OPSEU’s Disability Rights Caucus (DRC) says the federal government must take immediate action to prevent persons with disabilities from being left behind in a post-pandemic world.
“The DRC wants to see a commitment in the upcoming speech from the Throne to strengthen supports for the many Canadians with disabilities who have seen the hardships they face every day become even worse because of the pandemic” said Gillian Axten and Janet Heyman, Co-Chairs of the DRC.
Similar calls have been made by former Ontario Lt. Gov. David Onley, Trinity College provost and law professor Mayo Moran, and former Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services Charles Beer.
Three key strategies that require government action include:
- Strengthening the enforcement and full implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) by 2025
- Encourage the hiring of more workers with disabilities
- Implementing a national basic income regime for those with disabilities.
The pandemic has slowed the already sluggish pace of change, meaning more and more of Canada’s disabled are becoming devastated in terms of income support and accessibility. For example, ODSP recipients who live in Toronto receive $1,169 per month but average $1,374 a month for rent payments.
The COVID-19 crisis has also made it more difficult to get prescriptions, health care, access to education and income supports like CERB. A comprehensive plan is needed to allow ODSP recipients, and others, to access CERB and other post-pandemic supports.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas notes that the disabled community is often overlooked when provincial and federal financial supports are announced.
“The result is that many people with disabilities fall deeper into poverty, marginalization, and depression,” said Thomas. “Some consider suicide when they face choices between buying food or paying the rent. This is unacceptable in a rich country like Canada.”
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says it benefits all of us when Canadians with disabilities are given full access to both public and private services.
“Canadians with disabilities have proven time and time again that when the playing field is level, that they can shine in any workplace,” Almeida said. “They can contribute so much, so it’s not only the right thing to do morally, but it also makes good economic sense.”
OPSEU and the DRC call on the federal government to take action immediately to prevent disabled Canadians from being left behind through no fault of their own. The government must substantially increase enforcement of the AODA for full inclusion in services, education and health; set and enforce clear goals to hire more people with disabilities; and bring in a national basic income strategy, like CPP and CERB, geared specifically to support Canada’s disabled in post-pandemic society.