By Harry Wolbert
Last Updated: March 1, 2010 12:00am
Our elected members of parliament will return to work this week. And with that comes the expectation that some work will finally get done. Over these last few years disability issues have taken a backseat on the national agenda. This has been a real disappointment for me and for many of my colleagues.
Michael J. Prince, professor of social policy in the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria, says that disability issues “have a relatively low profile in Canadian political life.” This is something that desperately needs to change. Disability issues need to get put back
on the national and provincial government agendas. And it all starts with this session of parliament.
And what are those issues? The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, of which the MLPD is a member, has drawn up a list of our national priorities.
This list includes a number of initiatives to address the disproportionate level of poverty being experienced by Canadians with disabilities.
Initiatives such as making the disability tax credit refundable for those without a taxable income as well as making those eligible for Canada Pension Plan disability benefits automatically eligible for the disability tax credit. We would also like to see the Canada Pension Plan disability benefits be made
non-taxable. These changes would go a long way towards alleviating the poverty faced by many Canadians living with a disability.
The employment of people with a disability is also one of our priority issues.
First, we are calling for an increase in labour force participation by creating specific targets for persons with disabilities contained within labour market agreements which are negotiated with the provinces. And we’re also asking that the federal government to increase funding for the Opportunities Fund.
We want to work and pay our taxes like anyone else.
What we’re asking for is a “level playing field” and for the same opportunities that are afforded to non-disabled Canadians.
An inclusive and accessible Canada is our goal. It was last year’s Greyhound fiasco that made us aware of the need to establish some access standards for all modes of federally regulated transportation. We would also like to see the creation of a Universal Design Centre. It would provide the most up-to-date
information available on accessible design and accommodation in Canada.
On Dec. 3, 2009 the federal government tabled the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the House of Commons.
This is something that Canadians with disabilities have been patiently awaiting.
We once again call for its ratification and for our federal government to develop a National Implementation Plan to address disability issues which will most definitely arise following its ratification.
Back in October 1996 The Federal Task Force on Disability Issues released a report called: Equal Citizenship for Canadians with Disabilities: The Will to Act. It said that “The Government of Canada should acknowledge and act on its responsibility for citizens with disabilities to ensure equality and to promote
their full inclusion and participation in the life of the country.”
Well, we are still waiting on this government to act on that responsibility.
It’s time for action!