“Canada is like an old cow. The west feeds it, Ontario and Quebec milk it and we can well imagine what it is doing to the Maritimes” once said Tommy Douglas. If this is not the exact quote, he might have said something similar about how Canada fared in the 1900s. Regardless of the exact citation, the sentiment is there. When it comes to disability and accessibility today there is a similar sentiment.
Recently the federal government passed third reading of Bill C22 the Canada Disability Benefit Act. The Bill, supposedly developed to lift people with disabilities out of poverty, is a great idea in principle, but it is sorely lacking in substance. First it is available only to persons of working age ending at 65. It has no defined commencement date nor any amount assigned. It will allow Cabinet to make decisions in Council without obligation to bring forward changes to Parliament for debate and approval. So much more can be said, but there isn’t the space here.
Ontario recently honoured former Lieutenant Governor David Onley with a State Funeral for his service to its citizens. As the Queen’s representative, Mr. Onley represented the Queen honourably and did justice to the citizens of Ontario who live with disabilities every day of their lives. Mr. Onley, disabled himself, at the government’s request prepared a report on the status of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act calling for swifter action by Ontario to meet its legislated obligation for a fully accessible province by 2025. To honour Mr. Onley … they shelved his report. A new report on the status of the Accessibility Act will be coming soon, as the legislation requires, and we know what the government will do with that one, too.
In Hamilton a notice of motion was submitted by a City Councillor to seek a change to the composition of the City’s Board of Health and the manner in which the Board is selected. The purpose for the change is because the cities of Ottawa and Toronto did it, so perhaps so too should Hamilton. The proposed change would include representation from designated equity groups which supposedly includes people with disabilities. However, the proposed change ignored disability altogether except to suggest that the City’s disability advisory committee might submit a question for the selection panel in a manner similar to what has been done with the Police Services Board. This is hardly reasonable given the importance of the health care system to persons with disabilities. City Council seems poised to seek a staff report on the matter, which is good. But, now those of us from the disability community must ask to be included in the staffing report process.
It sure feels like people with disabilities are taking the rumble seat these days.
I wonder, if Tommy Douglas were here today he might say something like: When it comes to full inclusion Canada’s economic and social fabric is like an old cow. The middle class feed it, the wealthy milk it, and we can well imagine what it is doing to those who are poor or disabled.
Tim Nolan is a lifetime Hamiltonian.
Tim can be contacted through Accessibility Hamilton Alliance
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