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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considers the report of Canada

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

4 April 2017 

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this morning concluded its consideration of the initial report of Canada on its efforts to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Introducing the report, Kathryn McDade, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development of Canada, reminded that Canada was a federal state, with a federal government, 10 provincial and three territorial governments, each of which was sovereign in its own right, and all took Canada’s obligations under the Convention seriously. The employment of persons with disabilities remained a top priority for Canada and one of the areas where challenges remained. The Government of Canada had deployed considerable efforts to engage meaningfully with indigenous peoples to hear their views on the planned accessibility legislation, on the Convention, and on issues that indigenous persons with disabilities faced on a daily basis. Women in Canada reported a higher prevalence of disability than men and were more likely to live in low-income situations than women without disabilities. They also faced multiple forms of discrimination and were disproportionately affected by violence and sexual assault. The Government’s ultimate goal was to eliminate gender-based violence in Canada. After a comprehensive review of its international assistance in 2016, Canada would be looking for opportunities to better support persons with disabilities in its international assistance efforts. 

In the interactive discussion which ensued, Committee Experts raised the question of the definition of disability at the federal, provincial and territorial levels and wondered whether persons with disabilities enjoyed the same protection as all others across the territory of Canada. An Expert asked about Canada’s reservations to Article 12 of the Convention, and the chances of Canada acceding to the Optional Protocol. Other questions brought up by the Committee included discrimination of marginalized women, primarily Aboriginal women with disabilities, regulations for assisted dying and palliative care, the lack of data on children with disabilities, and accessibility of airports and public transportation facilities. Experts also wanted to know about the involuntary detention of persons with mental disabilities, provisions for independent living, access to justice, and the use of sign language in courts and the media. Questions were asked on assistive technologies, the status of braille, and accessibility to the labour market. Several Experts praised Canada’s pioneering role in many aspects of the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities.  

Ms. McDade, in concluding remarks, said that Canada’s approach to federalism, while complex, was a reflection of Canada’s history and diversity, and it worked in practice. 

Theresia Degener, Committee Chairperson and Country Rapporteur for Canada, in closing remarks, said that, in spite of all the constructive criticism by the Committee, Canada was indeed a global leader in recognizing and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. 

The delegation of Canada included representatives of the Department of Employment and Social Development, Justice Canada, Canadian Heritage, Global Affairs, Canadian Transportation Agency, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the Quebec Government, the Ontario Government, and the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 12 April at 5 p.m. for the public closing of its seventeenth session.  

Report 

The initial report of Canada can be read here: CRPD/C/CAN/1 .  

Presentation of the Report 

KATHRYN McDADE, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development, Canada, said that this year, Canada marked the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Confederation, as well as the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter embedded human rights protection in the Constitution of Canada; equality and non-discrimination were at the heart of it. In November, Carla Qualtrough had been named Canada’s first federal Minister dedicated to persons with disabilities. 

Ms. McDade reminded that Canada was a federal state, with a federal government, 10 provincial and three territorial governments, each of which was sovereign in its own right, and all took Canada’s obligations under the Convention seriously. Canada had a number of fora in place to foster collaboration and coordination across jurisdictions. The governments were working together on Canada’s potential accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, the process which also involved engagements with indigenous persons, persons with disabilities and civil society. The federal government and provincial governments were all working on increasing accessibility in their jurisdictions. Ontario, for example, had introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005, while British Columbia’s 10 year action plan – Accessibility 2024 – aimed to dramatically increase accessibility for persons with disabilities. Canada was improving the way in which it collected disability-related data, as it continued to enhance Canada’s Disability Data Strategy. The Government of Nova Scotia had put in place recent initiatives that included a transformation of its Disabilities Support Programme. 

The employment of persons with disabilities remained a top priority for Canada and one of the areas where challenges remained. Some 47 per cent of persons with disabilities were employed, compared to 74 per cent of those without disabilities. Their median total income was also significantly lower, and 37 per cent of them relied on non-employment income, such as pensions. Employers’ efforts to hire and retain persons with disabilities were supported, said Ms. McDade. The Court Challenges Programme was being reinstated and modernized, with the view of providing financial support to reduce the financial burden of accessing the courts for precedent-setting test cases. A significant increase had been announced in federal budget investments in mental health. Canada was also committed to supporting the mental health of its public safety officers as well as Canadian military personnel and veterans. The Government of Canada had deployed considerable efforts to engage meaningfully with indigenous peoples to hear their views on the planned accessibility legislation, on the Convention, and on issues that indigenous persons with disabilities faced on a daily basis.  

Women in Canada reported a higher prevalence of disability than men and were more likely to live in low-income situations than women without disabilities. They also faced multiple forms of discrimination and were disproportionately affected by violence and sexual assault. The Government’s ultimate goal was to eliminate gender-based violence in Canada, and, in that context, an investment of 100 million dollars over five years had been announced for the development of a National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence. In October 2016, Quebec had launched its 2016-2021 strategy to prevent and combat sexual violence. On the international front, Canada funded a number of initiatives geared towards reducing poverty and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in countries around the world. Between 2010 and 2015, Canada had invested over $ 74 million in international projects with disability as a principal focus. After a comprehensive review of its international assistance in 2016, Canada would be looking for opportunities to better support persons with disabilities in its international assistance efforts. In that context, Canada had recently participated in the Global Action on Disability Network meeting, and would continue to engage with the Network with the view of improving its disability-inclusive development efforts. Global Affairs Canada had recently established a partnership with researchers seeking to establish the Canadian + Network for Disability Inclusive Development (CANDID).  

Questions by Experts 

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson and Country Rapporteur for Canada, noted that Canada was one of the first countries to recognize disability as a constitutional and human rights issue, and it was one of the countries where the right to inclusive education had been developed by a rich and nuanced jurisprudence. The Committee was delighted that accession to the Optional Protocolwas in preparation. It would help if that accession was accompanied by the incorporation of the Convention law into domestic legislation.  

Nonetheless, the Committee was deeply concerned that Canada’s reservation towards Article 12remained unchanged. Over 47,000 persons with disabilities remained under some sort of guardianship because there was a lack of support for supported decision-making. Almost half of all discrimination complaints filed in Canada were related to disability; those related to mental health were rising the most quickly. It was thus clear that people living with psycho-social disabilities faced significant barriers in employment and access to services.  

A particular area of concern was the growing number of indigenous childrenin the care of institutional Canadian welfare services. 

The Committee remained concerned about federal legislation permitting medical assistance in dying, and hoped that the dialogue would help understand that the legislation would not lead to increased suicide rates among the disabled population due to lack of social and medical support services. Increasing incarcerationof persons with disabilities was another area of concern. 

Ms. Degener also raised the issue of the high level of violence against women in Canada, impacting mainly minority and marginalized women. Low numbers regarding secondary and tertiary education of persons with disabilities were concerning, as well as the high unemployment rate, particularly among women with disabilities.  

What steps was Canada taking to mainstream disabilitiesin all sectors, asked Ms. Degener.  

Another Expert asked about the definition of disability . Was the State party planning to harmonize its definition of disability with that of the Convention? He also asked about female members of Parliament , including women with disabilities.  

The delegation was asked to provide information on work done to promote the Convention, and to promote a positive model of persons with disabilities in education.  

An Expert wanted to know about Canada’s progress in incorporating the Convention into domestic legislation. How did the federal structure of the country affect that? Various definitions at different levels of governance meant different levels of support across the country. How about creating a unified federal definition of disability, asked another Expert.  

A question was also asked about consultations with disabled women and children from First Nationsin designing disability-related policies. There was insufficient data collection on women and children with disabilities. What provisions of remedy and redress were there at provincial levels for such persons?  

An Expert brought up the issue of consultations with persons with disabilitiesin general, and whether their organizations were involved in preparing bills and laws in Canada. What was the legal status of sign languagein Canada, he inquired? Were there television programmes with sign language? 

 

The issue of harmonizationwas raised by an Expert, who noted some unwillingness by the central Government to harmonize domestic legislation with the Convention. Information was sought on legal remedies provided for discrimination on the basis of disability.  

It was surprising that there was no compiled data on children with disabilities; without such data it was difficult to plan any policies, stressed the Expert. 

A question was asked about the intention of Canada to guarantee the basic rights as stipulated in the Convention for all citizens across the country.  

Regarding article 9 of the Convention, had Canada applied the use of public procurement policiesto help enhance greater accessibility for persons with disabilities across the country? While there was no national procurement act yet in Canada, the Province of Ontario had had such provisions for years. Canada was reportedly in the process of developing such federal legislation. Information was sought on the current stage of the process, with details on law making and standard creating.  

Was there a sign language version of the Conventionavailable for the public? What were sanctionsfor entities and individuals who failed to comply with the disability provisions?  

An Expert noted that women and girls with disabilitiesin Canada were subjected to multiple forms of discrimination. What measures were being taken in that regard, especially to protect indigenous women with disabilities and those with mental disabilities? Over 500 missing aboriginal womenin Canada were presumed to be dead, noted the Expert and asked for an update in that regard. Another question was asked about everyday discrimination by citizens against aboriginal women with disabilities.  

Questions were asked about the implementation of the acts on removing barriers in Ontario and Quebec. The Expert also wanted to know about accessibility of airports and public transportationin Canadian cities, especially Ottawa.  

Another Expert praised Canada’s role in the promulgation of the Convention, and inquired about the consultative process on the new law on persons with disabilities. To which degree had persons with disabilities been involved in the planning of consultative fora? Did the Canadian Government at the central level intend to assume leadership in the implementation of the Convention? 

Did the prohibition of discriminationapply throughout the territory of Canada, or did it depend on which part of Canada one found himself or herself, asked an Expert? 

How many laws were deemed unconstitutional and in contradiction to the Convention? 

A question was asked about palliative care, also as an alternative to medical assistance to dying.  

Replies by the Delegation 

On the question of the definition of disability, the delegation informed that Canada’s approach to defining disability was rooted in its Constitution. The interpretation of the definition of disability fell onto the courts; it was recognized as an evolving concept. The courts had thus far taken a very broad and inclusive approach. Disability was seen as a dynamic process. There was also a range of specific definitions connected with different programmes.  

Regarding women with disabilities, the delegation said all levels of government in Canada recognized that women and girls were particularly vulnerable. A gender-based analysis had been conducted to assess the potential impact of policies and projects on all parts of Canada’s diverse population. Status of Women Canada provided appropriate training and tools. Budget 2017 featured major initiatives aiming to promote equal labour market access, early learning and childcare.  

Evidence showed that indigenous womentended to be more vulnerable than other Canadians. The Federal Government supported indigenous women with disabilities through different programmes and services; that included nursing and personal care. There was also a programme on assisted living support. The Government provided First Nations with child and family services, as well as housing programmes; funding was also provided for shelter services and for disability organizations. 

A delegate from Ontariostated that Ontario was the leader in the field of accessibility, starting with its pioneer act in 2005. The accessibilityact provided for a modern regulatory regime and allowed the Government to develop and enforce accessibility standards. The standards and requirements were being gradually phased in over 20 years. An accessibility standards advisory council, which included persons with disabilities, was in place. Accessibility standards needed to be reviewed every five years to make sure they were working as intended.  

The legislation on accessibility to be implemented in the coming years would be effective at the federal level and would not overlap with the work done at the provincial level, explained a delegate. The legislation would focus on six key areas, including transportation, procurement, service delivery and employment. In order to ensure that national and sub-regional organizations would participate in the consultative process, funds were provided for indigenous organizations. 

The Government of Canada had standards in place to ensure that transportationwas available for persons with disabilities, including air travel and appropriate training for staff. Codes in practice were in place for airplanes, ferries and terminal facilities. Air terminals were quite accessible, stressed the delegation. Canada was a large country with a small population, and it was not always possible to have large aircrafts fly to less populated areas. New legislation would be comprehensive and would address systemic issues; the authorities were in the process of consultation with the transportation industry. A Quebecdelegate stated that municipalities were responsible for securing the transport of persons with disabilities from door to door. Some 700 vehicles had been adapted for the use of persons with disabilities.  

On the issue of the awareness of the Convention, the delegation said that provincial and territorial governments were actively involved in promoting positive images of persons with disabilities. September was declared a disability employment month in British Columbia, for example; and November was an aboriginal disability awareness month. Positive images of persons with disabilities were also promoted through sports; the Government was working with the Paralympic Committee to highlight the successes of athletes with disabilities. The Convention had been made available to the general public in alternate formats.  

All levels of government in Canada were aware of and took seriously the implementation of their international human rights obligations. The Charter of Rights applied to all levels of government, and was a basic standard through which all of Canada’s legislation was measured. All provincial and federal human rights laws, while different, were consistent in how a disability was defined in a broad way. Canada only ratified international conventions after it had reviewed its laws and policies, in consultations with provincial and territorial counterparts, explained a delegate. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provided a key basis for domestic implementation; Canada, hence, did not incorporate, but rather implemented its international human rights obligations. A standing intergovernmental body was in place to review the ways that Canada was implementing international treaties to which it was a party. Article 5 of the Conventionwas implemented through the provisions on the right to equality from the Charter. There were many complaints on the basis of disability; the Government continued to be committed to progress in that regard. 

Turning to children with disabilities, the delegation said that the Canadian Disability Data Strategy was starting to produce relevant statistics. It was expected to come to maturity by 2012, when Canada would be able to report under most articles of the Convention. The Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth already covered children until 17; another survey covered children with autism. At the federal level, there was an invalidity pension scheme for parents who wanted to save for their children with disabilities. In Quebec, subsidies were provided for children with disabilities going to crèches.  

In January 2016, the Government of Canada had been ordered by the Supreme Tribunal to start applying the Jordan’s Principleto all First Nations children and in all jurisdictional disputes. The best interest of the child was given a priority in all considerations. As of March 2017, more than 33,000 requests for support by aboriginal children had been approved. The Child First Initiative provided support for a wide array of support services for children with disabilities and special needs. 

A four-week online consultation had been launched in February 2017 on Canada’s possible accession to the Optional Protocol. Tens of national disability stakeholders had taken part in developing a national accountability framework. An advisory group on disability dealt, inter alia, with accessibility to voting. Advisory councils for inclusion also existed at some provincial levels.  

Communication service providerswere required to make available to their subscribers ways of accessing their programming. In 2016, video relay services had been launched in Canada, aimed at people with hearing disabilities.  

On medical assistance in dying, the delegation explained that the legislation had been adopted in 2015, and the Government was trying to strike a balance between respecting the wish of those who wanted to die and protecting vulnerable persons. Extensive consultations had been conducted, which had included persons with disabilities. Their input had definitely had an effect on the Government’s approach, mostly with regard to providing safeguards. The Criminal Code still prohibited people from providing assistance in dying; a narrow exception was provided for medical professionals who were asked for assistance by those in intolerable suffering whose natural death was foreseeable. There were numerous procedural safeguards in place, stressed the delegation. Canada recognized that a robust regime was essential for the proper implementation of the law. Initial data should be made available shortly. Improving palliative carewas an additional aspect; the federal budget increased support in that regard. In Quebec, out of 262 requests, 127 persons had received medical assistance to die, informed a representative of Quebec.  

Questions by Experts 

The Committee had received information that most territories and provinces had provisions allowing for the involuntary detentionof persons with mental disabilities. Many adult persons with psycho-social disabilities had ended up on the streets. What measures were being taken by provincial and territorial governments to provide persons with disabilities with independent living? 

Another Expert asked about concrete steps taken to ensure that persons with disabilities had access to justice. 

A question was raised on Canada’s reservation to Article 12– what was Canada’s intention to make Article 12 a reality in the whole of Canada? What was Canada doing to ensure that everyone who needed support for decision-makingwould receive such support? 

Denial of reasonable accommodationwas brought up by another Expert, who asked for more information in that regard. How did Canada apply its role in humanitarian assistanceto promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities? Were there plans to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction?  

Were persons with disabilities under guardianship considered fit to stand trial? Were steps being taken to ensure that they would receive a fair trial, asked the Expert? 

An Expert wanted to know about the number of sign language interpretersand asked for data on how often such interpreters had been used in courts. Were blind and deaf persons provided assistance to serve as jurors?  

The delegation was asked to speak about measures taken to inform persons with disabilities in case of emergency. Any plans for cases of emergency ought to be inclusive, stressed the Expert.  

Returning to the issue of access to justice, another Expert wanted to hear if there were definite programmes to provide legal assistance to people with disabilities, whose rights had been violated.  

How did the State party provide effective protection against arbitrary detentionof persons with disabilities, asked an Expert? The delegation was also asked to provide statistics on persons with disabilities in prisons and whether they were provided with reasonable accommodation.  

A question was raised about violence against women and children with disabilitiesin different settings.  

Another Expert returned to the issue of sign languagein Canada. How were constitutional rights for deaf people assured in court proceedings?  

How would the problem of Canadian judges disregarding the Conventionbe addressed?  

An Expert inquired about putting in place a comprehensive system for legal capacity.  

Replies by the Delegation 

Regarding questions on access to justicefor persons with disabilities, the delegation informed that equal access to justice was a priority for Canada. Canada’s justice system was a shared system between federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions. All parts of Canada’s justice system were subject to constitutional guarantees of equality. No consideration was currently being given to making sign language an official language of Canada. Every party who was deaf had the right to the assistance of an interpreter in court proceedings. Provisions were in place for witnesses with physical disabilities to testify. The Supreme Court of Canada and federal courts were all fully accessible, stressed the delegation. In Ontario, interpretation services to sign language were provided in courts whenever necessary. Jury boxes and witness stands were all accessible.  

On the issue of exploitation and abuse, it was stated that Canada pursued a wide range of measures to protect vulnerable persons against abuse. Canada’s Criminal Code provided a broad range of responses; these included the prohibition of assault, sexual assault, trafficking in persons, cyber bullying, child pornography, etc. Sexual exploitation of persons with disabilities was a separate offence. A broad inquiry had been launched into the issue of missing indigenous women and girls; reports of the investigative commission were expected in 2017 and 2018. The Government of Canada had a federal victims’ strategy to support victims of violence, including persons with disabilities. Assault was very broadly defined in Canada’s legislation and it included corporal punishment against children. 

Addressing the issue of independent living, the delegation said that Canada was making an effort to ensure that people with disabilities had options and resources to make decisions on where they would live. The 2017 budget announced a national housing strategy to address the gaps in affordable housing; the national housing fund would include contributions to projects addressing accessibility limitations. The strategy included a separate investment in homelessness, which was double in size of what had been assigned in previous years. In Quebec, public services were organized around changes of the situation of persons with disabilities; the level of services depended on the level of mobility of the affected person, and they could go up to 40 hours per week. A home adaptation programme was also in place, including a 16,000 CAD subsidy, which made homes of persons with disabilities fully accessible.  

Canadian law prescribed that everyone should have the highest autonomy in making their personal decisions. Canada’s reservation to Article 12had been entered for greater certainty and after consultations with territories and provinces. Canada supported individual decision making whenever possible, while also making substitute decision making possible when necessary. There had been significant efforts in provinces to promote the provisions of the substitute decision making model.  

On the issue of arbitrary detention, the delegation stated that the Charter protected against arbitrary imprisonment and cruel treatment or punishment. Ontario’s involuntary detention regime had been struck down for being inconsistent with the Charter. There were different tests for fitness to stand trial; courts always ensured that anyone facing criminal trial understood the nature of the trial and what they were being charged with.  

The delegation informed that accommodation was provided for prisoners with disabilities, on a case-to-case basis. Mental health of prisoners had been made a key priority. Approximately 42 per cent of male and 62 per cent of female offenders received institutional mental health services. 

Canada had endorsed the Sendai Frameworkand had been actively engaged in negotiations leading to the final document. Under the Sendai Framework, Canada had undertaken commitments to lead and empower persons with disabilities to prepare them for emergency situations. A comprehensive emergency framework had been developed at the domestic level. The Government had worked with provincial partners to prepare an emergency preparedness guide for persons with disabilities. Ontario was also committed to an inclusive and comprehensive emergency responsiveness approach. Special guidelines had been developed for persons with disabilities. Emergency information was accessible to persons with disabilities at their places of employment. 

The delegation informed that all refugeesresettled in Canada were provided with the same services provided to Canadian citizens. Those with special needs or disabilities were provided special services; for refugees, a needs assessment was conducted before their arrival to Canada, and it identified kinds of services which would be needed upon their arrival to Canada.  

In 2012, the Federal Court of Appeals had decided that federal websites had to be accessible to the visually impaired. The Supreme Court had given a clear direction to all courts that international human rights treaties to which Canada was a party should direct their decisions. A practice of providing concluding observations of all treaty bodies to the central judicial body was in place.  

In 2015, the Prime Minister had accepted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report, which focused on a wide number of human rights issues and required a variety of methods to implement. He had also confirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to implement the 94 calls to action. Despite progress, much worked still remained, including on housing needs in reserves.  

At the federal level, the policy on accessible procurementhad not yet been implemented, informed the delegation. The use of procurement to support accessible work places was one of the priority areas. In Quebec, public bodies were committed to purchasing and leasing accessible products and services; more persons with disabilities now had access to employment in those entities. In 2016, Ontario had launched a policy on ableism.  

On sexual minority persons with disabilities, it was said that the Government of Canada had recently started a dialogue with the leading association representing the rights of such persons. 

Across Canada, the national accessibility codewas in place, while provinces and territories could issue their own respective codes. In Quebec, for example, 10 per cent of all hotel rooms needed to be accessible. Tax incentives were offered to owners of small buildings which were not subject to accessibility requirements. A particular challenge was accessibility of old and heritage buildings. For new builds, well anchored requirements were in place.  

Regarding the question on the availability of the Convention in sign language, the delegation informed that it was not currently available, but the delegation committed to making it available soon.  

Questions by Experts 

An Expert asked about provisions for families with children with disabilities, particularly early, community-based interventions. Children with disabilities in Canada faced discrimination vis-à-vis inclusion, which depended on the severity of disability. Children with disabilities in segregated settings often did not have access to afterschool programmes, he noted.  

Accessibilityseemed to be dealt with on a complaints-basis rather than proactively. The Expert wanted to know if braillehad a legal status in Canada. Canada was congratulated for ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty. 

Did those in institutions or under guardianship, particularly those with psycho-social disabilities, have the right to participate in political life? How was it ensured that persons with disabilities were part of the political process up to the elections?  

The Canadian Human Rights Commissionhad not yet been fully empowered, noted the Expert and asked for more details in that regard. 

Another Expert asked more about measures taken about providing necessary support to familieswith members with disabilities. 

Would it be possible for Canada to prohibit small aircraftthat were not accessible for persons in electric wheelchairs? 

It was extremely difficult to get persons with disabilities into the labour marketin increasing numbers, noted the Expert. A question was asked about how Canada intended to address that challenge. The delegation was asked about providing reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities in places of employment. Was a quota system in place? Questions were also asked about earnings of persons with disabilitiesand how the Government was planning to fill in the existing income gap. Were persons with disabilities guaranteed decent work and decent living?  

Another Expert inquired about the provision of health care to persons with mental disabilities. 

A question was also asked about the provision of help to mothers with disabilities.  

More information was sought on assistive technologies, other than sign language. 

What was the number of programmes subtitled in sign language, asked an Expert. Was there training for interpreters for sign language? A question was also asked about federal support provided to persons with disabilities so that they could practice sports. 

Another Expert asked about statistics on websiteswhich had been made available for blind persons. 

A question was also asked about Canada’s plans to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  

On the issue of the Marrakesh Treaty, which had been ratified by Canada, an Expert asked whether the intra-state, intra-library loan process had already started.  

An Expert inquired about social provisionsfor unemployed persons with disabilities. Were they given support so that they could sustain themselves?  

Were there measures to ensure that disability was considered as a part of the condition for aid in Canada’s international programmes? Was Canada taking steps to support the international disability movement? 

Another Expert asked what Canada was doing to ensure that women with disabilities were protected against forced sterilization. She also inquired about the treatment of people with dementia and the crisis of homelessnessamong people with cognitive and psycho-social disabilities.  

Replies by the Delegation 

Regarding inclusive education, a delegate from Ontario said that Ontario gave all students, including those with disabilities, a chance to reach their highest potential. School boards had funding at their disposal to support students in their communities. Students with special needs were integrated in regular classes. Staff were regularly trained with the view of best supporting their disabled students. The existing accessibility standards had led to the removal of barriers in schools. A Quebec delegate informed that in Quebec, school integration measures were in place at elementary and secondary levels, and the enrolment of students with disabilities had significantly increased in recent years. Financial aid was provided to students with disabilities so that they could continue with their studies. Students with disabilities could attend public schools until the age of 21, said the delegate. 

On the right to participation in political life, the delegation said that all citizens over 18 were given the right to vote in elections and run for public office. Increased community outreach was in place towards persons with disabilities during elections. Improved signage and voting screens were also in place. There were several disabled individuals across Canada who had succeeded in being elected to office, including the current Minister for Sports and Persons with Disabilities.  

Independent monitoring of the Conventionwas provided by a framework of several bodies, which accommodated the federal state. Raising awareness of human rights commitments and adjudicating of human rights complaints were thus undertaken.  

A delegate informed that if children with disabilities needed exceptional care, a specialized subsidy was in place for such families in Quebec so that they would not need to institutionalize their children. 

Turning to the questions on employment, the delegation acknowledged that people with disabilities continued to face significant challenges. The Federal Government provided more than 220 million CAD to provinces every year to support employment initiatives for persons with disabilities. An additional 40 million CAD was invested in a fund providing skills and job placement for persons with disabilities. At the federal level, there was an employment equity act, which regulated federal bodies and contractors. Special provisions were in place for four designated groups: persons with disabilities, women, Aboriginal people and visible minorities. The workforce availability of persons with disabilities was still higher than their presence in federal structures. In Quebec, the employment of persons with disabilities had significantly increased in recent years.  

Each province and territory had a publicly funded health system, which provided universal access to citizens. The Government of Alberta, for example, provided assistance to persons with mental disabilities with identifying and receiving proper health care. The Mental Health Commission of Canada had developed a mental health and evaluation instrument in place, as well as a programme to deal with the stigma associated with mental illness. A new centre in excellence was in place for post-traumatic stress disorder. Health Canada had collaborated with the Assembly of First Nations on a specific mental health programme.  

No cases of involuntary sterilizationhad been reported since 2010, and they would constitute a criminal offence, stressed a delegate. 

Full participation of persons with disabilities in sportswas actively supported.  

On income security, the delegation said that currently a Canadian poverty reduction strategy was being developed. In 2016, the Government had released a prescriptive discussion paper which noted that some groups in Canada were more vulnerable to living in poverty than others.  

Regarding international cooperation, between 2001 and 2010, more than 350 million CAD had been invested in international projects in which disability had been the principal or significant focus. From 2010 to 2015, over 74 million CAD had been invested in such projects. Canada supported the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda principles, including participation, equality and inclusion. A review had been conducted which helped inform Canada’s leadership on the best ways to support developing countries while taking into consideration marginalized groups and groups of persons with disabilities.  

Concluding Remarks 

KATHRYN McDADE, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development of Canada, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present Canada’s successes in implementing the Convention. She acknowledged the contribution of civil society organizations, which had helped on that path over the past seven years. Canada’s approach to federalism, while complex, was a reflection of Canada’s history and diversity, and it worked in practice. Across the 14 territories and provinces, a shared commitment existed to the Convention. Canada’s governments were accountable not to each other but to their citizens. Ms. McDade quoted Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, who had said that an inclusive society was the one in which everyone had an equal chance from the beginning. It was about having services and structures accessible to all.  

THERESIA DEGENER, Committee Chairperson and Country Rapporteur for Canada, said that the benchmark for Canada was high because it was a rich and progressive country. The discussion had shown that there were a number of obstacles that needed to be dealt with in implementing the Convention. The federal structure of Canada could not be used as an excuse. In spite of all constructive criticism by the Committee, it had to be said that Canada remained a global leader in recognizing and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.  

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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