The Commission is Canada's national human rights institution. We engage with international partners and with UN committees to help promote human rights worldwide. As part of this work, we monitor and report on whether Canada is meeting its international human rights obligations.
Monitoring disability rights in Canada
Throughout 2022, we continued our work as Canada's National Monitoring Mechanism responsible for monitoring Canada's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
We continue to focus this work on three key priority areas: housing, poverty, and work and employment. These key priority areas were identified during our public engagement process in 2020 with people with disabilities from across Canada, as well as the organizations that advocate on their behalf, and with families and caregivers of people with disabilities.
For the housing priority, we worked with the Federal Housing Advocate, Marie-Josee Houle, and her office, to advance the right to housing for people with disabilities in Canada. In June, the Commission co-hosted a virtual panel at the United Nations with the Federal Housing Advocate. This was part of a larger meeting of countries who have signed on to the CRPD. The virtual panel discussion highlighted the intersection of housing rights and disability rights in Canada. This accessible virtual event was attended by more than 100 participants and included panelists with diverse lived experiences. It also included the Federal Housing Advocate, Marie-Josée Houle. The discussion helped raise awareness of our upcoming work with the Federal Housing Advocate to jointly monitor this important area of human rights.
At this virtual panel, participants expressed an interest in engaging directly with the Commission on this topic of intersecting housing rights and disability rights. To facilitate this, the Commission and the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate hosted two engagement sessions in November and December with people with disabilities, and their families and caregivers. These sessions were co-developed with people with disabilities as well as allies and advocates. People with diverse lived experiences and perspectives participated. We learned from participants that they are experiencing significant barriers to accessing their rights in Canada, including:
- Finding safe and accessible housing: Participants said that it is currently very difficult to find accessible housing, that their safety is at risk, and that accessibility standards are not consistent.
- Navigating discriminatory systems: Participants said that they experience discrimination from landlords, neighbours, and social support programs.
- Managing increasing challenges with the rising cost of living: Participants said that it is getting increasingly difficult for them to afford to live in Canada. For some people, it impacts their ability to live independently, go to school, and even live with their partner.
- Securing support for caregivers: Participants said that the lack of supports for people who need care can force them to live in institutions, and can cause compound pressures on family members.
The response to these engagements was very positive, and rights holders expressed interest in attending similar events in the future. The results from these engagement sessions will continue to inform our monitoring and advocacy work.
For the other two priority areas — poverty, and work and employment — we provided a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in November 2022. This was to inform the Committee's study of Bill C-22 (the Canada Disability Benefit Act.) This proposed law would see the federal government create a Canada Disability Benefit. We recommended that Bill C-22 be passed into law and implemented as swiftly as possible. We added that the Bill could be strengthened by:
- better articulating Canada's obligations under international human rights treaties and under the National Housing Strategy Act,
- better reflecting the human rights principle of intersectionality, and
- better reflecting the human rights principle of meaningful engagement (“Nothing Without Us.”)
Our submission provided some of the findings from our 2020 public engagement process to support the importance and urgency of Bill C-22. This included highlighting that people with disabilities identified poverty as one of their top concerns, and that many face barriers to obtaining an adequate standard of living. We also highlighted how many have told us that they are living in poverty because they cannot work and financial supports are inadequate.
Sharing our expertise at the international table
As part of our role as Canada's national human rights institution, we make regular submissions to the United Nations and related bodies about how well Canada is doing in meeting its international and domestic human rights obligations. Our submissions raise new and emerging human rights concerns, and draw attention to long-standing inequities. In 2022, we engaged with the international human rights community on several key human rights issues, including as an active member of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. Here are some highlights:
- We were profiled by the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI). They profiled a synopsis of our Action Plan for our role as Canada's National Monitoring Mechanism for the CRPD. It was featured as a part of “Upholding disabled people's human rights: case studies from Commonwealth national human rights institutions,” along with a short animation.
- We contributed to the CFNHRI practical guide for NHRIs working with civil society to better uphold the human rights of people who face discrimination due to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.
- We provided our insights on an international panel hosted by Equinet and CFNHRI on Protecting human rights and equality in the age of AI.
- We made a submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in which we provided insight on the progress of children's rights in Canada. We highlighted many gaps and challenges. After concluding its review of Canada, the Committee took up twelve of our sixteen recommendations, including those related to: the housing rights of children; children with disabilities; Indigenous children and youth; and intersex youth. The Committee also took up our recommendation that Canada needs to address systemic racism and discrimination against racialized and Indigenous children.
- We provided a submission to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the Draft Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization. We recommended a number of additions to the Committee's draft guidelines. For example, that they include mention of accessible housing. We also recommended that the guidelines be developed with consideration for the unique and distinct ways Indigenous people with disabilities have experienced institutionalization (i.e. residential schools, prisons, and foster care.)