This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
By Stephen Pate – Canada is 8 years beyond Stephen Harper’s promise of a Canadians With Disabilities Act without any legislation. I couldn’t find a single government reference to it online.
In the meantime, the USA celebrates 25 Years of the Americans With Disabilities Act, legislation that actually works promoting equality for Americans living with disabilities.
In his February 2007 speech, Prime Minister Harper promised, along with fiscal controls and tough on crime policies, “We will also move forward with new legislation, the Canadians with Disabilities Act.”Prime Minister Harper outlines agenda for a stronger, safer, better Canada.
Look around and tell me if you think we have a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
Where is the Canadians with Disabilities Act? Where is the government body to enforce fairness for the disabled?
What the ADA gave the 50 million Americans with disabilities was a level playing field, the removal of barriers to work, to public services and to community access. The strange thing is that Canadians consider Canada a more civilized country than the United States. Canadians are nicer and life is safer. For the disabled that is simply not true. The United States has much fairer rights for people with disabilities.
It’s illegal to stop a black, Spanish or other ethnic person from using a restaurant. It only takes a 4 inch step to keep millions of Canadians with disabilities outside. There is no law making automatic door openers the law or ensuring bathrooms are accessible. Canadian hotels don’t bother to enforce accessible guidelines for guests.
In Canada, each province has a human rights organization to investigate disability discrimination. For federal government departments, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is supposed to protect the disabled. However, those are not proactive organizations.
In August 2015, the US Federal EEOC prosecuted or settled 29 discrimination rights court claims on behalf of Americans. 8 were for disability discrimination. That does not include the many cases settled out of court. The Canadian Human Rights Commission took one case to court in August 2015.
If a person with a disability in Canada loses their job due to discrimination or can’t get a public service, they have to hire a lawyer and file a complaint with one of the various commissions. The cost to pursue the discrimination compliant is years of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Logically, people don’t or can’t pursue their rights in Canada.
If someone steals your car, do you hire private detectives to investigate and then a private prosecutor to charge and try the criminal. Of course not but that is the way the system works for the disabled. We have police and prosecutors to make sure the laws are kept, except laws for the disabled.
Canada has a system that is hollow, without positive effect on the everyday lives of Canadians with disabilities. They are at the whim and good mercy of corporations and individuals.
“In this country, there is no comprehensive legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities,” wrote Andre Picard in the Globe and Mail. “What we have instead is a mish-mash of vague principles and tame enforcement bodies.”
“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees persons with disabilities the right to “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on … mental or physical disability.” The Canadian Human Rights Act also prohibits discrimination, as do provincial human rights codes.”
“The fundamental difference in approaches is that, in the United States, the ADA was proactive – it forced governments and private businesses to tear down barriers or face punishing sanctions, and it gave people with disabilities legal tools to demand change.”
“In Canada, we continue to treat inclusion of people with disabilities as a privilege rather than a right.” It’s well past time for a Canadians with Disabilities Act – Globe and Mail August 2015
During the 2015 Federal Election in Canada, will Tom Mulcair of the NDP or Justin Trudeau of the Liberals make a promise to keep Stephen Harper’s failed promises?
Without legislation, Canadian taxpayers are funding billions in added social benefits for people with disabilities when then can’t get jobs, who live in poverty. A Canadians with Disabilities Act may be good human rights policy but it is also better economic policy.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network