NEWS: Federal conservatives reject disability rights

30 years of global leadership, 2 million Canadians abandoned

OTTAWA - In an open letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Alexa McDonough today challenged the federal Conservatives to declare their “clear and unequivocal commitment” to the rights of 2 million Canadians – part of the world’s 650 million people living with disabilities. The comments were made following the government refusal to sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

According to McDonough, “this government has turned its back on 30 years of Canadian leadership championing the rights of people with disabilities internationally. How do we explain this betrayal to millions of Canadians who were counting on the Conservatives to speak in the international arena for their cause?”

“There is a pattern to the Conservatives. When they cut services, they act irresponsibly and recklessly. When it is something that will actually help people, it is denial, delay and dithering,” explained NDP Disabilities Issues Critic Peter Julian.

Over the past five years, successive Canadian governments have played a leading role drafting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The signing ceremony for the Convention is to occur on March 30 in New York. However, the current Conservative government has so far refused to attend, claiming they must first “consult with provinces and territories on this important matter.”

McDonough thinks the Conservatives’ excuse is a red herring. “The signing ceremony on March 30 has no binding legal implications whatsoever. The federal, provincial and territorial governments can consult, as they should after signing and before the Convention is ratified. This is not about caring for the provinces; it is about not caring enough for people with disabilities.”

Many within the disability community seem to agree. In a press release last week, head of the Canadian Association for Community Living, Michael Bach said, “While we appreciate and support the need for ongoing consultations with Provincial and Territorial Governments in regard to ratification, we believe sufficient consultation has taken place during the development of this Convention to enable Canada to become signatory to the Convention.”

Persons with disabilities account for nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population and are one of its most marginalized groups.