Updated: Sep 9
There are many issues that disability advocates and organizations want to see addressed
By Spencer van Vloten
September 3rd, 2021
With the 44th federal election coming up on September 20th, we spoke with 15 disability advocates and organizations about their top priorities for candidates to address. The responses highlight some of the biggest gaps for Canadians with disabilities.
The question: What is the #1 issue you want the election candidates to address?
Cathy McMillan, Dyslexia BC
I would ask them when they plan on adding the recommendations by the federal Disability Advisory Committee to improve the disability tax credit so that people have an easier time applying and more people get approved. This didn't happen in the summer under Bill C-30.
People with learning disabilities get told all the time that they can't even apply by doctors and psychologists. It's super frustrating. Having severe dyslexia makes it hard to do your taxes, bank, shop, travel, write tests (including driving tests), it's not just in school.
Disability Alliance BC
Our #1 priority for the 2021 federal election is for the government to development and implement the Canada Disability Benefit and eliminate disability poverty.
Heather McCain, Creating Accessible Neighbourhoods
30-35% of Indigenous people self-identify as having a disability, which is higher than the non-Indigenous population at 25%. They have higher rates of mental health issues. This is, in part, due to the ongoing genocide that Canada's committing.
I want the government to fund the search of Indigenous residential schools, day schools, and hospitals and fund bands and families being able to have ceremonies and/or burial. The government must also fund appropriate mental health care for the ongoing trauma from these discoveries.
Heather McCain wants to see far more done to address the trauma inflicted on Indigenous persons (photo: Heather McCain)
The mental health care must be directed by Indigenous people and be culturally appropriate. It should not be a fly-in plan that's all flash and no substance, it must be responsive and ongoing. The access to funding shouldn't be a fight or overly bureaucratic (creating more trauma).
I obviously have a ton of other disability related issues I’d love to address (climate change being high on the list - how it disproportionately affects those in poverty, particularly disabilities, for example) but the Canadian government needs to prioritize Indigenous people and the mental health issues caused and perpetuated by colonialism.
Jennifer Burgmann, A Day in the Life of a PWD (Person with a Disability)
It's really important to address poverty in this country with regards to people with disabilities and seniors.
I was surprised to see the federal government decide the basic standard of living should be $2000 a month when disabled and seniors aren't getting anywhere near that regularly. That should be basic standard for everyone, and I think it’s very important this is dealt with.
Government also must address long-term care and seniors’ facilities. With baby boomers coming into senior years, the need will be huge.
Jo-Anne Gauthier, BC People First
Housing's my top thing right now. There aren't enough wheelchair accessible apartments, and that's why my husband and I are being forced to move out of Richmond.
We need more housing that's affordable and accessible at all levels, from single apartments to family apartments, for people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities.
Self-advocacy leaders Jo-Anne Gauthier and Michael McLellan (photos: Jo-Anne Gauthier and Inclusion BC)
Laura Brydges, Hidden Disability Symbol Canada
My top priority is the adoption and promotion of a national Hidden Disability Symbol.
Luca 'Lazylegz' Patuelli, dancer, choreographer, and motivational entertainer
If there was one ask I think it would be: how can we ensure that Canadians with disabilities won't be left behind again, and what can be done immediately?
Luca 'Lazylegz' Patuelli (photo: Luca Patuelli)
Michael McClellan, Self-Advocate Leadership Network
Poverty's the big thing. People with disabilities need at least $2200 a month, and we want it without clawbacks.
Then creating more affordable and inclusive and accessible housing must happen. Housing is so expensive and people with disabilities have so little to spend on it, then you add in that many places aren’t even accessible, and it’s next to impossible to find something.
Affordable and inclusive childcare is also an area of concern.
Marco Pasqua, entrepreneur, speaker, and accessibility consultant
The Accessible Canada Act was enacted in 2019, but we're yet to see much progress in its implementation. We need for that to start, and to make sure changes to the act are positive.
We should never be refusing the rights of people with disabilities. No federal laws should be made which create even more barriers, and in particular there should be no segregation of populations for any reason.
Marco Pasqua and Paul Caune (photos: Marco Pasqua and Paul Caune)
BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society
Our number #1 request would be to implement financial supports to lift persons living with disabilities out of poverty.
Paul Caune, Civil Rights Now!
The number #1 thing to be addressed is the question of why so many citizens died of COVID in long-term care.
Provincial Territorial Autism Network
On behalf of the Canadian autistic community, we ask: will your government commit to investing in the necessary development of a National Autism Strategy, action to address the critical gaps in autism supports and services across the country, and provide a concrete timeline to have this strategy implemented by 2023?
Sherry Caldwell (left), Susan Simmons, and Spring Hawes (photos: Sherry Caldwell, Susan Simmons, and Spring Hawes)
Sherry Caldwell, Ontario Disability Coalition
I want to know what policies will be created to ensure those living with a disabilities - young & old - are not forced into poverty or lower social economic status. As we know, disability is expensive; Canadians of all disabilities deserve a safety net.
Spring Hawes, accessibility advocate and former Invermere councillor
That’s an easy question. The first thing's to lift disabled people out of poverty. No one should expect disabled people to survive on less than poverty level income. If disabled people weren’t in poverty, they also wouldn’t have many of the other problems that stem from it.
Accessibility's the next one. There's really no excuse that inaccessible spaces continue to be built – it’s a choice that people choose to make.
Susan Simmons, MS Wellness Centre
My number one's for the needs of people with disabilities to be considered in all aspects of policy development.
We've seen a significant erosion of services at all levels of government over the past several years, including in health care for many in our community.
I'd like to see us move forward, not backward.
Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to email@example.com!