‘People with disabilities can no longer be forgotten’: Canadians disappointed with stimulus package’s lack of inclusion

Did you know that four out of 10 Canadians who live in poverty also have a disability? The sad truth is that economically, poverty is a cycle that persists unless there is outside intervention. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there are growing disparities between those who have and those who have not.

In fact, a United Nations report indicates that under normal circumstances, people with disabilities are less likely to access health care, education and employment – and COVID-19 has only made it worse. intensify inequalities. It will only get worse, as the World Health Organization has pointed out: “The number of people with disabilities is increasing due to the increase in chronic diseases and the aging of the population. Couple that with an increase in the number of long-standing COVID patients and an economic stimulus package that lacks foresight and inclusiveness, and our already fragile healthcare system seems on a collision course.

I wonder why the federal government has not stepped in and why does our economic recovery plan not include people with disabilities?

It is disappointing to see our government’s lack of empathy and consideration, especially as the 2020 Speech from the Throne promised to introduce a new Canada Disability Benefit. Such a program would work as a supplement to other benefits that are already in place in our provinces, which would lead to further discussions about what it should look like. Unfortunately, that feels like an empty promise, as the latest federal budget released last week did not include the disability benefit, nor the reintroduction of the Disability Benefits Act – another re-election promise.

Changes are needed now, and Canadians agree. A 2021 Angus Reid poll showed nearly 90% of Canadians support a national disability benefit, with most believing that current benefits are simply not good enough.

Grassroots organization Disability Without Poverty tries to hold the government to account, with the aim of ending the cycle of poverty. Country Director Rabia Khedr tells me the pandemic is an obstacle, but also an opportunity for systems to change.

“People with disabilities can no longer be forgotten,” says Khedr. “It’s not just about me and not about you. It is about all of us who can acquire a disability and end up in poverty. We need the government to work with us to put forward a meaningful Canada Disability Benefit. We believe there is a real commitment on the part of the government to deliver this benefit, but we will continue to ask, “Where is the bill? until one is dropped. It can’t be soon enough, especially for those who debate monthly whether they should choose MAID (medical assistance in dying). »

Regarding the lack of funding in the new budget, she adds: “This new budget has been disappointing for many… As far as support for able-bodied people is concerned, the system adapted immediately. But when it comes to people with disabilities, it’s just filled with systemic barriers and politics.

There is some encouraging news, however, as a group of MPs have taken the matter into their own hands, calling in an open letter for the disability benefit to be tabled as a matter of urgency. However, this may not be enough.

As Khedr says, “every obstacle is an opportunity to do something different”. She’s right; we have spent far too long leaving people behind in this pandemic. If we take any lessons from the past two years, it should be the importance of caring for our most vulnerable populations. We need our government to act immediately – another empty promise is not enough.

Ruby Latif is a Toronto-based community mobilizer, liberal strategist and columnist for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rubylatif

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