A #Federal agenda that includes us (People with #Disabilities )

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!

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