Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles

Canada

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© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

Ministry unspecified (15 September 1996)
General policy

The officially recognized disability policy in Canada is expressed in law and in guidelines adopted by the Government. The emphasis of the national disability policy - in descending scale - is on anti-discrimination law, individual support, rehabilitation, accessibility measures, prevention.

Through public forums at home and abroad and by stressing that the adoption and application of the Standard Rules are of paramount interest, the Government of Canada has conveyed the message of full participation.

Legislation

The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by a combination of special legislation and general legislation. The judicial mechanism adopted to protect their rights include due process (legal remedy through courts) and recourse procedure by a special agency dealing with anti-discrimination issues. Administrative and other non-judicial bodies include: an Ombudsman, a Governmental body (administrative) and special arbitration/conciliation body.

The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: health and medical care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, employment and participation in decisions affecting themselves.

No new legislation has been enacted since the adoption of the Standard Rules.

Accessibility

There are laws and regulations to ensure accessibility in the build environment requiring that: the outdoor environment, land, sea and air transportation, and housing are made accessible. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by local Governments and consumer organizations. The following measures have been promoted by the Government in order to facilitate accessibility in the build environment, only to a certain extent though: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing automatic doors, lifts, accessible toilets, ensuring access to public places, improving accessibility in housing, providing financial incentives for accessibility measures when building or renovating housing, financial support for adapting private buildings, installing lighting and using contrast colours for visually impaired and providing for specially adapted motor vehicles. There are special transport arrangements for persons with disabilities which are available for the following purposes: medical treatment, education, work, recreational purpose. The most difficult obstacles when planning to build accessible environments are economic/budgetary factors and geographical and climatic factors. There is a disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.

Sign language for deaf people is used as the first language in education of deaf people and recognized as the main means of communication between deaf persons and others. It is recognized as the official language of deaf people only in the francophone part of the country. There are no Government measures for encouraging media and other forms of public information to make their services available. The following services are - to a limited, insufficient, extent - provided in order to facilitate information and communication: literature on tape, sign language interpretation being available for major events.

Organizations of persons with disabilities

There is a national umbrella organization. There are no legal provisions mandating the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. Organizations are always consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect being prepared. Consultations take place at the national, regional and local levels. The Government gives financial and organizational logistic support to existing and new organizations. Persons with disabilities participate in some extent in legislature and judiciary and to a great extent in Government, in political parties and NGO's. The organizations in Canada have the role to: advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures concerning the lives of persons with disabilities, contribute to public awareness, provide services, and promote/organize income generating activities.

Co-ordination of work

There is a national co-ordinating committee reporting to the Parliament. It includes representatives of Members of Parliament from both the Government and the opposition. The Government expects the committee to participate in policy-making. The committee is also expected to perform other tasks. The establishment of the co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, better dialogue in the disability field, and improved promotion of public awareness.

The adoption of the Standard Rules has not lead to a rethinking but confirmed the approach of disability policy already applied.



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