Over a half-year into the worldwide pandemic, the Liberal government is being blamed for neglecting to address the issues of the Canadians with disabilities who are among those hardest-hit by the public health crisis.
Marie-Claude Landry, the chief commissioner of the Canada Human Rights Commission, said COVID-19 has “expanded the circle of vulnerability” in Canada — however, individuals with disabilities actually aren’t getting the help they need.
“We ask the administration to quickly address the neglected monetary needs of individuals with disabilities in an impartial manner,” she said in a media statement.
The federal government has promised a one-time $600 emergency benefit for Canadians with disabilities but that money has not yet been spent.
Landry said people with disabilities faced barriers before COVID-19 and the pandemic has only made their plight worse.
People with disabilities face more challenges in a pandemic climate, she said. Those who are blind or visually impaired have to rely on touching non-sanitized surfaces and can’t see if people around them are practising safety protocols. People who are deaf or hard of hearing who normally rely on reading lips to communicate now face a world of masked faces. And there are longer waits now for health care and other services, while the prolonged isolation caused by pandemic containment measures can have a negative impact on mental health.
“We are asking that, as Canada in this moment of national crisis, the health, financial welfare and the human rights of people with disabilities be front and centre,” Landry said.
NDP critic for employment, workforce development and disability inclusion Daniel Blaikie called Landry’s assessment “an important call to justice for people living with disabilities in Canada.”
“The amount of pressure the NDP had to put on the Liberal government for them to offer a simple income support payment is a strong sign that they do not understand the urgency of the problem,” he said.
“The amount of time it has taken them to deliver that payment, which still has not been made, is a strong sign they lack the political will to make this a priority.”
Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government has been committed to considering and addressing the needs of people with disabilities since the beginning of the health crisis.
In a media statement, Qualtrough pointed to the federal government’s launch in April of a COVID-19 disability advisory group tasked with flagging emerging challenges and providing guidance.
Qualtrough listed the various benefits the government has provided to help address the workplace, food security, technological and educational needs of Canadians with disabilities and said the one-time $600 payments will arrive this fall.
There is no specific timeframe for that benefit yet but the government says it will be issued automatically to people who hold disability tax credit certificates and beneficiaries of government disability pensions. People who are eligible but have never applied for the certificate, or have one that’s expired, must apply by Sept. 25.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
News source: CBC News