UN Special Rapporteur

Meeting with special rapporteur.jpg

From April 1-11, the united nations special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities made a country visit to canada. our group, along with several other community partners shared our stories with Ms. catalina devandas aguilar. read her end visit press release":

Canada must make urgent systemic change to ensure people with disabilities can enjoy all their human rights, says a UN rights expert at the end of a fact-finding visit to the country.

“I recognise the determination of the Government to improve the situation of people with disabilities. However, I have noticed significant shortcomings in the way the federal, provincial and territorial governments implement the rights of persons with disabilities,” said Catalina Devandas, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, presenting a statement at the end of a 10-day visit.

“In many cases they have to initiate lengthy and onerous legal procedures to get their rights recognised.”

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the new Canadian Accessibility Bill and encouraged all provinces and territories to follow suit. “There is a need for more leadership from the federal, provincial and territorial authorities and coherent cooperation in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in all areas,” Devandas said.

The UN expert stressed the importance of following a human rights-based approach when federal, policy and territorial governments adopted legislation and policies.

“I am deeply concerned that many people with disabilities are presented with no other choice except placement in residential institutions, like nursing homes and group homes,” she said.

“Canada must break with these segregated approaches and move to inclusive policies that provide the support necessary for living independently in the community as a human right, not merely as a social assistance programme.”

The expert emphasised that change and better results were possible, adding: “I was extremely pleased to learn about the fully inclusive education model of New Brunswick, a role model for the world, where all children with disabilities attend regular schools and receive individual and multidisciplinary support to achieve their highest potential.

She noted that Canada has long-standing practices of supporting people with disabilities to make their own decisions instead of restricting their legal capacity. “I believe Canada needs to take a step forward and amend its legal systems to fully implement the right to legal capacity for people with disabilities,” she said.

Devandas also expressed concern about the specific challenges faced by indigenous people with disabilities because of higher rates of poverty, exclusion and discrimination. “Overcoming this structural discrimination is essential to building an inclusive and equal society,” she said.

During her visit, the UN expert travelled to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton and Halifax, meeting senior Government officials, representatives of independent institutions, people with disabilities, and service providers. She also visited a psychiatric hospital, a segregated institution for people with disabilities and a school with inclusive practices. The UN expert acknowledged the transparency, openness and collaboration of the different governments during her visit.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present a report to the Human Rights Council in March 2020 on the main findings of her visit.

Read the full end-of-visit report here.