Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, I am pleased to express my support for Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day.
Bill C-643, which was introduced in the House of Commons for the first time on December 8, 2014, designates the third Friday of September in each and every year as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Like my NDP colleagues, I want to voice my support for this legislative initiative.
In Canada, there are 86,000 people with spinal cord injuries and, unfortunately, 4,300 new cases are added each year. These injuries cost almost $2.67 billion per year and cause a great deal of physical and psychosocial suffering for those who sustain them. This national day is important to raise public awareness of the reality of people living with these injuries and the difficulties they have to face, as well as the work done by their caregivers and the scientists who are trying to improve their lives.
In my riding of LaSalle—Émard, many organizations work not only with people who have spinal cord injuries, but also with people with reduced mobility, people in wheelchairs, in short, people with any type of disability. Many organizations work to try to help people with disabilities integrate into society and especially to raise public awareness in order to make that integration easier.
I want to mention the organization Handicap Action Intégration and its director, Mody Maka Barry, who also has reduced mobility and uses a wheelchair. He wants to use his organization to help people with reduced mobility find their inner strength and have a healthy and fulfilling life and to prove to them that a physical limitation does not have to hold them back, because it is courage and determination that count.
Handicap Action Intégration also raises awareness among employers to encourage them to hire people with a disability. A recent report in The Globe and Mail talked about the benefits of hiring a person with a disability. That diversity is often very rewarding for a workplace. It creates bonds and allows people with a disability to work, whether or not their disability is due to a spinal cord injury that forces them to use a wheelchair.
Those who are integrated into the workforce will not only benefit from a well-paying job and, often, get out from under financial difficulties, but will also be able to contribute a great deal to society. The article mentioned a number of cases where employers benefited from the rewarding experience of hiring people with a disability. I would like to quote the article:
The article is entitled “Working wisdom: How workers with disabilities give companies an edge”. It says:
Opportunity for many people like him [a person living with a disability] is still scarce.
It means that there are not a lot of opportunities, as not a lot of employers are bold enough to hire people with disabilities.
More than two million Canadian adults, or 11 per cent of the population, have some sort of disability and only about half of them participate in the labour force. Of those who do look for work, the jobless rate is 40 per cent or more for some groups. Underemployment is higher and even if they hold a job, incomes among adults with disabilities are typically far lower than the rest of the population.
I think a day like the one proposed in Bill C-643 could raise awareness about what life is like for people with a disability and how vulnerable many of them are. It could also help us see what we might do to help them integrate into the workforce and improve not only their financial situation, but also their physical and psychological condition.
I will share an example of an employer who hired someone with a disability. These are the benefits he discovered.
The benefit for the [employer], he added, is that it has a work force that more closely resembles its customer base. And its workers can give insights into how to reach different customers and keep them happy.
In other words, someone who has a disability or who uses a wheelchair to get around can bring new ideas to an employer such as a bank, for example. If the employer provides services to a broad clientele, the employee with a disability will be more in tune with the clientele's needs. What other employers have found is that many of these employees are very loyal and are also hard workers. They pour their hearts into their work and diversify a company's workforce. This article also shows very clearly that employers who recognize the strength of their employees and hire people who live with a disability, have reduced mobility or use a wheelchair gain a clear advantage.
The day of awareness proposed by Bill C-643 will promote all these benefits. First and foremost, it will shed light on the situation and the vulnerability of many people with disabilities and show how society in general can benefit from their integration.
I would like to reiterate the NDP's support for initiatives that foster the employment of people living with a disability and make our society even more accessible. The NDP is also a strong champion of the fight against poverty, whether it affects people with disabilities or people in precarious situations in general.
We continue to support people with disabilities and to work towards a more open and inclusive society. We also want to make our workplaces more inclusive.
I reiterate my support for Bill C-643.