Poverty and Disability: Senate Committee Hears From Canadians with Disabilities

For Immediate Release | April 16, 2008

Ottawa—Tomorrow the Senate Committee will hear about the disproportionate poverty experienced by many Canadians with disabilities. "Having a disability for many means a lifetime of living in poverty," said Marie White, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD). "Can you imagine having a disability and living on social assistance which at best is about $12,000/year or at worst is less than $7,000/year," asked White. "Many persons with disabilities look forward to turning 65 and having a better income," stated White.

"In a country like Canada where every level of government is showing a surplus, to make people with disabilities live on less than $10,000 is a national disgrace," said Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator of CCD.

CCD is calling on the Government of Canada to address the poverty of Canadians with disabilities by taking a greater role in addressing income security for persons with disabilities. A first step would be to make the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) refundable. Presently only those with a taxable income receive any benefit of the DTC. CCD also calls on the Government of Canada to extend EI sick benefits from 15 to 52 weeks thus enabling people with connection to the labour market to retain their jobs and deal with their health issues. This benefit would be particularly helpful to those with episodic disabilities such as mental health concerns or Multiple Sclerosis. Additionally, CCD urges the Government of Canada to explore long term substantive options for addressing poverty and disability such as the Basic Income Initiative proposed by Caledon Institute on Social Policy.

"Canada has done much to lift many seniors out of poverty, and has begun to address the needs of children living in poverty," said White. The next step is to build a new income support initiative to lift people with disabilities who are unlikely to be part of the competitive labour market out of their lives of poverty. "Canadians pride themselves on their social safety net, but the fabric of that net needs strengthening to ensure that all are able to contribute their talents and skills and enjoy full citizenship," said White. "Building an Inclusive and Accessible Canada must be a goal for all. Disability does not discriminate. Canadians should realize that they too may at some time need these supports," said White.


For more information, contact:

Marie White—709-739-8233 Laurie Beachell—204-947-0303 or cel 204-981-6179