Canada ratifies the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  • Activist Jim Derksen says Canada’s actions in New York will make a difference. – Cindy Titus

On March 11, 2010, Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

It is estimated that 650 million people live with a disability worldwide, and almost 16 per cent of Manitoba’s population lives with a disability, according to MLA Jennifer Howard, the minister responsible for persons with disabilities.

“Manitoba is proud to be home to internationally recognized advocates and organizations who have worked for many years towards this day,” she said.

In 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities after many years of negotiation. The last five years have seen the process of creating the CRPD. Canada was among the first countries to sign the Convention in March of 2007.

According to the CRPD, its purpose is “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

The recent ratification of the CRPD reaffirms that persons with disabilities have the same civil, political, social and cultural rights as anyone else, as set out in international law. The CRPD’s core obligations relate to non-discrimination, reasonable accommodation (for example, in the workplace), inclusion in education and accessibility.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a national human rights organization of people with disabilities working for an inclusive and accessible Canada. Some of their priorities include poverty alleviation, human rights and increased employment for persons with disabilities, to be achieved through law reform, litigation, public education and dialogue with key decision-makers.

“This [ratification] was a true moment of history for the disability movement,” Steve Estey, chairperson of CCD’s International Committee, said in a column in Nova Scotia’s The Chronicle Herald. “Ours has been described as the last civil rights movement. On March 11, at the UN, we finally came of age.”

Longtime Winnipeg disability activist Jim Derksen said that Manitobans with disabilities aren’t likely to notice an immediate effect as a result of the ratification, but that it will make a difference.

“There will be a gradual effect of transforming programs and infrastructures that Manitobans with disabilities find themselves in. Areas that will be affected positively include accessible format information, education and employment,” he said.

Derksen commented on the issue of closing the Manitoba Developmental Centre in Portage la Prairie which houses many people with intellectual disabilities. It has been shown that people with intellectual disabilities, with the proper supports in place, do well and even thrive living in the community. In fact, community living organizations throughout the province have been attempting to have the institution closed since 2003, according to a Community Living Manitoba newsletter. Ontario closed the last three of its institutions on March 31, 2009.

“Now, if someone were to establish a court case against the institution in order to get a person out into the community, the case would have teeth because this ratification makes their rights legally binding,” Derksen said.

Disability organizations across the country such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities and the Disabled Women’s Network are pleased with this historic action and look forward to seeing people with disabilities participate as equal citizens in society.

Published in Volume 64, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 25, 2010)

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