Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org Email: email@example.com Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance
April 26, 2023
Here are the AODA Alliances reflections on the first six days of evidence presented at the Senate Social Affairs Standing Committee (SOCI) public hearings on Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. The SOCI Committee heard from individuals and organizations on March 22, 23, 29 and 30, and on April 19 and 20.
We dont attempt to summarize all of what was said. Rather, we emphasize the presentations that spoke to the need for the Senate to make a number of high-impact, least-intrusive amendments to the bill. Everyone agrees that it is good that the Federal Government wants to lift impoverished people with disabilities out of poverty. No one has claimed that as written, this bill will in fact lift all, most or even many people with disabilities out of poverty. Everyone hopes it will. Those seeking amendments want to better ensure that it will live up to its good intentions.
The Federal Government appears to have mounted quite a campaign in opposition to the Senate making amendments to Bill C-22. This is certainly not the first time it has done this. The Senate has seen it all before.
Some presenters from the disability community at the Senate SOCI Committee asked for Bill C-22 to be passed without amendments. However, none of them disagreed with what any of the AODA Alliances amendments would achieve. None said that it would be bad for impoverished people with disabilities if Bill C-22 included those things. None said that had the Trudeau Government written those things into Bill C-22, they would have demanded to have them removed as bad things.
We do not believe that the position advanced by those groups reflect a majority of people with disabilities living in poverty, and those who are not in poverty now but who fear the possibility of living in poverty as they age. The reasons those groups gave for asking for no amendments are all based on major misconceptions about the bill. The AODA Alliances April 24, 2023 brief to the SOCI Committee lists these misconceptions and shows why they are incorrect. They include, for example, misconceptions that amendments would delay the bill or even kill the bill, that amendments could lead to years of delay, and that all the bills problems can be fixed by the regulations to be made under the bill.
The final two days of public hearings are today and tomorrow, April 26 and 27, 2023. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky will speak to the SOCI Committee at its very last panel, lasting for one hour, starting at 12:30 pm EDT, tomorrow, Thursday April 27, 2023. You will be able to watch it live streamed on Parliaments
You can read the short list of amendments that we are urging the Senate to make in the April 24, 2023 AODA Alliance brief to the SOCI Committee. You can learn about our battle since early last fall to get this bill strengthened, despite the concerted campaign by the Trudeau Government to resist amendments, by dropping in on the AODA Alliance websites Bill C-22 page.
Please quickly email the Senate Standing Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org Urge senators to make the amendments to Bill C-22 that the AODA Alliance has requested.
The following reflections focus on amendments to the bill that are needed. We want to be clear that a few of the people here quoted elsewhere expressed a desire for the bill to pass without amendments. However, despite some having said this, some of their comments serve to support our call for the limited amendments that we seek.
1. On March 22, 2023, Margaret Eaton, National Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association told the SOCI Committee that the Federal Government did not consult her organization during its extensive public consultation on Bill C-22.
,AODA Alliance Comment: It is shocking that while spending millions on a multi-year public consultation on this bill, the Federal Government never consulted so well-known and obvious an organization as the Canadian Mental Health Association.
2. Margaret Eaton, National Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association, told the SOCI Committee:
We truly applaud the creation of Bill C-22, but we also have some real concerns with the legislation because many crucial aspects of the benefit will be implemented by regulations and not by legislation. Regulations can be vulnerable to shifting political priorities, and if its not legislated, it means that future governments can make unilateral changes without requiring parliamentary oversight.
So we want to ensure that recommendations made by the disability community are baked into the legislation. We have four recommendations.
The first recommendation is timelines. The legislation does not impose a deadline for the government to develop the regulations or establish the benefit. People living with disabilities who live in poverty cannot wait. We recommend the legislation be amended to set a clear deadline of 10 months for cabinet to establish the regulations and one year to begin disbursements.
The second recommendation is clawbacks. This benefit is intended to supplement and not replace disability assistance that Canadians receive from federal, provincial-territorial or private sources. Those folks must navigate the complex system of various benefits, tax credits and income and social supports. Those benefits are not always harmonized or complementary at different levels of government, which can result in clawbacks, delays or even the denial of benefits. We recommend adding explicit provisions that prohibit benefit deductions or offsets by other levels of government and by private insurance providers.
The third recommendation is regarding adequacy. Will this funding be enough, and will it keep pace with inflation? Rarely do supports reflect the expensive costs of living with a disability. Bill C-22 is not indexed to inflation, although there is the recommendation that the Governor-in-Council must consider the Poverty Reduction Acts official poverty line. It is imperative that the legislation include wording similar to the Old Age Security Act that guarantees, rather than considers, adjustments for inflation.
Finally, the fourth recommendation is around eligibility. The bill states that regulations may distinguish among different classes of applicants and beneficiaries. A mental illness, when it hinders a persons full and equal participation in society, is recognized as a disability. However, some people with mental illness have been denied benefits because of the episodic nature of their disability. For example, the experience of bipolar disorder may be characterized by periods of severe illness and then sometimes wellness. We would welcome wording that acknowledges the different kinds of disabilities as defined under the Accessible Canada Act to ensure the full accessibility of the benefit for people with mental illnesses.
AODA Alliance Comment: CMHA makes very good points. No other witnesses showed them to be incorrect.
3. On March 23, 2023 The SOCI Committee Chair raised a concern about which the AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre have proposed a specific amendment. Two witnesses echoed the very concern that underpins the amendment we seek:
In her presentation to us yesterday, the minister said that shes drawing a red line on clawbacks. No clawbacks. Thats her position. Its an admirable position.
Do you believe that the benefit should be rolled out after all clawback agreements are signed, or should money start flowing province by province as soon as a clawback agreement is signed?
Glen Hoos, Director of Communications, Down Syndrome Resource Foundation,
My opinion would be that the money should start flowing as soon as possible or sooner. One of the recommendations that we made in our initial brief to the house on this was that there should be some kind of interim emergency funding put in place while the benefit is being developed, because even if we achieve our goal of implementing the benefit by the end of 2023, that still leaves nine months in the interim during which this problem is continuing and growing. The faster we can get money into pockets, the better. Im sure Ms. Hewitt would agree with that.
Michelle Hewitt, Co-Chair of the Social Policy Team with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities:
Yes, I do agree. I think its very complicated for us to say to leave people in other provinces behind, but we have to get relief flowing at some point in some way.
I understand and I deeply agree with the ministers red line. However, I think that method of monitoring those clawbacks is going to be something that we will need to talk about regarding how that happens and how the organizations that are best placed to understand what disabled people are actually facing. In the type of example I just gave, those are the ways that were going to have to make sure we see it being monitored.
AODA Alliance Comment: The amendments to the bill that the AODA Alliance proposes directly address this important issue. Our amendments would get money into the hands of impoverished people with disabilities more quickly.
4. On March 23, 2023, the SOCI Committee heard from witnesses including two from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.
Linda Bartram, First Vice President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians:
The Canada disability benefit aims to reduce poverty and support financial security for persons with disabilities, which is a laudable goal. Unfortunately, it leaves out a complete sector of the community of persons with disabilities in that it is restricted to working-aged persons with disabilities and excludes, presumably, seniors. We are requesting that the term working-aged be removed from clause 3 of the bill and that this age consideration, the age eligibility criteria, be considered at the regulation stage, along with all of the other eligibility. This is the only eligibility criteria that is outlined in the act.
We believe it should not be there, that this should be considered at the regulation stage.
We feel that the most vulnerable individuals need to benefit from the Canada disability benefit, and those include seniors. There are many that will fall into that category. Yet, if working age is included within the bill, anyone who is over the age of 65 will probably be automatically not eligible for this benefit. Therefore, were asking the Senate to seriously consider removing the term working age from the bill and, again, have age restrictions considered at the eligibility criteria when regulations are being looked at, as per clause 4 in the act. That way the most vulnerable seniors at that stage will still be eligible to be considered for the benefit.
Bill C-22 should be amended to ensure that $2,200 is the guaranteed absolute minimum amount of a persons total income after the benefit. The federal government valued working Canadians at $2,000 per month with CERB. Add 10% for disability-related expenses. Hey, I would add 40%, why not? The amount should be adjusted annually for inflation and the cost of living and right now it doesnt do this. Cabinet only has to take into consideration weve heard that before the poverty line in the Poverty Reduction Act. So thats not guaranteed.
The bill needs to provide public enforcement for the provincial agreements with the lack of clawbacks for the benefit. We support amendments recommended by Steven Muller and Hart Schwartz who revealed a serious hole in the bill regarding the fact that right now private insurance companies are free to clawback the benefit. Federal money meant to lift people with disabilities out of poverty should never be diverted to rich insurance companies.
The act states the Governor-in-Council may make regulations. Nothing in the bill guarantees the cabinet will ever enact any of the important 21 regulations listed in section 11. The bill does not establish any deadline to ensure regulations are developed within a reasonable time frame. Section 11.2(2) of the bill merely requires the minister to file a report with Parliament on progress in the regulatory process a full year after the bill comes into force. That could be two years after Royal Assent. What if that report says the regulations are still not finished?
People with disabilities should not have to trust this government and every future government. Promises to work with the disabilities community are not good enough for us.
AODA Alliance Comment: These are strong arguments in support of amending the bill.
5. AEBC was asked if they were concerned about private insurance companies clawing back the Canada Disability Benefit.
Definitely. This benefit needs to be in addition to what is already out there. If it is clawed back, then basically the province is making money on the benefit and were losing again. We are definitely against any clawbacks, but there also needs to be public enforcement of the agreements with the provinces because if a province says, okay, were not going to clawback and then they do, we need to be able to come to the federal government and say, deal with it. Youre the ones who talked to the provinces, you made the agreements, you need to deal with it. People with disabilities shouldnt have to. They should be able to come to the federal government.
AODA Alliance Comment: We agree.
6. Senator Bernard:
My initial question was going to be the same one that Senator Kutcher asked about age but I would like to continue with that for a moment. One of the things we have heard repeatedly is that persons with disabilities have a lot of extra costs. Would it be safe to assume that once you reach a certain age those costs become lower and that might be the reason why this working age criteria has been included? Or would you say there is a different way we should be looking at this? If we could start with Ms. Bartram on this, please.
Yes. I would argue that those costs do not get less when you become a senior. They potentially become more with comorbidities, some of the natural aging that puts seniors into what we would consider a disability category with hearing loss, with vision loss, with limited mobility et cetera. Those are all disabilities when you are working age and they are disabilities when you are a senior as well. Somebody who has been living on a very low income all their lives, I dont think their costs are particularly going to be less as they become a senior. They still have to pay rent and buy food and medications. Thats pretty well all they can do with the income they have getting a senior discount to go to a show or a senior discount on some other things which they maybe have never participated in in the first place because they have never had the funds. I think we are going to see some very vulnerable seniors who are going to be left way behind with an age restriction being in the act.
There will be some seniors with disabilities who do not need this benefit, and that can be determined at the regulation stage, but to determine it here at the bill stage when it cannot be changed by the regulations or not very easily anyways to keep saying well sort all this out at the regulations, they wont be able to sort out the age criteria at the regulations.
AODA Alliance Comment: Once again we agree. With advancing age comes more disabilities. With more disabilities come more disability-related costs.
7. Later on March 23, 2023:
Thank you. My question will be on the timeline. I understand, and we have been hearing from different witnesses, that the one thing everybody seems to agree on is that we need this bill and we need it quick. We all agree with that. Some are worried by the potential delays that may be caused as a result of improving the bill, and others are worried about potential delays in that the timeline within the bill is not very prescriptive.
Im referring to the fact that the bill calls for a report on the progress made by the regulatory process within one year. In that time frame, we dont know what a report could be or could not be. This is concerning because I like to have a definite answer. When are we going to get there and how?
First to Mr. Adair and maybe Ms. Yale to follow because I know you have a position on that. We hear that people should be receiving money within a year but then the bill doesnt say that or prove it will happen. That concerns me. I want to hear from you on that. Mr. Adair:
Thank you for this very important and critical question.
We heard a verbal commitment from the minister yesterday that within 12 months after Royal Assent, she plans on having regulations available. She plans on having funds flowing to people with disabilities in poverty in 2024. Maybe there are specifics that the Senate would like to put in here.
What I can tell you is that many of us in the disability community do have confidence in the minister. We do have confidence that there is a serious commitment to engage people with disabilities. Probably the most important thing to say is we are 6 million people in this country, and we will not let government off the hook on this. We have a bill and we are pursuing regulations. We will be part of the process, and we will push to make sure it happens expeditiously.
Im not confident. First of all, we have no guarantee that the bill will come into force within a year. It has to come into force before anything substantive can happen. The two reporting deadlines are after it comes into force. That needs to happen first.
The first timeline that needs to be cleared up is when this bill comes into force. Why not at Royal Assent? Thats the first concern. The second is that, yes, we are going to be able to co-create these regulations. We are being given an opportunity, but it doesnt say that the opportunity is actually going to lead to anything.
If all the minister whoever that minister is has to do is report the progress, as I said before, what if the regulations are not finished? Minister Qualtrough did say within 12 months, but if its not in the bill, there is nothing to say that if the government falls before this bill comes into force or between Royal Assent and the bill coming into force, what happens then?
The first timeline that really needs to be cleared up is the coming into force, and then there needs to be a timeline for when the regulations will actually be enacted — not created and in the Canada Gazette but actually in law, because until they are in law, this bill does nothing.
AODA Alliance Comment: We agree with Ms. Yale. It is not correct to think that if one has confidence in one minister, that is sufficient to address our concerns with this bill. As we have earlier said, that minister is not biologically or politically immortal and will not be the minister for all time. No matter how dedicated and passionate that minister is, the implementation of this bill is not up to one minister to decide on their own.
8. Senator Dasko:
My question is a variation on exactly this. You may have just answered it, but I want to make sure I understand that and also ask the other witnesses.
Mr. Adair, you have urged us to go ahead. We received a letter this week that was sent by a number of organizations. You noted that the House of Commons made nine changes and you are very positive about them. The Senate, in the way we operate now, we often like to make improvements to bills. It is something we find ourselves very interested in doing.
Is there anything that you would want us to change that would be a priority for change for us to do in this committee and in the Senate? I would like to hear from all witnesses. What would be a top priority for this bill in particular in terms of changes?
There needs to be at least two changes. The first that pops into my mind is the removal of working age so that every criterion is done at the regulation stage. If you dont do that then you need to provide criteria for the benefits. Otherwise, you are discriminating, and we dont want to do that.
The second thing is in section 11.1. If everything is to happen at the regulation stage, then there must be a must. There must be regulations made. It cannot be may, because if its a may, it doesnt have to happen. Those are my two points. Senator Dasko:
Ms. Bartram, do you have a top priority for the Senate to change this bill?
My top priority is to remove the wording working age from the act. That would be my top priority. I also agree with changing the word from may to must.
AODA Alliance Comment: Here again, a strong case for amendments were made by those witnesses who advocated for them.
10. On March 29, 2023:
David Kron, Executive Director, Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba:
Provincial clawbacks of federal benefits are a real risk and should be addressed in the bill.
Currently in Manitoba, an individual on EIA collects between $823 per month in general assistance up to $1,278 per month with those with severe and prolonged disabilities. As you can see, all these levels of income do not come close to the cost of living.
As stated in the preamble, provinces do take the lead on disability benefits, services and direct supports. I am concerned that given the history and the potential for clawbacks, both in income and wraparound benefits, that the Canadian disability benefit needs to be protected. We need those benefits, both provincially and federally, to be stackable so they can actually make an impact on disability, alleviate poverty and give recipients a dignified and fulfilling life.
The next question is: How do we do this? There are two steps I want to bring to your attention. Step one is in proposed section 3, the purpose of the act. This needs to be more than one sentence. The bill has ambitious goals that need to be reflected here. The purpose of the act needs to be more specific with a benefit level, more than just basic needs like food, security and housing. There are also additional expenses when living with a disability transportation costs, social inclusion and social opportunities are some examples. In the purpose of the Canadian disability benefit, the need is to give a certainty of the federal government goals and to discourage provinces from interfering with the achievement of those goals through their own social benefit programs.
The importance of having clear and specific purpose of the act is two-fold. First is to discourage the provinces from making clawbacks to benefits. This enhanced purpose will give guidance to the courts and Parliament in the future of the intention of the act if there is a dispute between federal and provincial jurisdictions.
Second, in proposed section 11, the regulations, a lot of the details of this act are left to be developed in the regulations. Having a more specific detailed purpose and some general goals in clause 3 will help guide and create a better Canadian disability benefit.
Step two, the federal government already has the tools to protect this benefit if Parliament does not want to change the bill with an amendment. The Canada Social Transfer has the ability for the federal government to withhold an equal amount of funds transferred to the provinces that clawback benefits. However, in order to avoid long and expensive court challenges, a change within Bill C-22 is preferred. In section 9 (c), this benefit has been protected from clawbacks with other federal benefits, so you have already made that point.
AODA Alliance Comment: While these are not the specific amendments we have listed, this illustrates how creative amendments can be devised to address real problems with the bill. 11. Jenel Shaw, Executive Director, Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba:
While AANM does support this bill, we have concerns. The bill explicitly states that this benefit is for those under 65 who are of working age. As we all know, poverty doesnt end at 65. Artists with disability, there is no retirement age. Our artists continue to create work long into their senior years, and are as deserve of financial stability as their younger counterparts.
AODA Alliance Comment: No one can dispute the obvious. Disability poverty does not end at age 65.
12. Sid Frankel, Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba, as an individual:
First of all, I think the act and regulation should take more of a human rights approach to poverty prevention and amelioration. That would mean guaranteeing the benefit as a right, using the various human rights treaties to which Canada is a signatory as a normative framework and the minister required to report annually on compliance with it as well as with the Charter.
Accountability measures, the minister also reporting annually on the rate, depth and duration of poverty among people with disabilities, a consideration of people with disabilities as a vulnerable group and trying to lower the risks of that occur because of the intersection of poverty and disability. One way to do that is to ensure that the eligibility processes and the appeals are accessible to all. The act should guarantee the technological and human resources required by some people with disabilities to render them accessible.
Finally, a human rights approach argues that people with disabilities must participate in the administration of the act, not merely in preparation of the regulations. There should be something more comprehensive and more enduring, perhaps a committee representative of all people with disabilities that could monitor the implementation of the act, make recommendations for improvement and respond to recommendations of others.
Second, the bill requires the minister to take account of the market basket measure, Canadas official poverty line, in establishing the benefit level which will then, of course, become the standard for assessing how much poverty has been reduced by the bill. There are some problems with that. The way the market basket measure works, many costs are not included in the basket that are subtracted from income. I recount them in what I have written. But one of them is the cost of medically prescribed, but uninsured goods and services. My argument would be that the benefit will be set too low using the market basket measure.
Beyond this, none of our poverty measures take account of the additional costs related to disability to have an equivalent standard of living for those who are not disabled, and we have some recent research that I have cited that documents that very fact with regard to the market basket measure.
I would recommend an adjusted low-income measure. This is a relative measure rather than the absolute market basket measure, relative measures are much more highly correlated with health and well-being indicators. The market basket measure would have to be adjusted. First of all, it doesnt take account of the additional costs of disabilities, so something would have to be built in to assess those. Because the market basket measure is based on median incomes, it would go down likely in times of recession and certainly in depression.
I would argue that the last year before the recession or depression should be taken as the benefit level. Beyond that, again, others have made points about clawbacks. We know it happens. It happened with the CERB, despite very strong statements from the federal minister asking provinces and territories not to claw back.
AODA Alliance Comment: This is a very thoughtful analysis of the bills weakness as it stands.
13. Kait Blake, Administrative Director, Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture: Thank you.
This bill does not adequately address the complexities of poverty. Poverty is not an absence of sufficient income. Poverty is built into the social relations and power inequities inherent in our systems, our society and our institutions.
This bill does not address the sheer inaccessibility of the social assistance programs, systems and institutions and does not attend to the discrimination and violence that disabled people face within them.
The bill does not account for how many are excluded or inadequately served, let alone the fact that it is disappointingly minimal in its goal. The reduction of poverty still leaves our communities in dismal condition.
Jenna approaches this feedback from the point of the incredible privilege of being White, growing up in the middle upper class and having a PhD in critical disability studies. Within those pieces, nothing in how Jenna and Kickstart was invited to come to this table adequately supported in giving the type of meaningful feedback, as in every step of this process, has been inaccessible from our point of view, as disabled people.
Nothing about us without us would mean that we are involved in meaningful change in this bill at all stages. Currently, we do not see how that has been built into this process. Surely you all know this. You have been told this and you are able to understand that this is the way it is designed to go, with a lot of performative inclusion knowing that inclusion means that your table is set, dressed and ready for service and the best you might do is put a coaster under one leg to slightly improve the wobbles in a superficial way.
The best that I can say to you, on behalf of Jenna and Kickstart, is that we dont see any meaningful attention being given to the unique needs of disabled artists, the experience of the gig economy and unstable work, and the dismal ways in which disabled artists and arts administrators are funded and resourced. We do not see any meaningful consideration for things like episodic disabilities, nor the faulty and inaccessible process of getting adequate proof of being disabled, or being disabled enough, or disabled in the right way. There is also no accounting for the influence of racism and anti-indigeneity in our frame of disability rights.
All of this to say that to reduce poverty, we need to consider more than just the impact of insufficient income. Do we need more money? Yes. Will that fix the issue of inequity? Absolutely not.
AODA Alliance Comment: The Federal Government has taken three years and has spent a great deal of money developing this bill. It is troubling that any constituency in the disability community feels left out.
14. Senator Burey:
Im going to hone in on the issue of legislation versus regulation and the permutations between. We have heard from many witnesses who have one view: Lets get this bill passed. No amendments. Its going to die. Knowing that the majority of the Canada disability benefit would be established through regulations, specifically orders in council while clause 12 of Bill C-22 establishes parliamentary reviews of the Canada disability benefit act, a regulatory process limits parliamentary review of regulations to the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations.
In your opinion, regarding the majority of the Canada disability benefit description being determined through regulations rather than legislation, what are the potential advantages or disadvantages? Weve been hearing the two sides.
Ill be more than happy to reply.
A human right cant be based on good intentions. Not having clawbacks need to have the weight of law. Regulations can be changed at any time in Privy Council, so we really need to have those protections within the law or within the Canadian Social Transfer. It must be somewhere like that. Governments change expectations, and we forget why we are here today. We really need to embed that into law so we dont have to keep coming back every five years to fight for the same human right that we already have.
The Deputy Chair:
Ms. Blake, would you like to respond to this?
I defer to my colleagues.
I will be brief.
I understand the tension. Many people with disabilities are living in terrible poverty right now, and we want to do this right. I would argue that principles like referring to the various human rights treaties to which Canada is a signatory should go into the bill; they should be established as a normative framework, and the minister should be required to report on compliance.
AODA Alliance Comment: These are good responses to the fear that making any amendments to the bill is something to be avoided at all costs.
15. Senator Petitclerc: I want things on the record. Yes or no, would you all agree that, no matter the disability, living with that disability comes with extra costs? Mr. Kron: Yes.
Ms. Shaw: Absolutely.
Mr. Frankel: There is evidence of that, yes.
The Deputy Chair: Ms. Blake, do you agree with that?
Ms. Blake: Yes, I do
AODA Alliance Comment: Once again, we fully agree.
16. Jheanelle Anderson, Vice-Chair, ASE Community Foundation for Black Canadians with Disability:
Amending this bill is an opportunity to exemplify responsive and equitable leadership that truly realizes the spirit of ‘Nothing about us without us’.
We first propose a clearly defined inclusive eligibility criteria, written anti-discrimination measures to prevent discrimination in the administration of the benefit and allocated funds to cover costs associated with accessing this benefit.
For example, we know that many in our community experience many inequities in accessing health care and might experience barriers in obtaining an official diagnosis, for example, or even having access to a primary care physician to complete eligibility forms.
Next, we are calling for the development of a comprehensive knowledge mobilization strategy led by Black disabled people that includes education, training, outreach strategies that build trust, an increase in awareness, disability literacy and that supports individuals in accessing this benefit.
This work includes partnering with and specifically allocating funding to Black and disabled-led organizations.
Additionally, this bill should include accountability measures and evaluations that embed an equitable lens in collecting and analyzing disaggregated race-based data.
Finally, there must be a commitment to ensure that the data is purposefully collected and not used to over-surveil communities that have historically been excluded. We know that with this principle of targeted universalism, everyone will benefit from an equitable and inclusive approach.
AODA Alliance Comment: Here is another informed perspective on the need for amendments.
17. Senator Burey:
My first question and I am going to be quick as I want to get to the second one which is specific pass this bill right away. I was listening carefully and I said: Yes, we have to get this through the door because we don’t know what is going to happen. But I heard from Jheanelle and Nkem that there are things that we are missing. Should we be working on amendments or shouldn’t we? That’s the first question. That could be a yes or a no. Ms. Anderson:
Yes, because you can’t build it after the fact. It is not going to be inclusive at that point. I know that there is an urgency, but this is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of folks with disability,and it is very meaningful bill. It has been echoed since the start of the study.
We want to do it right and make sure we get it right. We want to make sure it will actually impact people at the margins, people who are very much so multiply marginalized. Disability is not just this one thing. Bonnie cited some stats and we have heard stats over and over again. Intersecting identities, folks who are Black, women, Indigenous folks are even further marginalized and living disproportionately in poverty. You want to make sure that the bill is going to have the impact that it was set out to have the impact
AODA Alliance Comment: We agree.
18. Rabia Khedr, National Director, Disability Without Poverty: Thank you very much.
We appreciate your hard work and welcome any technical changes that you wish to make to this bill.
We implore you to avoid any substantive changes that will trigger additional debate and risk delaying this bill or having it end on the Order Paper.
AODA Alliance Comment: Here, even one of the most vocal advocates for passing the bill as is acknowledges that technical amendments are acceptable to her. We believe that all the amendments we seek fall within the range of what she is discussing.
19. On April 19 2023:
Adrian Merdzan, Lawyer, Income Security Advocacy Centre:
Our position is that the Senate should amend Bill C-22 to protect people with disabilities living in poverty. The Senate can make amendments that respect both the nothing about us, without us approach and the framework nature of Bill C-22. This can be done by creating framework amendments that ensure statutory protection while leaving the specific details to be further parsed out in the regulations.
Bill C-22 has been improved each step of the way during the legislative process, and we recommend that the Senate continues with that approach by implementing three important amendments: first, by inserting appeal rights that provide timely and accessible dispute resolution through a tribunal; second, by guaranteeing automatic eligibility for people on existing disability programs; and third, by expanding current identification requirements so that hard-to-reach populations can access the benefit.
Those proposed amendments have been endorsed by 48 community legal clinics in Ontario who have first-hand, on-the-ground experience on why stronger income supports are needed for people with disabilities.
First, the Senate should insert appeal rights. While Bill C-22 notes that regulations respecting appeals will be made, we note that appeal rights are not all equal. The risk of having the current text of Bill C-22 stand is that this could permit the creation of an inaccessible appeal mechanism by any future cabinet.
Inaccessible appeal rights were recently seen in the pandemic recovery benefits legislation where recipients who were deemed ineligible had to go before a court for their appeal. This example demonstrated that despite being an appeal right, court adjudication is neither a timely nor accessible form of dispute resolution for people living in poverty.
To ensure this problem is not repeated, dispute resolution in Bill C-22 should be routed through a tribunal first before courts are needed. A tribunal can better serve people with disabilities due to its more flexible evidence standards, early resolution emphasis and opportunity to appoint adjudicators with lived experience.
Second, the Senate should guarantee automatic eligibility. Proving eligibility for disability benefits is administratively, emotionally and financially difficult. Currently, Bill C-22 does not guarantee that those on existing disability programs will receive the Canada disability benefit. Instead, as is, Bill C-22 could require applicants to go through the dehumanizing task of reproving their disability to a new government administrator.
The Senate should amend Bill C-22 to fix this problem. In fixing this, the Senate should also ensure that ongoing receipt of the Canada disability benefit is based on Bill C-22s eligibility criteria, not on the existing disability programs criteria.
Third, the Senate should expand identification requirements. Currently, Bill C-22 requires a social insurance number. As found by the Auditor General, requiring a SIN blocks hard-to-reach populations from accessing benefits. That is because acquiring a SIN requires an individual to provide two identification documents and proof of address. This will immediately exclude some of the most vulnerable people living with disabilities from accessing income support, including those who are houseless, those with language barriers, people with precarious immigration status and Indigenous peoples.
The Senate can alleviate this problem by amending Bill C-22 to ensure other forms of identification can be used in place of a social insurance number.
AODA Alliance Comment: We support all the amendments here requested. This illustrates how many legal experts with front-line experience with poverty issues agree on changes that are needed in Bill C-22. 20. The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Merdzan, and thank you for being on time.
Let me kick off with the first question to you, Mr. Merdzan. You have proposed amendments and changes in language. Thank you for your written brief. Your brief is supported by roughly 48 organizations. We have heard in this committee of tension around the need to improve the bill on the one happened and, on the other, to pass it quickly so that people with disabilities who are living in poverty start receiving benefits with the hope that incremental improvements will come over time.
What is your position?
Our position is that the bill, as is, will leave people behind. The requirement of ID based solely on the social insurance number that I just discussed will mean that a lot of people who do not have social insurance numbers will not be eligible for the Canada disability benefit. That, then, leaves people with disabilities behind and doesnt include them in the benefit.
We understand and I think its very clear from the conversations that have been before this committee how important it is for people with disabilities to have access to income supports. Currently, the bill doesnt protect against clawbacks, so we dont know whether that will actually go into the hands of people with disabilities. We think there should be stronger protections in place so that people with disabilities are supported. And again, I am supported in that position by 48 communities across Ontario.
AODA Alliance Comment: This makes the case for amending the bill even stronger.