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Workers with disabilities must help shape Canada’s Disability Inclusion Strategy

Canada’s unions are marking December 3 – the International Day for Persons with Disabilities –by calling on the federal government to include persons with disabilities in Canada’s economic recovery strategy.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s unions have collaborated with disability rights coalitions like the Include Me Campaign, to highlight the unique challenges and barriers faced by persons with disabilities during this health crisis.

“We know that the current health crisis has intensified the discrimination and stigma towards workers with disabilities. Hard-won workplace accommodations are at risk when the office becomes virtual, and workers with disabilities are at a greater risk of being laid off or having their jobs furloughed,” said Larry Rousseau, CLC Executive Vice-President.

“It’s critical that we shine a light on the challenges faced by persons with disabilities during this pandemic, especially those whose experiences are amplified by multiple marginalized identities including women, Indigenous and racialized people, and those in the LGBTQ2SI community.”

Even before the pandemic, unemployment rates ranged between 35 per cent for people with ‘mild’ disabilities to 74 per cent for people with ‘severe’ disabilities. High levels of poverty and unemployment have only worsened for persons with disabilities in the midst of this crisis.

Meanwhile, the reliance on affordable housing, income and health care supports is greater than ever – programs for which funding and availability already vary greatly across the country.

The federal government’s throne speech earlier this fall highlighted many new and important initiatives to help address the disproportionate impacts of this crisis on persons with disabilities. This included a new Disability Inclusion Plan, which would feature:

  • A new Canadian Disability Benefit modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors;
  • A robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities; and
  • A better process to determine eligibility for government disability programs and benefits.

“While we welcome the new disability inclusion strategy, we are also calling for the voices of workers with disabilities and their unions to be at the forefront,” added Rousseau.

“These discussions will guide the design and implementation of this strategy and must ensure that it adequately addresses the barriers to employment and economic security that workers with disabilities face.”

The federal government can help alleviate anxiety by investing in jobs and collaborating with unions on initiatives like a robust employment strategy for persons with disabilities, making long-term care part of public health care, supporting a child care strategy, and implementing national pharmacare.

Learn more about the CLC’s Forward Together campaign at canadianplan.ca.