On June 22nd, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, introduced legislation that would create a new Canada Disability Benefit Act. Bill C-35’s goal is to lift hundreds of thousands of persons with a disability out of poverty by supporting the financial security of those of working-age.
This new benefit will not replace, but instead supplement, existing federal and provincial supports, such as the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits. DDA recognizes the importance of such a step and applauds the minister’s plan to create a more accessible and more affordable country for Canada’s disability community.
“I think this is a breakthrough for people with disabilities,” says Developmental Disabilities Association Executive Director Alanna Hendren. “The biggest challenge to inclusion is poverty. People cannot participate in the community or reach their full potential if they live in poverty in a city like Vancouver, so I’m thrilled that the federal government is accepting some responsibility for the adults who we support and their lack of income supports. Combined with new accessibility legislation, this will go a long way to address concerns that people with disabilities have been telling us about for years. I’m also happy they are respecting the provisions of the UN Charter on the Rights of People with Disabilities.”
In accordance with the Accessible Canada Act and in the spirit of “Not Without Us”, the government aims to work with the disability community in its design leading up to the development stage of Bill C-35’s regulations. The act states that “persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures”. With the launch of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), a public survey about building a barrier-free Canada, engagement has already started.
Bill C-35 will be a cornerstone in the follow-through of the DIAP, which hopes to also include an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities as well as a better process for determining the eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits. A focus on employment supports is of particular interest to staff and employees of DDA’s social enterprise businesses Jobs West and Starworks.
As of now, the bill has only completed the Introduction and First Reading in Parliament.