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British Columbia

7 October, 2022

An Introduction to Disability Without Poverty BC


The Disability Without Poverty BC team gratefully and respectfully acknowledges that our provincial work spans 198 First Nations and Treaties of the Nisg̱a’a, Tsawwassen, Maa-nulth (Huu-ay-aht, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h, Toquaht, Uchucklesaht, Yuułuʔiłʔath First Nations), and Tla’amin First Nations in what is currently known as British Columbia. Our team recognizes that they work from the traditional territories of the K’ómoks First Nation and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations respectively.

We acknowledge traditional Indigenous territory to show respect to the Peoples on whose territory we are guests.  We do it to pay tribute to the people who have been caretakers of these lands since time immemorial, including the present day.  

Introduction to Disability Without Poverty

Disability Without Poverty was formed in 2020 in response to a Throne Speech from Prime Minister Trudeau in which he declared the need for a Canada Disability Benefit to be brought in by the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough. This commitment was reaffirmed in Minister Qualtrough’s mandate letter and the May 2021 federal budget. 

There wasn’t much information behind the promise of this benefit, other than the goal of having it modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, which is stacked on top of Old Age Security payments. Based on that information, we’d be looking at a stacking benefit on top of existing benefits disabled Canadians currently receive (which below the poverty line).

Leaders in the disability community knew this was a time for action, and that:

  1. Ending disability poverty is an act of love and justice. Every Canadian regardless of disability should be able to afford the basic essentials of life and to enthusiastically participate in society without financial, physical or social barriers.
  2. Canada has the resources to end disability poverty, as demonstrated by other targeted benefits for children and seniors.
  3. Breakthroughs happen during periods of societal upheaval. COVID-19 exposed the discrimination and inequities people with disabilities experience, particularly regarding access to financial resources.
  4. 22% of Canadians and 24% of British Columbians are disabled and are disproportionately living in poverty. Nationally, disabled people represent 41% of those living below the poverty line. But that’s a lot of people! We have more power than we think, especially when we team up with our allies, to mobilize and create change.

Disability Without Poverty is a national disability-led, grassroots, independently funded, non-partisan movement working to get public support for ending disability poverty and influence the government’s design, creation and implementation of a Canada Disability Benefit. 

What about Disability Without Poverty in BC?

Now that the Canada Disability Benefit has become law (it reached Royal Assent June 22, 2023), we are moving province by province and territory by territory to ensure smooth integration of this benefit with existing supports. Conversations and work related to getting Disability Without Poverty going in BC had been happening for some time, and there are many people in BC who have been involved in planning and organizing. As a result, we were able to receive funding from the Vancouver Foundation and provincial disability groups for a BC team.

Our focus is on getting a BC perspective and advocating for provincial disability poverty issues. We bring that context to the national Disability Without Poverty group to inform our advocacy.

Examples of provincial context

  • Disability was not mentioned at all in the 2022 provincial budget. 
  • In 1996, BC became the first province in Canada to close all its large institutions for people with intellectual disabilities
  • The Highway of Tears, an area in Northwest BC where many mostly Indigenous young women have been taken or murdered 
  • Deep poverty and disability concentrated in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
  • Vancouver hosted the Olympics in 2010 causing major displacement and gentrification as well as surveillance in the city, and caused ripple effects throughout the province

These examples highlight the intersections of disability, colonization, gender-based violence, and poverty.

Poverty Line Distribution

In BC, income or disability assistance is operated as a “last resort” benefit by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The poverty line differs according to population size and consideration for rural and remote locations need to be considered, too.

In the past, people would be encouraged to move to more rural and remote areas of the province for a lower cost of living, but even when you move out of the city the poverty line doesn’t lower enough to meet the provincial disability assistance amount. For those living outside urban areas, many goods and services are not available. The costs of transportation to get access is often much higher, which does not offset the prices that are found in larger cities.

In Canada, the poverty line is determined by the Market Basket Measure (MBM). The MBM is based on the cost of a specific basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living. It includes the costs of food, clothing, shelter, transportation and other items for a reference family of 2 adults and 2 children. It is important to note that MBM does not account for higher costs associated with disability or fluctuations in inflation. 

What do you think the federal government needs to know about the BC experience of disability and poverty, and how can they factor that in the regulations process of the Canada Disability Benefit?

We look forward to meeting you and working together to end disability poverty here in BC and across the country!

Amanda, Michael, and Kate
Community Organizers and Outreach for Disability Without Poverty BC

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