International Day of Persons with Disabilities

On December 3, the Canadian labour movement joins in the global effort to promote understanding of the rights of persons with disabilities. On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we reflect on the progress that disability rights activists have made in Canada, recognize the work that needs to be done and commit to taking action to breaking barriers and ending exclusion for Canadians with disabilities.

Canadians with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than other Canadians. They face exclusion from quality education and from participation in their communities. Too many people with disabilities face barriers on the job or are excluded from the workforce altogether.

In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Convention sets out a framework for countries to address the exclusion of people with disabilities. Canada will be reporting on its progress in 2012. 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.

People with disabilities need more than commitments and good intentions. They need action – concrete steps to end poverty and exclusion. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) calls on the Government of Canada to:

  •     make the Disability Tax Credit refundable and ensure it is not clawed back from social assistance payments;
  •     expand the Employment Insurance Sick Benefit from 15 weeks to 52 weeks;
  •     establish targets within the Labour Market Agreements for the training and support of Canadians with disabilities; and
  •     renew and expand the Social Development Partnership Fund to support the work of national disability organizations.

So much depends upon the active and vocal participation of workers with disabilities in our unions. The gains we have made in employment equity, rights to accommodation, benefits and supports are due to disability rights activists at every level of our movement.

It is time to end exclusion and work for an accessible, barrier-free society.