Amid promises and benefits of federal elections, over 6 million voters with disabilities feel ignored
Michelle Hewitt cannot contain her frustration.
The co-chair of Disability Without Poverty, a national movement dedicated to securing a federal disability benefit for low-income Canadians with disabilities, is disheartened that important issues were ignored during the federal election campaign.
This is despite the fact that the disability community represents more than 20 percent of the Canadian population, or more than six million potential voters.
Financial inequality is at the top of their list of concerns.
“Ten percent of all Canadians live in poverty,” Hewitt said. “And of that 10 percent, four of them are disabled. It’s frustrating that ECP payments were set at $ 2,000 as a living wage, while welfare benefits for Canadians with disabilities were. well under $ 700 less in BC alone. “
“We’re fed up with this,” Hewitt continued.
Invoice for disability benefits suspended
Disability Without Poverty analyzed major party platforms to find out how they would support Canadians living with disabilities.
There was a silver lining in June when the government introduced Bill C-35 which set out the framework for the creation of a monthly Canada disability benefit for low income people with disabilities. But then Parliament was dissolved for the summer and the elections were called. This left the community discouraged and unsure of what would happen next.
“I think we’re all sitting here with our heads in our hands with great concern for what’s going to happen,” Hewitt said. “People who live in poverty cannot wait any longer.”
Neil Bélanger agrees that poverty is at the root of all problems faced by people with disabilities. He is the Executive Director of the BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society. And for her community, issues like employment equity are compounded by systemic racism.
“Each of the parties talks about the importance of employment, but they don’t talk about what is necessary for people with disabilities,” Bélanger said.
“We already know there is systemic anti-native racism. We already know there is discrimination against people with disabilities. So it’s a huge barrier for the people we serve to actually get jobs. ”
Bélanger noted that the change has been a long time coming.
“People with disabilities should run for every election and hold leadership positions in government,” Bélanger said.
“Who better than them to talk about accessibility? Who better than them to talk about what it is like to live in poverty? And who better than them to talk about their experiences of racial discrimination and discrimination on the ground? on disability? Nobody. ”
Forest fires, heat waves
The lack of a living wage can also impact Canadians in emergency situations.
Jewelles Smith is the Communications and Government Relations Coordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. The organization challenges the new government to ensure that people with disabilities are not forgotten in planning processes for future emergencies or left behind when disasters strike.
“I think it’s important to think about when we talk about climate response and emergency preparedness that many people with disabilities don’t have the extra income to buy fans and air conditioners all the time like we do. have seen it happen in the summer, ”Smith says.
There is also a significant gap in the accessibility of information.
“Last summer, when we had the emergency evacuations related to the wildfires in the West, I heard that information was not being shared with people with disabilities in an accessible manner, including without ASL interpreters or SQL, “Smith continued.
She added that people weren’t always sure how to access things they might need, including accessible transportation, or where to access medication, plug-in equipment or oxygen, or how to care for their pets. assistance.
Although all major parties have made reference to disability in their platforms, Smith noted that words are not enough.
“There are a lot of areas that we need to do better,” Smith said. “There is not a single electoral issue that does not directly affect the lives of people with disabilities.”
Hear Cathy Browne speak with CBC’s Stephen Quinn on The first edition on how the federal campaign meets the needs of people with disabilities:
9:25Voters with Disabilities Frustrated at Being Widely Ignored During Federal Election Campaign