Advocates urge action for disabled

People stand in front of shelves with food and dry goods holding postcards.
People hold signed postcards for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland at the Disability Without Poverty town hall meeting at Holy Trinity, Guildwood. The postcards urge the finance minister to implement the Canada Disability Benefit this year
 on August 30, 2023
Michael Hudson

Poverty threatens dignity, town hall hears

Holy Trinity, Guildwood hosted a town hall meeting in June to raise awareness of the proposed Canada Disability Benefit. The event was held with Community Food Centres Canada and Disability Without Poverty, to urge the federal government to pass and implement the Canada Disability Act (Bill C-22).

Janet Rodrigues, a local spokesperson for Disability Without Poverty, noted that people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as other Canadians. Provincial disability support programs, such as the ODSP, leave Canadians with disabilities well below the poverty line. For far too many, it is poverty, not disability, that poses the greatest challenge to surviving with dignity. A Canada Disability Benefit would supplement provincial income supports, helping people with disabilities meet their basic needs and fostering greater personal dignity, independence and social inclusion.

Holy Trinity’s lay pastoral associate, Denise Byard, referenced a Toronto Star editorial written by three health-care providers that outlined the crushing impacts they witness among disabled people living in poverty, and urged swift passage and implementation of the federal benefit. Elin Goulden, the diocese’s social Justice and advocacy consultant, connected the call for a Canada Disability Benefit to other diocesan advocacy efforts, including the 2023 vestry motion to raise social assistance rates.

Several members of the Wellspring Centre (a program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities located at Holy Trinity) and their families attended the event. They spoke poignantly of their experiences of poverty and disability, as well as anti-Black racism. “My son benefits so much from this program,” said a mother of a Wellspring member. “But we can only afford to send him one day a week. I’m worried about his future when I’m no longer able to support him.”

Attendees of the event signed postcards to Chrystia Freeland, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, urging her to implement the Canada Disability Benefit in 2023. The signed postcards were brought to a Disability Without Poverty rally on June 2 at Matt Cohen Park in Toronto, across from Ms. Freeland’s constituency office. Representatives of Disability Without Poverty collected bags of postcards from events held during the week and delivered them to the minister’s office.

Bill C-22 received royal assent on June 22. However, the regulatory process to determine the amount of the benefit, eligibility and other details, has yet to begin. Importantly, the legislation commits to including people with disabilities in the development and design of the regulations.

Still, it could be a year or more before people with disabilities start to receive this much-needed income support. “Considering that the original Canada Disability Benefit Act died on the order paper when the 2021 federal election was called, people with disabilities have already waited two years too long for this benefit,” says Ms. Goulden. “They should not have to wait any longer.”

To call on the federal government to put the Canada Disability Benefit in its fall economic statement and roll out the benefit before the end of 2023, visit the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy webpage,  


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