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Claude Gagné
View Claude Gagné Profile
Claude Gagné
2015-06-04 11:22
Last November, Mr. Chair, you met Abigail Capannelli, a young lady from your riding who was very pleased to show you her new hand. She had a new prosthetic hand. Abigail sent me this clip to express her appreciation. This is a hand that was done with 3-D printers by volunteers here in Ottawa. You should look at the images. You'll see Abigail wearing her prosthetic hand.
[Video presentation]
Claude Gagné
View Claude Gagné Profile
Claude Gagné
2015-06-04 11:24
Thank you, Abigail.
As you can see, Abigail uses her new hand to prepare meals, work in the garden, and play sports.
This happened as a result of the e-NABLE network. Last summer a news report about a boy in Hawaii who was equipped with a similar hand prompted Abigail's mother to send pictures of Abigail's arms and a request to the e-NABLE network.
The e-NABLE network is an ecosystem of researchers in prosthetics and 3-D printing, passionate volunteers, makers, and end-users and their care providers. In a matter of days, the e-NABLE matchmaker contacted a volunteer, also based in Ontario. It happened to be me.
I had signed up with the e-NABLE network because I thought I would have easy access to a 3-D printer here in Ottawa. That was in August 2014. I knew that there were two 3-D printers at the Ottawa Public Library in Nepean. Unfortunately, they didn't use the right kind of filament. But then the engineering department of the University of Ottawa opened a makerspace and they made it open to the public on Sundays, so I was able to access their printers. Throughout September 2014 there was a lot of trial and error with materials, sizing, printing quality, and the assembly of the prosthetic.
I was able to send by courier a prosthetic to Abigail, who was in Waterdown, Ontario. I had never met Abigail. She received the prosthetic and she was quite pleased with it. One month later, she came to Ottawa. She met with you, Mr. Chair. She was here for the official launch of the makerspace at the University of Ottawa.
So 3-D printed prosthetics can provide desired functionality at a fraction of the cost of similar prosthetics supplied by industry. It cost less than $100 to produce this. In industry, it would be over $20,000. It's not exactly the same, but it provides the functionality. Ordinary people like me with no particular training can access 3-D printers and make functional assistive devices, whether in Ottawa, in Timbuktu, or in a refugee camp.
Open source designs, creative commons licensing, and enhanced public access to the results of publicly funded research are key for sustaining local resilience, for more innovation, and also for more equitable wealth distribution in the digital age.
I think there's a role for governments to help accelerate the spread and growth of makerspaces, fab labs, and tool libraries that are managed by and for the community. This is an astute way of promoting local resilience, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Bettina.
Frances Woolley
View Frances Woolley Profile
Frances Woolley
2015-05-28 8:48
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank the chair and the members of the committee for inviting me today and giving me the opportunity to speak about the budget.
The 2015 federal budget is intended to be a balanced budget, a low-tax plan for jobs, growth, and security. U.S. experience shows that low taxes are no guarantee of jobs and growth. In fact, a recent study by the IMF found equality matters more for growth than low taxes. I quote, “lower net inequality is robustly correlated with faster and more durable growth.”
There's nothing inherently good for the economy about low taxes. What's important is to have a well-designed tax system which raises revenue equitably and efficiently, providing both income security and the foundation for economic growth.
The question I wish to address here is this: Which of the tax measures announced in the budget help build a good Canadian tax system, and which ones fail to promote either economic efficiency or equity or both?
Two of the budget measures are particularly praiseworthy. The first are the measures taken to prevent the use of synthetic equity arrangements. The OECD, in its “Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” wrote:
Fundamental changes are needed to effectively prevent...cases of no or low taxation associated with practices that artificially segregate taxable income from the activities that generate it.
Base erosion and profit shifting seriously threaten the ability of OECD countries to tax economic activity. I'm very happy to see the budget taking steps to forestall the erosion of Canada's tax base.
The second welcome change is the reduction to required RRIF withdrawals. Life expectancies have increased and rates of return on investments have fallen. A change was needed. It's about time.
Unfortunately, the budget also contains tax measures that have more limited potential to create jobs and growth. The first is the reduction in the small business tax rate. Advocates of lower taxes on small business would have us imagine a future Bill Gates building the basis of a world-class enterprise out of his garage. Yet as University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz and his co-author Duanjie Chen have pointed out, reductions in the small business tax rate could actually discourage a future Bill Gates from growing his business by creating, as they put it, “a 'threshold effect' that holds back small business from growing beyond the official definition of 'smallness'”.
Moreover, low small business tax rates create possibilities for tax avoidance—the well-paid, self-employed professional who uses a corporate structure to reduce personal tax liabilities rather than grow an enterprise.
The reductions to the small business tax rate are projected to cost $2.7 billion over the next four years. There are far better uses for $2.7 billion, for example, reforming the corporate tax base, or raising the GST threshold so that more small businesses would be exempt from the GST under the small suppliers rule, or working with the provinces to reform and reduce provincial business taxes.
The other tax measure introduced in this budget that causes me grave concern is the doubling of the TFSA contribution limits. TFSAs were a welcome addition to Canada's saving systems. They provide tax-sheltered saving opportunities for many who are not well served by RRSPs, such as students or low-income people. However, there is no case for an increase in the TFSA contribution limit to $10,000 per year. The long-term revenue cost is too great; there is too much potential for abuse of TFSAs.
Many economists advocate consumption taxation on the grounds that taxing investment income discourages savings and has serious efficiency costs. If this government wishes to move towards consumption taxation, and there are good reasons for doing so, we'd be better served increasing the RRSP contribution limits or relying more on the GST to raise revenue and less on income taxes. At the very least, there should be a lifetime limit on TFSA contributions.
The home accessibility tax credit is one final tax measure worth commenting on. I'm not convinced that this is the best way of helping the disabled or helping seniors remain in their homes. First, it is not refundable, so it will not provide help to those who need it most. Second, I've concerns about the implementation of this credit. What kind of home renovations count? Who decides whether or not any given bathroom or kitchen renovation improves accessibility?
Furthermore, linking the home accessibility tax credit to eligibility for the disability tax credit is problematic. My own research suggests that the disability tax credit is not well targeted. Some people with disabilities fail to receive the credit. At the same time there is some evidence that it may be abused.
It would be more sensible to help seniors and the disabled through direct program expenditures on housing, on community living programs, and on home supports. Canada doesn't need a low-tax plan for jobs, growth, and security; it needs a good tax plan for jobs, growth, and security.
This budget introduced important measures that go part of the way towards building a better tax system, but there is more to be done.
Thank you.
Jason Heath
View Jason Heath Profile
Jason Heath
2015-05-28 10:19
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Jason Heath. I am a certified financial planner and the managing director of Objective Financial Partners in Markham, Ontario. I am a fee-only financial planner, meaning that I provide financial advice to clients, but unlike the typical financial planner, I do not sell investments or insurance. I am also a personal finance columnist for the Financial Post, which is the business section of the National Post, as well as MoneySense, which is Canada’s personal finance magazine.
Most importantly though, I am daddy, or dada, or much to my dismay these days, dad—which makes me feel very old—to five-year-old Joel, six-year-old Jayden, and six-year-old Mila.
The Criminal Code of Canada dictates that leaving a child under the age of 10 alone is considered abandonment, suggesting that older children are able to take care of themselves. The Canadian Red Cross babysitting course is for children age 11 and up. It therefore seems odd that a parent would be allowed up to a $5,000 annual tax deduction and a $2,500 annual tax refund for child care for a 16-year-old. A portion of private school fees for a child in grade 11 may qualify for this deduction, for example. The proposed limits for the child care expense deduction fall well short of the actual cost of child care in many Canadian cities, particularly for younger children. It would not be unreasonable to pay over $20,000 annually for infant child care in Toronto, for example.
Accordingly, I would be inclined to consider a modification to the child care expense deduction to allow up to $12,000 for children under the age of six and $6,000 for children age six to twelve. A child care expense deduction for teenage children is unnecessary in my opinion, except in the case of a disabled child. On that note, I think that $11,000 is not nearly enough of an eligible deduction for a child that qualifies for the disability tax credit. I suggest a $24,000 deduction limit for disabled children as it would not be uncommon for a family to spend this much, or more, on a live-in nanny, for example. It is also twice my suggested limit for the child care expense deduction for children under the age of six.
The cancellation of the Canada child tax benefit is a double-edged sword. It seems better to limit the administration of tax benefits for children to one single benefit instead of paying two benefits, with the resulting administrative government costs to manage both programs. On the other hand, it seems unfortunate, in my opinion, to cancel a means-tested benefit like the Canada child tax benefit in favour of a non-means-tested benefit like the universal child care benefit.
The result of the changes to these benefits may be a reallocation of tax dollars out of the hands of people who truly need and count on the money and into the hands of those who may not. The cancellation of the Canada child tax benefit also has a negative impact on single parents that is not offset in this bill by the family tax cut credit. I would be inclined to instead consider an increase in the Canada child tax benefit to provide more benefits for low-income and middle-class Canadians while reducing or negating benefits for those whose income exceeds a certain threshold. This could be done by instead cancelling the universal child care benefit and using the resulting savings to enhance proportionately the Canada child tax benefits for those whose income is below a certain threshold.
The Income Tax Act distinguishes between families that have more than one child in the claiming of tax credits like the amount for children, the children’s arts amount, the children’s fitness amount, and deductions like the aforementioned child care expense deduction. It seems odd that the family tax cut credit would not do the same. I would prefer to see it be based on the number of children under the age of 18 and suggest a limit of $25,000 of split income per eligible child.
In addition, I would prefer to see this credit even further benefit a young family contemplating having a stay-at-home parent for some period of time. This could allow a two-income family to temporarily become a one-income family and have a parent as a caregiver for a young child instead of both parents having to go to work and hiring a third party. This could be done by allowing the splitting of income for parents with children under the age of six without subjecting them to the $2,000 tax credit limit. I propose, instead, a $10,000 tax credit limit.
Finally, single parents do not benefit from the family tax cut credit. I would like to see single parents be able to claim the family tax cut credit by notionally splitting income with their youngest child under the age of 18.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
View Phil McColeman Profile
2015-05-26 16:29
Thank you.
Members, I'm going to finish off, if you don't mind, with a couple of questions, because my orientation is about this additionality that's talked about here.
I'm very familiar in my community with individuals who have intellectual disabilities—I'm talking about Ontario—and they fall off the map at about age 18, so as soon as their high school is done. They've had educational assistance all the way through, and they may still be working on cognitive improvement in terms of their language skills, reading skills, computer skills, whatever it might be, but all of a sudden, they fall off the map.
When I speak to my provincial member of Parliament, who is the Speaker of the Ontario legislature, he openly admits that there's a lack of government-funded programming to pick these people up.
What typically happens is that they spend their time at home with their parents. They become adults. First they're young adults, and then they're older adults. You'll often see them in my community going down the aisles in a grocery store, a 70-year-old or 80-year-old parent with a 50-year-old or 60-year-old child.
When I think about the solutions that some tools could provide, they would be around the area of finance, because the provincial authorities are not prepared to take on the initiatives for the need that exists. There are groups of parents who get together to try to create a learning environment for these individuals on a day program basis. Beyond that, realizing they're not going to outlive their children, they need residential support to transition those individuals as adults into something that is affordable, so they can live out their lives in that context.
I'm describing this to all of you, and I'm wondering if I might seek a couple of comments back from each of you on the fact that this can perhaps provide the additional tools for organizations, parents in those situations, to come together, create new innovative models with which to create not only the learning environment, but also potentially a living environment, because government funding is limited to the services currently being provided, and this is a gap that's easily recognizable.
I like to think of social finance as offering at least something to consider for those groups that aren't currently receiving government funding for those services.
Could I have a brief comment from those who wish to weigh in on this?
James Mulvale
View James Mulvale Profile
James Mulvale
2015-05-26 16:32
I'll just comment briefly. I spent many years working in the associations for community living in Ontario. It's a great story, I think, of how governments, including the government of Bill Davis in the 1970s, worked with parents, allied professionals, and people in the not-for-profit sector to build a very effective system of community-based supports and services. Pieces of it were, if you will, a bit market driven. They started up employment programs to employ people with intellectual disabilities. They partnered in some cases with the private sector to build housing, but it was operated on a not-for-profit basis.
I think the lesson to be drawn from that example is the absolutely fundamental importance of enlightened political leaders working in conjunction with concerned citizens to look at the big picture and move the whole field forward. I see social enterprise as kind of a mechanism filling in gaps, but in the context of that well-supported, publicly financed support system for people.
I'll leave it there.
Sally Guy
View Sally Guy Profile
Sally Guy
2015-05-26 16:33
I would say that would be a perfect example where social enterprise, a form of social finance or social investment, would be perfect, but we would limit that to turning a profit. We would want to stop at the point where our private investors make a profit.
View Colin Mayes Profile
CPC (BC)
I'll move away from charities. I'll give you an example.
We had a witness here when we first started this study who mentioned that there was a family foundation in Quebec that gives capital out to new businesses that want to start and they discount the interest, their ROI, if there's a percentage of the people who they hire with disabilities. I think that is a great initiative for a small business, or even a large business, that they are going to benefit by having a social conscience and hiring people with disabilities.
Is there any way we could even incorporate that in our finance or the things that we do? That's where I'm going, to that type of thing, because as I say, I just think that in Canada we don't do enough to encourage trying to help people with disabilities and work them into the workforce. I think there could be policy forwarded by the government that would assist businesses and encourage them. I had that experience myself. We had a program. We had a person with Down's syndrome work for us stocking shelves in our grocery store. It made a big difference in how our customers and our employees, as they saw that person working in our store, looked at me as the owner. The program was only for a certain length of time and then it was gone. The manager discontinued it, and everybody was disappointed, including myself. The thing is if there was some sort of initiative so that you go into that program and then you can carry on, I think it would be great and it would be an opportunity for what I call social finance. It's a government acting in a way of social finance to help a business incorporate that.
Maybe you could comment on any of those. Is there any possibility maybe in finance that you could discuss the opportunity that would present?
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2015-05-14 16:12
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank all the witnesses for coming out today.
I'm going to follow through on the trend Mr. Mayes was starting. I was very interested in that, so it's going to be very similar.
Just to step beyond, he was talking about a grocery store, but in just about every community across Canada, we have recycling depots. Many of these recycling depots are operated by charitable groups. Some are offered by private companies, etc. They're an ideal place for handicapped people or people with learning disabilities to work because they can do one function.
I'd like you to answer what Mr. Mayes started. I think it's very important. We see it in almost every community in Canada, and for many, it's a part of social finance. It gives them a place to work.
Who wants to start?
Blair, you haven't answered—
Cathy Hawara
View Cathy Hawara Profile
Cathy Hawara
2015-05-14 16:13
I can begin answering the question.
There are actually a number of things that charities can do currently within the existing framework by working with partners that are not registered charities that might be non-profit organizations, or that might be businesses. That's what I referred to in my opening remarks in relation to program-related investments.
This is where charities might make an investment, a non-conventional investment, an investment that is really made for the purpose of furthering a charitable purpose, for furthering their own charitable purpose. Their purpose might be to relieve a condition associated with a disability or to relieve unemployment of a particular class of beneficiary, such as persons with disabilities. They can make an investment, let's say, in a corporation through the purchase of shares, for example, and then a proportional number of employees would be individuals who meet the eligibility criteria of the charity, so potentially in this case, persons with disabilities.
There are also ways in which a charity itself through charitable programming can do what you've described. In our policies, we indicate that charities can run what we call social businesses for persons with disabilities, where the majority of the workforce is made up of persons with disabilities. The work is structured and operated in a way that addresses the disability and accommodates the workers so that they can be permanently employed and productive members of society.
All of this is guidance that we've provided to charities, in particular, through our community economic development policy, and they are things we can do now. It's not so much an incentive on the business side. From our perspective, we are enabling charities to carry out these kinds of activities in furtherance of their own charitable purposes. It's a way for them to bring in other partners from outside the charitable sector to achieve the social outcomes you've identified.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2015-05-14 16:15
What about stepping outside the box of charities? What about the private individual—and that may be a firm—who has a compassionate side and sees a function? It may cost his company money to have that person there, but he feels it's worthwhile to give that person something to do in life, to give him a purpose in life. Is there room for him to move in that respect, which we can look at? It is a form of social finance, in a sense.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2015-05-07 15:41
Thank you, Minister Ambrose, and your officials, for being with us today. It's a pleasure to see you.
My first question concerns Parliament's motion, unanimously passed in December, to provide full support for the victims of thalidomide. As you may know, since that motion was passed, the 97 who were identified as survivors have now, sadly, been limited to 94. There have been three deaths. The government—I think you, Minister—on March 6, promised $125,000 as a lump sum this year, and then $168 million for their lifetime care.
I wonder if you could explain to the committee how the department came up with that particular number of $168 million.
View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
First of all, let me say it's important that we remember this tragic event that happened in the 1960s, reflect upon the good work of this committee around Vanessa's Law, and remember why it's so important that we have strong drug safety laws in this country.
Our government has very deep sympathy for what happened. While this happened in the sixties, I offered our government's and all Canadians' public regret and apologies to those who were affected by thalidomide. We know we can never undo the pain and suffering that people have experienced.
I had an opportunity to meet a few times with Mercedes Benegbi, who is the head of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada. As you know, we did announce $180 million to be distributed among the survivors. I'm pleased to say that we've been able to get out the $125,000 tax-free lump sum immediately to survivors. The reason we worked very quickly is that it will take us some time to get the yearly pension set up with the other $168 million we have. Also, we have an extraordinary medical assistance fund. We're in the middle of working out the details of that.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2015-05-07 15:43
Are you able to identify when that might be done? Will it be done this year?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2015-05-07 15:43
You indicated in the budget very specific numbers for radiation protection, $20.2 million, and $40 million for pesticides, but we couldn't see any specific reference to that $168 million in the estimates.
View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
The money is there and it's budgeted. It's in the fiscal framework. Yes, we do expect to work out the details of the annual payments in the near future. We're working very hard on it.
View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
We knew it would take some time to create. It doesn't happen overnight to create all the parameters. We also have the need to identify an appropriate third party that will help us with the distribution of the funds.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2015-05-07 15:44
You appreciate how difficult it is for the survivors to plan their lives and pay for renovations to their houses and for transportation and the like, in order to address this crisis going forward. You're not able to tell us when. Will they know before the election?
View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
Absolutely. We hope we'll be able to tell them in the very near future. We're working expeditiously, but it's why we wanted to get out the $125,000 sum immediately, so they had something they could rely on.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today.
I'm going to start with Evan.
Looking at your PowerPoint deck and the Skeena Bakery, which is out in Hazelton, B.C., and I've been there, can you explain how they applied for funding and how that funding is expended? I believe there are people working there who have some significant disabilities.
Can you explain how the money was transferred and how that business was established?
Evan Saugstad
View Evan Saugstad Profile
Evan Saugstad
2015-03-31 16:02
Yes.
I will do that to the best of my ability, and if it doesn't quite cut it, we can probably give you a written summary afterwards.
When the feds announced the community adjustment fund and said we have $30 million—$20 million for loans and $10 million for grants—it was advertised, and we had 500 applicants.
The trust has an assessment model. We can feed all of the particulars of every application in and rate them, and then the top-rated ones were put to the board for approval. I think in two meetings we approved all of the top ones, and a couple of extras in case some were declined.
In the case of the Skeena Bakery, a not-for-profit did apply, with the provision that they needed dollars to buy equipment and rent a building, but it was to train handicapped and disabled people on how to run a bakery. In the end when that was approved—I believe the federal government had to do a final sign-off—based on our inputs, that money was transferred directly as a grant to the bakery.
Jonathan Rudin
View Jonathan Rudin Profile
Jonathan Rudin
2015-03-11 16:04
That's fine. Please tell me if I go over. I have one of the fancy watches that's not very specific, but it's very stylish.
Thank you very much for the invitation. My name is Jonathan Rudin. I'm the program director at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. At Aboriginal Legal Services we work with many clients who are affected with FASD. We also have a project funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario. It's a research project that provides diagnoses for aboriginal inmates who are on remand and awaiting sentence. That's a research project to see what the impact of an FASD diagnosis is on sentencing. When judges know something about the individual does that change the sentence?
The other reason I think I'm here is that I'm also the chair of the FASD Justice Committee. The FASD Justice Committee is responsible for a website: FASDJustice.ca. It is the major site in Canada for information about FASD and justice. It is also used by people around the world. We've had 1,710,650 visitors to the site since we began about 10 years ago. The site is designed for justice professionals. It contains a list of reported cases on FASD across the country, along with specific information that's useful for judges, and crown and defence counsels, in terms of working with people who are affected with FASD.
To begin my presentation let me emphasize that, although I work with Aboriginal Legal Services, FASD is not an aboriginal issue. We do not know—and I know Ms. Popova will be speaking about this—the prevalence rates of FASD in the general population in Canada. It's impossible to assume or to guess that those rates are higher in the aboriginal population. We have no way of knowing that. What we do know is that aboriginal people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. We also know that people with FASD are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. It stands to reason that among those people who are found to have FASD in the criminal justice system a large percentage will be aboriginal. Contributing to that is the fact that, when you look at our case law on our website, awareness of FASD is greater in western Canada than it is in eastern Canada. In terms of a sort of bias, because aboriginal people make up a significant proportion of those before the courts in the west, you see a preponderance of people with FASD who are aboriginal in reported cases. I caution against making any other assumptions. It's also fair to say that the aboriginal community has been at the forefront of working toward prevention and coming up with strategies to work with people with FASD.
Our understanding—and that means our understanding as legal professionals and also in the medical field—about FASD has changed over time. The original notion of people with FASD as those people who had particular physical characteristics we now know is not the bulk of people who are affected with FASD. The majority of people with FASD have no discernible physical characteristics that would single them out as opposed to anyone else. The difficulty and the challenge for the justice system is that in court the FASD-affected individual looks like anybody else. In our daily lives, and certainly in the courts, we work on a couple of presumptions.
One is that, unless we are told differently, the people who come before us are fully capable and competent, and have the same level of cognitive development that we do. We look at someone and we say, “You look like you're 22, you sound like you're 22 because you can speak, you seem articulate, and I'm going to assume you're 22.” The criminal justice system works so quickly that we often don't have any stop signs. There's nothing to say to people, “Wait, take a look at this person.” If you walk into court with a cane and dark glasses, we know you're blind and we take that into account. FASD is largely an invisible disability and that is why it's so important that we find ways of addressing it in criminal justice. Failing to do so means that we miss these individuals and we don't sentence them properly.
There is even now, when you look at the case law, a lot of misinformation about FASD. It is not unusual to hear judges or crown attorneys arguing that because someone has FASD they should be put in jail. The assumption is that their behaviour can't be dealt with in the community.
Some people—mistakenly, I think—will say, “If you have FASD, you have difficulty. You need structure in your life. Where can we give you structure? I know where we can give you structure: jail. There's structure in jail.” But what's missing in that analysis is that people with FASD are often heavily exploited when they're in jail because of their social limitations. They try to make friends and they are very easily exploited.
The other difficulty with jail is that most of the programming in jail is not in fact designed for people with FASD. The trend in corrections now is to move towards group work and programs that are based on cognitive behavioural therapy, where you think about what you did, talk about what you did, talk about why it didn't work, and those types of things. Those do not work well with people who have FASD. People with FASD often don't work well in groups because they don't pick up on the social cues and they don't do well with cognitive behavioural work. This is not to say that people with FASD cannot learn, because they certainly can. The problem is not with them; the problem is the way we deal with people with FASD.
I also want to draw the attention of this committee to a recent decision by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the U.K. We don't talk much of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, because in Canada we have not relied on it since before World War II, but they've just issued a very interesting decision in a New Zealand case called Pora v. the Queen. The decision was delivered on March 3, 2015. The case is significant because it's about an individual who was convicted of a murder in New Zealand and who on appeal, while he was in custody, was diagnosed with FASD. The significance of that diagnosis for the Privy Council was that it threw his confession into question. He confessed to an offence, and the jury obviously believed that confession, but the judicial committee said that could not be relied upon because the effects of FASD on an individual make their confessions totally unreliable.
I don't have time here, obviously, because I don't want to take time from anyone else, but it's a very significant decision. There's a discussion of specifically the FASD analysis, the FASD evidence, on pages 11 to 17 of the decision. What's important here is that absent the diagnosis, which was only obtained when Mr. Pora was in custody subsequent to having been convicted—it was in the process of the appeal that he was assessed—only then did the evidence come before the judicial committee.
The judicial committee, having heard and read the evidence of the two experts who diagnosed the individual with FASD, concluded the following, which is at paragraph 55:
The evidence of Dr McGinn and Dr Immelman unquestionably establishes the risk of a miscarriage of justice. It provides an explanation as to why Pora’s confessions may have been false. This is of central and critical importance to one’s approach to the question whether his convictions can be regarded as safe.
I really commend this decision to you, because it is the latest, and we have not had a significant decision on FASD like that in Canada at this point.
I have one last point before I turn it over. I do want to stress that what is very important in the context of FASD is a diagnosis, not the fact that the person has been assessed. If I'm defence counsel, and I stand up and say, “Your Honour, my client has been diagnosed as being affected with FASD”, without actually having that diagnosis, without knowing how that manifests itself in the client, the diagnosis is not particularly helpful.
It's very important that if we get diagnoses they're provided to the court, because it's only then that the court can truly take into account the circumstances of the individual.
Thank you. Meegwetch.
Svetlana Popova
View Svetlana Popova Profile
Svetlana Popova
2015-03-11 16:15
It will be hard for you to follow.
I know we are short of time so my first slides are dedicated to FAS and FASD in general, but I will skip them and go into the prevalence of FAS and FASD in Canada. Actually, because I am an epidemiologist, I prepared data on the prevalence, co-morbidity burden, and cost associated with FASD.
The prevalence in northern communities, in which of course the majority of people are aboriginals, ranges from approximately 4% to 12%, which is substantially higher compared to the general population, which we believe is 0.1% to 0.7%. However, the prevalence of FASD, which is the umbrella term and includes several medical alcohol-related diagnoses, is also higher in northern communities, ranging from 2.5% to 19% as compared to the prevalence in the general population, which we believe is about only 1%.
However, it is true that these studies suffered from many methodological limitations, and they are outdated. That's why we need better prevalence studies in Canada. Most likely the prevalence is much higher in both northern communities and the general population.
Now I would like to present prevalence data of incarceration in the criminal justice system of people with FASD. There are several anecdotal estimates. In one of them there is a belief that about 50% of young offenders in Canada have FASD. One American study found that among 253 people with FASD, about 60% reported being charged, convicted, or in trouble with authorities, and 42% of adults with FASD had been incarcerated for a crime.
We conducted a comprehensive literature search in order to look at the prevalence of people with FASD in Canada and we found only four epidemiological studies. The prevalence of FASD is quite high among incarcerated youth. It ranges from almost 11% to 23%. There is only one study in Manitoba that reported the prevalence among adult correctional populations, which is about 10%.
In order to investigate how many and what type of co-morbidities are associated with FASD, we conducted another literature research and found that more than 400 disease conditions are associated with FASD. This study and article was submitted to The Lancet. It's the highest input factor in the medical field. We found that the co-morbid conditions spanned across 18 out of 22 chapters of the international classification of diseases. The most prevalent disease conditions identified that occur among individuals with FASD are congenital malformations. The second-largest group is mental and behavioural disorders.
I have a nice slide that I hope you will review later when you have this handout. You will see that indeed the second-largest group of diseases amongst people with FASD are mental and behavioural disorders, but among other groups of diseases are diseases such as cancer, diseases of the nervous system, circulatory system, genitourinary system, and many other diseases. Of course you can imagine that the cost of health care associated with this population is enormous, and I'm going to report this data in a few minutes.
My next slide presents the conditions within the mental and behavioural disorders. It shows that about 90% of people with FASD have conduct behavioural problems, disruptive behavioural impulsivity. Also, 80% of people have receptive and expressive language deficit, 70% have developmental and cognitive disorders and developmental delays, 55% have alcohol and drug dependence, 50% suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and 45% from brief psychotic disorder.
More than 40% have fine and/or gross motor developmental delays and developmental coordination disorder. More than 40% have mental retardation and intellectual impairment. More than 40% have major depressive disorder.
They also compared the prevalence of co-morbid conditions in individuals with FAS among the general population of the United States. They found that the prevalence of a conduct disorder, for example, among individuals with FAS was estimated to be 10 times higher than among the general population of the United States, receptive language disorder was 10 times higher, expressive language disorder was 11 times higher, unspecified disorder of psychological development was 97 times higher, conductive hearing loss was 126 times higher, alcohol and drug dependence was more than four times higher, and disturbance of activity and attention was about eight times higher among people with FASD, as compared with the general population.
Now I would like to present some cost estimates from our recently conducted study on the burden and cost associated with FASD.
You will be able to see from a cost slide that FASD affects virtually all sectors of our society. It includes direct health care costs; direct law enforcement costs, which include the police, courts, and corrections, including probation; and other direct costs, which include children in care, special education, home support services, supportive living, job skills training, social assistance, prevention and research, and many other costs. Costs also include productivity losses of parents, caregivers, and affected individuals. The costs also include intangible costs, which means the cost of pain, suffering, stress, frustration, and guilt of the mothers, which cannot be estimated in terms of money.
The research estimated that the cost associated with FASD is enormous; it ranges from $1.3 billion to $2.3 billion per year. This is a very conservative estimate. The highest contributor to the overall FASD-attributable cost was the indirect cost of productivity losses due to disability and premature mortality of people with FASD. However, the second-highest cost was the cost of corrections, about $378 million, which accounted for 30% of the total cost of FASD.
I would also like to look more closely at the cost of corrections associated with FASD in Canada. As you know, FASD is associated with organic brain damage that has a detrimental impact on abstracting abilities, memory skills, information processing, the comprehension of social rules and expectations, and the ability to connect cause and effect in relationships. Given these factors, if appropriate diagnosis, intervention, and support services are not put in place early in life and maintained throughout the life course, then many people with FASD are at a high risk of becoming involved in the legal system either as offenders or as victims. Individuals with FASD tend to have high rates of recidivism due to their generally lacking the ability to learn from past experiences, along with other mental health problems.
Based on the available epidemiological data and data from the Canadian centre for justice statistics, we were able to calculate that youths with FASD are 19 times more likely to be incarcerated than youths without FASD in any given year.
In summary, the epidemiological and medical data draw attention to three main points.
First, awareness needs to be raised regarding individuals with FASD in terms of their prevalence and their disabilities. Second, intervention efforts need to target individuals with FASD in order to reduce recidivism rates. Finally, screening for FASD needs to be incorporated as early as possible in the criminal justice process.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Wenda Bradley
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Wenda Bradley
2015-03-11 16:25
Hello. Thank you.
Chair, honourable members, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon I would like to thank the committee for inviting us to present. I would also like to thank our member of Parliament, Ryan Leef, for bringing this very important bill forward.
My name is Wenda Bradley. I am currently the executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon, also known as FASSY. I am a registered nurse with more than 35 years’ experience, mainly in health centres in rural community settings in the Yukon. During the last 15 years, my career has evolved to focus on the issues related to FASD, through involvement with clients, families, and communities. I have also been a foster parent to children and youth who have or may have had FASD. They have been my teachers about what it means to live with a disability on a daily basis.
FASSY started as a grassroots non-profit society run by a board comprised primarily of parents, plus a few committed community advocates. It began as a subcommittee of the Yukon Association for Community Living in 1986 and became a stand-alone society in 1996. There was no funding and little awareness of FASD in the Yukon at that time.
Over the course of the last 19 years, FASSY has provided direct service to adults with FASD and has evolved to coordinate adult diagnostic services and to provide prevention and education services to the communities in the Yukon. However, our primary focus is on direct support of adults with FASD, which has brought us into extensive involvement with the justice system. Currently we have 37 active clients; 76% have past involvement with the justice system and 36% are actively involved with the justice system now.
There is a high incidence of people with FASD in the justice system throughout Canada, as we are hearing. It is significant that in 2014 the Yukon government launched a prevalence study to investigate the incidence of FASD within the Yukon correctional system, and we look forward to the results of that study. FASSY feels strongly about the need for special consideration for people with FASD who are involved in the justice system as victims, witnesses, and offenders, and sometimes in more than one role at a time. They could be a victim in one case and an offender in another.
Prenatal exposure to alcohol is a major cause of preventable birth defects and developmental delays in North America. It affects individuals in many ways and is unique to each individual, but research conclusively shows that it is the result of permanent, physical brain injury.
The effect on the executive functioning of the brain is the most significant. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for reasoning, planning, impulse control, and understanding cause and effect. This injury manifests in the behaviour of the individual. People who have FASD may have varying abilities for executive functioning. They may talk very well and appear to understand what you are saying but may not comprehend much of what is said. It is hard to understand that within one person there may be the ability to talk as an adult but only understand what a person in grade 4 might comprehend from that conversation. There may be delays in processing the information and also delays in responding to questions.
They often have difficulty functioning appropriately in everyday life and seem to employ poor problem-solving strategies. Some are not likely to learn from their own negative experiences, and most have memory issues. These can be at any level of the memory process. Taking what they know and then being able to apply it in different scenarios, known as adaptive functioning, is also not available for many of the people with FASD.
It is confounding and confusing that a person with FASD may be able to play a challenging game of chess but not be able to understand the consequences of their actions or plan a meal. It is these pockets of ability that distract us as service providers, including workers within the judicial system, from the real issues for people with FASD. We tend to view the individual as resistant rather than as not understanding, saying that they won't instead of that they can't.
Many persons with FASD struggle to understand what is expected of them by society. They experience the world as confusing and contradictory. Many adults with FASD have had interruptions in family, school, or employment and are unable to move forward in their lives without support.
Unfortunately, there are many people within our society who are affected by FASD but who have not been recognized and who keep circling in and out of the justice system as well as many other systems within our society. Right now, the only thing that requires a court to consider FASD as a mitigating factor is that other courts do it. I suggest to you that this is not good enough.
FASD should also not be considered a mitigating factor, but instead an essential factor of consideration for a person before the courts. Respecting persons with FASD, by recognizing the effect this physical disability has on their lives, is critically important. Ensuring that an assessment is available through this amendment for persons before the court would enable an understanding of the functional deficits that underlie real-life problems associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. It is important to recognize that FASD is not a fixable, psychological disorder but is in fact a permanent organic brain disability.
Wenda Bradley
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Wenda Bradley
2015-03-11 16:32
Thank you.
When Bill C-583 is approved, requests for appropriate assessments need to be made by the court. An assessment for FASD should be requested and it should follow the Canadian Medical Association diagnostic guidelines. These guidelines suggest that a multidisciplinary team assess all abilities or concerns for the individual with an adaptive functioning focus versus a strictly psychological analysis. A stand-alone, general, psychological assessment is not as useful and may in fact be harmful because it doesn’t reflect actual brain damage and impact on functioning.
There is a great deal of co-morbidity with mental health issues, but the mental health issues need to be considered in relation to the underlying permanent brain damage caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. Some of the mental health issues may be occurring because the underlying FASD had not been diagnosed earlier in the life of the person.
An FASD assessment, following the collaborative approach recommended by the CMA, could as well recognize or rule out genetic issues and consider the effect of other traumas an individual may have encountered that may be affecting his or her abilities. If all aspects of the judicial system, from investigation, decision to charge, pre-sentence, court, sentencing, disposition and conditions, incarcerations and reintegration, understand the impact of FASD on a person, effective help and support can be offered. A person may succeed in not being involved in further justice issues, or at least minimize the need of involvement, if appropriate dispositions can be made.
As one of our clients has said about trying to stay out of the justice system, “I know I make a lot of bad choices so I need you to help me not make so many.” Having a diagnosis also helps individuals learn where their strengths are and where they need help to keep themselves out of trouble. One young fellow I am aware of who has a history of sexual touching of children, now knows that he cannot be where children are because he struggles to control this impulse, so he intentionally stays away from areas where children will be.
We as a society need to get over our feelings of loss and grief for what the potential of the person could have been and get on with accepting the person for who they are. Dr. Sterling Clarren has frequently said that people with FASD are doing what they were designed to do and we need to adapt our behaviour towards them. Collaboration between FASD-informed services and FASD-aware service providers will be the only way that a person who has this disability can move through life. Interventions must begin with nonjudgmental, unbiased observations.
People with FASD need the understanding, caring, and support from all levels of service providers. A story of a court interaction that I was privy to demonstrates how knowledge of FASD can be used for collaboration of service. There was a judge addressing a client known to the court to have FASD and listing off the requirements of probation for that person, with an appropriate language level and at an appropriate rate of talking. The client was intently listening and nodding his head as the judge talked. The judge finished and then asked the person if he understood. The client, who understood some of his own limitations, said, “Yes, Judge, I understand, but I won’t remember.” The judge was quick to point out that was why his FASSY worker would go over the probation orders with him daily.
This story, I feel, is significant in that the judge recognized and acknowledged, by his actions, the disability of the offender; the offender recognized as part of his disability that which would make it impossible for him to do what the judge was asking; and both recognized the need for support to continue outside the courtroom.
Wenda Bradley
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Wenda Bradley
2015-03-11 16:36
We're learning that people with FASD, with supports, can live clean, sober, and lawful lives and contribute to their own families, communities and society. By making this important amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code through Bill C-583, Canadians will keep the most vulnerable people of our country from further harm or from causing harm to others, and the judicial system will get to the root of the challenging behaviours that impact victims, families, communities, and our society.
Thank you for your time.
Magnus Sandberg
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Magnus Sandberg
2015-03-10 16:53
We deal in the area of employment for people with barriers to employment. For us, the current way the system is set up—and I'm speaking to the provincial systems in terms of how the community service agencies like the YMCA and such are being paid—is that it's based on the number of people who attend training sessions and on the number of people who are placed in jobs. It's not, for the most part, based on retention of the people put in jobs.
In this intermediary role we play between the employers and the community service agencies, we had pilots with TD Bank, Loblaw, Whole Foods, and Sun Life, and when playing that intermediary role we were able to get a lot of people placed, but we failed in actually getting these candidates to be successful while on the job.
So we didn't help anyone. We didn't help the candidates. The candidates were placed in the jobs, but then it didn't work out and they were back on social assistance, and their confidence was lower and so forth. We didn't help the employers.
We stopped those pilots and said that we needed to not play this intermediary role for placements only. We said that we needed to look at the whole value chain of how people are prepared for jobs and how they are set up to be successful in the jobs. For me, it's all about retention in the area we're in.
Al Etmanski
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Al Etmanski
2015-02-26 16:50
Vickie and I have just come back from sharing our work in Europe, particularly in the city of Barcelona, which is quite fascinating. She'll tell you about that in a minute.
We will share the presentation. We are co-founders of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, as well as the other things that were mentioned at the introduction. We're not speaking to you from Surrey. We're actually speaking to you from Vancouver.
I'll very briefly describe PLAN.
PLAN—the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network—is now over 25 years old. It was set up to answer a question that nobody in history had ever had to answer before: what happens to people with disabilities when their parents die? We started this organization in Vancouver thinking that it would be a small pilot project. It has now spread to over 40 locations around the world. This is the first time in history that people with disabilities are outliving their parents.
PLAN started with a very small grant from the federal government. Once that grant was over, we operated without any government money and have been independent of government financing for over 25 years, so we are a social enterprise.
I'd like to tell you about two particular elements of social financing: one, our work in creating the registered disability savings plan; and two, a social purpose business called “Tyze”, which Vickie started.
Before I do that, I want to share a couple of biases. The first bias is that we are not particularly interested in social finance if it does not get to the roots of our social challenges. We spend an awful lot of money in this country basically remediating poverty, homelessness, and issues facing people with disabilities and the like. If all we're doing is rearranging things and finding other sources of money, we're not particularly interested. We think social finance can be used to actually get to the source, to get to the roots, to go upstream, and to deal with issues of prevention. That's bias number one.
Bias number two is that we are less interested in securing new sources of funding, although that's a worthy effort. We don't think that in the short term there are going to be a lot of additional funds coming from the private sector. We think that will be a much slower process. We are particularly interested in social finance because it gives people an opportunity to leverage the existing resources and to have money coming from different sources working better together.
That brings me to my third point. We think social finance has to be lodged or anchored within the context of what many of us around the world are now calling “social innovation”. Social innovation invites all of us to look differently at our toughest, most stubborn social problems. It invites us to do five things.
One, it invites us to rethink our solutions, to be more open-minded and not simply focus on the way we've always done things. Two, it invites us to work together differently. Three, it invites us to use technology when appropriate but not to become overly fascinated by it. Four, it invites us to use our money wisely, which brings us to social finance, of course. Five, it gives us an opportunity to scale, and another bias Vickie and I have is that already in Canada there are solutions to our toughest social problems: they're just orphans and they're not at scale. Social finance gives us an opportunity to do that.
Let me very briefly talk about the registered disability savings plan. If a family or a person with a disability were to put the equivalent of a Tim Hortons double-double and a doughnut aside every day, in 30 years they would have over $350,000—depending on the interest rates available to them—to spend on what they see as appropriate for their life in the world. The registered disability savings plan is the only one in the world, and it involves leveraging government, foundation, family, and individual contributions to enable the person with the disability to finally have a bank account and to have funds that he or she can control, as opposed to being at the mercy of a service delivery system that's been set up through the non-profit sector.
I won't get into it in a lot of detail, although I'd be happy to answer any questions on it. Today there is over $2 billion in deposits by people with disabilities in RDSP accounts, and they are essentially fomenting a revolution in how we look at supporting people with disabilities. Clawback is being eliminated by most provinces and territories. The ability to earn and accumulate assets is now policy in most provinces and territories in Canada.
Finally, I think it is providing an opportunity for us to rethink how we approach poverty not just for people with disabilities but also for the other tens of thousands of Canadians who are in poverty.
We think this is an example of government, private sector, and the community sector working together to solve a brand new social challenge, which is what happens to people with disabilities when their parents die; and, too, providing some advice and perhaps a model for how we approach some of our other tough social problems.
I'm now going to pass it over to Vickie to tell you about another invention that came out of our work with PLAN.
Vickie Cammack
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Vickie Cammack
2015-02-26 16:56
Good afternoon.
One of our two core pillars at PLAN was addressing the financial security of people with disabilities, but the other one was addressing the fundamental issue, which was their isolation. At PLAN we created a very strategic and focused process to develop personal networks. We determined that in order to spread this process to people with disabilities and their families and to many people beyond, we could better distribute our solution in the container of a social mission business, which we call Tyze Personal Networks. We took advantage, really, of a trend around technology, so this is all the social networking technologies that are out there, in creating Tyze. Tyze, if you want to think about it, is like a very personal, private Facebook for people to coordinate care around a person vulnerable to isolation. When we created Tyze, we realized that isolation is a 21st century challenge and that isolation is costly. There are many studies that talk about it as a determinant of health, including that its effects are more detrimental than that of smoking. So Tyze as a solution was created for people with disabilities, people who are aging, people who are experiencing challenging diseases and so on, anybody vulnerable to isolation.
Funding to create the business began within the charity. It came from a number of foundations in the United States and Canada. We created the business plan and the prototype, and then we launched the business as a private business, owned primarily by the charity, but also owned by private angel investors. We were actually able to blend funding to launch this business.
The business model was always designed around making the solution accessible in a way that was inclusive, accessible, and affordable. Our model was to sell Tyze to businesses or non-profits and charities that were serving people vulnerable to isolation. As we began to grow, we began to dance between the two worlds of business and charity, which led us to a few more private investors, but also to a number of foundations and so on that wanted to invest, but couldn't because of the nature of the container, the private business container.
In terms of a business model, again, with this inclusive, accessible, affordable design, we were didn't fit into the traditional business world for mezzanine funding. We weren't looking for a fast exit. We weren't looking to make the traditional rapid economic growth. Our distribution was our biggest motivation. Mezzanine funding, a traditional term in business, was really very limited for a business like ours. We grew to 20 employees. Actually, there was some discussion around some investment by government, but, again, being a business was a problem. Project funding in a charitable container was widely available, but investment into the business was not.
Tyze itself was acquired a year and a half ago by a Canadian charity, Saint Elizabeth Health Care, so in that way it's a very good story, and Saint Elizabeth continues to maintain Tyze. The big learning for us has been that the potential of social finance is so great and the potential for partnership with government for really wide-scale distribution is extraordinary. The challenge becomes in the ways and means of these various containers and structures to be able to work together. How does a social mission business work with government, work with private investors, work with foundations, in order to scale it to its largest extent? This is particularly important when we're talking about something like Tyze, which works upstream to effect cost savings into our systems of care.
Thank you.
Al Etmanski
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Al Etmanski
2015-02-26 17:06
The only thing I would add is that the biggest example of social finance in Canada, and I would contend perhaps in the world, is the registered disability savings plan. You have individual money, family money, government money working together through a distribution system of the financial institutions of Canada, the banks and credit unions and whatever. There is over $2 billion in deposits. Individuals with disabilities are able to spend that money on what they see fit.
Finance Minister Flaherty essentially said he'd trust people with disabilities and their families to know what's best for them. So it's their decision, their bank account; they're dreaming of the future for the first time in their lives. They're thinking about owning their own homes, about putting a little money aside for retirement, of doing things way beyond what they're able to do under the traditional welfare formula in Canada. It's a brilliant example, and that's the boldness we think social finance offers as opposed to tinkering around the system. It's an opportunity to be as bold as possible and to get the money directly where it belongs, to the individuals who need it.
I think about 80,000 people with disabilities in this country, or about 15%, now see their future differently than they ever did before.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to the witnesses. There have been some great insights.
I want to follow up with you first, Mr. Etmanski. I respect your comments and the work you've done. The disability tax credit is one. I agree that it's a great initiative. I lost a brother about 10 years ago who had cerebral palsy, and I know that my parents spent most of their adult life concerned about what was going to happen after they passed on.
I know that they would have taken advantage of the disability tax credit, but both of my parents worked. Many persons with disabilities in the country.... I've heard this time and time again. You're not saying—I would appreciate your comments—that the tax credit can be the be-all and end-all. Look at the changing of the eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67. We know about the disproportionate amount of hurt that brought upon the disabled in this country, the low-wage earners and the disabled in this country.
You're not saying that the government abandon support for these people. It's just that you see the merit in this type of social financing.
Al Etmanski
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Al Etmanski
2015-02-26 17:14
On the disability savings plan, I don't think anyone would argue that the revenue from individual disability savings plans is going to be enough for anyone to live on. It complements the current supports that we provide through our welfare system.
But I am saying that the hidden benefit of the disability savings plan that we've noticed is that now some provincial governments are beginning to rethink their whole welfare approach to disability. Because there is no requirement to report, and there is no policing through the disability savings plan, they're beginning to wonder now why they need to have social workers or welfare workers who are simply monitoring on a monthly basis the very limited resources that people with disabilities get. They're beginning to ask if they can rethink how we support people with disabilities and move it more into this asset framework and away from a welfare framework.
That's why I'm encouraging this kind of bolder thinking. It's the greater challenge. All of these social finance tools by themselves are not going to reinvent the system. We are a caring country. We allocate significant resources in this country, but I don't think they're as targeted. Social finance gives us an opportunity to bring in business discipline, to leverage other resources, and to make existing government allocations more targeted so that they go directly to the individual. That's the bold opportunity: to reinvent our framework of care in this country for the 21st century, because what we're currently using is almost 100 years old and it has all kinds of assumptions that no longer make sense.
Carmela Hutchison
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Carmela Hutchison
2014-12-02 8:51
Merci. Good morning.
I want to thank everyone for having for having us here today.
I would like to acknowledge the Algonquin people on whose traditional lands we come together here today.
We're here to talk about the very important and serious issue of violence against women with disabilities. We talk about violence against women; I think we should talk about it as a public health issue.
I would like to open with a quote by Ms. Fran Odette from her paper “Ableism – A Form of Violence Against Women”.
Ableism permeates our society; it is a form of violence against self-identified women that occurs at both individual and systemic levels. Ableism defines a woman by her disAbility and focuses on her deviation from the “norm,” rather than on recognizing her individuality and specific sets of experiences. Ableism, sexism and other forms of oppression put self-identified women with disAbilities at increased risk of experiencing a range of violence and create barriers to accessing the very responses that can increase safety and facilitate healing. Policies and procedures need to include ableism as a form of violence and to address it through program audits, supervision, training curricula, and public education campaigns. While concerned about the impact of ableism and audism on men and women, the goal of this paper was to name ableism as a form of violence against women, to increase awareness and understanding about its existence and serious impacts, and to ensure it is on everyone’s agenda.
Violence against women affects us all. Even if we are not directly affected by violence, as women we are certainly taught to fear it. It affects every aspect of our society, from the missing and murdered aboriginal women to the events occurring in our own government.
In our talk today we will explore how violence against women is both an effect of being disabled and a cause of disability. Abuse takes many forms.
Women with disabilities are abused more often. Rather than go into all the facts behind it, we need only look at article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which highlights women and girls with disabilities as being at specific risk for poverty and violence. The abuse is magnified because of the number of people who interact with women with disabilities, the nature of the disability, by the greater number of types of perpetrators we are exposed to, and to more forms of abuse.
Some people’s disabilities put them at greater risk because their socialization emphasizes greater obedience to authority. I hear all the time about how only the lowest form of humanity would ever abuse a disabled person. At this point, I wish to highlight several examples of how the intersection of women, violence, and disability creates a perfect storm of pain and death.
I would like to begin first with the woman with intellectual disabilities from Winnipeg who was brutally sexually assaulted while her caregiver was completely oblivious to the situation because she sat a few rows ahead listening to her iPod.
Victoria Shachtay was a paralysed mother of a six-year-old girl. She lived in Innisfail, Alberta, and was killed by a postal bomb sent from her financial adviser when the family discovered that her money was used up and started to make inquiries. The use of a community mailbox could have proved deadly to several people in the neighbourhood. There is great concern that the elimination of home mail delivery in favour of community mailboxes will become an extra target point for perpetrators of violence against women with disabilities.
Betty Anne Gagnon was a woman with intellectual disability who went to live with her sister. Her sister and brother-in-law fell into addiction and violence. In response to their inability to meet Betty Anne’s needs, she was subjected to a range of beatings, having her mouth forcibly washed out with household cleaners, and made to live in inhuman conditions: a cold school bus, and a cage in the garage with nails sticking out of it. When she died, she weighed 69 pounds. The charges against her family were pled down to failing to provide the necessities of life.
Misty Joy Franklin was living in Prince George when she was stabbed in the neck by her boyfriend Trevor Fontaine, who had a history of violence and was later declared a dangerous offender. Misty became a quadriplegic in 2003. She was 24 years old at the time of the attack and had two daughters. Paralysed and on a ventilator, Misty was living in long-term care, and she elected to stop the ventilator. She died January 28, 2014.
On the first day Bonnie and I began our work together, we had a wide-ranging discussion about many topics relevant to violence against women with disabilities. Of particular concern was the issue of sexualization of young women, cyberbullying, and Internet pornography.
Rehtaeh Parsons died on April 7, 2013, as a result of a suicide following vicious cyberbullying that followed the circulation of a video of her being allegedly raped by multiple perpetrators. Amanda Todd died by suicide on October 10, 2012, when she was lured into exposing her breasts on a video chat that was later circulated on the Internet.
Yesterday on Facebook there was outrage in the women's community about Grand Theft Auto, which depicts women as sexual objects, which players can have virtual sex with and ultimately murder sex trade workers.
Honour-based violence and the missing and murdered aboriginal women are yet another intersection of violence, poverty, and women with disabilities.
Abuse is both a cause as well as a risk factor of disability. Brain injury is also being identified as an emerging issue associated with trauma and abuse, both due to head injury from direct blows to the head and, as flagged by the executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, the sexual practice of strangulation. At DAWN-RAFH Canada we have received reports from women's experiences about detached retinas and hearing damage in association with brain injury and blows to the head.
Some disabilities are actually causes to exclude people from mental health treatment and other rehabilitation programs. For example, you cannot have brain injury rehabilitation if you have a major mental illness. I stand before you as one of those people.
People in mental health saying that one cannot catch mental illness once countered a discussion that mental health is becoming endemic. In reflection, I still hold the belief that you can indeed catch mental illness through violence and abuse. That is the vector of transmission.
The effects of trauma and mental health needs, its relationship to addiction, and interventions needed to assist women with disabilities in these clinical areas, this is only in its beginning stages. In a recent presentation by the provincial chief mental health officer, Dr. Michael Trew, he indicated that trauma-informed mental health care begins by asking “What happened to you?” rather than “What's wrong with you?”
People with disabilities need safety, encouragement, accommodation, and kindness in order to tell their stories. Dr. Trew also talked about a need for patients to teach their doctors about the situation. Sadly, the time it takes to do this is often more than the patient has before they're in crisis or they die. Often, busy doctors do not have time to listen. At best, the disconnect between the mental health needs of people with disabilities and health care providers creates new barriers to forming trusting relationships essential to transforming trauma into empowerment. At worst, the disconnect creates new trauma, new rejection, and new shame when someone has summoned the courage to tell their story one more time, only to be turned away again.
People who return from military service experience operational stress injury and, a term I only heard yesterday, military sexual trauma. Yet women who were abused are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and very occasionally are given the respect of a PTSD diagnosis. Women's experiences of violence and abuse that did not occur within military operations are viewed obviously in a very blaming and discriminating way, both from a feminist and ableist perspective. Women who were sexually harassed in their workplace are seldom assisted with appropriate response and after care.
We need to learn from the experience of the military to view the injuries suffered by women with disabilities, and indeed all women, in an equal light. There's a paper entitled "Torturing by Non-State Actors Invisibilized, A Patriarchal Divide and Spillover Violence from the Military Sphere into the Domestic Sphere" by Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald that explores this very topic. DAWN-RAFH Canada has endorsed this paper and encourages adoption of its recommendations.
One important stride that was made towards the equality of women with disabilities was the R. v. D.A.I. decision, in which DAWN-RAFH Canada was an intervener, which placed people with mental disabilities on an equal playing field with all other witnesses.
Health equity has to be achieved for people with disabilities. One common area of mental health need that is overlooked is sexuality. Indeed, even its obliteration from women's medical care deepens the level of distress and increases the mental health need. Ableist attitudes surrounding sexuality perpetuate sexual abuse and a lack of proper treatment follow-up amongst women with disabilities.
People with developmental disabilities and mental illness are often forced to choose what services they will have at age 18. If a person with a developmental disability has a mental health need, they may often be excluded from PDD services. Exclusion of women with disabilities from mental health resources actively prevents them from recovering from their injuries.
Society's ableist views on people with disabilities and their portrayal in the media have tremendous impact on the mental health needs of people with disabilities.
It's hard to maintain the struggle to survive, when people constantly view a person with a disability in a negative or shaming light. Unmet needs create sadness and depression whether they're related to the provision of disability supports, such as incontinence supplies or wheelchairs, or the crushing poverty that the majority of our people face.
Ableism, as a form of violence, is seen in decision-making surrounding do not resuscitate orders, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. The current debate on assisted suicide and euthanasia, whether you're for or against, has had a significant and harsh impact on both the individuals with disabilities and our community as a whole.
Alberta Network for Mental Health has been receiving a significant trend of increased calls related to this issue especially in the wake of Robin Williams' suicide.
Ableism, as a form of violence, occurs when someone living with a disability comes to the decision, as Ms. Franklin did, to end one's life and that decision is not considered a suicide that we would otherwise work hard to prevent. Every mental health resource should be aimed at recovery and suicide prevention.
Thank you.
View Susan Truppe Profile
CPC (ON)
Next question is for DAWN-RAFH in regard to the DisAbled Women's Network.
You talked about the physical abuse and sexual abuse of women who are disabled. Have there been measures put in place? Can you describe the best practice that might address the different abuses that they received?
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 9:25
We gave our time over so Ms. Hutchison could frame the issue, but I would say that we also circulated our brief to everybody on the committee. In the brief is a very detailed outline of a project we're currently funded for under Status of Women Canada.
Again, in terms of what's in here I would say that it's really important, particularly for people who aren't familiar with women's disability issues, to take the time to review the brief because you get a very strong sense and understanding of the different types of experiences, because there are many shared perspectives in here, and I think that's really key.
In terms of recommendations, you'll find at the end that we have some very particular recommendations. I'm happy to say the project is still in progress. We're in 13 locations across the country at this point.
In terms of next steps, there are some obvious next steps beyond the project. But I will say that in terms of the particular recommendations, we have program development for women with disabilities and deaf women around information and education sessions, peer groups, family and caregiver support groups, individual and family counselling, a volunteer roster, resource development, and services for immigrants and newcomers, because, again, the intersection of being a woman with a disability and being an immigrant or a newcomer is very significant.
Program development for the broader community becomes really important because, again, in terms of women with disabilities not being in a silo, it's extremely important to understand that how the work becomes effective is in engaging the broader community in addressing the issues of women with disabilities. Supporting women with disabilities at the local level to come forward and participate in that process is quite critical. We're having great success with these projects across the country.
We need policy and funding reforms on a very significant level. Again, in terms of understanding the particular needs of women with disabilities, I will just speak to what deaf women go through on an ongoing basis simply to have their basic needs met because of the lack of available accommodations for them.
I could go on, and there is a very long report here.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
View Niki Ashton Profile
2014-12-02 9:32
Thank you.
Last week we heard from West Coast LEAF, which talked about a report they were involved with—and I believe you were as well—called “Able Mothers: The intersection of parenting, disability and the law”. We had an opportunity to hear briefly about the crippling lack of legal aid available to women living with disabilities. Obviously the responsibility for legal aid has been downloaded to the provinces, but do you see a federal role in this area specifically around accessing legal services for women with disabilities?
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 9:32
One of the most critical things we need to understand is that women with disabilities are not even disclosing.
I think really, Niki, that your question is important, but one of the things that DAWN Canada is doing for the 16 days to end violence against women is a campaign called “We can tell and we will tell”. That's because many women with disabilities do not disclose or do not understand that what's happening to them is abuse, because they have been abused so much in so many different ways that it simply feels as though that's the way it's supposed to be.
Having said that, I totally agree with you and I would certainly say, based on the work that DAWN has been doing and as part of the national action committee on access to family justice, I can confirm that in terms of what we know is going on in the family court systems that something like, I believe, 80% of people in the family court system are self-represented litigants. Among those, perhaps 1% or 2% are people with disabilities. We are not represented in the court system. We are not supported.
One of the important pieces of work DAWN Canada did—and it's available on our website—was our recommendations on the victims of crime bill. We worked with Sue O'Sullivan very closely on all of that work with respect to recommendations for how to support people with disabilities in the justice system. It becomes extremely important in this conversation around violence against women with disabilities to understand that this is an absolutely critical issue. It is an enormous gap. Women with disabilities are not making it to the court systems, and when they do they experience all kinds of different discrimination. The D.A.I.decision that Carmela refers to is very specific to a woman with an intellectual disability who had been questioned on her ability to know the difference between the truth and a lie.
View Tilly O'Neill Gordon Profile
CPC (NB)
Thank you, Madam Chair. I want to welcome all the witnesses here today. Thank you for your words of advice, which provide lots of food for thought as we work on this study at the status of women committee.
My first question is for Bonnie Brayton. You mentioned earlier when answering another question that you had just received notification that a Status of Women project was recognized as a best practice. I was wondering what was the name of the organization.
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 9:37
Handicap International, it's the name of the organization that's recognized our work.
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 9:38
Yes, it was one of the most well-funded projects for last year from Minister Leitch. She committed that funding because she understood that what we needed to do was to go across the country to understand what those different intersections are for women with disabilities. It allowed us to do this, as I said, in the 13 provinces and territories across the country. It was a significant investment by her, and we're very grateful. In fact, the project goes through to December of next year, and based on some of the feedback that we're getting, we're speaking with her about the possibility of an expansion of the project because it is going so well.
View Kirsty Duncan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
To the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, I want to really thank you for highlighting the violence that women in the disabled community face. When I was at the university, I had young women I worked with who had been raped not once on campus, but twice.
What specific recommendation would you make to improve accessibility to our services and housing for disabled women who have experienced violence? What's the number one recommendation?
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 9:51
It's that larger discussion again, I think, because we all feel we need to do this, to come back to the idea that what we need to do is to develop a national action plan that's inclusive of all women with disabilities, that understands that each woman has an individual need, and that her supports need to be built around who she is as a person, where she lives. Those intersections become critical, rather than saying I want specific things, because the depth and the breadth of the issues for women with disabilities is enormous.
As the largest minority group in the world, at more than half a billion, that's the number for women with disabilities. It's the largest minority group in the world with the highest rates of violence. I don't think there's any question that, obviously, disability supports are critical.
View Stella Ambler Profile
CPC (ON)
No, that's okay; we want to hear from you.
It's a challenge, I think, because we want our young people to have healthy attitudes and healthy relationships, and we want that all to start young. But the societal pressures seem to be different today from what they were 20 or 25 years ago. They're more magnified, I think, because of social media.
I'm wondering if you could perhaps tell us how we can help disabled women, what programs there are to help them cope, or even just what advice we could give.
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 9:57
I think the important thing to understand is that young women with disabilities want to be included like everyone else. Young women with disabilities definitely want to be included. They're not doing anything any different from other young women out there.
Coming back to my inclusion message, Stella, the inclusive practice message is the one that I carry. Carmela has been very good about pointing out the specific needs of women with disabilities. I keep coming back to inclusive practice, because really we need to see that all women are part of a community and that the larger community understands individual needs. I keep referring back to our colleagues from an intersectional perspective.
Specifically for young women with disabilities, we need to see, for example, the partnership that I described coming out of these projects. One of them is with YWCA Canada. YWCA Canada is an important partner for DAWN going forward, obviously, because if we can support YWCA Canada having inclusive programs for young women with disabilities, then we realize full inclusion while addressing a larger issue for all young women.
View Kirsty Duncan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
To the DisAbled Women's Network, you've talked about how it's very hard for women to come forward. Are there changes we could make? Are there recommendations you would like to make to the committee that could change that?
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 10:20
Consistent funding for the work around violence against women is absolutely critical. The possibility of continuing to do the work we're doing is one of the important ways this happens. Because we're talking about something systemic and long-standing, long-standing and systemic things don't change overnight. We need a long-term vision to end violence against women with disabilities and deaf women in this country. It doesn't happen during the course of one project.
We have a vision at DAWN Canada. We know some of the instruments the federal government could be using to work with us and with other partners across the country to begin to develop a really clear strategic plan. One of the envelopes I think of is the enabling accessibility fund, which Mr. Flaherty was instrumental in developing here in Canada. Because if the enabling accessibility fund, for example, were targeted to shelters and transition houses as part of a coordinated call from Status of Women and the Canadian Women's Foundation, as an example, these kinds of strategic approaches, looking not for one year, not for two years, but over 10 years to see us build a national network of shelters, transition houses, and supports for women with disabilities are doable. They are doable if we make the commitments today, and if we understand it's not about what happens today, but it's about making this long-term plan so things change.
For 30 years DAWN Canada has said what the issue is and understood what the issue is and made recommendations. In order for us to move past the recommendations to concrete plans, this project, the one DAWN Canada is currently doing with Status of Women Canada, coupled with some of the other things I talked about, including using instruments the federal government has in its power now, could make that difference. In 10 years from now we could have what we need in this country, which is a national network of accessible shelters and transition houses for women with disabilities.
Thank you.
View Wai Young Profile
CPC (BC)
Hopefully that is something you are working on, because you're obviously very good in your role as a national organization looking at helping us work on this.
Can you tell us a little bit more about this $500,000 study you're doing right now? What are the top outcomes you hope to achieve out of this?
Bonnie Brayton
View Bonnie Brayton Profile
Bonnie Brayton
2014-12-02 10:23
As I said, it's a community development project. The costs are definitely related to the geographical scope of the project, so it's important to understand that $500,000 is not a lot of money when you're talking about 13 sites across the country. It is again, as I said, what we were doing, and it's a stepped process. Through that process of convening at the community level and through these research projects—as I said, community research that has a purpose is the best way to describe it—what we've been able to develop are.... The next stage of this project, which is what we're rolling out now and begins over the winter, will be workshops that are, again, at the community level, working with service providers and people who work with people with disabilities and women with disabilities, specifically, but also, of course, working with women with disabilities, themselves. It's a convening process to bring people together around the common objective of making change.
Also, education at the service and policy level is critical, along with educating women with disabilities about their rights.
I talked about the fact that women don't feel safe to disclose. Well, we have to put in place at the community level the resources so that they can disclose safely and know that, if they do choose to disclose, they'll be supported to follow through.
I really appreciate the fact that this opportunity through the community fund is allowing us to start to demonstrate how change happens. It isn't the answer, it's the beginning of the answer, and that answer lies with curriculum and education across, as I said, all the stakeholders.
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Chairman.
Colleagues, it's good to see you.
You've asked me to come here to discuss our supplementary estimates, which are before you. I'll try to do so briefly.
I think you have received a copy of my presentation, so I will not read the entire document. I would rather give you more time to ask questions.
I just want to point out a couple of the highlights in the supplementary estimates (B).
We're requesting $4.6 million in funding for this fiscal year and $5.2 million in each of the two following years to connect Canadians with disabilities with available jobs, which I know is an issue very close to your heart in particular, Mr. Chairman. We're doing that partly through our opportunities fund for persons with disabilities to support the Ready, Willing, and Able initiative, which is one of the great legacy projects of our late colleague, the Hon. Jim Flaherty. This will support efforts by the Canadian Association for Community Living to help folks with intellectual disabilities to put their talent to work.
In addition, there is funding of $2.6 million for each of the next two fiscal years, and additional funding after that, for CommunityWorks, which is an effort to help youngsters with autism disorders get trained and connected to jobs, which I think is another wonderful initiative. Again that's a statutory grant that was announced in this year's budget.
There's additional funding in the range of $5 million for the New Horizons program. As you all know, you have seniors centres in your constituencies that have benefited from modest infrastructure upgrades, and there have been some projects in community centres for seniors all across the country.
We're requesting $6.8 million for web renewal. Increasingly we're trying to provide better and faster service online. We're behind the curve compared to the private sector in that regard, but we're catching up. This will help us provide better service online.
Of course there is some additional funding as a result of the overhaul of the temporary foreign workers program that I announced in June. I'm happy of course to take questions about that.
A large chunk of this is for the new labour market information surveys. Some of my colleagues in the opposition have quite correctly pointed out that we have inadequate labour market information. One of the ways in which we are addressing that is through the new quarterly job vacancy survey, so we have a better idea of what jobs are going unfilled in the economy with a much larger sample, as well as the new annual national wage survey, which will get us a better read in local areas of what the real wages are. That will help to inform everyone on labour market policies, whether they're colleges, employers, unions, or governments.
I'll just say two other general things. I'm really pleased to report to you, colleagues...because I've been in Parliament long enough to know that often when ministers appear on supplementary estimates there are few, if any, questions on the actual supplementary estimates. I know that's shocking, but it's been known to happen. So let me say just a couple of general things that are not in the estimates.
First, I am very pleased to report to you that on Friday I had a very successful meeting with the Forum of Labour Market Ministers. For some reason this group did not meet for about four years, but we've now met three times in one year. There is a real sense of focused consensus from left to right, east to west, and north to south on the skills agenda, whether it's on the agreement we got to on the Canada job grant that's now being implemented, the retooling of the labour market development agreements, the renewal of the targeted initiative for older workers, the new agreements we've signed on the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities to focus more on employment as opposed to just general services, the ambitious work being directed by us towards the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship to harmonize apprenticeship systems across the country and facilitate labour mobility, the great work we're funding by the way of the Council of Atlantic Premiers on apprenticeship harmonization, or the good work being done in the three western-most provinces through the New West initiative.
We are promoting information about labour mobility and reciprocal recognition of professional credentials through chapter 7 of the Agreement on Internal Trade in an effort to reboot our work on faster and streamlined recognition of foreign credentials. We are encouraging the provinces to retool their post-secondary education and vocational training systems to learn some of the lessons from the systems that work so well in Europe: recreating vocational high schools; creating this notion of the parity of esteem between trades and professions, colleges and universities; encouraging apprenticeship programs. We are having, to some extent, PSC dollars follow actual labour market outcomes. All of this is complementary to the reforms in the immigration system.
I could go on, but the point is I really am excited to see from labour, employers, provinces, and the federal government a growing clarity and a focus on the big skills agenda challenge that we're facing.
Finally, on the Social Security Tribunal, I know this was an item of considerable and understandable concern by the committee when the chairman appeared recently. The good news is that we have a working inventory and effectively no backlog of employment insurance appeals to the Social Security Tribunal, largely because of the excellent work done by officials at ESDC—for which I can take no credit—when they developed the reconsideration process, which is actually just so smart.
We actually have officials picking up the phone and calling people if they have asked for reconsideration of their EI refusal. Often it's just working out little, simple, technical things: they didn't fill out part of the form or they need to submit a document. This is a much friendlier, non-adversarial, faster process to fix some of those EI refusals where appropriate. That has massively reduced the kind of adversarial, quasi-judicial, slower-moving appeals process at the Social Security Tribunal, formerly the EI board of referees. That's good news. It means that we've been able to reallocate about a dozen decision-makers at the SST from the EI side to the Canada pension plan side.
However, it is true that when I was first briefed as minister, in July of last year, on the Social Security Tribunal, I was dismayed to learn that there was a backlog of several thousand cases in the income security division, which had been inherited from the Pension Appeals Board. I am told that the Pension Appeals Board did not share information on their backlog of inventory with HRSDC at the time that we transitioned to the Social Security Tribunal.
[Pursuant to a motion adopted by the committee on June 9, 2015, correspondence from Hon. Jason Kenney to Hon. Mr. Justice Douglas Rutherford has been appended to the Evidence for this meeting. See appendix -- Letter to Jason Kenney from Douglas Rutherford December 16 2014.]
Hon. Jason Kenney: This was an unexpected legacy backlog, and ever since I was appointed I have been working very intensively with the chairman of the tribunal on fixing it. As I said, we have reallocated 12 decision-makers from the EI side to the CPP side, and as of a cabinet meeting an hour ago, we've appointed 22 part-time new decision-makers to the income security division of the tribunal, almost all of whom worked on the Pension Appeals Board. So they have relevant experience, and they don't have to be trained and can get to work more quickly.
We have legislation, as you know, that you've considered to lift the statutory cap on the number of decision-makers at the tribunal. The chairman of the tribunal has contracted a consulting firm to do a productivity model so we can know what we can expect in terms of productivity from the decision-makers, and I'm expecting from her a further action plan that I anticipate will also include a request for additional decision-makers.
I'll just close with this. When I was at Immigration Canada I inherited an immigration system that had an overall backlog of nearly a million people who had been waiting for up to eight years in various programs. We had 60,000 people waiting for decisions by the IRB on their refugee claims. I'm proud to tell you that now those backlogs are almost all gone. So I have a bit of experience in working with departments and quasi-judicial bodies to address legacy backlogs, and you have my commitment to do this with respect to the unacceptably large backlog at the income security division of the Social Security Tribunal.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am ready to answer any questions you may have.
View Colin Mayes Profile
CPC (BC)
I'm going to another topic now, to Ready, Willing and Able, and CommunityWorks, initiatives for people with disabilities.
Has there been a good buy-in by employers? We've announced $15 million over three years. Do you feel that the employers are going to support this? For it to work, that's what has to happen. I just wonder if you're getting any feedback from employers on their willingness to participate in this program.
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Again, your chairman is something of an expert on this particular question.
We're working with an organization, the Canadian Association for Community Living, which has an awful lot of experience in connecting persons with developmental disabilities to jobs, which is why we felt confident in this additional $15-million investment over three years, again through a statutory grant that you find before you in these supplementary estimates.
Yes, I think the experience is very positive.
Let's be blunt. Employers continue to complain increasingly about skills and labour shortages in a growing number of regions and industries of the country. One reason we tightened up the temporary foreign worker program was to say to them that before they look abroad to fill their labour needs, they should look in their own communities at unemployed youth, recent immigrants, aboriginal folks in their region, and at persons with physical and mental disabilities.
There are a lot of great community organizations that are represented by the Canadian Association for Community Living who have years of experience in this. This is a little bit of a boost to them.
My point is that more and more employers realize that if they want to find workers, they have no choice but to make the accommodations necessary to help locally disabled folks get into the workforce. The anecdotal evidence is very strong that more employers are getting involved in this.
There are some real models out there. There are some local franchises, a majority of whose workforce in the service industry is made up of folks with developmental disabilities. These are typically people who bring a wonderfully uncynical attitude to work.
View Larry Maguire Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Minister and others, for being here today.
I have a couple of questions around the Ready, Willing and Able initiative. My colleagues have asked some questions on this, but in regard to the allocation of the $15 million over three years, of course, it's noted that it's including autism spectrum disorders and others. Can you indicate to me, of the moneys that were allocated, what specific planned activities would be funded with those initiatives from the CommunityWorks program?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
With the additional funding, the Canadian Association for Community Living will expand the existing activities to 20 community based locations across Canada and host 40 employer forums that will support up to 1,200 new jobs for persons with developmental disabilities.
Gary Birch
View Gary Birch Profile
Gary Birch
2014-11-18 12:23
Good afternoon—good morning here—and thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My name is Gary Birch. I'm executive director of the Neil Squire Society. Our mandate is to use technology, knowledge, and passion to empower Canadians with physical disabilities.
The Neil Squire Society is a Canadian national not-for-profit organization celebrating its 30th anniversary. We are committed to providing education, technology, and career development for people with physical disabilities through complete end-to-end services. Specializing in skill enhancement, enabling technologies, and workplace empowerment, the society has served over 30,000 people since 1984. The organization serves a culturally diverse population that is not limited to any specific disability type. However, traditionally we have worked with individuals who are most marginalized in society, particularly those who have had a very long-term detachment from the labour force.
I personally have 30-plus years of experience, through the Neil Squire Society, championing opportunities for persons with disabilities. I recently also had the privilege of serving as a member of the federal panel on labour market opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Regarding division 19 of part 4, clause 252, my understanding is that there is a backlog of more than a thousand people appealing benefit rulings across Canada, including Canadian pension plan disability benefits. An aging population and increasing disability rates have contributed to the growing backlog of people trying to access federal supports. It has been stressful for people with disabilities waiting to have their files reviewed as the wait times continue to grow.
I understand that Minister Kenney has authorized the appointment of 22 additional employees to the federal Social Security Tribunal. This will help alleviate the stress on government systems and on the lives of people with disabilities across Canada.
Many people with disabilities are living below the poverty line. Many of them need to have timely access to benefits. It's critically important in their lives. The appointment of 22 additional employees to the Social Security Tribunal is a key step towards helping to address the backlog of appeals and helping to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Regarding division 24 of part 4, my understanding is that these clauses relate to administrative matters involving the foreign workers program. Although this is beyond my area of expertise, I would like to note that the use of this program should be judicious in its application to ensure that Canadians, in particular I'm thinking of Canadians with disabilities, are being provided with proactive supports to help them fill these potential job opportunities.
The current Government of Canada has been very proactive in its support of persons with disabilities to get them back into the workforce and to improve their employability through various mechanisms, including the enhancement of the opportunities fund.
Thank you very much.
View Brad Butt Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay, we have to make sure that if those cases are known they are reported, because obviously that's a violation of the law. But I appreciate your clarification, and I know the good work that your organization does in the Toronto area working with lots of newcomers and newcomer agencies. We're greatly appreciative of that.
Mr. Birch, I want to ask you a couple of questions, or at least one about the changes at the SST. I'm assuming that most of the cases that would go to the Social Security Tribunal are for perhaps a denial of the CPP disability benefit, and obviously you're appealing that decision to the tribunal. One of the main reasons for that is a lot of these cases are very complicated, I would assume. There is medical documentation, health documentation, ensuring that the person has worked for x number of years prior to becoming disabled and wanting CPP disability benefits. Obviously they're making an application, the bureaucrats are going through it and perhaps saying that they don't believe it meets the criteria. Therefore, it's being appealed, the individual's appealing it to the Social Security Tribunal.
I'm assuming you think that's a fair process, that people should have an opportunity, under certain grounds, to appeal a decision when they've been denied benefits? I'm assuming that you would say that by increasing the number of tribunal members, that's obviously going to help a lot of the people who you are working with and advocating for?
Gary Birch
View Gary Birch Profile
Gary Birch
2014-11-18 12:48
Yes, thank you very much for the question.
Indeed, many of these cases are complex. The evolving nature of disability and just the evolving nature of what we take into account when we're considering a person's disability are complex. That's why it, to me, makes good sense to have more individuals working on the tribunal to help put these backlogs....
I'm not sure if I'm answering your question, but inherently I think it is important that people with disabilities who are applying for CPPD have the opportunity to appeal, of course. It is, like you indicated, I think often the case because they are quite complicated.
Nicole Veitch
View Nicole Veitch Profile
Nicole Veitch
2014-05-05 15:38
Okay.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. By highlighting the barriers to citizenship that I have seen as a caseworker, I hope to show you how the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act disregard the needs of permanent residents with disabilities, impairing psychological conditions, and social hardships.
Subsection 5(3) of the Citizenship Act empowers the minister to waive the knowledge and language requirements on compassionate grounds. While this discretionary exemption provision is maintained in the proposed changes, if the age groups for those who must meet the requirements are expanded, the volume of exemption requests will increase. The process can be made much more accessible. We recommend that efforts be made to facilitate exemption requests by making people aware of the possibility and by assisting people where necessary.
I would also like to note that in my experience, obtaining sufficient medical evidence in order to get an exemption from these requirements is daunting. To illustrate, last summer I called 15 different agencies in Toronto before I was able to find an organization willing to attempt an assessment of my Tibetan-speaking client who had no formal education and who had a learning disability. Similarly, at PCLS, we frequently encounter refugees whose trauma has manifested in conditions that prevent learning, including grief, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Realistically, permanent residents who face barriers to learning and who have wealthy, privileged support networks are more likely to obtain an exemption. Citizenship should not be for sale. We need clear guidelines directing citizenship judges to be reasonable in the evidence they require, and to give consideration to the barriers to obtaining medical documentation in order to confirm disabilities.
I would also like to note that having a right of appeal is essential to protecting permanent residents whose request for an exemption has been denied by a citizenship judge. When my Tibetan-speaking client was finally able to find a specialist to work with him, we obtained a strong report that said he will never be able to learn English to any level of proficiency due to his disability. However, when he went to a citizenship hearing with letters of support from his employer, his ESL teachers, and his family physician, he was still denied a recommendation for an exemption. This was devastating for him. He is deeply ashamed of his inability to learn English despite years of ESL classes over his 11 years in Canada. Currently my client has the right to pursue an appeal to the Federal Court, which he is doing on the basis that the medical evidence has been disregarded.
We urge you not to revoke the right of appeal for people whose citizenship application has been rejected. An application for leave to seek judicial review is discretionary, and it is also an expensive and inaccessible remedy for low-income applicants.
These examples are unique because our clients were able to access a legal aid clinic with the translation services and capacity to assist them. But the committee members should remember that in many parts of Canada, these legal services are not available. There are many permanent residents in Canada who are members of the refugee and family classes who face these barriers to citizenship—
Laura Cattari
View Laura Cattari Profile
Laura Cattari
2014-05-05 15:38
Madam Chair and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to address this committee.
My name is Laura Cattari, and I am secretary of the board of directors of Canada Without Poverty.
Canada Without Poverty is a national non-partisan charity with a more than 40-year history of working to eradicate poverty. Of note is that all board members have lived experiences of poverty that guide our work.
Economic leadership and prosperity is an important conversation that must address what holds women back and looks to the future of all women. From personal experience and recent research I can say with confidence that women in poverty are not able to fully participate in economic life, nor are they able to seize opportunities available to individuals of higher income brackets. The barriers women face have not only a profoundly negative effect on themselves as well as their children, but also the broader economy where contributions are either stifled or not counted, resulting in outright exclusion.
My own story is a case in point. At the peak of my career I built digital cable networks, led research and development teams, and wrote industry white papers. I was a consultant to major cable corporations; in short, an industry leader. I was also the only female among my peers. In January of 2003 I was declared officially disabled with stress-related illnesses. Could the outright discrimination I fought over the years and other challenges of a male-dominated environment have triggered this? Or perhaps it was the accumulation of stress from persistent childhood abuse, including sexual, which 20% of Canadian women face before the age of 18? The contributing factors of stress-related illnesses are well documented and gender does play a significant part.
With disability came poverty and economic exclusion. Yet despite my apparent disability, I am still articulate, intelligent, and capable of participating in my community and the economy, garnering a woman of distinction nomination from my peers. What holds me back from escaping poverty and moving forward is not my illness, but a disability of individuals and government systems. These are barriers that many women in my position face. In Canada, 75% of women with disabilities are unemployed.
To achieve success my needs are simple: adequate amounts of nutritious food, and affordable housing in a safe neighbourhood that isn't trolled by those who prey on vulnerable women. I also need the societal violence against women, which shapes language, attitudes, and behaviours, to stop psychologically affecting self-esteem and self-respect so that I no longer hear young women at leadership summits tell me they do not feel they are enough.
In terms of employment I require a system that rewards providers for supporting me to be the leader I am, and not as a part-time worker at minimum wage, where women currently fill the vast majority of positions.
I need to be able to form a life plan for my lifelong illness, with adequate income supports in times of need. I applaud current programs such as the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities, which supports part-time post-secondary education to accommodate my illness. What it does not support, though, is part-time employment. This fails to take into account part-time opportunities that also have the potential to raise me out of poverty, and my inability to state the goal of full-time employment excludes me from that program.
I am aware of various federal government programs to support vulnerable people, but not all are necessarily within reach. Inaccessible post-secondary education leaves me uncompetitive in a new field of employment. I am essentially left out of the economy and cannot reach prosperity even though I am willing and able to participate on a meaningful level.
In conclusion there are two specific recommendations I wish to make. First, adjust the qualification restrictions on the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities and other post-secondary programs so that those unable to work full-time can apply. Second, establish a portable federal rent supplement program to ensure access to adequate safe housing as well as mobility.
Imagine for a moment a national mandate in which the least privileged women are put first, strengthening the potential, prosperity, and equality of all women in Canada.
Thank you.
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks very much, Chairman, and good morning colleagues. I'm pleased to be here with the team that has been introduced. Particularly let me welcome Mr. Siddall, who has recently been appointed president of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. They are very important responsibilities and he's off to a great start.
I'm pleased to be with you today to discuss the 2014-15 main estimates for Employment and Social Development Canada and to highlight some of our key areas of investment.
In this fiscal year, we are planning expenditures of $44.5 billion in income security. This amount includes payments through old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, the registered disability savings plan and the national child benefit.
Payments through old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are increasing by $1.6 billion, and of course, we can continue to expect to see that as our population ages and the number of retirees increases.
ESDC is planning expenditures of $3 billion in the social development program area. This includes the homelessness partnering strategy, for which Minister Bergen is responsible, the social development partnerships program, and the new horizons for seniors program, for which Minister Wong is responsible.
It also includes the recently created Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children. This program is a new measure from our government to help families going through a very difficult period.
The social development program area also includes the Enabling Accessibility Fund, which is part of our government initiatives to help Canadians with disabilities. I would like to recognize the efforts of the committee chair for Canadians with disabilities. We recently created a workplace stream of this program to increase the ability of Canadians with disabilities to participate in our labour market.
Finally, the social development program area also includes payments directly to parents through the Universal Child Care Benefit—which our government is extremely proud of and which was one of our most important 2006 election campaign commitments.The increase in this area is because of an increased number of children entitled to this benefit. That is good news. By paying this benefit, the government recognizes that parents know best what child-care is best for their children. The Universal Child Care Benefit provides support to over 2 million children annually and has lifted 24,000 families out of poverty.
In the Learning Program area, the department plans budgetary expenditures of $2.3 billion. This program area includes the Canada Student Loans and Grants Program and the Canada Education Savings Program. The non-budgetary section of the 2014-2015 main estimates in this program area is the expenditures paid out in student loans, which are loans we expect to be repaid. Increases in this area are the result of more students receiving this support, more families saving for their children's post-secondary education and an increase in repayment assistance.
In the skills and employment program area, ESDC has planned expenditures of $1.1 billion in the main estimates before you. The main estimates before you show a $500 million decrease in this area from the year before. The reason for this is that the labour market agreements, which now include the Canada job fund and Canada job grant, were still being negotiated at the time the main estimates were tabled. We'll be bringing forward the $500 million in supplementary estimates as we have signed agreements in principle with all 13 jurisdictions for the delivery of the Canada job fund or grant and indeed final agreements with, I believe, five provinces. All this is to say there is not a $500 million cut. It just wasn't ready, frankly, to put in the estimates.
The skills and employment program area includes a number of our government's priority areas, including the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, known as ASETS, which I think is a great program; the skills and partnership fund; the first nations job fund, a new initiative to try to get young aboriginal, able-bodied folks to move from welfare to work wherever possible; the Targeted initiative for older workers, which we've just renewed with a number of provinces; and the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities. The old agreements were sunsetted at the end of the last fiscal year, and we have been renewing them with provinces. There is also the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities; the Red Seal program, a very important part of our skills agenda; apprenticeship grants; and others.
Our ministry is planning expenditures of $168 million in the integrity and processing program area, which is obviously very important. This is responsible for ensuring that taxpayers' dollars are being disbursed correctly and only to those actually entitled to the benefits. This is particularly important in a department like ours, which is entrusted with a significant amount of taxpayers' dollars.
To provide you with a recent example, earlier this month a Toronto man was charged for allegedly collecting his mother's CPP and OAS benefits for 15 years after she died. Police alleged that this individual collected nearly $200,000 in fraudulent benefits. The reason this branch exists is to ensure that these funds are directed to those who paid into the system and truly qualify. This is also the program area responsible for processing specific benefits, including our very successful apprenticeship grants. ESDC is also planning expenditures of $118 million in the citizenship centre service program area.
ESDC is also planning expenditures of $118 million in the Citizen-Centered Service program area. This is the program area of the department responsible for ensuring that the department provides timely and quality service to Canadians. This is particularly important for a department like ESDC that deals directly with Canadians to deliver many programs.
One area here that I would like to highlight, on which we're particularly focused on improving the department's service delivery performance, is in employment insurance, EI, processing. Mr. Cuzner keeps offering constructive criticism in this respect.
When I was named Minister of Employment and Social Development, one of the early things I did was ask my parliamentary secretary, your colleague Mr. Armstrong, to conduct a review of EI processing.
He has been out meeting with Service Canada front-line staff and management across Canada to find ways to be more efficient and fix bottlenecks in the system. I look forward to hearing the results of his review and am hopeful that as a result we will be able to improve the department's service to Canadians in this area.
Finally, we are planning expenditures of $224 million in the internal services area, which is a reduction of about $54 million from the previous year as the department continues to look for ways to save taxpayers' money.
By reducing administration and back office expenses, we're able to provide more benefits to Canadians and more support for front-line service.
These are the summary highlights of our planned spending in the 2014-15 main estimates, Chairman, and I'm happy to take questions.
Minister Bergen, do you have an opening statement?
View Larry Maguire Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, ministers, for being here this morning and making your presentations to us in this important area.
I'd like to ask Minister Bergen a question in regard to the issues of Canadians with disabilities.
Certainly the government has done more than any other government in trying to support that area, whether it's through the opportunities fund, the registered disabilities fund in which I know the former finance minister, Minister Flaherty did a great deal of work, or the existing labour market agreement areas for persons with disabilities. Our government has championed the rights of those persons.
Could the minister please tell the committee more about what the government is doing in ridings like mine for persons with disabilities in these areas?
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Sure. You know, I've been fortunate to have been able to travel across the country and see some of the great things that are being done with the opportunities fund, for example. I know Minister Kenney has been working hard on the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities, so he might want to comment on that.
The premise of the support we provide for persons with disabilities is twofold.
First and foremost, we want to make sure barriers are removed for people with disabilities to participate in the economy and in our communities. The expert panel on persons with disabilities found that there are about 800,000 Canadians with disabilities who want to be working, and we think that if people want to be working there should not be barriers in place to discourage them.
There are things like the opportunities fund, the accessibility fund, and the newest ready, willing, and able program that we're funding that are removing barriers by physically and logistically helping persons with disabilities find work and get back into the workplace. It's also about educating employers. When you talk about the labour market and where there are gaps, we know that persons with disabilities can help fill those gaps. It's about educating employers and helping them see the value. They're seeing it more and more. The evidence and again those who are participating in programs show the value of employing people with disabilities.
The second thing we're doing, which is something that I know we are all really proud of and something our former colleague Minister Flaherty introduced, is the registered disabilities savings plan, which is the only one in the world, that is providing an opportunity and a vehicle for families to save for their children or people in their families who have disabilities. It's an amazing program with a large amount of grant money available. We know there still are some things that need to be tweaked and fixed, and we're working together with the provinces to do that, but it's something that means parents don't have to worry about what will happen when they're gone, who will look after their children, and how they can save money. The registered disabilities savings plan is doing that. We feel it's our responsibility, and we've talked about it in previous budgets, to make it better and to promote it so that more and more families know about it.
We also just introduced in our last budget additional support for special Olympics. Again, this is an opportunity to remove barriers and help kids who are making such a great contribution and making all of our lives so much richer.
Again, we're working in a number of areas, primarily to remove those barriers and help people with disabilities get to work, help them access the community, and help families to support their dependants and their family members.
Did you want to comment on the labour market agreements?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes.
Labour market agreements for persons with disabilities—these are five-year agreements—expired at the end of March, at the end of this past fiscal year. We entered into discussions with the provinces in 2013 about their renewal. We indicated that we wanted to ensure that the dollars were being spent on their intended purpose, which is employment support for persons with disabilities. Quite frankly, we thought there was too much of a blank-cheque approach happening. Provinces were using these funds on anything remotely related to persons with disabilities, including offsetting their health care costs for care of persons with disabilities.
You know what? We transfer, I don't know, $30 billion, give or take, to provinces for health care. They should be taking care of health care with those dollars. The LMAPD dollars, we believe, should be dedicated to employment support, so we've tightened up that definition in the agreements. We had a little bit of pushback from provinces, but we didn't budge. I'm pleased to say that we're getting those agreements done, and we've signed several. We're confident that we'll have a full suite of 13 signed.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for being here.
Mr. Gouda, I'd like to start with you just with respect to your program since the mid-nineties when.... I have three questions I'd like to ask you. First, you talk about 50% being hired by employers right now and most others being hired within six months. How have those metrics improved since 1996? I'd just like to understand how dynamic your organization has been. On that 50% now, was it less when you started? Have you seen that percentage grow?
Second, at our last meeting we also talked about a lot of young kids with disabilities who were shut out of the workplace or find it hard to integrate. They may be high-functioning people with Asperger's, for example. What success have you had with young people with disabilities?
Third, how many people have gone through this, have made the entrepreneurial jump instead of just going with an organization, and have leveraged that internship into potentially being an entrepreneur?
Naguib Gouda
View Naguib Gouda Profile
Naguib Gouda
2014-04-08 16:41
I worked at York University before coming to this position, or at least on my road here. I saw students graduate side by side, people like Noel and me—a huge age difference here, but nevertheless—and I would graduate with a self-declared disability and Noel would graduate without one. Otherwise, we had the exact same degree, the exact same experience.
The barriers that young kids—recent grads with disabilities—face are higher, so really, it's about workplace accommodation. What we found is that once that workplace accommodation is made, it changes the cultures of organizations permanently. Again, going back to your first question on people with disabilities, assuming there is a match between the employee and the employer, the retention tends to be higher.
And your last question...?
Denise Amyot
View Denise Amyot Profile
Denise Amyot
2014-04-01 15:32
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Given that the youth unemployment rate is twice as high as the national average and that there has been little improvement since the economic recovery, the Government of Canada must play a leadership role in maximizing youth employment opportunities.
The Association of Canadian Community Colleges, which I represent, is the national and international voice of 133 publicly funded colleges, institutes, and polytechnics serving over 3,000 urban, rural, and remote communities from coast to coast to coast.
Targeted measures for disadvantaged youth, I would like to begin by recommending targeted measures to increase the employment opportunities of disadvantaged youths: those neither employed nor in education, aboriginal youth, and those with disabilities. We need to increase participation in post-secondary education and the labour market by enhancing existing federal programs including increased support for the post-secondary support program administered by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to ensure all eligible first nations and Inuit students have access to funding.
Second, we need to increase grants through the Canada student loans program targeted for youth from low-income families, youth with disabilities, and for non-status and non-Métis youth.
Third, we need to strengthen the capacity of aboriginal organizations supported by the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy to improve career counselling services, pre-employment, and essential skills training. We also need initiatives to support upgrading as well as science and mathematics bridging programs for youth who have not completed high school or who lack the skills and prerequisites for post-secondary programs. As the committee knows, most of the new jobs created mean that you need to have science and mathematics in order to be eligible for that education. Science and math are the foundations of many occupations in key sectors such as construction, IT, health, engineering, and the environment. Canada must do more to encourage a science culture in youth. We need to increase the outreach capacity of colleges and institutes to engage disadvantaged youth and facilitate access and pathways into upgrading and post-secondary programs, including apprenticeships.
As to supporting underemployed youth, targeted measures are required to improve opportunities for the nearly 450,000 youth who are poorly integrated into the labour market. Thirty-three national industry organizations and ACCC have come together to form an industry-college coalition to address employment and innovation challenges. Industry organizations emphasize the need for better labour market information and the importance of dispelling the myths about the value of college-institute certificate, diploma, degree, and post-graduate programs. Too often college and institute credentials are seen as second best, which we all know is not the case.
All college institute programs are developed with input from employers to ensure graduates have the skills employers seek. Underemployed youth would benefit from knowing about the 660 post-graduate certificate and diploma programs offered by 56 colleges, institutes, and polytechnics that are all our members. These are highly specialized employment-oriented one-year programs. These programs require a post-secondary diploma or bachelor degree. What is very interesting is that our student population now includes 22% of students who have previously attended university.
To address the needs of underemployed youth, ACCC recommends that the federal government take the lead in improving national labour market information on both the supply and demand side so that youth have the information on the full range of post-secondary education options available to them as well as on the careers, the salaries, and how quickly they can expect to find a job.
Next is enhancing employability through essential skills. Essential skills are key to improving access and employability. ACCC essential skills projects funded by ESDC completed in 2013 demonstrated the value and impact of essential skills training. Seventeen college pilot projects assessed learners and workers across Canada—
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 15:59
Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before the committee today to discuss youth employment. This is an issue of fundamental importance to our work as a national organization.
Today I'll focus on the employment of youth with disabilities from our perspective as a group that represents post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities.
Since its founding in 1986, the National Educational Association of Disabled Students has had the mandate to support full access to education and employment for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities across Canada. We represent over 100,000 persons with disabilities studying in Canadian public colleges and universities. Most of our constituents are youth.
NEADS is a consumer-controlled, cross-disability organization that is governed by a national board of directors representative of all of the provinces and territories. We are an autonomous organization, but also a member group of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
Our work has focused on three strategic program areas: student debt reduction, student experience in class and on campus, and student and graduate employment. With our mandate, the organization functions collaboratively with post-secondary stakeholders, other national disability organizations, and many student groups, including national groups like the Canadian Federation of Students. We also provide ongoing, expert advice to Employment and Social Development Canada.
The association's primary activities include maintaining a comprehensive website and a financial aid portal—disabilityawards.ca—and holding events and conducting research that benefits our membership.
Since 2005, we've held 25 transition from school to work forums in cities right across Canada to consult with youth with disabilities. These interactive conferences have included the participation of some 2,000 college and university students and graduates with disabilities who are mostly youth, private sector employers, career professionals in the post-secondary community, employment agencies, and other NGOs. We also have created a national scholarship program that has given out 57 scholarships worth $3,000 to outstanding college and university students with disabilities across Canada.
In the last two years we have been engaged in a project to consult with career and employment centres on college and university campuses right across the country to determine how effectively they're serving disabled students. Youth with disabilities clearly need to be better supported and served by their on-campus career centres to ensure that they have opportunities for summer employment and part-time work during the school year to build their skill sets.
The 2013 federal report “Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector” from the panel of labour market opportunities for persons with disabilities identified an alarming statistic:
...of the 795 000 people with disabilities who could be—but aren’t—contributing to our economy, almost half (340,000) have post-secondary education.... These qualified, capable people can play an important role in filling the forecasted two-thirds of all jobs requiring higher education.
At the same time, the overall labour force participation rate for working-age adults with disabilities is around 60%, compared to around 80% of those without disabilities. The 2011 Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics has shown that the employment rate of youth with disabilities aged 16 to 24 was 45.7% and for the same age cohort among those without disabilities it was 56%. That's a large disparity.
According to the 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, persons with disabilities are better educated than in the past and their educational profile is generally similar to those without disabilities. However, their participation in university programs, for example, is substantially lower than it is for the non-disabled population.
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 16:03
I'm going to have to skip through a whole bunch of stuff here. Maybe I'll move on. It's fairly long, although we call it a brief. Let me go to the heart of the matter.
The federal government has a variety of programs and supports for persons with disabilities: the labour market agreements with the provinces that provide about $500 million in transfer payments, the opportunities fund. There is skills link, which is a program that supports youth and about 17% of the participants in skills link are youth with disabilities.
I have six recommendations here: that the federal, provincial, and municipal governments encourage the hiring, retention, and promotion of persons with disabilities across all sectors of the Canadian economy, including the disability supports or accommodation required to enable Canadians with disabilities to be successful in the workforce; that the federal government strengthen support for post-secondary study through the Canada student loans program, particularly the Canada student grants and other measures such as repayment assistance for persons with disabilities to ensure that more Canadians with disabilities are able to access post-secondary education; and that programs like skills link be enhanced to support more youth with disabilities.
There are two more: that federal government should continue to work with provincial and territorial partners to ensure that financial aid programs are delivered in concert to best support the post-secondary studies of students with disabilities; and finally, to reiterate a recommendation of the Council of Canadians With Disabilities to the HUMA committee last year, that:
...there should be a specific strategic investment or investments for youth with disabilities—that is, persons 18 to 30 years old—to support the transition from school to work so they don't become permanently detached from the labour market.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-04-01 16:33
A quick question for Mr. Smith from the national association of disabled students, what measures could be adopted to reduce unemployment for disabled youth? You talked about skills link needing to be enhanced. What did you mean by “enhanced”?
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 16:33
I think there is a whole range of measures that could be undertaken. I wanted to jump in when we were talking about the experience that students get while they're in school that benefits their job search when they graduate.
A lot of students who have disabilities, while they continue their academic programs, are unable to work. Sometimes it's because of their disabilities and they're only able to take part-time courses, so they can't work. In some cases, it's because their disability support funding is affected if they take a job. That's probably the most serious issue, and that was identified when the HUMA committee met as well. In their report “Exploring Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities”, it is a major disincentive to employment for disabled people, in general, but for youth with disabilities who need to get summer jobs and part-time work experience while they're at college or university, that's a serious issue.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
I think of a young kid by the name of Aaron in my riding who's on the autism spectrum. He's just a really talented kid and very bright, and I think he has a lot of promise in terms of the future. What I'd like to do is get your feedback on how that can be structured to try to get at some of the things that you've just talked about in terms of bringing people, disabled people, because—
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 16:35
Yes. I think it's probably a larger question for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, who are not here right now and probably know more about this than I do.
But certainly the big issue is making sure that students.... In Ontario, for example, for a student who is on ODSP, if the student has a physical disability, needs attendant care, and has medical costs, transportation costs, and whatever related to their disability, then the incentive to work is limited if you think you're going to lose all of your ODSP support. This is not just an issue for the federal government. A lot of this relates to how the provinces choose to handle their disability support programs as well, so it's a federal and provincial issue. It's a matter of making sure there is sufficient incentive for people to work so they don't lose their disability benefits, which are critical for them.
You mentioned a student in your riding who has autism. I would say that actually there's a higher percentage of students who are high-functioning with autism—such as Asperger's, for example—in Canadian university and college programs and who are excelling. Also, there are a lot of students who have chronic health conditions and mental health conditions. Many of these students require disability supports and programs that help them move into the labour market.
So certainly the federal government is doing quite a bit, I think, in improving and enhancing labour market agreements and funding.
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 16:37
Yes. I guess the most recent SLID data suggests that in the last 10 years, the percentage of students with disabilities who are getting university degrees, for example, is I think twice what it was 10 years ago, so that's encouraging. The issue becomes, though, that many of these students need more education than students who don't have disabilities, so it's important for funding to be available for graduate study, for example.
The Canada student loans program is generous to many students in terms of grants and loans when they are engaged in undergraduate study, but in order for people with disabilities to compete in the employment market, they often need to get another degree or have additional education, particularly if they don't have the skills acquired from summer employment and part-time work while they're in school.
It's a combination of academic accomplishment and the degree or diploma, and the skills from employment experience, because that's what employers are looking for. Funding for an additional degree or further education is important. There are measures such as the repayment assistance program for persons with disabilities, which is helping people in repayment, people who have disabilities and low incomes, but there needs to be a little more done to support more education and less debt.
Brent brought up the huge debt load of Canadian students who have post-secondary education. The debt load for graduates with disabilities is higher, and the income level is much lower on average, particularly in the first few years when they enter the labour force.
View James Rajotte Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I'm going to take the next round.
I wanted to start with Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith, you have a series of very substantive recommendations with respect to what the government ought to do or what this committee ought to look at.
Do you have any recommendations for industry, and from your perspective, how is industry doing in terms of actually coming to the table and investing themselves in terms of training and in terms of looking seriously at ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities?
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 17:03
Yes, well, I think I told you that we've had actually nearly 30 transition from school to work events right across Canada and we've had representatives from many private sector companies right across the spectrum of the employment market speak to students with disabilities and career counsellors who work on the campuses and all that.
I think that many employers are making an effort but generally the representation of people with disabilities in most parts of the private sector is pretty low. It's pretty low in the federal government too. I think it's around 3% or something, so the federal government needs to do a much better job when it comes to equity hiring.
There are all sorts of industries that are doing innovative things. They have special training programs and they have.... If you look at the financial services sector, for example, if you get a job in a bank, you may be more likely to get disability supports or sign language interpretation if you need it, for example, on the job.
On the other hand, I've heard a lot of people say—one person said it at an employment meeting of disability organizations organized by HRSDC—that the banks don't have a hiring problem; they have a retention problem.
Sometimes what happens in that sector, but in other sectors as well, is that people with disabilities—in many cases with university education—are being hired and put into call centres, for example, where the demand may be. Depending on somebody's disability, if you put them into a call centre environment, you may be setting them up for failure. A call centre is basically how many calls you can make in a certain period of time, how many widgets can you produce, that sort of thing.
In some cases it's thinking differently about how you're staffing positions among people with disabilities. So people with certain types of disabilities may not be very good when it comes to call centre jobs. Somebody with a communication issue because they have CP, for example, can't do telephone soliciting, but maybe that person has a commerce degree and you should be giving them a business-related job. It could be a teller position or it could be something higher than that.
I think that there are lots of efforts and I think there's funding from the federal government through various programs and the provinces as well to help support employers in their efforts to recruit and retain people with disabilities. There's also an issue with hiring managers too. I think it starts and ends with hiring managers. So a company can have a great employment equity policy, but if the people who are doing the hiring are not interested in hiring somebody in a wheelchair, then it starts and ends right there.
So I think that generally the private sector is doing a better job working with the disability community and hiring people with disabilities but there's a lot of—
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Smith, you're familiar with the disability tax credit. Should we be making that refundable, such that it would benefit low-income Canadians who currently, in many cases, don't qualify for it?
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 17:11
Yes, and I think there are a lot of benefits on the tax side, in terms of the disability tax credit, the disability support deduction, and medical expenses. Students can, for example, claim a lot of their expenses related to their disability that are not supported by a grant, for example, through a tax credit. But that doesn't help.
I have students who contact me who are not able to pay for their education with sufficient loans and grants and the answer would be that they can get a disability tax credit for a lot of their expenses. Well, that doesn't help somebody pay for it up at the beginning. That doesn't help them get in the door if they can't pay for it to begin with.
It's an issue of tax credits and those are really great. They should continue. But as I mentioned before, we also have an issue with the attachment of disability supports and funding and social assistance and employment. So if somebody is receiving disability supports or disability benefits, which are partly funded by the federal government through the Canada health and social transfer, then they may not be able to work while they're in school. After they graduate, a lot of graduates with disabilities who are highly educated have a really serious decision to make, particularly if they have a serious disability that requires attendant care and all sorts of medical expenses.
Do they take a job that may pay them very little when they leave and lose their benefits or have their benefits clawed back?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
A lot of times we focus on inclusion efforts, for instance with Canadians or people with disabilities, as a social policy as opposed to as an economic policy. The reality of whenever we squander the human potential of anyone or any group is that there's an economic cost.
Should we be looking at some of what the Obama administration has been doing, In terms of raising the profile of issues around people with disabilities and trying to create more opportunities within government?
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 17:13
Well, of course....
As I mentioned earlier, I'm not sure if I got the statistic exactly right, the level of employment of persons with disabilities is very low in the federal public service. It's very low in a lot of very big private sector companies too. I think a lot of that has to do with....
We talked earlier about the Canada summer employment program. If you increase opportunities for people with disabilities to get summer employment and hopefully summer jobs within the federal government, that can lead to all sorts of career opportunities either in the federal public service or in the private sector with that kind of experience.
I think when you talk about the social factor, there's the social benefit and everything. People with disabilities are very good employees. It's been proven time and again in many studies and also the private sector companies have said the same thing. They work extra hard and they're productive. I think the perception in the private sector amongst employers who aren't willing to hire people with disabilities is that they'll be less productive, that the cost of their accommodations is too high, and they don't want to take the chance. But that is not the case in the majority of instances.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
CPC (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have a couple of points. I assume we're going to have bells ringing soon.
One of the challenges that I think we've done a better job at for people with disabilities—at least, people with physical disabilities—is making changes to the building code. When I was first elected in 1997, I was the first member of Parliament in the riding I represent to have a wheelchair ramp. When we think of that today, it is shocking, absolutely shocking. When I rented my first office, that was part of the deal. If the owner built a wheelchair ramp, I would rent from him. Today we take this for granted.
But can we take it a step further? Part of the discussion with one of our witnesses a while ago concerned the notion that it should be in the building code that every home should be as wheelchair-accessible as possible, or at least easy to retrofit. You should have 36-inch doors, your bathroom door should open out instead of in, little things, even concerning your door handles.
Are we headed in that direction, at least?
Frank Smith
View Frank Smith Profile
Frank Smith
2014-04-01 17:18
I think that some of the provincial legislation will make a big.... The real issue, certainly in residential situations, is that in various provinces you can get funding to retrofit your house, should you acquire a disability and need a ramp or a lift or whatever. The real thing is that for the private sector, particularly for small business, for example, legislation such as the AODA in Ontario and the new legislation in Manitoba, which is moving in the direction of the Americans with Disabilities Act but in a provincial context, will make a difference, because there will be certain standards with respect to both the built environment and customer service that businesses will have to adhere to.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2014-04-01 11:21
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, both, for appearing. We appreciate your perspective.
Ms. Bergeron, I'm going to focus on something beyond what you described as the secret ballot and how that can be lost for some people who need to be accommodated. Some of the reports we've had before this committee, namely, the Neufeld report, talk a lot about mistakes being made by Elections Canada in the registration of voters prior to going into that ballot area to cast a ballot.
Have you found that people, whether they are blind or they have other disabilities, have actually struggled at that registration stage? Before they even go to cast a secret ballot, have they found the process difficult if they present themselves at the polling station to register and ensure they have the right to vote before casting that secret ballot?
Diane Bergeron
View Diane Bergeron Profile
Diane Bergeron
2014-04-01 11:22
Yes, there are various things. Some of the stuff that's happening in Bill C-23 addresses some of those issues, in that it ensures that information provided about getting to polling stations, which poll to vote at, and what that process is, those tool kits about how someone with a disability could vote, is going to be made accessible. That's good news for us.
There is also good information for us in the bill. People with vision loss who have a CNIB identification card can use it as identification at the polling station.
One of the issues, though, for people who are blind or partially sighted is that it's not law that they have to be a registered client of CNIB if they are blind. Many people who are blind or partially sighted are not registered with CNIB, and they do not hold that identification card. Those of us who are blind don't drive, so despite the fact that many people ask me for my driver's licence even with my guide dog at my feet, I inform them that we are not given those. For us to get identification, we need to get it from the registry. The registry often asks us for ID that we don't have.
It becomes a big process for us. Part of it also is around identifying one's location through bills. I have a stack of papers on my table and I don't know what most of them are because most of my bills don't come in Braille. If they did come in Braille, it wouldn't do a lick of good if I took the Braille copy of my phone bill to the polling station, since I doubt anybody there reads Braille. It becomes an issue in that sense.
Kory Earle
View Kory Earle Profile
Kory Earle
2014-04-01 11:27
Thank you for that.
To answer your question, the problem with campaigns is simply that when you look at better educating people, whether under section 18 as it currently is until the bill is passed or under the revised version thereafter, often politicians make decisions, and I believe you need to leave it up to the electorate to have that campaign move forward.
I can tell you right now that the question then lies ahead, whom do people contact? How do people know about something? You're looking at all kinds of broader disability, whether it be linked with CNIB or whether it be intellectual disability, or literacy. You're not going to reach the broader groups in the way you can now.
I can say that I am part of an organization that is notified, but there are a hundred that are not that deal with a broader disability than we do. It goes back and forth. I believe that the Chief Electoral Officer should have the power to really ensure that information is followed.
Why is it being changed? When changes happen, that concerns me more, because with some of the changes that are implanted, we don't know until the act comes into force whether they're going to have a damaging impact or whether they're going to have a changing impact. We don't know. That can be a matter of great concern.
So I just caution the committee that when you're looking at this, talk to people with disabilities from coast to coast, just as you are doing today. Talk to people about what their experience has been previously and what it could potentially be if this section were passed into law.
That would be my comment. But you're looking at what disabilities there are. Again, homelessness and invisible disabilities are being ignored. We must carry those forward as well.
Kory Earle
View Kory Earle Profile
Kory Earle
2014-04-01 11:40
Absolutely. Let's make very clear that a lot of this material that is established is not clear language to people with disabilities. When we are talking about campaigns, whether it be proposed section 18, we talk about democracy in Canada and we talk about all kinds of other things. There's no question from our membership it's a huge concern in terms of eligibility, because people used to be able to go to the polling stations...and not everybody has an ID in Canada. When you talk about ID let's be very clear on what kind of ID is being asked for.
The perspective that we're saying is to have an open mind. Elections Canada should....
I attend a new committee and I don't hear a whole lot of campaigns that go on that involve people with disabilities. The only time I hear about it is sometimes on the news, but I don't actually hear a whole lot of initiatives taking place. I think that's a huge concern. We want to involve all kinds of disabilities, yet you don't hear about these campaigns and you don't hear about how people with disabilities can get involved. If they can get involved, it's not in plain language. It's not material that people can turn to. If you turn around and you give someone this and they look at it, they throw it away because they don't know.... There is not a clear understanding of what it is and what the definitions are. That's where you're going to run into problems.
That's why we're saying even on election day at an advanced poll there are all kinds of people running, yet voters don't know who they are because there is no picture at the polling station or advance poll; there is no logo, no party. That would have an impact on Canadians with disabilities from coast to coast. It will give them hope that this government and all parties support their initiative.
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I hope you show the same generous interpretation of the words “four minutes” that you showed for “seven minutes” just a moment ago, actually many moments ago.
I'm going to start by taking direct issue with something Mr. Lamoureux said, because it is factually wrong. He asserts that proposed section 18 of the fair elections act would prohibit Elections Canada from making contact with people to encourage them to get out and vote if they have disabilities. It's clever wording, but the fact is that proposed section 18 does quite the opposite.
It says, “The Chief Electoral Officer may provide the public, both inside and outside Canada, with information on the following topics only” and lists (a), (b), (c), (d), and then (e), which is relevant, “the measures for assisting electors with a disability to access a polling station or advance polling station or to mark a ballot”. It also says, “The Chief Electoral Officer shall ensure that any information provided under subsection (1)”—which is what I just read—“is accessible to electors with disabilities.”
It tells you how to become an elector and how to make sure your name is on the list of electors, which is a matter that can be very difficult for someone with disabilities.
These are matters, Mr. Lamoureux, which Elections Canada has to a great degree been neglecting. I made a point of working very hard to convince the minister to put language like this into the legislation. It seems to me now, in listening to the testimony, that the problem is that this is not directive enough. It doesn't actually say that he must do this; it only says that these are things he should do. I'm trying to focus him on doing these things, which he has been neglecting for years and years and years, despite the ongoing need.
Having said all of that, I have a question for Ms. Bergeron. I wanted to ask about the voter information card, which is of course the piece of mail that arrives telling you that they think the person living at this house is you. In my case, I get a card saying that they think the person at the address is Scott Reid and where to go to vote. It gives some other information as well. All of that is available as it arrives in my mailbox, in English and French, but obviously it doesn't come in Braille.
I don't know, is a Braille version put out for houses where the person living there is visually impaired? Are some efforts being made to provide people with this kind of information in a form that is accessible and usable for them if they have a visual impairment?
Kory Earle
View Kory Earle Profile
Kory Earle
2014-04-01 11:49
Absolutely.
I think vouching is as critical today as it was last week. We've come a long way for Canadians to vote, and yet we're turning around and saying that they must come with ID. There's no question that some people have ID, but I can tell you right now that when someone vouches, it gives someone hope, whether that person is vouching or not. If you're talking about secret ballots, that person can also be the neutral person helping them as well.
This act should not just be about ID. It shouldn't be about saying, “You know what? You're entitled, as a Canadian citizen, to vote in a democracy, but we are going to make some barriers to that happening”. That's not what we want to see. That's not what Canadians want to see. Canadians want to see a commitment from all parties and governments to turn around and say, “We're not taking democracy away because you have to come up with this ID.”
I can tell you right now that not everybody has a CNIB card; not everybody has a membership card to their organization; not everybody has a photo ID. I have photo ID, but I can tell you right now that a lot of our members don't have that ID.
The question is whether this act is about turning people away from voting in a democracy or about encouraging people. Having barriers does affect people's lives each and every day. People with disabilities face enough challenges in Canada. They don't need a government or a party to create barriers, or to turn around and say, “Guess what? You're now not going to vote, but you already have challenges, so it's okay.” There needs to be more leeway.
The experts involved in this should be people with disabilities, because they're the ones who can talk with experience. I can talk about the experiences I've gone through growing up and the challenges. Many can. I think it's shameful about the vouching, and I think it needs to be looked at more seriously moving forward.
Diane Bergeron
View Diane Bergeron Profile
Diane Bergeron
2014-04-01 11:52
I don't have any specific statistics on what percentage of people with vision loss in Canada do or do not have identification. We are very pleased that the CNIB card can be used as identification. I can tell you that quite regularly I get calls from folks saying that they don't understand why they can't get on a plane with their CNIB card because it has a picture ID. They ask me why we're not making our CNIB cards government-issued ID. Of course, the answer that CNIB is not government doesn't always get a good response.
The reality is that the CNIB card may be their only source of ID, and that might not even be enough to get a provincial identification card. They need other things.
I can't give you the percentage, and I can't tell you exactly how many people it will affect, but I can tell you that there are going to be some people affected.
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
You know, I wouldn't have asked you either, David. You're just so grumpy.
Anyway, as it turned out, he asked me, so I thought of People First. I kind of used this as a way to advertise some of the great work People First does. This is an organization that's all about taking people with disabilities and helping them to maintain and develop their independence and their decision-making abilities. They are a really inspirational group.
Both of you guys, I'm always amazed at the great work you and the folks with you do.
We met at my constituency office and I got a lot of input that I thought was really helpful, for which I'm grateful.
I wanted to ask you about something that came up which I had not thought of until you mentioned it just now. You mentioned anxiety disorder, right? Frankly it's just one of those things that hadn't crossed my mind. I think of the things that are obvious: mobility disorders, visual impairments, and so on. Can you just tell me a bit about that?
Bob Brown
View Bob Brown Profile
Bob Brown
2014-03-31 21:02
Thank you very much for hearing me. I'm not as fast a reader as some of the others, so I'm just going to highlight some of our points. I understand that you have the full presentation.
Council of Canadians with Disabilities, CCD, is a national cross-disability organization with nine provincial, one territorial, and seven national disability member groups. Through CCD, Canadians with disabilities have been speaking out and taking their rightful place in Canadian society by causing the removal of barriers to participation. Approximately 3.8 million, or 13.7% of Canadians—we'll talk about that—15 years of age and older report a disability.
Thank you for hearing from the CCD on the barriers regarding Bill C-23. We want to talk about four points that we feel are of great concern.
On the public education campaigns, unfortunately Bill C-23 ends the Chief Electoral Officer's power to implement information programs about the electoral process. Barriers, such as the lack of plain language information, Braille, large print, ALS-LSQ information for the hearing impaired and deaf, have prevented some persons with disabilities from being knowledgeable about the electoral process. Accessibility and inclusive public education campaigns enable people with disabilities to overcome information barriers and to promote participation. CCD recommends that the Chief Electoral Officer continue to have the authority to implement information programs.
The next is alternative voting process. The printed ballot is inaccessible to some voters. For example, voters with vision impairments cannot independently verify if a printed ballot is correctly marked. Adoption of electronic and telephone voting processes will overcome this barrier, hopefully, but will require testing. Bill C-23 proposes House and Senate approval of future tests of electronic processes. Currently, committee approval is sufficient. As additional approval requirements could hinder barrier removal, CCD recommends that only committee approval be required for the test of electronic voting systems.
Next is voter identification rules. We've heard quite a bit about that tonight. Bill C-23's proposal to eliminate vouching and prohibit the use of voter information cards, VIC, for verifying a voter's residence will disenfranchise voters who do not have full identification of their address. Persons with disabilities living in long-term care facilities and homeless people with disabilities will be among the disenfranchised because they experience barriers to obtaining necessary ID, not because it's not available, but they just can't get it. CCD recommends we retain the current safety net provided by the VIC and vouching.
On campaign contributions, more people with disabilities are seeking public office. People with disabilities experience a disproportionate level of poverty. CCD disagrees with the Bill C-23 exemptions that allow increased contribution from a candidate's personal funds because it will place less affluent Canadians at a disadvantage.
Finally, on enforcement, the Commissioner of Canada Elections should not work for the government of the day. To protect the fairness of the electoral process, CCD recommends that the Commissioner of Canada Elections report directly to Parliament.
Thank you for your time.
David Shannon
View David Shannon Profile
David Shannon
2014-03-31 21:07
Mr. Chair, I'm glad you chose Mr. Brown first; therefore, there's always brilliance to my right.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Shannon: Thank you very much for the invitation this evening.
My name is David Shannon. I live in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I had a spinal cord injury 32 years ago. That means I have had the benefit of experiencing many elections using a wheelchair. I'm also the executive director of a non-governmental organization that serves people with disabilities in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I'm here on behalf of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, which is a national collaboration of disability researchers, community organizations, and federal and provincial policy-makers aimed at creating and mobilizing knowledge to enhance disability policy in Canada.
Of course today I'm here to talk about disability policy and in particular some recommendations. I would submit that this is an opportunity for all of us to enhance the inclusion of persons with a disability.
When I talk about persons with a disability in Canada, I'm not talking in a vacuum. I'm not talking about an ideal or an idea. I'm talking about four million Canadians who are of an age to vote. In fact 4.4 million Canadians have a disability, and according to the latest statistic, four million are of voting age. It's a critically important bloc to access for any politically minded individual, and indeed to open the doors to greater democracy, which I believe is the purpose of this bill.
We have found, however, that obstacles to electoral involvement for persons with a disability are not limited to just inaccessible polling sites. The Elections Act has tried to address that. The Hughes decision at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal tried to address that. But it goes beyond polling sites. It goes to meeting venues, campaign offices, and constituency offices. They are all central to the effective functioning of Canadian democracy. I want to talk about that. At the very fundamental level of our democracy, every party, every politician has to open the doors to meetings and campaign offices to guarantee that they have inclusive design.
Our research has shown that people with disabilities are 20% less likely to vote than those with a disability. That's ironic, however, that they're less likely to vote, because if you ask them, as our research also indicates, there is a greater urgency and desire among the disability community to vote than the rest of Canada. This leads to, within these 4.4 million Canadians, what is termed absent citizens. Therefore, meeting venues, campaign offices, and information materials are central to accessing these absent citizens.
A recent study conducted under the auspices of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance surveyed candidates from the Ontario election campaign of 2011 to discover the extent to which campaign offices, meeting venues, party platforms, and official websites were accessible and inclusive toward their disabled constituency. Party leaders were polled to seek their position on disability issues and accessibility in their campaign and their platform.
The findings from this survey indicate there is a general lack of understanding of the imperative to achieve accessibility standards, not only of polling stations and booths, but also of political campaigns, if representative democracy in Canada is to include people with disabilities.
Of course that was a provincial election. I would not imagine that same error would visit itself upon any federal campaign.
The survey found that accessibility practices tended to be reactive instead of proactive, exceptional instead of inclusive. Electoral practices do not appear to have kept pace with the shift in policy and attitudes towards disability that has occurred. We've seen a shift in the past generation from 1981 to 2014 in the way in which the public views inclusiveness and includes persons with a disability, but political campaigns and politicians have not kept pace.
Mr. Chair, we therefore ask for your consideration to add a section under the general provisions of the bill known as the fair elections act.
We recommend: one, that the standing committee mandate campaign office accessibility in the legislation; two, that the fair elections act adopt and implement an accessibility standard for all campaign websites, offices, and meeting spaces during the federal election; three, that Elections Canada communicate with the individual candidates about the expectations of accessibility. We do have, by the way, a tool kit, which is a survey of how to make one's campaign offices accessible. Finally, Mr. Chair, we recommend that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs recommend enhanced and broadened funding through the enabling accessibility fund to help achieve greater accessibility during a federal election. In other words, this section can be implemented.
We believe this would help us lead to a much broader constituency and a voice for all Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, all, for being here.
I have one or two questions hopefully for all three of you on different aspects of your presentations, and we'll see if we can get through them in seven minutes.
Mr. Brown, in one of the items contained in your brief on alternative voting processes you talked about the fact that many times a printed paper ballot is a deterrent for many disabled Canadians. I'd like to hear a little bit more about that, because I know, for example—and you'd be well aware of this, of course—people who are visually impaired have the ability to bring someone into the polling booth with them, and they can instruct the person where to mark the ballot. You're talking about something that goes far beyond that. You're talking about either telephone or electronic voting.
Let me just ask you, if we remain for the time being with the printed ballot, would extending the ability to all disabled people to bring someone of their choosing into the polling booth, if required, satisfy some of the problems you're talking about now?
Bob Brown
View Bob Brown Profile
Bob Brown
2014-03-31 21:21
I can probably speak to part of that.
For a large number of people with visual disabilities, who have a problem or are visually impaired, it seems to be a fundamental right that the person should not have to rely on someone else and should be able to independently verify which name they're voting for. It's a question of dignity, so in our view it's the ability to personally do it yourself, not having to rely on kindness, or whatever. Not everybody has someone they trust to bring in with them. You don't want to turn to the person next in line and ask, “Can you come in and give me a hand with this?” And you don't really want to rely on a voting official. It comes down to the fundamental democratic rights of the electoral process.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Your comments, certainly, on realizing, understanding, and allowing the dignity of the disabled voter to vote on their own is, I think, a very valid point. I appreciate your comments on that.
Mr. Shannon, I assume you would concur with your colleague Mr. Brown since you always find the true genius to your right.
David Shannon
View David Shannon Profile
David Shannon
2014-03-31 21:23
I can only but concur and say that I've also had a personal experience. There is awkwardness that one might only imagine, in a very practical sense, in how some of the families that are engaged might have differing political views. The person you trust might be your spouse, but perhaps you don't agree on who to vote for that day, and it would be preferable to vote independently.
View Alexandrine Latendresse Profile
NDP (QC)
I would like to continue talking about Mr. Lukiwski's questions and Mr. Willard's answers. I actually don't see why that should be mutually exclusive. There is no reason not to be able to simply tell the Elections Canada officials that their agency should focus on that, without necessarily preventing it from implementing all the other existing programs.
My question is perhaps more for Mr. Brown and Mr. Shannon.
Let me start by reading the subclause about communication with electors with disabilities. The bill states:
The Chief Electoral Officer shall ensure that any information provided under subsection (1) is accessible to electors with disabilities.
That means information about how to vote.
Mr. Brown, that's not bad, as you so well pointed out in your presentation. It is a good thing and we are happy to see it in the bill. However, the existing subsection in the Canada Elections Act states:
The Chief Electoral Officer may implement public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights.
I am particularly astonished about what Mr. Shannon told us earlier. You talked about a 20% difference. In your presentation you said:
Research has shown that people with disabilities are 20% less likely to vote than those without a disability.
You must surely think that people with disabilities are directly targeted by that subsection, which talks about those most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights, correct?
Bob Brown
View Bob Brown Profile
Bob Brown
2014-03-31 21:29
I'll answer first.
Part of the problem for some is mobility, just getting where they have to go.
One of the big things again is the poverty a lot of people experience. There is a cost to getting identification. Not everybody has a driver's licence, or photo ID with their address on it. A citizenship card or a passport costs money. Somebody on welfare, which a lot of people with disability are on, doesn't have a lot of extra money at the end of the month. Are they going to pay for groceries or medication or will they go out to buy a citizenship card or a form of ID? You still have to go out to be able to register for that ID in order to get it. I listened to previous speakers tonight. There is a cost. Not everybody is equal. I acknowledge there's a digital fingerprint or thumbprint somewhere, but not everybody has access, not everybody is able to get that ID. That's one of the big things we wanted to impress upon you.
Bob Brown
View Bob Brown Profile
Bob Brown
2014-03-31 21:32
There are a lot of people still in long-term care facilities and nursing homes, seniors, persons with disabilities. These people do vote, especially seniors and persons with disabilities. The administration, because of resources or whatever, may or may not issue letters for this purpose.
The OHIP card was talked about. People don't necessarily have them in their possession. They may be held by family members or the administration of the facility they're in, so they're not able to independently provide identification or the identity card. This is a problem that we see. People do need to be able to rely on that card. That's going to eliminate a lot of people. For anybody in the hospital it's the same process. They're not able, first of all, to get to a voting place, but there are systems for that. Without that VIC or a.... People just don't have that kind of information with them.
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