International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Canada 1 / Quebec 0

On December 1st, the Government of Canada announced that it was starting the process of ratifying the  Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It’s about time! Ninety-two countries have already ratified the Protocol.

Canada ratified the CRPD in 2010, but it hasn’t yet ratified the Optional Protocol. Essentially, this Protocol would allow Canadian organizations and citizens to file a complaint with the UN if their rights aren’t respected. Canada, the provinces and the territories will therefore have a new incentive to create an accessible and inclusive society!

In a video highlighting the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, reminds us that “people with disabilities still face barriers to fully participating in society both in Canada and around the world”. The Minister, herself a disabled person, invites us to join her in “celebrating Canadians with disabilities and embrace a cultural change about accessibility and inclusion in Canadian society”.

Meanwhile in Quebec, Lucie Charlebois, Minister Responsible for Rehabilitation, Protection of Youth, Public Health and Healthy Living, explained that the International Day serves to “educate the public about the reality of people with disabilities and to make them aware of the importance of helping people with disabilities to participate more in their community”. She argued that the Quebec government is working on the inclusion of people with disabilities through “a number of promising initiatives, notably through the first Quebec Forum on Autism Spectrum Disorder, which took place last February, the creation of support for families of children with severe disabilities requiring exceptional care, and a recent investment in long-term home care”. The minister concluded by saying “we are therefore very proud of the collective efforts in this area to include more people with disabilities in society”.

Once again, the Quebec government has failed to recognize the extent of the barriers and discrimination facing by people with disabilities in Quebec. Although the initiatives mentioned by the Minister are relevant, they only affect a portion of the disability community. The new support for “families of children with significant disabilities requiring exceptional care” only applies to a limited number of families. The majority of families with disabled children are not eligible for this support. In addition, the Minister highlighted a “recent investment in long-term home care”. Rather than talking about “home care”, we should be talking about “home support”. There’s a difference! And let’s not forget that these support services have been cut dramatically in recent years. The reinvestment mentioned by the Minister likely won’t have much of an impact on the lives of people with disabilities.

In short, on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Quebec government has chosen to boast about a few limited initiatives, rather than recognizing the magnitude of the challenges facing Quebecers with disabilities. The federal government, on the other hand, acknowledges that barriers need to be addressed through legally binding measures. Why is the Quebec government reluctant to do the same? Quebec Accessible is more convinced than ever that Quebec must make substantive changes to fight disability discrimination. One of these changes is to adopt a new accessibility law for people with disabilities. Quebec’s current disability law isn’t effective since it lacks enforcement mechanisms and leaves room for open interpretations of our rights.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Quebec Accessible wishes that the winds of change that are blowing in Ottawa soon reach Quebec!

Happy International Day to all!

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