For Immediate Release
October 20, 2021
High-profile politicians, community leaders, academics, artists, athletes send joint message to Prime Minister Trudeau to fast track the Canada Disability Benefit
(Toronto) – Close to 200 high-profile members of the public have issued an open letter to the Prime Minister and the federal government calling for:
• Fast-tracking the design and implementation of the Canada Disability Benefit
• Active and genuine involvement of disabled people every step of the way, from start to finish.
“Speeding up the implementation of the promised Canada Disability Benefit will centre the needs of people with disabilities in the country’s pandemic recovery plans and address a long-standing gap in our social safety net,” says Rabia Khedr, National Director, Disability Without Poverty.
“This will also honour our commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” she adds.
The Canada Disability Benefit was first introduced by the federal government in the Speech from the Throne a year ago and is the direct result of years of advocacy from the disability community. Then, legislation tabled before Parliament recessed last summer promised a first: a federally funded income support for persons with disabilities so that they are no longer consigned to a life lived in poverty.
“It’s now time to make that promise a reality,” says Khedr.
“Disability belongs to an individual but impacts the whole family,” says disability advocate with Accessibility for All, Meenu Sikand. “Any new Canada Disability Benefit must prioritize engaging racialized communities throughout the process of creation and roll out, or too many Canadian families will continue to be excluded,” Sikand adds.
Signatories to the open letter include disability activists, Order of Canada recipients, prominent philanthropists, academics, economists, journalists, award-winning writers and film directors, Paralympic athletes, former Ministers and diplomats and sitting Senators.
A sample of signatories include Former Health Minister, Allan Rock; former Senator and member of the Privy Council, Art Eggleton; former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley; author and human rights activist, Tara Ross; economists, Lindsay Tedds and Evelyn Forget; professional dancer, Luca Patuelli; CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, Andrew
Chunilall; singer-song writer, Christa Couture; disability advocates, Ali Mohammed; Senator Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia — and many more.
The open letter was coordinated by non-profits Disability Without Poverty, March of Dimes Canada, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and Race & Disability Canada.
“People who live in poverty cannot wait any longer. We are committed to a Canada where no disabled person lives in poverty,” Michelle Hewitt, Disability Without Poverty Co-Chair says.
Canadians across the political spectrum agree. In a recent Angus Reid survey, 89 per cent of Canadians say it’s time for fast action to end poverty for people with disabilities. The majority support the benefit because it’s “the right thing to do” (57 per cent) and because the current levels of support for disabled people are inadequate (59 per cent).
Eighty-eight per cent agreed with the statement: “It’s time the country came together to end disability poverty.”
The recent federal election also saw all of the major political parties include the needs of persons with disabilities in their platforms.
“There is no need for years of further study causing delay – we know the problem, we know how to solve it, and we have cross-partisan Canadian support. It’s time to make the Canada Disability Benefit a reality. It’s time to end disability poverty now,” says Khedr.