Poverty/Disability/Equality theme will assess the effectiveness of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other rights-based statutes, policies and case law in protecting the economic and social rights of persons with disabilities to the necessities of life.

Policy Reform: Roles of State and Society

The Policy Reform: Roles of State and Society theme will examine the roles of both the state and society in reducing and eliminating the impact of poverty on disability.