Photograph of Steven Estey

Steven Estey

Steven Estey has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in Canada and around the world.

“Something that provides an adequate standard of living is potentially revolutionary for an awful lot of low-income Canadians with disabilities,” he says.

Steven was an advisor to the Canadian government during the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) from 2003 to 2006. He was a human rights director with Disabled Peoples’ International, a Canadian-based organization with chapters worldwide. Estey is also a former executive director of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. He has also worked in government relations with the Rick Hansen Foundation and with students with disabilities at the University of British Columbia.

Steven is excited for how a national disability benefit can help Canada meet its commitments to social, economic and cultural rights outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Steven knows how important it is for all levels of government to work together. “One of the biggest challenges is going to be the relationship between the federal government and the provinces,” he says. It’ll be important to make sure that federal benefit money does not get clawed by provinces or territories, he says.

“That kind of negotiation from different levels of government is something I’ve witnessed from the UN system for a number of years,” he says. “When you live in a federation. That kind of inter-governmental negotiations can be extremely complex.” He is looking forward to creating an effective strategy for communicating with the government.

Born in Newfoundland and Labrador, Steven was raised in Nova Scotia where he earned a B.A. in philosophy from the St. Francis Xavier University and a M.A. in international development studies from St. Mary’s University. He lived in Kingston, Jamaica, as part of his graduate studies, where he worked with street vendors who have disabilities. Steven has lived in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia, which he says gives him a “cultural sensitivity” to different regions in Canada.

Steven and his wife, disability advocate Anne MacRae, live in Halifax with their son, Isai. In 2020, he spent a full year in Nova Scotia – something he says he has not done in 30 years. “I’m quite happy to say I quite like being here,” he says.