Canadians with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than those without disabilities, a situation that has been made even worse by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. By addressing the longstanding inequities that lead to financial insecurity, hardships and social exclusion faced by persons with disabilities, the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to building a disability-inclusive Canada.
As part of the Government of Canada’s plan to ensure an inclusive recovery that “leaves no one behind”, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, introduced new legislation today that would establish the framework for a new Canada Disability Benefit.
This ground-breaking legislation would enable the Government of Canada to take a proactive approach in the creation and delivery of the new benefit, to support working-age Canadians with disabilities. The Canada Disability Benefit would supplement, not replace, existing federal and provincial-territorial supports with a goal of lifting hundreds of thousands of persons with disabilities out of poverty.
In the spirit of “Nothing Without Us”, the Government of Canada will build on the legislation introduced today to engage with stakeholders and persons with disabilities to have their voices heard on the design of the benefit leading up to the development of regulations. This engagement has already started with the recent launch of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, a public survey that asks Canadians how the Government of Canada can build a barrier-free country. Engagement activities will continue through the summer and fall.
The legislation also recognizes the leading role that provinces and territories play in providing supports and services to Canadians with disabilities and the importance of engaging with them in developing income and other supports. Federal, Provincial and Territorial (FPT) Ministers responsible for Social Services and Disability intend to meet this summer for an initial discussion on the proposed new benefit.
The Government of Canada committed in the 2020 Speech from the Throne to develop the first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). This plan will include:
- a new Canada Disability Benefit;
- a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities;
- and a better process to determine eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits.
The new Canada Disability Benefit is the cornerstone of this plan.
“When the pandemic struck, Canadians with disabilities were hit hard. Many experienced job loss and financial pressures, which increased existing financial insecurity and hardship. By proposing to create the new Canada Disability Benefit, the Government of Canada is responding to the unique and vital needs of persons with disabilities. This supplementary income benefit would help people to rebound and to fully participate in all aspects of our society and economy. It would address the longstanding financial hardships experienced by persons with disabilities predating the pandemic, and would be an investment in the realization of a fully inclusive society. Canadians with disabilities continue to be at the centre of our country’s inclusive recovery.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
According to the 2017 Canadian Survey of Disabilities, nearly 850,000 (21%) working-age Canadians with disabilities live in poverty. Persons with severe disabilities (26%) and very severe disabilities (31%) are particularly vulnerable and experience a high rate of poverty, nearly three times the rate of persons without disabilities (11%).
Working-age Canadians with more severe disabilities, who live alone (44%) and are lone parents (37%), are more likely to live below the poverty line.
Among persons with disabilities, women, members of the LGBTQ2 community, racialized Canadians and Indigenous people are more likely to be financially insecure.
The Government of Canada provides supports to Canadians with disabilities, largely seniors and children, through direct targeted, statutory income programs and tax measures. It also awards grants and contributions through third-party disability organizations.
Public engagement on the Disability Inclusion Action Plan is open until August 31, 2021. Canadians are encouraged to complete the online survey and share their views, to help guide the development of the Plan.
Budget 2021 committed the Government to undertaking consultations with stakeholders that would feed directly into the design of the new disability benefit, including engagement with provinces and territories, which play a central role in providing support to many Canadians with disabilities.