Evidence of meeting #43 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was done.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Vincent Calderhead  Legal Counsel, As an Individual
David Lepofsky  Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Louise Bourgeois  President and Member, Board of Directors, Mouvement Personne D'Abord de Sainte-Thérèse, Fédération des Mouvements Personne D’Abord du Québec
Danielle Gratton  Director, Fédération des Mouvements Personne D’Abord du Québec
Leslie Yee  Vice-Chair, Board of Director Member, Council for Persons with Disabilities
Neil Belanger  Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada
Peter Zein  Chairperson, Stratford Advisory Committee on Accessibility Issues

5:10 p.m.

Vice-Chair, Board of Director Member, Council for Persons with Disabilities

Leslie Yee

I heard some of the question and answer period, but I didn't hear him speak initially.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Okay. I'd like to ask you a bit about it.

I'm hearing over and over again from various groups as we go through these committees about the importance of getting this passed quickly because, of course, there's been nothing quick about any of this. I can appreciate that.

Mr. Lepofsky made some very valid points, though, about some amendments that need to be made. His concern was that using regulation to achieve this provides an awful lot of wiggle room for governments to make changes to regulations without going through the process of the House.

I'm wondering if you could speak to that. Do you have any concerns about the way this is being done? Would you prefer to see it done with more certainty or...quickly as is being proposed right now, however the regulations get formed by cabinet?

5:10 p.m.

Vice-Chair, Board of Director Member, Council for Persons with Disabilities

Leslie Yee

I definitely think it needs to be done quickly, because there's definitely a need for it, but it still needs to have full consultation from the disability community, however that will happen. It shouldn't be passed through just by cabinet. There needs to be input from the disability community on all aspects of the bill, from the rules around the bill right down to how one receives the benefits.

Yes, I agree that it needs to be done quickly. Yes, I agree that it needs to be done with consultations with the provinces. We need to reduce those clawbacks, and that's the only way you can do that. However, I think you definitely have to consider all parties when building all of the bill.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

I wonder if I could ask Mr. Belanger the same question.

Your comments were very much about getting this done as quickly as possible. Would you have any concerns about the fact that it's being done by regulation, as opposed to some very serious and firm commitments about minimum amounts, start dates and all that kind of stuff being actually in legislation that goes through the public process?

5:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada

Neil Belanger

No, I don't. I would say get it to regulations. Get it done with persons with disabilities and the disability community.

My concern, quite honestly, is that this bill is not going to go through. With some of the recommendations that are coming now.... The bill's been out for a year and a half. It clearly said “working-age” Canadians. Now we have different groups saying it has to go out to children and to seniors as well, which is a significant change in the bill.

My concern is that the government is going to go back and say that it tried, but there seems to be some division within the disability community, so it'll go back and consult again. Then it won't go forward at all.

I believe this needs to go forward now. The bill's been out for a year and a half. As I said, it states “working-age” Canadians. A lot of work still needs to be done with provinces and territories in relation to clawbacks. There's so much stuff to do, so let's get it to regulations. Let's get the work done.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Zein, I'd ask you the same question. You've spoken very eloquently about how long this has been, and I'm sure you don't want to see it take any longer, but would you like to see a little more certainty in what's produced?

5:15 p.m.

Chairperson, Stratford Advisory Committee on Accessibility Issues

Peter Zein

Yes, they've been saying this, and we've had certainty before. In 1990, they were certain they were going to do it. As long as what we need to do is make a commitment to do it, what's going to happen when the government changes? What's going to happen if they can't agree with this and on how much money is going to be spent where, and if the provinces don't agree? My concern is that it's going to be one of those things that they're going to beat around and end up nowhere on, and then it will get stopped by an election. Didn't it get stopped from moving on by an earlier election?

The Canadians with disabilities act is weak, in my opinion, and is not something that has any bite. I really find that we need to get it done quickly, but it has to be done right, and I don't know how you're going to do that, to ensure that, to be honest.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

I'll ask you, then, if there are any....

Actually, I'd like to go back to Mr. Belanger.

Mr. Belanger, are there any specific amendments that you think should be made to Bill C-22 that would inform the regulations process?

5:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada

Neil Belanger

No. I just think it should be as generous as possible in relation to the benefit itself, whatever that might be.

We have 13 jurisdictions across Canada. That's going to take some work to take a look at, and with the provinces and territories for the clawback.... Those are all there. That's work that still needs to be done. Let's get to it. I think the minister said she anticipated it would take 12 months to get this done if there were no delays. Let's move forward.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Okay. I think that's fine. I'm happy to move on. Thanks.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, Mr. Aitchison.

Mr. Coteau, you have six minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Coteau Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Before I start my questions, I want to thank the witnesses who are here today. I know some of the stories you've shared with us are tough, and that the challenges people you know and represent, and even that you personally are going through are quite challenging. I want to say thank you so much for being here and for standing up for folks who sometimes feel that they're not listened to and that they don't have a voice. Thank you.

My first question will be for Mr. Belanger.

When you were talking about disabilities within the indigenous community, you said that it was at about 30%, which is a huge number. In addition to having a higher percentage, I would assume that because of challenges like anti-indigenous racism, as you said, and also because of distance and remote communities spread right across this country, and even the provincial divides and territorial divides...there are challenges there. I know from a previous file on child protection that even who has responsibility for what is always a huge challenge that gets in the way of finding good solutions.

Do you have any advice on how you build a program that's flexible enough that it can work with indigenous communities across this country, considering the increased challenges they may be going through that may be different from those for somebody living in downtown Toronto, for example?

5:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada

Neil Belanger

It's like anything else. The engagement has to happen. They have to be involved in the process. With Bill C-22 they have to be at the table as well. They have to be directing how the regulations are being created and be talking about the experience they have from remote, rural and isolated communities.

The provinces and territories have a big role to play in this as well. This is a federal benefit, but in reality most of the services come from the provinces and territories. They need to step up as well, which they haven't done. I alluded to that in my comments. A lot more work needs to be done as well—work that is complementary to this benefit.

This benefit will be a great step forward, and it will alleviate poverty for many, but it won't eliminate all the difficulties that indigenous people with disabilities experience, not by any stretch of the imagination. This is only one part of many things that might happen. It's a great part and should have happened a long time ago, which is why we're saying, “Let's get it done.” Our fear is that if we don't get it done now, we won't get it done at any time. There's always work that needs to be done with the provinces and territories, and the engagement with indigenous communities and indigenous persons with disabilities has to be there as well.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Coteau Liberal Don Valley East, ON

There are mechanisms within the legislation—I believe three and five years post implementation—so that there will be an opportunity for the community to reflect on the legislation and to make changes and suggestions. Again, I'm assuming that's through regulation.

Is there going to be an opportunity to engage the community you represent and work with to work within that process and make sure this legislation gets better as it continues to serve the community?

5:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada

Neil Belanger

I expect there will be. We've been engaged in the process since the beginning with Bill C-22.

We've informed our clients about it. We've participated in the online survey. We've had meetings. We've worked with other disability organizations that have done consultations while helping them develop an indigenous-specific survey, which we sent out to communities.

Even before, when the Accessible Canada Act was passed, we did a lot of work on that, too, although that's different legislation. A lot of the information that we gained from those consultations had to do with provincial and territorial jurisdictions. A lot of that stuff came...not a lot came from the federal side. It was mostly the barriers that people faced provincially and territorially. A lot of information has come through that too.

I fully anticipate, moving forward, that our communities will be engaged and will provide their input to let the government know how it's going, as well as changes that are needed.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Coteau Liberal Don Valley East, ON

During your deputation, you spoke about the fact that you're okay with it being a regulatory-based piece of legislation that will be used to ensure that we can get to the next point and implement this process as quickly as possible.

The approach, working through legislation and being very descriptive versus being more prescriptive in the regulations, and even more so through local directives.... There are a lot of different processes through the legislation and the process that a minister or a government takes.

To be clear, you're fine with the approach that has been put forward by the department to make sure we use regulation to get to the next point as quickly as possible.

5:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada

Neil Belanger

We are, and that's from our clients. What we are hearing from them is, “Get it done now.” I don't believe the benefit will be a dollar. I think that's a speaking point. We need to move forward on this quickly.

Again, my fear is that it won't get passed. My fear is that there will be a division within the disability community, wanting things that were never in the bill to begin with, and that we'll just go back to the drawing board and get more and more behind.

We're confident in the process. We're confident that persons with disabilities will be involved in the process, direct the process and move it forward. We intend to be involved in the process going forward, so yes.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Coteau Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Thank you for your contribution.

Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, Mr. Coteau.

Ms. Chabot, you have the floor for six minutes.

November 14th, 2022 / 5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the witnesses. They are addressing important issues on behalf of the people they represent.

Mr. Belanger, like everyone else, you know how urgent it is that we get this bill passed. As parliamentarians, we understand that urgency. We've been talking about the bill for a long time and have been waiting for it. However, even if the bill were to pass tomorrow morning, its very essence would remain in regulations that will define the expression “person with a disability” and specify the terms and the amount of the benefit.

There are diverse realities, especially in Canada. We also know that persons with disabilities aren't one big monolithic group, and for good reason.

How do you see the consultations? How will they help us act swiftly and include the vast majority of groups or persons with disabilities? How do you reconcile the urgent need to take action with the fact that everything will be decided by regulation?

5:25 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada

Neil Belanger

As I noted, consultations have been going on for a while. Even back under the Accessible Canada Act, a lot of the barriers that were noted were in relation to provincial and territorial sectors as opposed to the federal side.

We've been involved with a number of meetings, and our clients have as well. The consultations will continue as it goes forward, as will the conversations with provinces and territories. Realistically, until those conversations are done and we know the impact they will have on the programs and services they have to take a look at, it will be difficult to come to any finalization of the amount or anything else, and then we will still be trying to get back to the clawback.

For me, though, if I wanted some guarantee that this was going to go through, I would ask that the leader of each of the parties, including the Prime Minister, stand up to say, “Let's get this done. It doesn't matter what the cost is.” Each party should give support to the government to get this done. We haven't seen that. We've seen that there's support for the bill. However, if we saw the political parties, including the Prime Minister, standing up and saying they would get this done, I think that would give everybody assurances.

If I had to offer a challenge to make sure things would happen, I would have the leaders of the parties stand in the House and say that they're going to make this happen, no matter what the cost.

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

The bill may not pass anytime soon. Although the minister said it would take a year, there's no guarantee of that because she wouldn't commit to it. Our concern is that the benefit may not see the light of day for three or four years.

My next question is about the benefit, and it's for all three witnesses.

The bill aims to reduce poverty. In your opinion, what is the minimum threshold that should be guaranteed to persons with disabilities?

5:25 p.m.

Vice-Chair, Board of Director Member, Council for Persons with Disabilities

Leslie Yee

Thank you.

Unfortunately, I don't have a number to give you. It would have to depend on.... Everybody lives differently across Canada, and there are so many different thresholds if you go province by province. I'm not in a position to give the actual number of what that is.

I can say, though, that we need to take into account our most recent inflation costs and hikes in food, and even just in the basic needs, in order to survive properly. Take that into account before any number is thrown out there.

Unfortunately, I can't give you a number. I'm not in a position to do that.

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Belanger, how would you define the poverty line?

5:25 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Disability Canada

Neil Belanger

I agree with Ms. Yee. It's difficult. When we look at individuals—and active members of the community need to be included—it's different from one person to the next. I think I heard the minister say anywhere from $19,000 to $24,000.... A minimum of $2,000 a month is what we were going for. That's in line with CERB, which we saw during the time.

Even then, that's not going to be enough for some people. Whatever the amount ends up being, there has to be consideration of the extra needs that persons with disabilities experience financially that other people do not. I hope that will be considered as well moving forward.