All parties should commit to lifting people with disabilities out of poverty


Canada has a remarkable opportunity to lift hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of people out of poverty, one that should not be passed up.
On June 22, the federal government introduced Bill C-35, an “Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada Disability Benefit.”
The proposed legislation was, without a doubt, among the most potentially consequential in recent years.
Carla Qualtrough, in her work as Minister of Employment, work force Development and Disability Inclusion, did yeoman’s work on this file, from a vague Throne Speech promise through to the tabling of legislation. It also had broad support across party lines.
Because of the election call, Bill C-35 is in limbo.
All the major political parties, which have largely ignored the needs of the important constituency of people living with disabilities on the campaign trail, should commit to revive the legislation, regardless of who wins the vote.
Doing so is good politics, and good economics. And it’s not a partisan issue at all.
About one in five Canadians lives with a physical, developmental or psychiatric disability. That’s about six million people.
Two in every five people living in poverty in this country have a disability. That includes at least 850,000 working-age Canadians.
There are a number of reasons for this, beginning with systemic marginalization and ableism. People with disabilities are chronically unemployed and underemployed, even if they have to ability to work (and most do). Accessibility is about a lot more than wheelchair ramps.
Our social welfare system also condemns people to poverty. In 2019, a single person with a disability was eligible for annual provincial welfare payments ranging from a low of $9,843 in New Brunswick to a high of $15,293 in British Columbia.
Can you imagine trying to live on $820 a month for your rent, food and every other basic need? And, if you work, much of your earnings get clawed back.
What the Canada Disability Benefit would do is top-up the provincial payments to lift people out of abject poverty to, well, able-to-eat-lunch levels of poverty.
It would essentially be a guaranteed basic-income program for people with disabilities.
Of course, the devil is in the details.
Disability Without Poverty, a grassroots group that formed to promote a user-friendly design for the Canadian Disability Benefit, notes that there are three key questions that need to be answered: What will the amount of the monthly benefit be? Who will be eligible? How do you ensure there is no clawback of existing benefits?
Poverty is so rooted in the disability community that for the CDB to be beneficial it has to be a significant dollar amount.
The government has said the Canada Disability Benefit would be modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement, a program which provides up to $1,175 monthly for low-income seniors, in addition to, not instead of, Old Age Security. The GIS-OAS combo has been a boon for seniors.
A similar approach could mean a doubling of income for some people with disabilities, which is appropriate and overdue.
Eligibility is a point of contention for many programs. Obviously, the CDB payment would be needs-based, or income-based. But the more contentious issue is determining who actually has a disability (a “severe and prolonged impairment,” according to the law).
Absurdly, the determination is done principally by the Canada Revenue Agency.
The key for accessing financial aid and tax breaks is being eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. It’s a small credit of $1,299 that, ironically, is useless for most people with disabilities because they have no taxable income.
But the credit opens (or shuts) the door to dozens of tax related programs, including the Registered Disability Savings Plan (a tremendous initiative of Stephen Harper’s government) and the Child Disability Benefit.
Finally, it’s essential that a federal boost in payments does not result in provinces clawing back those amounts. That would be perverse.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the new Canadian Disability Benefit is that it has made explicit the link between disability and poverty, which became more severe during the pandemic, and thus more important to resolve.
Far too many people, because of their physical, developmental and psychiatric differences, are being disenfranchised and afforded second-class citizenship because they don’t have the means to live their lives to their full potential.
A little boost of income isn’t going to wholly remedy that reality, but it would be a good start.

Research Opportunity for Workers Aged 35 to 49

To register for the focus group, please contact Graham Epstein at

Focus Group:
● Mid-career workers with disabilities,
● Employers of persons with disabilities, and
● Organizations that advocate for and support workers with disabilities.

We want to hear from you to better understand the opportunities and barriers for mid-career workers with disabilities who navigate a rapidly changing labour market. If you are a mid-career worker with a disability, an employer, and/or member of an organization that advocates or provides support for persons with disabilities, we want to hear from you! Register for one of our focus groups to join an online group discussion in August 2021. Focus group sessions will be held from August 3 to August 20 and take approximately one hour of your time.

Who can register?
⮚ Mid-career workers with lived experience of disability
o Mid-career workers with disabilities between 35 and 49 years of age
⮚ Employers
o Owners, managers or other relevant representatives from public, private and non-profit organizations
o Employers with and without experience in employing mid-career workers with disabilities
⮚ Managers, representatives or staff from advocacy and support organizations for persons with disabilities or employment of mid-career workers with disabilities

Project Description
Ontario Tech University, together with researchers at York University, Nipissing University and Durham College is investigating the needs and experiences of Mid-Career Workers with Disabilities. This research project was approved by the Ontario Tech University Research Ethics Board REB # 15803 on October 2, 2020. Dr. Sue Coffey at OnTechU is leading this study. If you have any questions about the study, contact Dr. Sue Coffey directly by email at If you have any questions about your rights as a participant, complaints or adverse events, contact the Research Ethics Board through the Research Ethics Office – (email) or (phone) 905.721.8668 x 3693.

This research is supported by the following community partners: the National Education Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD), the Quebec Association for Equity and Inclusion in Post-Secondary Education (AQEIPS) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).

While today’s changing labour market can be challenging for many workers, mid-career workers with disabilities are both more vulnerable to market disruptions and face additional barriers to career adaptability. This research will be used to support the development of tools and resources for Mid-Career Workers with Disabilities to enhance networks and peer support, develop skills and adaptive capacity, and inform decisions about career transitions.

How can you register for a focus group?
Please click here to register for a focus group (offered in both official languages), or register by phone, by calling the Research Project Manager, Dr. Graham Epstein at (226) 979-5520. We will provide you with more information about the study and the consent form.

Separate Focus Group Sessions will be organized regionally for:
– Mid-career workers with disabilities,
– Employers of persons with disabilities, and
– Members of support and advocacy groups for persons with disabilities
⮚ Quebec and French Speakers throughout Canada (French)
⮚ Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island (English):
⮚ Ontario, Quebec (English):
⮚ Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia (English)
⮚ Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon (English)

Please try to register before July 25th to allow us time to arrange any requested accommodations.

The sessions will be hosted through Zoom and they will be video and audio recorded with your consent (if you choose not to be recorded during the focus group, alternative arrangements will be made for you). Accommodations are available for accessible participation. All shared information will remain confidential. For more information, call or email the Project Manager, Dr. Graham Epstein, at (226) 979-5520 or

The MCWD Initiative at Ontario Tech University received funding for this project from
Future Skills Canada
Invitation à des groupes de discussion :

● Travailleuses et travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière,
● Employeurs de personnes handicapées, et
● Organismes qui défendent et soutiennent les travailleuses et travailleurs handicapés.

Nous souhaitons vous entendre afin de mieux comprendre les opportunités et les obstacles auxquels sont confrontés les travailleuses et les travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière qui évoluent dans un marché du travail en évolution rapide. Si vous êtes une travailleuse ou un travailleur handicapé en milieu de carrière, un employeur et/ou membre d’un organisme qui défend ou soutient les personnes handicapées, nous voulons vous entendre ! Inscrivez-vous à l’un de nos groupes de discussion pour participer à une discussion de groupe en ligne en août 2021. Les séances de groupes de discussion auront lieu du 3 au 20 août et prendront environ une heure de votre temps.

Qui peut s’inscrire ?
⮚ Travailleuses et travailleurs en milieu de carrière ayant une expérience vécue du handicap
o Travailleuses et travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière âgé.e.s de 35 à 49 ans
⮚ Employeurs,
o Propriétaires, gestionnaires ou autres représentant.e.s concerné.e.s d’organismes publics, privés et à but non lucratif
o Les employeurs avec et sans expérience dans l’emploi de travailleuses et travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière
⮚ Gestionnaires, représentant.e.s ou membres du personnel d’organismes de défense et de soutien aux personnes handicapées ou à l’emploi de travailleuses et travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière

Description du projet
L’Université Ontario Tech, en collaboration avec des chercheur.euse.s de l’Université York, de l’Université Nipissing et du Collège Durham, étudie les besoins et les expériences des travailleuses et des travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière. Ce projet de recherche a été approuvé par le Comité d’éthique de la recherche de l’Université Ontario Tech REB # 15803 le 2 octobre 2020. La Dre Sue Coffey d’OnTechU dirige cette étude. Si vous avez des questions sur l’étude, communiquez directement avec la Dre Sue Coffey par courriel à Si vous avez des questions concernant vos droits en tant que participant.e, des plaintes ou des événements indésirables, communiquez avec le Comité d’éthique de la recherche par – (courriel) ou (téléphone) 905.721.8668 x 3693.

Cette recherche est soutenue par les partenaires communautaires suivants : l’Association nationale des étudiant(e)s handicapé(e)s au niveau postsecondaire (NEADS), la Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD), l’Association québécoise pour l’équité et l’inclusion au postsecondaire (AQEIPS) et le Conseil des Canadiens avec déficiences (CCD).

Même si le marché du travail changeant d’aujourd’hui peut être difficile pour de nombreux travailleuses et travailleurs, les travailleuses et travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière sont à la fois plus vulnérables aux perturbations du marché et font face à des obstacles supplémentaires à l’adaptabilité de leur carrière. Cette recherche sera utilisée pour soutenir le développement d’outils et de ressources pour les travailleuses et les travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière afin d’améliorer les réseaux et le soutien par les pairs, de développer les compétences et la capacité d’adaptation et d’éclairer les décisions concernant les transitions de carrière.

Comment s’inscrire à un groupe de discussion ?
Veuillez cliquer ici pour vous inscrire à un groupe de discussion (offert dans les deux langues officielles), ou pour vous inscrire par téléphone, appelez le Chargé du projet de recherche, Dr Graham Epstein au (226) 979-5520. Nous vous fournirons plus d’informations sur l’étude et le formulaire de consentement.

Des sessions de groupe de discussion distinctes seront organisées par région pour :
– Travailleuses et travailleurs handicapés en milieu de carrière,
– Les employeurs de personnes handicapées, et
– Membres de groupes de soutien et de défense des personnes handicapées
⮚ Québec et francophones partout au Canada (français)
⮚ Terre-Neuve, Nouvelle-Écosse, Nouveau-Brunswick, Île-du-Prince-Édouard (anglais) :
⮚ Ontario, Québec (anglais) :
⮚ Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Colombie-Britannique (anglais)
⮚ Nunavut, Territoires du Nord-Ouest, Yukon (anglais)

Veuillez essayer de vous inscrire avant le 25 juin pour nous laisser le temps d’organiser les accommodements demandés.

Les sessions seront offertes sur Zoom et elles seront enregistrées sur vidéo et audio avec votre consentement (si vous choisissez de ne pas être enregistré.e pendant le groupe de discussion, des dispositions alternatives seront prises pour vous). Des accommodements sont disponibles pour une participation accessible. Toutes les informations partagées resteront confidentielles. Pour plus d’informations, appelez ou envoyez un courriel au Chargé de projet, Dr Graham Epstein, au (226) 979-5520 ou

L’initiative THMC de l’Université Ontario Tech a reçu du financement pour ce projet de
Compétences futures Canada