Author: Janet

Submission for Universal Periodic Review of Canada

Submitted by:
Canadian Civil Society CRPD Parallel Report Group

Universal Periodic Review Submission

1. Introduction – In 2015 Canadian Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) met to consider mechanisms for preparing a Civil Society submission to the CRPD Committee. A temporary coalition formed and prepared a submission for the CRPD Committee’s 16th Session (March 20 – April 7, 2017). We share selected content from that report to contribute information concerning the human rights of Canadians with disabilities.

Equality and non-discrimination: Canada’s Constitution guarantees equality, and human rights laws prohibit discrimination. Nevertheless, almost 50% of discrimination complaints filed in Canada involve disability. Women, Indigenous persons and others with disabilities experience intersecting discrimination.

2. Populations most vulnerable to inequality and discrimination

2.1. Women with disabilities face discrimination on multiple, intersecting grounds. For example, the lack of publicly funded legal assistance (legal aid), support and representation for disabled women to access their rights keeps women with disabilities in poverty and prevents them from accessing the supports and services they need to survive. It also keeps them in abusive situations by failing to provide legal protection needed to escape abuse.

2.2 Indigenous persons with disabilities face discrimination on multiple, intersecting grounds. Due to differences in funding and provision of services for First Nations people under the Indian Act, many indigenous Canadians with disabilities do not have access to the same supports and programs as non-indigenous Canadians with disabilities. In many cases, less funding is provided for services for First Nations people for education, social services and healthcare meaning that services are often unavailable or are of poor quality. In addition, when individuals attempt to seek services on or off reserve, they are often the victims of jurisdictional disputes over who will pay for the services, and this often leads to no service provision.

Indigenous children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to these issues. Many of these children have disabilities, and they are often removed from their homes not because of neglect but because of the lack of the appropriate support services in indigenous communities. Despite recent policy changes (such as the adoption of Jordan’s Principle) and a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision (CRHT T1340/7008) addressing some jurisdictional and funding issues, these barriers persist and have not yet been adequately addressed by Canada .

2.3. Deaf, deaf-blind and blind people experience severe discrimination. Access to sign language interpretation and intervenor services is still very limited. In the area of health care, sometimes loved ones must serve as interpreter / intervenor.

Recommendations:

• Canada must fully, immediately and properly implement Jordan’s Principle, as directed by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision (2016 CHRT 2) and its subsequent rulings (2016 CHRT 10 and 2016 CHRT 16), and as called for in the unanimously passed Motion to Parliament, presented by Member Charlie Angus on November 1, 2016.
• Canada must review Bill S-210 to ensure it includes principles of equality and non-discrimination that apply to distinct communities, such as people who are Deaf .
• Canada should enact legislation implementing the Convention into Canadian domestic law, including the legal recognition of Canada’s two official sign languages, ASL and LSQ.

3. Equal Recognition before the Law: Canada has not withdrawn its reservation to CRPD Article 12(4). Substitute decision-making laws continue to exist in all provinces and territories. As a result persons with disabilities are regularly denied their right to legal capacity.

Recommendations:

• Canada should immediately withdraw its reservation, and work with provincial and territorial governments to encourage the development of supported decision-making regimes and ensure that adequate and culturally appropriate safeguards and services are available to support persons with disabilities to exercise their legal capacity.

4. Living Independently and Community Inclusion: In several Canadian provinces people with disabilities, particularly persons with intellectual disabilities and psychosocial disabilities, still live in large institutions, which continue to receive new admissions. Lack of adequate services to support independence in the community is a concern. Canada must ensure persons with disabilities are not institutionalized and work with the provincial and territorial governments to provide people with disabilities supports to live and participate in the community, including ensuring persons with disabilities have access to affordable and accessible housing.

Recommendations:

• Canada must ensure people with disabilities are not institutionalized, and all large institutions plan to close and accept no new admissions.
• Canada must work with the provinces and territories to ensure the people with disabilities are provided with the supports needed to live independently in the community.
• Canada should incorporate measures in its National Housing Strategy announced in 2016 to ensure financing is available for affordable and accessible housing for Canadians with disabilities.
• Canada should incorporate measures, in collaboration with provinces and territories, to ensure that the financing announced by Canada for home care, is delivered in a manner consistent with CRPD Article 19, respecting individualization, community-based supports, self-direction, and supports for inclusion.
• Canada should work with provinces and territories to implement the proposals put forward by DPOs and recognized in Parliamentary reports for a basic income program financed by the federal government to address poverty of persons with disabilities, thus creating fiscal room for provinces and territories to increase investment in disability supports under their jurisdiction.

5. Education: Students with complex disabilities who have medical needs, students with multiple disabilities, and the majority of students with intellectual disabilities are excluded from regular schools and classrooms. Many only have the option of attending segregated schools. Deaf, deaf-blind and blind students face significant barriers to accessing education on an equal basis as students without disabilities. Several provinces and territories encourage inclusion, but only one province, New Brunswick (NB), has implemented an inclusive education policy and invested accordingly.

Recommendations:

• Canada should encourage the Council of Ministers of Education (which brings all Provincial / Territorial Ministers together) to extend nationally the NB law, policy and practice standards.
• Canada must provide comprehensive resources/supports for full and effective classroom supports to ensure inclusive education for all, including training of staff to support inclusion of children with disabilities in all aspects of school life, including physical education and social opportunities.
• Canada must uphold the rights of Deaf and deaf-blind children to inclusive education via direct instruction in and study sign language in Deaf schools and other schools, and other methods of communication for deaf-blind students.
• Canada must adopt and enforce laws, regulations and policies to recognize Sign languages as languages of instruction in all schools, including Schools for the Deaf, and allow Deaf students to attend Provincial Schools for the Deaf or local schools which provide direct instruction in Sign language in addition to qualified Sign language interpreters, access to bilingual learning materials, and opportunities to study Sign language as a school subject.
• Canada must recognize and provide resources for more post-secondary programs to train professional interveners’ and interpreters.
• Students who use braille and are learning to read must receive daily braille literacy instruction from a Teacher for Students who are blind or visually impaired.
• School Districts with students who use braille should use individuals certified in Unified English Braille Code (UEB) to produce day-to-day braille materials.
• Canada must restore a national data collection mechanism for children with disabilities to generate accurate estimates to guide policy-making, benchmarking and monitoring progresses in education and service provision for students with disabilities.

6. Work and Employment: Persons with disabilities experience significantly higher rates of unemployment than nondisabled Canadians. Women and youth with disabilities, Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing persons, blind persons, and persons with intellectual disabilities have lower rates of employment than other persons with disabilities. Racialized persons with disabilities, new immigrants and Indigenous persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented among those relying on precarious employment. Segregated day programs and sheltered workshops persist as the dominant model of support for persons with intellectual disabilities. Canada must work with provinces, territories, unions, employers and civil society to remove existing barriers to employment.

Recommendations:

• Canada should initiate a robust evaluation of the effectiveness of wage subsidies to lessen the gap in employment rates between Canadians with and without disabilities.
• Canada should create a national accommodation fund operated on a continuous basis by an NGO, to ensure employers are able to hire without undue hardship.
• Canada should work with other levels of government, unions, employers and civil society to create a harmonized approach to remove employment barriers in current laws, programs and policies.
• Canada must develop a robust definition of retention that can be utilized to ensure employees with disabilities experience comparable job retention and career advancement opportunities to those afforded to people without disabilities.
• Canada should initiate effective transition from sheltered workshops and day programs to Employment First approaches, with clear definitions, principles, cross-departmental and inter-jurisdictional policy and ongoing processes of local capacity development.
• The federal government should create a targeted fund within the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities to develop a national partnership and local demonstration initiatives focused on transitioning from sheltered workshop and day programs to Employment First programming.
• The federal government should fund new priorities within the federal-provincial Multilateral Framework Agreement for Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities, and the federal-provincial/territorial Labour Market Agreements.

7. Accessibility: Canada has no formal mechanisms to specifically ensure that CRPD accessibility rights are implemented and enforced in all jurisdictions. Federally, however, Canada is currently conducting consultations in preparation for a National Accessibility Act. It is imperative these consultations result in an enforceable national act consistent with the CRPD.

Recommendations:

• Canada should work with provincial and territorial governments to review existing and planned accessibility laws and policies to ensure compliance with CRPD Article 9.
• Canada should incorporate or adopt CRPD Article 9 in National Accessibility Legislation, and give due consideration to the CRPD Committee’s General Comment No. 2 on Accessibility.
• Canada must ensure all levels of Government commit to robust enforcement of accessibility requirements enshrined in Law.
• Canada must ensure that communications and information services on transportation systems are designed and constructed so they can be used, or reached by Deaf, deaf-blind or blind people.
• Canada must improve accessibility of telecommunication services for Text with 911 services requiring a faster response time between 911 responders and Deaf persons to provide functional equivalency.
• Canada must ensure that broadcasters are required to provide (1) French-language audiences with access to captioned programming that is fully equal to English-language access in both quantity and quality; 2) online captioning and descriptive video content for websites and social media; 3) improved quality standards and captioning and descriptive video for 100 percent of their programming.
• Canada must strengthen the mandate of regulatory bodies to allow for license denial in the event of non-compliance with accessibility standards and guidelines.

8. Liberty and Security of the Person: Most provinces and territories in Canada have laws permitting involuntary detention of persons with psychosocial disabilities in psychiatric institutions and/or coercive administration of psychiatric drugs. A recent decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Thompson and Empowerment Council v. Ontario, found involuntary detention in hospital due to “substantial mental deterioration” and coercive administration of psychiatric drugs did not violate the right to liberty and security of the person under Canada’s Charter, nor did it violate the right to equality guaranteed by Canada’s Charter. Although article 14 of the CRPD was raised, the Court of Appeal did not discuss it in the decision.

Many prisoners with disabilities, including incarcerated women with psychosocial disabilities, brain injuries and intellectual disabilities are not given appropriate care or disability supports, and are instead placed in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is very prevalent in the Canadian correctional system, especially at the federal level. Indeed, in its recent review of Canada, the CESCR committee stated that it is concerned by the increased rate of incarceration of persons with disabilities and the excessive use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is often imposed for non-disciplinary reasons such as protection of an inmate or medical reasons. A review by the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services found that only 4.3% of all prisoner placements into solitary confinement were disciplinary, while 17% were for “administrative” medical reasons. Of the 4,178 inmates who spent at least a day in solitary confinement between October and December 2015, 38.2% had a “mental health alert” on file. Despite UN standards deeming solitary confinement exceeding 15 days to be tantamount to torture, the review found the average time spent in solitary confinement reached 16.2 days.

Recommendations:

• Canada must take steps, at all levels, to review laws, policies and practices that permit involuntary detention of persons with psychosocial disabilities and coercive administration of psychiatric drugs. Such laws, policies and practices must be amended in order to comply fully with Article 14 of the CRPD.
• Canada, at all governmental levels, must review the use of solitary confinement and put in place policies and training to reduce its use and ensure that it is not used in a discriminatory manner.
• Canada must ensure that policies, practices and training support the provision of appropriate accommodation, services and supports to prisoners with disabilities, in both provincial and federal institutions.

9. Domestic Implementation and Monitoring of the CRPD: Canada has not designated an independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as required by CRPD article 33.2. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), with the appropriate mandate and resources, should be designated as the monitoring mechanism. Similar resources should be made available to civil society as mandated by CRPD Article 33.3.

Recommendations:

• Canada must designate and resource the CHRC as the independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention.
• Canada must designate funding to support disability organizations to fulfill their role in planning, implementing and monitoring the Convention. Particular attention must be paid to ensure that children and youth with disabilities, indigenous persons with disabilities, Deaf persons and women with disabilities must also have sufficient resources and opportunities to participate in monitoring and implementation efforts.
• Canada, through the existing federal-provincial-territorial mechanism and in consultation with the disability community, must develop and execute a shared plan to implement the Convention.


10. Endnotes:
The organizations involved were: ARCH Disability Law Centre, Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, Canada Without Poverty, Canadian Association for Community Living, Canadian Association of the Deaf, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Canadian Labour Congress, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Disability Rights Promotion International (York University), DisAbled Women’s Network, Independent Living Canada, MAD Canada, National Network on Mental Health, Ontario Network of Injured Workers, Participation & Knowledge Translation in Childhood Disability Lab (McGill University), People First Canada
Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), The Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Equality and Non-Discrimination: Monitoring the Implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Canada (Ottawa: CHRCH, 2015).
Jordan’s Principle is a child first principle used in Canada to resolve jurisdictional disputes within, and between governments, regarding payment for government services provided to First Nations children. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan’s_Principle
Bill S-201, An Act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination, 1st session, 42nd Parl, 2016. Online:
See for example, section 15 of Ontario’s Mental Health Act, RSO 1990, c M.7.
2013 ONSC 5392 (CanLII)
There are several recent examples of women with disabilities who have died in solitary confinement. In 2013, Kinew James, a 35-year old indigenous woman who was diabetic and had psychosocial disabilities died from an apparent heart attack. During her nearly 15 year prison sentence, she had been transferred from one prison to another and spent months at a time in solitary confinement. An inquest into her death is ongoing. In 2007, Ashley Smith was 19 years old when she died by self-inflicted strangulation while she was incarcerated at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, a federal prison. Smith had psychosocial disabilities and was under suicide watch at the time of her death. In 2013 a coroner’s inquest found her death to be a homicide and made dozens of recommendations for improving the care, support and treatment provided to incarcerated persons with psychosocial disabilities. See: Smith (Re), 2013 CanLII92762 (ON OCCO). In 2001, Kimberly Rogers died while she was alone under house arrest for welfare fraud. Rogers had received government loans to pay for her education while also receiving welfare payments. Rogers had psychosocial disabilities. A coroner’s inquest made a number of recommendations aimed at ensuring that persons under house arrest have adequate access to food, shelter and medication. Before her death, Rogers brought a number of court cases against Ontario. See: Rogers v. Sudbury (Administrator of Ontario Works), 2001 CanLII 28086 (ON SC)
See UN Document E/C.12/CAN/CO/6, point 45.
Indirectly through statistics reported by Jim Rankin, “Inmate in solitary for four years alarms rights commission”, The Toronto Star (October 19, 2016) online: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/10/19/inmate-in-solitary-for-four-years-alarms-rights-commission.html; The full report is available on request from the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services: http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/default.html.

Sharp increase in use of food banks; Visits back to recession levels seen almost 10 years ago: report

It is interesting to note that 62% of persons using the food banks have a disability.

Fatima Syed
The Toronto Star , Sept. 18, 2017

Suzanne Davison, a 72-year-old who lives in federal co-op housing in Toronto with her 63-year-old brother, goes to her local food bank every week.

On her last visit, she collected a tiny bag of potatoes, two cookies, a box of cereal, romaine lettuce, a little carton of milk, a bag of pretzels, a little jar of peanut butter, a Little Caesers pizza and cranberry juice.

The box of cereal was expired. She couldn’t have the cranberry juice because it’s full of sugar and she has Type 2 diabetes.

The rest will last two or three days.

Davison is a low-income senior, with a small pension and a brother on disability. Between the more than $1,000 she pays a month for rent, bus fares and phone bills – and the limited function in her right hand – the food bank is the only place she can go.

“The whole problem is lack of income,” Davison said. “You can only do so much with the money you get, right?”

Food-bank visits in Toronto are back to levels seen during the height of the recession almost 10 years ago, according to the newest “Who’s Hungry” report by the Daily Bread Food Bank, with usage by seniors like Davison increasing by 27 per cent.

According to the report, many seniors don’t seem to be receiving all the federal benefits they are entitled to.

In particular, many are not receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement – a program that is also excluding newcomer families.

“I can’t work, and my pension is taxed, and I don’t have (Ontario Disability Support Program) or welfare,” Davison said. “(The food bank is) not all that great, but it’s better than starving to death.”

Kate Halsey, a food bank co-ordinator for Yonge Street Mission in Regent Park, has worked at food banks for more than three years and has watched the rise in food-bank usage first hand.

“It is startling to me that senior population access of food banks is increasing,” Halsey said.

On a daily basis, she said the Yonge Street Mission registers at least three new people for the food bank: varying from newcomers to Canada who have master’s and PhD degrees but not enough money for food; people who go back to school and are paying tuition; and people who are just trying to make ends meet at the end of the month.

“It could be anyone, it could be your neighbour, it could be your grandmother, your best friend,” Halsey said. “It could also be the man on the corner. There’s not a population we serve more than others.”

Alongside increased usage by seniors, the report found that the rise in food-bank visits has largely been driven by a jump in Scarborough, where usage has risen by 30 per cent over the last year, compared to the four per cent rise in other parts of the city.

Other notable findings in the report include:
Close to 20 per cent of those assisted by a food bank are employed or recently employed.
62 per cent of users have a disability.
35 per cent have post-secondary education.

Similar statistics were found in another recent study by Food Banks Canada, which surveys more than 3,000 agencies across the country.

It found that on average, food banks help more than 850,000 Canadians every month. It also noted that:
More than half of Canadians polled know someone who has visited a food bank.
More than one-third of people helped by food banks are children.
One of six people assisted by food banks are employed.

“Food banks are really that last resort so they really have to have broad shoulders to be able to help the increasing number of people that walk through their doors,” said Marzena Gersho, communications director at Food Banks Canada

The official definition for “hunger,” according to Gersho, is “when a household lacks physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Starting Monday, food banks are leading Hunger Awareness Week in hopes to start a conversation around these statistics and changing landscapes.

Gersho would like Canadians to support local food banks but also demand policy changes that closely examine the roots of poverty, hunger and welfare

“We need to remind everyone that we really do have people who are struggling,” Gersho said.

IMAGINE

By Carl Jarvis

Imagine: You’ve just entered your office on what may well be the most
hectic, stressful day of your life. Suddenly you realize all of your
reference books, piles of paper-work and notes are covered with little
bumps. In fact, you discover there is not one single printed word to be
found. Every scrap of information necessary to do your job, is now in
Braille.

Imagine: you rush back out of your office, wildly looking about, peering
into offices, staring over the shoulders of clerks. Everybody is calmly
doing their job, using Braille. Mysteriously they have learned the
language overnight. Only you, it seems, were overlooked. For some unknown reason, you
are permanently and totally Braille challenged.

Imagine: you dash for the door hoping the rest of the world has not gone mad.
It has. In the elevator, you’re not sure which button to press for the
lobby. Someone has to help you. They stare at you as if you are stupid.
Pausing at the news stand, you are unable to tell one magazine from another.

You can’t stand it, you need to go home and collect your thoughts. But at
the bus stop, there’s no way of telling which coach is yours. You back away,

not wanting anyone to know, and you decide you’ll call a cab. Of course, you
only brought bus fare and lunch money, not nearly enough for the taxi.

Remembering your bank card, you pull it out as you run back into
the lobby. There, at the access machine, you stop short. The card has turned
to Braille, and so have all of the instructions on the machine. You’ll have
to call home and ask for help. Funny, you never paid much attention to the
telephone dial and now, in your growing state of confusion, you don’t recall
which number goes where. You are so alone, so frightened, you actually begin
to weep.

Imagine: you have always seen yourself as a leader, a visionary, a
problem-solver. You will not run from this challenge. You shall succeed. You have a large mortgage.

Once you have recovered from the great shock, you begin
looking for ways to survive.

Imagine: you have finally made arrangements, through your employer, to hire
a Braille reader, a process so complex and painful you plan to patent it and
use it to torture Terrorists. Now you sit in your chair going quietly mad
listening to the drone of your reader’s voice, taking hours of time to cover
what you once scanned in minutes, while others whip about you efficiently
communicating among themselves via Braille-FAX and E-B-mail. You begin to
feel the “ice” in isolation.

Imagine: you learn you are not alone. You are a member of a very small
minority of Braille-Challenged people. There is, in fact, a Brailleless Culture;
a history far too long and complex to discuss here. So, you become
a member of the, Brailleless Association of America. (BAA)

At the BAA meetings you find out about a number of small companies manufacturing
adaptive equipment which enables Brailleless persons to access all of the
Braille computers, FAX machines, Braille scanners and Braillers.
The expense is far more than you can afford, so you seek assistance from
your employer. Your request is turned down. There are no requirements that
your employer accommodate your disability.

Imagine: BAA, along with many other disability groups, battle in Congress for the
passage of a Bill, guaranteeing you equal treatment under the Law.
The bill passes and, despite subtle messages from your fiscal officer, money

is, “found” for your accommodation. After considerable time and effort, the
technician from the Department of Services for the Brailleless, has you on-line.
Now you are able to scan Braille text and convert the little dots into
letters, and through a very complex process, the Braille display on your computer
is transformed into print. Finally, you are again up to speed, being your
old efficient self, feeling good about your work.

Imagine: you are humming and smiling and cranking along in high gear.
Suddenly, a message flashes on your screen and drives terror through your heart.
New breakthroughs in technology have produced equipment so superior
to the ancient junk–at least four years old– presently in use, that your
organization is upgrading the entire communications system.

The BAA, technicians have already informed you that your adaptive equipment

is not compatible with it. You go to the, “Powers-That-Be” in your
organization, and request a meeting to discuss this concern. You are told that your
fears are groundless. You will not be forgotten.

Following this meeting A rumor goes around hinting that you are trying to sabotage the
new system, and your associates begin to whisper behind your back. They want the
new system. It’s far superior, more compact, ten times faster, and it’s cool
looking. They are sick of your “whining and constant complaining”. You feel
the “ice” settling in again.

Imagine: you have been forgotten. The new system is in place. Everybody
loves it. You’ve been told not to worry, someone will be around to do what is necessary
to put you back on-line. The “someone” they had in mind is the
same technician who told you the system would not work. Despite your concerns, no one bothered to investigate before the equipment was installed.

Once again you sit, going quietly mad while your reader plows line by line through
the piles of Braille.

Imagine: you know you are close to losing your mind or your job–probably
both. You must find other employment, but you do not want your associates to
know you are finally beaten. You try to figure out a way to do a quiet job
search when all information is only accessible in Braille.

One day you hear that your State has developed a central information center,
called a, “kiosk”. These information centers are being set up in easily
accessible locations. The plan is for these kiosks to make government information
and services available quickly and conveniently, to the public.
Sort of a “one stop shopping center”. You learn that lists of job openings
are among the many services offered. This is perfect. This is exactly what you need.
you discover your town recently placed a kiosk in the Mall. You go there on Saturday
afternoon. There it stands, costing the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars to create, but well worth it. In its
ultimate form, the kiosks will bring virtually all State services right into
your local neighborhood. You are thrilled as you step up to the controls.

An automated voice welcomes you and brags about the wonders of this system.

Breathlessly, you wait for your instructions… Then, the Braille display appears.

Imagine: they are dragging you away, shrieking at the top of your voice.
Onlookers are amazed. They do not know how you managed to rip the iron bench
from the floor of the Mall. None of them dared to try to stop you as you swung
it over your head, again and again, smashing the kiosk into pieces of
broken plastic, glass and twisted metal. None of them understand why you
kept screaming the same words over and over.

“I pay taxes, too! I pay taxes, too! I pay taxes, too!…….”

Imagine.

Study has legs:Standing at work bad for the heart

Azzura Lalani
The Toronto Star , Aug. 18, 2017

If you tend to do a lot of standing at work, you may want to sit down to read this.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that workers who primarily stand on the job are twice as likely to have heart disease than workers who mainly sit.

That puts them more at risk of getting heart disease than smokers, said Peter Smith, a scientist from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) and lead author of the study.

The study, by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the IWH, followed 7,300 heart disease-free Ontario workers for 12 years, from 2003 to 2015, to compare their standing/sitting work habits with whether they developed heart disease.

The workers were respondents to the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey, which collected information on them ranging from work conditions and job title to health and health behaviour.

In total, 3.4 per cent of workers developed heart disease. Of that, 6.6 per cent of workers who mainly stood – in jobs that ranged from cashiers to chefs and from nurses to bank tellers – and 2.8 per cent of those who mostly sat at work developed heart disease.

The risk of heart disease remained the same even after adjusting for factors like age, education, health conditions and ethnicity.

“There are a couple of different mechanisms by which prolonged standing can increase your risk of heart disease,” Smith said.

“One of them is by blood pooling in your legs and the other is by increased venous pressure in your body by trying to pump that blood back up to your heart and that increases oxidative stress.”

The results may come as a surprise to many, after earlier studies found prolonged sitting can raise the risk of dying.

Smith acknowledged being sedentary is bad for health, but said not enough attention has been given to too much standing.

Hilary Poirier, a customer service agent at WestJet in Halifax, spends most of the workday on her feet.

“We don’t really sit down very frequently at all because we’re always out on the floor,” she said. Though she said she has “the best job ever,” all the standing puts a toll on her body: feet, back, hips, legs, everything.

The results came as a surprise to her.

“For something like heart issues, I wasn’t imagining that because usually, you’re on your feet, you’re being healthy,” she said.

Karen Messing, an ergonomics expert and professor emeritus at the Université du Québec à Montréal, called the study “an important contribution.”

The volume of participants is both one of its strengths and its weaknesses, though she said that because of the size, it’s hard to know exactly what people’s working posture is.

“Control over your working posture is a really important variable that is really hard to study, so there’s a lot of complexity in the area of working postures and health,” she said.

“For example, when you talk about standing, would you say a hockey player stands at work? And what’s the difference between a hockey player standing at work and a supermarket cashier standing at work?” she asked.

The solution to all that standing is relatively simple: sit more.

“If you think about all the work we do across Canada to prevent people being exposed to smoke at work, I think one of the things we need to ask ourselves is how much are we doing to prevent people being exposed to prolonged standing,” Smith said.

Help on the way for ailing miners; WSIB ends policy that barred Ontario workers from making claims of neurological diseases they believe are caused by exposure to toxic ‘miracle’ dust

Sara Mojtehedzadeh
The Toronto Star , Aug. 18, 2017

The province’s worker compensation board has rescinded a decades-old policy that prevented Ontario miners from claiming for neurological diseases they believe were caused by years of exposure to toxic aluminum dust.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will also commission an independent study to assess the development of neurological conditions resulting from exposure to the aluminum-based McIntyre powder, which was used extensively in the province’s northern mines between 1943 and 1980.

As previously reported by the Star, miners were routinely forced to inhale the powder, which was sold as a miracle antidote to lung disease. Historical documents suggest it was created by industry-sponsored Canadian scientists bent on slashing compensation costs in gold and uranium mines across the north.

“When a loved one becomes sick or gets hurt, it’s natural to ask why,” said Scott Bujeya, a vice-president for WSIB.

“We ask that question, too, and we won’t leave any stone unturned until we are satisfied we have an answer based on evidence,” he said Thursday.

About 10,000 workers were forced to inhale dust, which was blasted into a sealed room before miners were sent underground.

Some have since claimed they were treated as “guinea pigs” in a human experiment aimed at cutting company costs. Until now, potential victims were unable to make successful claims at the WSIB because of a policy formed in 1993 that said insufficient evidence existed linking aluminum exposure to neurological disease.

“I’m glad some things are happening and moving forward,” said Janice Martell, who began advocating for workers two years ago after her own father, a former miner exposed to the dust, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He died from the disease in May. “The time that it’s taken for this is frustrating because so many of the workers are dying. My dad is the most recent one that I’m aware of.”

In 2016, the WSIB commissioned an independent health consultancy to research existing science on aluminum powder. The review, published Thursday, did not find a link between aluminum exposure and the development of “adverse health conditions in general,” the board said.

But as a result of the research compiled by Martell, the board has now engaged experts from the Toronto-based Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) to conduct a new study to investigate any connection between exposure to McIntyre powder and neurological disease.

Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn said he was encouraged by the WSIB’s announcement.

“Exposure to hazardous substances is a major cause of occupational illness. That’s why it is important to me, and everyone at the Ministry of Labour, that occupational diseases be treated with the same seriousness as traumatic injuries,” he said.

Of the 397 former miners who contacted Martell, about one-third suffered from a neurological disorder – and she says 14 have developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative and incurable condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, that slowly kills the ability to swallow, speak and breathe.

In Ontario, the prevalence of motor neuron disease, which includes ALS, is estimated at less than one in a thousand people.

Research conducted in the United Kingdom found “strong evidence” linking aluminum to Alzheimer’s when absorbed into the blood stream.

There are 53 pending WSIB claims for illnesses attributed to McIntyre powder exposure. Because the 1993 policy is now revoked, the board says it will reach out to claimants to discuss next steps, including an option to have interim decisions made based on existing scientific evidence.

That evidence is still evolving. The OCRC study will not be complete until 2019, and McMaster University has also launched a project to test aluminum levels in surviving miners’ bodies using a non-invasive technique called neutron activation analysis.

Martell says more money is needed to help workers navigate the health care and compensation systems, including compiling evidence to help workers make claims. That effort is being spearheaded by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, which is still waiting for its funding proposal to be approved by the Ministry of Labour.

“I’m certainly hoping that funding comes through very soon,” Martell said.

Disability Law Will Make History

Vjosa Isai
The Toronto Star , Aug. 24, 2017

As pen hits paper in drafting Canada’s first federal accessibility legislation, disability experts say they want to see independent enforcement and standardized accessibility features in the new law.

Among others, these recommendations were heard by Carla Qualtrough, federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities, at a conference on Tuesday, as the government works to draft its new law following months of public consultations.

“This law, when created, will be very proactive and basically tell employers, and service providers, and programmers, and the government itself, these are the expectations we have on you and we’re going to hold you to account,” Qualtrough said. “I think that we’re going to make history.”

Although the prospective act would govern only those areas under federal authority, such as banks, telecommunications and interprovincial transportation, Qualtrough believes it will also show leadership beyond this jurisdiction and inspire provinces to create similar laws.

Currently, seven provinces do not have accessibility legislation.

Disability advocate and lawyer David Lepofsky has been closely involved in holding the provincial government to account in its goal of being fully accessible by 2025, since it passed its landmark Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Lepofsky commended Ottawa for participating in Tuesday’s conference, which included experts from the U.S. and Israel and was accessibly broadcast online from the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University. However, he said, it’s important for the law to contain features that will make it endure past this government’s time in office.

“We need a national champion,” he said. “It’s great to have a minister, but we need someone who’s not political, but who’s got the mandate to stand up and lead the enforcement, lead making the standards, and also be the one to say where we’re doing well, and call us out.”

Other suggestions from the expert panel include accountability functions from an independent body, detailed and standardized accessibility requirements, and greater enforcement action for non-compliance.

Bila Berg, a lawyer at the Israeli commission on the rights of people with disabilities, said the country has 12 inspectors nationwide tasked with enforcing accessibility laws. There are five with comparable duties in Ontario, Lepofsky said.

The minister also heard about how technology procurement by the government can help steer private companies or vendors to innovate accessibility into their products.

Lucy Greco, an Albertan web accessibility expert based at the University of California, Berkeley, has worked with companies like Google in developing an accessible interface for their web collaboration tools.

“It’s your role to help find experts to help people achieve the accessibility they need … they can’t do this in a vacuum,” said Greco, who has been blind since birth.

For Qualtrough, the law will help to create a consistent accessibility experience for Canadians.

“We’re going to say as a system, and as a society, that we need to remove barriers because you’re entitled to live in a world that thinks of you and includes you as someone with a disability,” she said.

The legislation is expected to be introduced by the end of the year or early 2018.