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CACL & PFC Host 8th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion

Décembre 12, 2017 - -

The Canadian Association for Community Living and People First of Canada (PFC), in collaboration with the Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada, hosted the 8th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion in Ottawa on December 1. This year’s focus was Realization of the Right to Legal Capacity for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in Canada.

"Forums like this allow us to bring together lived experience, lawyers, and policy makers together to share ideas and make change," said Krista Wilcox, Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada.

Krista Wilcox, Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada

Krista Wilcox, Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada, introduces nearly 150 attendees to the 8th Annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion in Ottawa.

The right to legal capacity is essential to personal well-being, social inclusion, and enjoyment of human rights because it recognizes a person's right to exercise control over their own personal, health care, and property/financial decisions.

During the Policy Forum a series of informative and personal panelists covered topics such as Legal Capacity Challenges – Self-advocate and family perspectives; National Scope – Demographics and Jurisdictional Scan; Financial Decisions; and Healthcare and Personal Life Decisions.

The first panel set the theme for the day with panelists sharing lived experiences of the importance of legal capacity.

"Being part of a good society is making sure that all voices are heard,” said Susan Beayni, who is an advocate for her daughter Rebecca, “This is citizenship and Rebecca is an esteemed educator in this regard.”

First panelists discussing lived experience

The first panel of the day puts the importance of legal capacity into perspective by sharing personal family stories.

The second panel presented a national scope and review of the right to legal capacity in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, while highlighting provincial/territorial level laws and policies regulating exercise of legal capacity and supported decision making.

Moderator and Managing Director of IRIS, Michael Bach, explained that supported decision-making as a tool is highly valued and those who make decisions with legally recognized supports have reported much success and empowerment. 

During the afternoon, the remaining panels focused on financial decisions and healthcare and personal life decisions, which are essential to exercising one’s own right to legal capacity.

“To be able to make decisions on one’s property, health, and all aspects of a person’s life we need to develop mechanisms that the government can use so that people can exercise those rights,” said Chris Beesley, CEO of Community Living Ontario.

While discussing the importance of having the right to make supported decisions about one’s own healthcare, Dr. William F. Sullivan of St. Michael’s Hospital and Surrey Place Centre said, “There is always a healthcare team and there also needs to be a patient team.”

CACL Executive Vice-President, Krista Carr, and PFC Executive Director, Shelley Fletcher, concluded the event with inspiring words for attendees to take action within their communities.

"It’s not just an issue of people with an intellectual disability,” Carr said, “but the issue of lack of legal capacity touches a number of communities and we’re working across these communities on finding solutions and ultimately creating inclusion." 

CACL EVP, Krista Carr & PFC ED Shelley Fletcher wrap up the Forum

CACL Executive Vice-President Krista Carr, and PFC Executive Director Shelley Fletcher, wrap up the Policy Forum.

The right to legal capacity is generally recognized to have two components – the capacity to have rights and the capacity to act or to have power over one’s personal, property and healthcare decisions. Canadians with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities are extremely vulnerable to having their legal capacity restricted or removed all together. 

Across the country, formal or informal reliance on substitute decision-making arrangements and guardianship remain far too commonplace. Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that all persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others; it also secures the right to use support to exercise legal capacity.

The CRPD, Canada’s reservation on Article 12, and the uneven access and recognition of the use of supported decision-making across the country calls for ongoing dialogue and interpretation, in order to achieve a consistent and up-to-date legal framework at all jurisdictional levels. CACL and PFC continue to work with our partners to determine what it would take for a pan-Canadian legal framework for supported decision-making that incorporates the human rights principles of accommodation and respect for differences among people.