NEWS: Statement on the adoption by the UN of the Covenant on the Rights and Dignity of People With Disabilities

Peter Julian, NDP Critic for Persons with Disabilities, issued the following statement today.
Dear Friends,

Today in Canada half of the homeless in our cities are people with disabilities, and so are 40% of those who must go to food banks to eat.

Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have paid only lip service to the growing concerns and needs of the disability community. They have failed in developing and implementing a long term action plan that would address the lack of support, the growing poverty and the high unemployment of this community. They have failed in ending the shameful exclusion of five million of our fellow Canadians.

Measures that have been taken so far were piecemeal and largely tax related. Only a small minority of Canadians with disabilities were able to take advantage of these tax credits.

Canadian government policy has largely focused on the symptoms rather than addressing the root causes of the problem, which is to systemically exclude persons with disabilities from accessing education and the workplace.

These are the facts.

Canada can and should do much more. We must take real action to allow the full access of 15% of the Canadian population, whose contribution to the welfare and richness of Canada is hardly recognized and who are being denied the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.

But today there is renewed hope: On December 13 2006, after four years of negotiations, and with the international participation of civil society and NGOs, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first international covenant on the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. This covenant fills an important gap in international law, by providing universal legally binding standards which create a global framework for inclusion.

Congratulations to the Canadians with disabilities and to Canadian Disabilities groups who have played a leading role in the drafting of this new international covenant on the rights and dignity of people with disabilities!

The Convention shall enter into force in March 2007, once twenty countries have ratified it.

Each country which ratifies the Convention accepts its legal obligations under the treaty and must adopt implementing legislation, and report regularly on its progress.

We all know that the government of Canada should be the first government to officially endorse the Convention.

Let us all keep up the pressure on Ottawa to commit that Canada will be the first signatory to this major human rights treaty and take real action to end exclusion.

In the words of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “Let it usher in an age when all those living with disabilities around the world become fully fledged citizens of their societies.”

Peter Julian, MP
Burnaby-New Westminster
NDP Critic for Persons with Disabilities