Young male mechanic in a wheelchair with female mechanic standing behind him

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ten years ago the United Nations adopted a resolution that established the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Convention’s main message is that people with disabilities are entitled to full human rights and freedoms without discrimination.

Unions were some of the earliest advocates for disability rights in the workplace, and embraced the CRPD for promoting the full participation of people with disabilities in all spheres of life. That means eliminating obstacles and barriers to accessibility, including stigma and discrimination.

In the 10 years since its adoption at the UN, the CRPD has been one of the most quickly ratified of all the international human rights treaties. Canada ratified the Convention in 2010. But how are we as a country doing at living up to its commitments?

The Canadian Labour Congress joined with disability rights organizations to evaluate Canada’s progress. Led by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, this partnership will produce a shadow report on Canada’s implementation of CRPD and identify issues that Canada needs to address to ensure full disability rights.

“The CRPD is meant 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’,” said CLC Executive Vice-President Marie Clarke Walker.

“We have come a long way in 10 years, but people with disabilities in Canada still experience systemic barriers, which result in increased poverty, unemployment, and isolation,” said Clarke Walker.

Clarke Walker noted that Canada has ratified CRPD but has not yet developed a clear plan for implementation. The shadow report will be submitted to the UN in February 2017 and then a delegation of civil society and union representatives will bring the issues directly to the CRPD committee in Geneva in April 2017. 

Clarke Walker noted that Canada has ratified CRPD and is beginning the process of ratifying the Optional Protocol, which would allow individuals and groups to file disability rights complaints at the UN, and for the UN to launch investigations into disability rights violations in Canada. The CLC sees this as a positive step but would like to see this commitment strengthened with a concrete plan for implementation and monitoring, in order to prevent complaints needing to be filed in the first place.

The Canadian Labour Congress and several affiliated unions are also participating in a federal government consultation on accessibility legislation. The CLC is encouraging government to develop broad legislation connected with the implementation of the CRPD.

“A human rights framework would better address the range of systemic barriers affecting Canadians with disabilities, in areas like transportation, banking, voting, affordable housing, and post-secondary education,” Clarke Walker said.

Members of the public can also take part in the consultation through an online questionnaire or by mail, phone, email or TTY. Visit for contact information.

“Canada should be a disability rights leader. Together we can make that message heard,” Clarke Walker concluded.

December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.