On December 1st, the Government of Canada announced that it would initiate procedures for Canada’s accession to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It’s about time! Ninety-two countries have already ratified the Protocol.
Canada had already ratified the Convention in 2010. However, its scope was limited since the country had not ratified the Protocol. Essentially, adherence to this Protocol will eventually allow Canadian organizations and citizens to file a complaint with the UN if their rights guaranteed in the CRPD are not respected. Canada, the provinces and the territories will therefore have a new incentive to create an accessible and inclusive society!
In a video highlighting the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, reminds us that “people with disabilities still face barriers to fully participating in society both in Canada and around the world”. The Minister, herself a disabled person, invites us to join her in “celebrating Canadians with disabilities and embrace a cultural change about accessibility and inclusion in Canadian society”.
Meanwhile in Quebec, Lucie Charlebois, Minister Responsible for Rehabilitation, Protection of Youth, Public Health and Healthy Living, explains that the International Day serves to “educate the public about the reality of people with disabilities and to make them aware of the importance of helping people with disabilities to participate more in their community”. She argued that the Quebec government is working on the inclusion of people with disabilities through “a number of promising initiatives, notably through the first Quebec Forum on Autism Spectrum Disorder, which took place last February, the creation of support for families of children with severe disabilities requiring exceptional care, and a recent investment in long-term home care”. The minister concluded by saying “we are therefore very proud of the collective efforts in this area to include more people with disabilities in society”.
Québec accessible argues that, once again, the Quebec government chooses not to recognize the extent of the obstacles and discrimination faced by people with disabilities in Quebec. The initiatives mentioned by the minister, although relevant, affect only a portion of people with disabilities. The creation of support for “families of children with significant disabilities requiring exceptional care” covers only a limited number of families. The majority of families with disabled children are not eligible. In addition, the Minister highlighted a “recent investment in long-term home care”. In the disability community, we are not talking about “long-term home care” but “home support”. It’s different! And let’s remember that these support services have been cut dramatically in recent years. The reinvestment mentioned by the minister is likely to have very little impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
In short, on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Quebec government has chosen to boast of a few limited initiatives, rather than recognizing the magnitude of the challenges faced by Quebeckers with disabilities. However, the federal government does not hesitate to admit that there are barriers that need to be addressed by adopting binding measures. Why is the Quebec government reluctant to do the same? Québec accessible is more convinced than ever that Quebec must make substantive changes to fight discrimination based on disability. One of these changes is to adopt a new law for the rights of people with disabilities. It must be said that the law on the exercise of the rights of persons with disabilities currently in force in Quebec does not work because it does not contain enforcement mechanisms and leaves room for very elastic interpretations of our rights.
On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Québec accessible wishes that the wind of change that blows on Ottawa crosses the border and soon reaches Quebec!
Happy international day to all!