Canada is currently involved in many exciting initiatives with the potential to significantly impact the lives of individuals with a disability positively. The proposed Accessible Canada Act, Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and Canada’s National Housing Strategy each address areas that are crucial to the full inclusion of individuals with a disability in our society.

Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada (Bill C-81)

The Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada (Bill C-81) was introduced in Spring 2018. The Bill introduces new accessibility legislation and strives to ensure equality, inclusion and full participation in society for all Canadians.

The Bill has many promising components, and CACL along with many other disability groups have participated in the legislative review process to ensure strong and effective legislation that makes real progress in building an inclusive and accessible Canada for all persons, including people with an intellectual disability and their families.

Although traditional bricks and mortar accessibility initiatives are vitally important for persons with an intellectual disability, the proposed legislation includes and goes beyond conventional approaches to accessibility. By providing approximately $290 million over the next six years, Bill C-81 requires organizations under federal jurisdiction to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility, including in employment, information and communication technology, the procurement of goods, transportation, and the delivery of programs and services.

Read the Accessible Canada Act here.

Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

The Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy was released in September 2018. The Strategy includes a significant focus on social inclusion and appears to offer tremendous potential for persons with an intellectual disability.

The Strategy was informed by nationwide consultations such as roundtables and town halls, to give Canadians the opportunity to share their experiences, concerns, and stories about poverty. The Strategy notes that it must have transparent indicators, clear targets and tangible actions in order to succeed. Specifically the Strategy introduces an official poverty line for Canada, as well as targets to reduce poverty by 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2030 based on the official measure of poverty.

CACL believes that some indicators of an approach inclusive of persons with an intellectual disability could include – but are not limited to – representatives from the intellectual disability community on the advisory council, up-to-date data on persons with a disability within the Strategy’s Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+), and the inclusion of current out-of-pocket expenses that persons with a disability spend to be added to Canada’s Official Poverty Line calculation known as the Market Basket Measure.

Read Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy here.

Canada’s National Housing Strategy

Canada’s National Housing Strategy was announced in November 2017. The Strategy includes a target of 2,400 new affordable housing units that enable community-based independent living for people with developmental disabilities. This Strategy is expected to have a transformational impact on building inclusive communities across the country.

Never before has the Government of Canada so clearly recognized the housing needs and housing rights of people with an intellectual disability. CACL estimates that over 100,000 Canadians with an intellectual disability currently live in precarious and vulnerable housing situations in Canada – over-represented among the homeless population; living with aging parents who can no longer manage and too poor to live more independently; congregated in residential facilities that deny basic housing rights; and, placed in nursing homes and long-term care because they are unable to access affordable and supportive housing in the community.

Read Canada’s National Housing Strategy here.

As Canada moves forward with new legislation and strategies, how do we ensure that the solutions being proposed will lead to the full inclusion of individuals with a disability? How do we design evaluations that intentionally seek to make inclusion a priority rather than an afterthought? How do we ensure that the stories of individuals whose experiences fall outside the statistical norm are heard and valued?

Our 9th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion is taking place this coming Monday, December 3rd in Ottawa. The theme of the Forum is “Inclusion: What Gets Measured Gets Done”. Hosted by CACL and People First of Canada, the Forum will focus on how to measure inclusion to ensure the legislature is positively impacting in the day-to-day lives of people with an intellectual disability. This year’s forum will explore these questions and draw upon the rich experience on our community to develop solutions. 

Haven’t purchased your ticket yet? Click here to register for this event.