Posted: Friday, 3 December 2010
In March 2010, after a three year wait, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on Persons with Disabilities. While this is a cause for celebration, it is also a call to action, for the government and for disability rights activists and their allies in Canada.
The Convention sets out a framework to address the exclusion of people with disabilities in Canada. By signing, the government of Canada is now accountable to the treaty's commitments, and must monitor and report on its progress. Canada's unions will work with our allies in the disability rights community to ensure that the federal government is working to meet its international obligations to build a more accessible and inclusive Canada.
Ratification is only one small step toward breaking down barriers for people with disabilities. People with disabilities need more than commitments. They need action.
Far too many working-age Canadians with disabilities live in poverty, are unemployed or underemployed. It's a vicious circle – living in poverty makes one more at risk to acquiring a disability (from lack of good nutrition, health care, safe living and working conditions). And people living with disabilities experience barriers to the tools they need to escape poverty – adequate income supports, good, barrier-free jobs, safe and affordable housing, accessible education.
While some supports are available to some people with disabilities, the support system lacks coherence, is difficult to navigate, and is not comprehensive enough to break the cycle of poverty and exclusion for many people with disabilities. They need clear, concrete steps to reduce poverty, eliminate barriers to employment and end exclusion. They need stable housing, access to barrier-free education, affordable public transit.
How can we work to reduce poverty for people with disabilities in Canada?
Disability rights and anti-poverty organizations have formed a partnership to call on the federal government to take three, concrete steps:
1. a basic income program for Canadians with severe disabilities, modeled after the long-established Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors.
2. make the Disability Tax Credit refundable, extending compensation for the extra costs of disability to the lowest-income people with disabilities
3. Reinvest savings and work with provincial and territorial governments to create a comprehensive system of disability support and services
The Canadian Labour Congress supports this call to action and will work with our allies to achieve these objectives. We further call for the government to develop a labour strategy for people with disabilities that promotes accessible and inclusive workplaces, training and work practices, and ensures people with disabilities can get to work, interact with other workers, and live independently.
Canada's international commitments also include promoting the Millennium Development Goals in its work with developing countries. While the success of the Millennium Development Goals depends upon the full inclusion of people with disabilities, their needs and perspectives may not always reflected in international development efforts. The Government of Canada should look for innovative ways and means by which persons with disabilities and their families can be further integrated into the development agenda. We need to keep our promises at home and abroad.
For more information on the campaign to reduce poverty for people with disabilities, visit http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/poverty-citizenship/basic-income-plan-for-canadians-with-severe-disabilities
For information on the Millennium Development Goals and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, visit http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1540
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