The Government of Canada tables the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
November 30, 2017 Ottawa, Ontario Employment and Social Development Canada
The Government of Canada is taking further action to uphold and safeguard the rights of people with disabilities and further enable their inclusion and full participation in Canadian society.
Today, the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, is proud to announce that the Government of Canada tabled in the House of Commons the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Optional Protocol). The Optional Protocol would allow individuals in Canada to make a complaint to the United Nations if they believe their rights under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) have been violated.
The Convention protects and promotes the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. In 2010, Canada became a Party to the Convention and committed to promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities.
Accession to the Optional Protocol would provide added protection by allowing the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to consider complaints against Canada. The Committee is a specialised committee with expertise in disability issues.
In December 2016, the Government of Canada announced that it had begun the process toward possible accession to the Optional Protocol. Consultations were launched with provincial and territorial governments, who play an important role in Canada’s accession, as well as Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, and civil society. The Government of Canada thanks all those that contributed to this process for their invaluable input.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated on December 3. This is an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the progress we’ve made in making Canada an accessible and inclusive country and the work we still need to do.
“This step towards accession reinforces Canada’s strong commitment to removing barriers and building a more accessible Canada where all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed, and live a great Canadian life. We are making real progress for Canadians with disabilities and look forward to introducing new federal accessibility legislation next spring.”
– The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
“Canada is committed to ensuring that all people share the same opportunities and enjoy the same human rights. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is absolutely essential to ensuring that this commitment becomes a reality for Canadians with disabilities. We will always push to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities, both at home and abroad.”
– The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“Protecting the rights of all Canadians is a priority for our Government. This Optional Protocol would build on protections that are already in place in Canada by giving persons with disabilities another way to make a complaint if they believe their rights have been violated. It would also contribute to and complement Canada’s efforts towards the full and effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
– The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
- Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010. Parties to the Convention are required to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities.
- The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention by States Parties. States Parties to the Convention are expected to submit reports to the Committee every four years, with an initial report due two years following ratification. Canada submitted its initial report in February 2014 and appeared before the Committee in April 2017.
- The Optional Protocol establishes two procedures aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. The first is a complaint procedure that allows individuals and groups to bring petitions to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated. The second is an inquiry procedure that allows the Committee to inquire into allegations of grave or systematic violations of the Convention by a State Party. The Optional Protocol was adopted by the UN in 2006 and entered into force in 2008. As of November 2017, there are 92 States Parties to the Optional Protocol. On November 30, the Government of Canada tabled the Optional Protocol in the House of Commons. Tabling in Parliament is an important and necessary next step in the federal process toward accession of a treaty, such as the Optional Protocol, and allows Parliament to review and discuss it before a decision is taken on accession. The Government of Canada continues to work with the provinces and territories, which must undertake their own internal processes prior to providing their feedback on accession.
- The annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated on December 3. This year’s theme is Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all. This theme focuses on the enabling conditions for transformative change.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 22, 2017
National Housing Strategy Makes Historic Investment:
2400 New Affordable Housing Units
for People with Developmental Disabilities
Today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the National Housing Strategy, with a target of 2400 new affordable housing units that enable community-based independent living for people with developmental disabilities. The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and People First of Canada (PFC) welcome this historic announcement.
Joy Bacon, CACL President said, “We are thrilled with the Prime Minister’s announcement today. A dedicated investment to create at least 2400 new affordable housing units for people with developmental disabilities will have a transformational impact on building inclusive communities right across this country.”
Kory Earle, President of People First of Canada said, “An equal right to housing is long overdue. Far too many people with intellectual disabilities are homeless, and dying unnecessarily. Canada used to invest in institutions for us. Finally, the government recognizes we deserve a home, in the community, just like everyone else. We are incredibly grateful to the Prime Minister and Government of Canada for hearing our voice and heeding our call. To be part of this national strategy truly means we belong as equal citizens of this country.”
This investment will be welcomed in communities across Canada. Krista Carr, CACL Executive Vice-President said, “Our local and provincial/territorial associations stand ready to partner with all levels of government, with other community sectors, and with housing developers to develop and activate the plans needed to reach this target. It is an extraordinary opportunity, a watershed moment in Canada’s recognition of the rights and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. There is a lot of work ahead. But we have the capacity and partnerships ready to make this happen.”
Never before has the Government of Canada so clearly recognized the housing needs and housing rights of this group. We estimate that over 100,000 Canadians with intellectual and developmental disabilities currently live in precarious and vulnerable housing situations in Canada – over-represented among the homeless population; living with aging parents who can no longer manage and too poor to live more independently; congregated in residential facilities that deny basic housing rights; and, placed in nursing homes and long-term care because they are unable to access affordable and supportive housing in the community. The consequence is hugely disproportionate social isolation, economic exclusion, poverty, preventable deaths and victimization among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Canada.
For immediate release
UN Human Rights Council Endorses Inclusion International’s Position on Article 19
On 27 March, at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) approved a resolution on the right of persons with disabilities to be included in the community.
The HRC, which heard from Inclusion International Council member and self-advocate Quincy Mwiya at their annual debate on the rights of persons with disabilities, echoed Inclusion International’s report on Article 19 with the recognition of the link between the right to live in the community and the right to make decisions. Further, the HRC explicitly supported the need for deinstitutionalization.
The joint resolution, introduced by Mexico and New Zealand, and co-sponsored by 50 other states, reflects the position in II’s Global Report, Inclusive Communities = Stronger Communities. Specifically, the report, issued in October 2012, highlighted the need for people with intellectual disabilities to have choice;support and community inclusion. Choice about where and with whom one lives; supports for individuals and families and communities (education systems, health systems, recreation, transportation etc) organize themselves in inclusive ways.
II applauds the HRC for their understanding on what is required to secure the right to live and be included in the community and welcomes the resolution.
Inclusion International’s Global Report Inclusive Communities = Stronger Communities can be viewed online at http://inclusion-international.org/living-in-community/
Cuts impact community groups’ ability to operate
KJIPUKTUK, (HALIFAX) – Reduced financial support by the Department of Community Services makes it difficult for at least some community groups to continue to operate.
Groups like the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Metro Food Bank, the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living and People First are all affected.
People First Nova Scotia, a self-advocacy group for people labeled with an intellectual disability, is directly impacted by the round of cuts to discretionary grants. Their $67,000 annual grant will be reduced by $20,000 this year.
That grant constitutes the lion’s share of the money that allows the small organization to run an office and a staff of one, explains People First vice president David Kent.
“I was pretty disturbed when I heard this news,” said Kent. “It made me feel sick to the stomach, knowing that they were cutting organizations for people with intellectual disabilities like People First and the Association for Community Living and everybody else.”
People First is unique in Nova Scotia in that it provides a first voice perspective on the plight of people labeled as living with intellectual disabilities. The group’s motto is nothing about us without us.
The Nova Scotia chapter, with its seven community chapters and active membership, is one of the most vibrant in the country.
The group has been critical of the Department of Community Services in the past because it continues to institutionalize people with intellectual disabilities and because promised changes in approach at times seem slow to come. .
“We are independent and we speak up for ourselves,” says Kent. “We need our small office and staff to help us with the work. Members can’t step up an do the work of the staff, because our members have disabilities.”
The Nova Scotia Association for Community Living (NSACL) is another victim of the department’s cuts. The group shares many of People First’s objectives.
Like People First, the organization has been critical of Community Services policies and practices in the past.
Now the group faces a $24,000 annual cut to an original $79,000 grant.
That hurts, especially because it comes right on the heels of a federal decision to stop its annual support for the organization entirely, explains Jean Coleman, executive director of the NSACL.
“Our funding is cut by 30 percent and that will affect the way we can support people with intellectual disabilities in Nova Scotia,” says Coleman. “It will have a huge impact.”
Community Minister Joanne Bernard is shrugging it off.
“I’m not looking at funding advocacy groups which some of these are,” she tells a CBC reporter.
“I’m not looking at funding national organizations that have millions of dollars in bank accounts nationally that they can filter down into the provinces as need be,” Bernard says, alluding to the Canadian National Institute of the Blind.
Clearly those millions of dollars in bank accounts are not available to the NSACL and People First
Say ‘No’ to Segregation on Nova Scotia Petition
Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia
The report of the Minister’s Panel on Education calls for segregated, self-contained (or “congregated”) settings that could take children with a wide variety of disability labels out of our classrooms, our schools, and our communities.
It also suggests narrowing the curriculum to focus on Literacy and Math in the elementary years, leaving fewer entry points for those who have different educational strengths, such as the arts or sports.
We believe that the education of children who are diverse learners is too complex an issue to be addressed by just a few recommendations. We are particularly concerned by the suggestion of segregation. Excluding children who are not ‘typical’ from their classrooms would set our education system and our communities back some 20 or 30 years and would be in contradiction to Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
An independent report into the ways that our education system can work for all – conducted by experts in education for diverse learners, constitutional law, and disability issues, and including input from the Human Rights Commission, the Special Educational Programs and Services Committee, First Nations communities, the African Canadian community, Disability Community, disabled learners and parent voice, – is crucial before any further steps are taken.
We, the undersigned, call on you to set up a representative committee to develop an independent action plan as outlined above. We value the diversity in our communities and we ask you to do the same.
Below is a link to a CBC radio interview with Tracey Willams, CEO of the Human Rights Commission, as she expresses her concerns about the Minister of Education’s report. The interview is from 1:00 to 6:00 – please have a listen.
Calling the Cops by Robert Devet (Halifax Media Co-op)
Brenda Hardiman (Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia) and Cindy Carruthers respond to RCMP finding of not guilty for Quest resident following death of Gordon Longphee/more incidents at Quest/highlighting “Freedom Tour Nova Scotia”(News 95.7- July 15th, 2014)
***The piece is from 28:21 to 36:30***
Twelve attacks in twelve days at Quest, according to parents’ group
(Cbc, Mainstreet, July 15th, 2014)
Last week, RCMP announced there will be no charges in the death of a resident at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre, in Lower Sackville. But a group called Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia says it’s still worried about the safety of residents there
Global News, July 11th 2014
***The piece about Gordon Longphee is from 3:05 to 5:52. The piece about the Freedom Tour is from 5:52 to 6:57.***
MLA upset over stop to renovations at Riverview home
(Pictou Advocate-July 16th, 2014)
Get People in the Community, Group Says
(The Yarmouth County Vanguard, June 3rd, 2014)
Story and Picture by Eric Bourque
Bonnie and Harold MacDonald (seated, left and right, respectively) are members of People First Nova Scotia. Donna Murphy (standing, left) is president of People First Nova Scotia and Joan Paquette (standing, right) is provincial adviser for the organization. Among those featured in a new film about life in institutions is a Yarmouth couple – Bonnie and Harold MacDonald – who used to live in one. The two are members of People First Nova Scotia, which has come out with a video called Freedom Tour Nova Scotia, a film PFNS president Donna Murphy, also a Yarmouth resident, says deserves to be seen. “There are some parts that are hard to watch,” Murphy said, “but it has to be watched to get the message across.”
And the message from People First Nova Scotia is that persons with intellectual disabilities should be living in the community – with proper supports in place — and that they should not be institutionalized. Like Murphy and others with the organization, Bonnie MacDonald says people should have a chance to reside in the community. She cites her own experience when making her point. Institutionalized as a child, she said, “It wasn’t very good at all … It was hard.” The Nova Scotia government says it is working on getting more people out of institutions and into the community, which is good, says Joan Paquette, provincial adviser for PFNS, but she says progress has slowed in recent years. “There were some community options developed and they’ve been really successful,” she said, “but, unfortunately, there are still people living in institutions.” She says local success stories – examples of how community integration works well – include the Yarmouth Association for Community Residential Options, where Paquette used to work, and the Shanty Café. “Right here in town there’s been some really good things happening and I think they’ll continue to happen,” she said. Murphy, the PFNS president, says she’s glad to have a chance to speak for those people who perhaps can’t.
People First Nova Scotia Letter to The RCMP
University of King’s College journalism students investigate Nova Scotia’s housing system for people who have been labelled with intellectual disabilities: http://housing.kingsjournalism.com/
‘I don’t want them to be in a prison-like environment': Protesters at Breton Ability Centre call for province to move away from institutional model of care
(NG News, June 9th, 2014)
SYDNEY RIVER — A Cape Breton mother of two special needs children said she worries about their future each and every day.
Cindy Carruthers, a spokeswoman with People First Nova Scotia, left, talks with other protesters during a demonstration against institutional facilities, Sunday outside the Breton Ability Centre in Sydney. Laura Jean Grant – Cape Breton Post
Zavier is autistic and has other medical issues, and Zander has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, involuntary movement disorder and some learning disabilities.
“I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to live on their own — I hope they will but time will tell. If they can’t (live on their own), there’s going to be a day when I’m gone and I don’t want them to be in a prison-like environment,” said Bond, one of about 10 people who gathered outside the Breton Ability Centre Sunday afternoon, protesting the fact that institutions like it still exist.
A resident of Florence, Bond said she wants her children to eventually find a place to “live, not survive” and hopes they are able to find meaningful work.
“They may have special needs but they also have special abilities and there’s no reason for them to be confined away from the community,” she said.
Two groups, Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia and People First Nova Scotia, organized the Sunday protest outside the Breton Ability Centre and another at Quest Society located in Lower Sackville — two of six facilities in the province that they feel do not provide a positive environment for its residents.
Truro area resident Cindy Carruthers, a spokeswoman with People First Nova Scotia, said she was in Sydney to speak out for people with intellectual disabilities.
“They are full citizens and they deserve the things that we as citizens expect and appreciate such as living in your community, having your own place, having the freedoms to meet with a friend and have a coffee at Tim’s, have an animal, go for a walk — basic liberties that they do not have at institutions,” she said.
Carruthers, who has worked with people with disabilities for 25 years, said most regions of Canada are moving away from the institutional model of care but Nova Scotia lags behind.
“The alternative is already out there in the community. We have many successful small options homes and group homes. We have people living and working under the independent living program, we have alternative families, we’ve got lots of success stories out there but it’s not available to everybody, and all we’re asking for is let’s have some consistency for our citizens,” said Carruthers.
According to its website, the Breton Ability Centre provides quality services to people of varying disabilities and support them in learning and developing personal, social, vocational and educational skills to enable them to transition to other community living options and participate actively in their communities.
An official with the Breton Ability Centre wasn’t immediately available for comment Sunday afternoon.
Freedom Tour CBC Radio Interview May 27th, 2014
Violent death of Quest resident part of a double tragedy
(Halifax Media Co-op May 20th, 2014)
The violent death of a resident of Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Lower Sackville is causing advocates to ask for an immediate closure of large institutions. Charlie Lemon, past president of People First Nova Scotia, and Cindy Carruthers, a coordinator with the organization, spoke at a press conference held outside of the Quest facilities. Photo Robert Devet
K’JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX – The violent death of a resident at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Lower Sackville has parents, activists and self advocates worried and saddened. On May 11th an alleged assault occurred at the institution. An attack by a felllow resident left Gordon James Longphee, a 56-year-old man, in intensive care with critical injuries. Today it was announced that Longphee has died. At a hastily called press conference outside of the Quest building Brenda Hardiman, co-founder of Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia (APNS), a support organization for parents of children with intellectual disabilities, called the death of Longphee part of a double tragedy.” “The other tragedy in this devastating situation is that a person could well face criminal charges,” Hardiman said. “APNS believes that both the [provincial] Department of Community Services and Quest should shoulder some responsibility for events that take place in their facility.” Hardiman is the mother of Nichele Benn, who currently is a resident of Quest. Benn faces assault charges for attacking a staff member of the institution.
Supporters of Benn argue that she suffers an organic brain disorder that causes her aggressive episodes and that she, and others like her, do not belong in the criminal justice system. “To think of the senseless death and to think that there could be criminal charges… We want institutions closed and small option homes with proper staffing established,” said Hardiman. Small option homes typically accommodate as few as three residents and are located in the community. “Staff do what they can with the resources they are provided. But there are just too many people living here,” said Hardiman. Hardiman believes that resident-to-resident violence is a much more frequent occurrence than Quest and Community Services are willing to admit. She wonders why it took Quest four days to call in the police and has little faith in an investigation initiated by Community Services. ” That’s like the RCMP investigating the RCMP,” she said. “I think an independent body needs to come in.” Charlie Lemon is a past president and founding member of the Nova Scotia chapter of People First, a group of self advocates for those who have been labeled as living with intellectual disabilities. Their motto is “Nothing about us without us.”
Lemon lived in a large institution for years but now has his own apartment and works at a pizza shop. “I am very upset about this death,” Lemon told reporters. “A large group of people forced to live in institutions against their will, that will cause problems like this.” “People First members believe that people should not be locked away in institutions. They have a right to live in a home, in a community of their choosing,” said Lemon. Cindy Carruthers, Administrative Support Coordinator for People First Nova Scotia agrees. “Many of our People First members lived in institutions, and they are all very successful out in their own communities,” Carruthers says. “Some receive special supports but they live independently, working or doing volunteer work, having friends, and having what every other Nova Scotian enjoys – choice, equality and the ability to interact with your community.”
Lemon, Carruthers and Hardiman all expressed support for a Community Services roadmap that sees large institutions entirely eliminated over the next ten years. But even a proposed moratorium on new intakes by the spring of 2015 is not soon enough for them. “We want an shut down [of large institutions] and [more appropriate] places for these people established immediately,” said Hardiman. “Parents all fear a phone call similar to the one the families received this week,” Hardiman told reporters. ” I worry every time I go to bed, especially lately. You think that [your child’s] well being would be assured, but it is not.”
NS Families Want Laws Changed to Stop Criminalizing People with Special Needs