December 3rd, 2009
Despite signing the UN Convention on Disabilities, Canada does not meet international standards for the human rights of people living with disabilities.
“Canadians with disabilities make up the poorest people in our country, are excluded from Canadian society and have limited recourse to redress human rights abuse,” said Stephen Pate, Director of PEI Disability Alert Inc.
The press release from The Honorable Diane Finlay “Minister Finley Marks International Day of Persons With Disabilities” is long on Canada’s goals. However, Canada has only made marginal progress in improving conditions for people living with disabilities over the past 15 years.
“Most of the talking points from the Minister are small improvements that do not float the boat,” said Pate.
For many Canadians with disabilities poverty is a fact of life. More than 50% of people in Ontario living on social assistance are receiving a disability allowance. Poverty reduction for people living with disabilities trails the supports provided by the Federal government to seniors, children and working age women.
Canadians with disabilities are excluded from access to jobs, education, and public places since they have limited legislation that protects their rights.
Despite the lofty goals of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the disabled must hire lawyers and fight each issue of discrimination on their own. That is hardly fair for the weakest members of Canadian society.
“Canada needs a “Canadians with Disabilities Act” along with a regulatory body to take the burden of investigation and legal action away from people with disabilities,” said Pate.
“The human rights situation of Canadians with disabilities is analogous to traffic laws expressed as principals of safe driving with every driver expected to enforce the law without the police.”
The United States has the “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA) which is 19 years old. They also have the regulatory backing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to protect the interests of people with disabilities. The US recently updated the ADA to include 1,100 pages of new regulations to ensure the disabled are protected from discrimination.
In the UK, the government enacted the “Disability Discrimination Act” with the Equality and Human Rights Commission as a regulatory and enforcement agent. The European Union has legislation and regulatory enforcement to protect people with disabilities.
“Canada is one of the few modern democracies without specific disability legislation that ensures their human rights,” said Pate.
The Federal Government has Employment Equity legislation that protects people with disabilities along with women and other minorities. This has meant fair employment for Canadians with disabilities in the Federal government.
“Employment equity legislation needs to be expanded to make equitable employment of people with disabilities a fact of live for all Canadians,” said Pate.
Employment equity will reduce poverty and the burden on the state for social assistance, help to include those living with disability in Canadian society and go towards Canada being a full partner in the UN Convention on Disabilities.