Trudeau’s ‘accessible Canada’ includes unpaid work

Marchers holding signs at the Toronto Disability Pride March
Marchers holding signs at the Toronto Disability Pride March. Featuring Beverly Smith.

Back in 2015, before the Canadian federal election, a movement of disabled people was building across the country. The call for a barrier-free Canada was built in that time by a small, dedicated group of people who reinforced their message daily through social media and on the ground action. Their methods were so effective, that what began as a grassroots call for national solidarity grew into a campaign promise by Trudeau….

Instead of reaching out to offer paid work to disabled people, they paid consulting firms to find disabled people to consult with. They are doing market research rather than accepting the expertise of disabled people in designing policies or programs.

Read the full article I wrote for Socialist.ca.

Keep Affordable Housing in the Federal Budget

Let’s not let affordable housing be another broken promise from Trudeau.

  • 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year.
  • 1 in 5 renters spend more than half their income on housing.
  • 1.5 million households can’t find decent housing they can afford.
  • The affordability of housing for low-income families living in social and co‑operative housing is uncertain, as federal funding agreements will expire. In the absence of a new federal commitment, by 2020, 175,000 fewer low-income households will be assisted compared to 2010.
  • Indigenous households living in cities and communities experience higher rates of homelessness and are more likely to be living in precarious housing than non-Indigenous Canadians.

In an effort to keep housing on the agenda, Acorn Canada has come up with the following template email that you can copy and paste and send to your Member of Parliament.

How to Find Your MP.

Sample Email:

Subject: We need affordable and livable housing now!

Dear Honorable [YOUR MP],

As a resident of [YOUR CITY] we need the federal government to make affordable and livable housing a major priority in the upcoming budget. The housing situation across the country is a crisis, with hundreds and thousands of people living in sub-standard housing. CMHC reports that about 3.3 million Canadians (about 1.5 million households) are in core housing need at any given time.

Please ensure that resources from every ministry are added to the lump some of money being given to housing. Poor and unaffordable housing affects every aspect of people’s lives from physical to mental health and more.

Thank you,

[YOUR NAME]

Did you email your Member of Parliament? Let us know in the comments below.

Real Change means an Accessible Canada for All

#On December 3rd, let’s remind Trudeau what an #AccessibleCanada4All looks like.

Canada has a new government, and with that new opportunities for change, new potential, new possibilities. Among those possibilities is the Canadians with Disabilities Act.

It seems that Trudeau has taken up the call, and made this potential Act a part of the mandate for our new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough.

But what does this mean in terms of real change in the disparity of equity that disabled people face across this country?

There are some promising points here, Minister Qualtrough has a background as a human rights lawyer and Paralympian; this suggests that she is familiar with the struggles we as disabled people face.

Unfortunately, this potential legislation is already being framed in terms that will favour some of us over others. There are people who firmly believe that this national idea should follow in the path of provincial legislation that came before it, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This legislation was not so much focused on preserving our rights, as it was about getting disabled people involved in the economy, employment and industry.

These are still important points, but sometimes the more privileged disabled people tend to forget the many other hurdles that keep so many more of us behind.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare, including Indigenous Peoples and refugees.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

These are just a few examples, I’m sure there are many more.

This is why I’m asking all disabled people in Canada and their allies to make their voices heard.

Thursday December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is also the day before Prime Minister Trudeau’s Throne Speech.

That is why on December 3rd I’m asking all of you to show our new Prime Minister and his Cabinet what an Accessible Canada for all looks like.

Using the hashtag #AccessibleCanada4All please take to social media and remind them that real change is not a continuation of the status quo, where only the most advantaged of us move forward.

This is our time. Let’s make it count.

Please share the #AccessibleCanada4All campaign with your networks.

Solidarity with the elevator workers strike

As of the end of May, there are no talks planned in the strike that’s seen 1,400 Ontario members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors striking for more than a month with no end in sight.

According to Ben McIntyre, business manager for the IUEC Local 50 in Toronto, the union’s deal with the National Elevator and Escalator Association expired at the beginning of May. With no new deal, the elevator workers went on strike. Like many workers, they’re fighting just to keep what they already have.

But a problem is brewing that may make things even more challenging for the Ontario’s elevator workers. If the maintenance workers’ strike continues, the agency regulating elevator safety in Ontario says it may need to shut down elevators for safety reasons. The Technical Standards and Safety Authority says it requires regular safety checks and is concerned that, with elevator companies won’t be able to keep up with required inspections.

But while you’re journeying up those flights of stairs, it’s worth remembering that these are the workers who keep those elevators running every day, and without them, your commute might be much more exhausting.

Having said that, many people depend on elevators as a part of daily life; I use an elevator roughly ten times a day. Until they develop an easily available wheelchair that can handle stairs, elevator workers will be an invisible army connecting me to the outside world.

And I’d personally prefer that army to be well paid, well qualified, and in strong enough numbers to get the job done.

I’ve had calls from reporters expecting me to be angry about this situation, and I can understand why some people are upset and worried, but without this strike would any of us stop and think about the importance of the work they do?

The Toronto Transit Commission is trying to make it easier for people with disabilities, and other people who depend on elevators while supporting the striking workers. They are adding buses and looking at their options for riders as the elevator workers strike continues. They are also putting Wheel-Trans buses in strategic locations to assist people that may get stranded because of broken down elevator. Wheel-Trans is the accessible public transit alternative for people with disabilities to use in Toronto when they can’t access the regular transit system.

Elevator workers are vital to the quality of life for many who live in Ontario, including people with disabilities. Let’s not let others make this a case of workers’ rights versus disability rights; let’s make it a time we supported each other in solidarity, so that we can all have the quality of life we deserve.

Reposted from http://www.socialist.ca/node/1774

People with Disabilities March and Roll on the Streets of Toronto

On October 13th, 2012 the disability community once again made their voices heard on the streets of Toronto. They marched with a goal to bring recognition of the struggles and value of people with disabilities as we fight against ableism and other forms of oppression, but they also marched to celebrate and take pride in themselves as part of a community of people with disabilities.

The Toronto Disability Pride March began in the fall of 2011, inspired by the events of Occupy Toronto, and the marches against cuts to disability services that were happening in the UK. The March was also intended to raise awareness to cuts and events that were impacting the disability community locally, such as cuts to social housing and incidents with the Toronto Police. In that first year one hundred people gathered at Nathan Phillips Square and marched down to St. James Park.

The UN has noted that people with disabilities are largely excluded from civil and political processes and are overwhelmingly voiceless in matters that affect them and their society. Many people with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed against their will. Though people with disabilities are seen as less or not exploitable by the owners of the means of production, they are further oppressed by being left out of it. To put it in terms of the occupy movement, they are often the lowest 1% of the 99%.

This year we are noticing this oppression in the form of cuts by stealth, and a political scene that not only divides us by our various disabilities, but also by other forms of oppression such as race, class, gender, etc. In September, the provincial government put forth a draft standard to make parks and the outdoor environment accessible. This sounds great until you consider that the same government is eliminating Community Start Up and Maintenance funding to people living on social assistance, which many people rely on to find and keep their homes. They might as well call making these parks accessible the new Home Modification Program.

The accessibility legislation may get out foot in the door for changes in Ontario, but at what cost, but letting our government choose which barriers to eliminate and which to ignore, are we setting ourselves up for future discrimination? Where are the standards to benefit those with chemical sensitivities or mental illnesses? Who says it’s acceptable to leave them out.

The way the March was built also changed this year. Without a solid Occupy Toronto base to build from, we were basically starting from scratch. We discovered some of the perils and perks of grassroots group organizing. We came up with a new route, and made new allies that helped make our March a success.

We also discovered that for some people in our community the concept of disability pride is scary, the concept of the oppression of people with disabilities is still too hard to face, and connections between different movements in the disability community are something they are not ready to build. We need to work on that.

A question I often get asked about this March is what is disability pride. I think we can find it in a great many things. Being in the march, and making ourselves visable is one example, the solidarity we find in marching with each other is another. Another way I think we show this pride is by recognizing and fighting oppression. There are some people with disabilities who will try to tell you that oppression of people with disabilities, otherwise known as ableism, does not exist, that all we need is to eliminate a few barriers and we’ll be fine. I’ve actually gotten emails suggesting that. We know that’s not true. Anyone who’s on ODSP can tell you that’s not true, anyone who’s been asked to leave a disabiility grassroots organization because of a mental health issue knows that’s not true, and any parent who has feared having their child taken away because of their disability knows that’s not true. We can do better. For too long, the rights and oppression of people with disabilities have been discussed behind closed doors, or not at all, but through actions like the Toronto Disability Pride March we find our voice, and make ourselves heard in the chorus of movements.

It’s no mistake that the Toronto Disability Pride March brings out a call to build connections within the disability movement. It’s a call for equal access and equal rights for everyone regardless of their race, class, gender, sexuality, or what disability they have. This is something that seems to be lacking from the mainstream organizations and movements, and why the March will continue to forge its own path.

We call on our allies, people of every ability from the labour movement, the student movement and beyond. We call on those whose struggles have long been supported by people with disabilities to join our struggle and prove that we are stronger united. For more information you can find us on Facebook, or check out our website http://torontodisabilitypride.wordpress.com/. We look forward to seeing you next year!

 

The Most Important Post I’ll Ever Write

I know I haven’t been on this blog for a while, so maybe I’m a little late to test the loyalty of the few who read it, but I really need some help here. I had to give it a try.

Before I get into that, let me first explain what I’ve been up to the last couple of months. It boils down to two things really. The first is that I have a new job (yay!), but that’s the less interesting part. The second thing is that I am in love, even now that’s far more rare than a job.

Now before you all start rolling your eyes at me, this is not a post to expose my gushy romantic side, I really do need some help with an issue, but I’m willing to expose that side of me to get that side across. I mean I could go on about how he saw me at a march I organized, and it took him 6 months to ask me out, and when he finally did I fell for him in a way I’ve never felt before…but I’m pretty sure at least half of you would yawn and move on and i haven’t gotten to the important part yet.

You see, this guy, this wonderful guy, he has two months to find a new place to live. Now on the surface that may not seem like a big deal, but look at it this way.

He’s lived in his current place for more than ten years, no issues. He lives on social assistance like I used to, which means $800 in rent is his limit, and anything in that range in this city has bedbugs. Add to that discriminitory landlords who refuse to rent to him because he lives on so little…and then maybe you might get why it’s a big deal.

If that still doesn’t work for you, let me try it this way. This a man who left his house at 6 am to walk for an hour to my place because my attendants weren’t showing up and were putting my job at risk, he helps me out of with things I can’t do, fixes the tires on my chair, makes me smile on a really rough day even when he’s stressed out, and does all of this and more like it’s just something any man would do. Kind of my version of Frank Miller’s Noir Hero.

Now take a man like that, a man I love more than I realized I could love someone, and imagine he could be homeless in 2 months.

I know this story is not new. I know it happens to people all the time and that’s why we have rallies against poverty, and countless activists across the country fighting against situations like this. But this man has my heart, and right now my heart fights for him.

Which brings me to my request, if any of you know of a one bedroom apartment somewhere in Toronto, whether it be Etobicoke, North York wherever…and this place is affordable and has no bedbugs, please send a message to this blog. Even if you don’t, he could really use some encouragement right now.

If poverty take this man away from me, I don’t think I’d have the heart to write anymore.

Upcoming Event on the Experiences of Newcomers and Ethno-racial People with Disabilities

Ethno-racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario

ERDCO Research Event

Thursday March 29, 2012

4:30 – 7:00 PM

Ryerson University, 99 Gerrard St. East, Room SHE 560

This event will highlight some of the research that has been completed by ERDCO Staff, Volunteers and Board Members. Research topics include:

  • Successful immigrants with disabilities: Challenging the stereotypes, Presented by: Judith Sandys

  • The experiences of ethno-racial/parents with disabilities, Presented by: Bahja Nassir

  • The experiences and challenges faced by newcomers with disabilities, Presented by: Ayshia Musleh

WHO WE ARE: We are a small non-profit organization working to promote the rights and interests of ethno-racial people with disabilities. We work with other agencies in the community, sit on advisory committees, write briefs, organize events, undertake specific projects, etc. We receive funding from the City of Toronto and through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Wheelchair accessible venue and attendant care provided

Coffee and tea served at 4PM

Space is limited. Register early to reserve your spot. Please RSVP by Friday March 23, 2012 to Melissa Simas by calling 416-901-5454 or by emailing melissa.erdco@gmail.com

We would like to thank the Ryerson School of Disability Studies for Co-Sponsoring this event!

Solidarity rally for Caterpillar workers in London, ON – Sat Jan 21

Electro-Motive, a subsidiary of U.S. industrial giant Caterpillar Inc., wants to strong-arm workers at its London plant into a pay cut of over 50 percent, dropping hourly wages from $35 to $16.50. It is also imposing devastating cuts to benefits and pensions on members of CAW Local 27 at a time when the company has enjoyed multi-billion-dollar profits and a 20 percent boost to production over last year.

A day of action has been called by the OFL in solidarity with these workers: http://www.ofl.ca/index.php/html/index_in/stop_caterpillar_london_day_of_action_sat_jan_21_11_am/

Rally to save City Services and Good Jobs ~ January 17th

City Council will be voting on January 17, 18 and 19 on the 2012 City budget.  At present, there are $85 million in cuts on the table, as well as, a TTC fare hike and increases to recreation user fees.  The budget includes elimination of hundreds of good City jobs – jobs that employ people who deliver vital services in our communities.  As well, the budget includes a 9.8% cut to community grants that enable nonprofit community organizations to provide much-needed programs and services across Toronto.  We need to protect our communities from these harmful cuts.
Please come out to the rally on Tuesday, January 17th at 5:30 p.m.  If you are available at any time on January 17 and 18, please come down to City Hall in Council Chambers to support our city.

For more information about the City budget:

We Strike Together ~ Public Forum January 11th

UofT PUBLIC FORUM
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 5PM
OISE room 2214 (252 Bloor St. West)
The 1% are undermining accessible public education
by increasing tuition and class sizes, cutting funding
and corporatizing campus. Join a discussion about how
the 99% on campus–students, TAs, staff and faculty–
can unite to support upcoming campaigns, like the
February 1 Day of Action and a possible CUPE 3902 strike.
Organized by Occupied UofT, in solidarity with UofT General Assembly,
UofT Students’ Union, UofT Association of Part-time Undergraduate
Students, UofT Graduate Students’ Union, Unite HERE 75 and CUPE 3902
For more info contact occupieduoft@gmail.com   @occupieduoft   #Occut