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e-2821 (Social affairs and equality)

E-petition
Initiated by Jay Woodruff from Rockland, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • Disabled Canadians and Canadians living in poverty are disproportionately provided with emergency financial support since the launch of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) mandated $2,000 a month as the minimum required to live;
  • The United Nations has expressed concern over the unequal support and protections for disabled people and people living in poverty;
  • There is no nationwide support equal to CERB for disabled Canadians or Canadians living in poverty;
  • The Government of Canada has not provided equal support since the launch of CERB to protect the human rights of disabled Canadians and Canadians living in poverty;
  • The Government of Canada has not raised federal supports for disabled Canadians and Canadians living in poverty to be equal to the amount mandated as the minimum of $2,000 a month to survive; and
  • The Government of Canada has not kept federal support programs equal to inflation.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Immediately expand the eligibility for the CERB to include those who were previously deemed ineligible due to poverty, disability, or other circumstances that have prevented them from meeting the minimum earnings required to qualify for CERB, and that payments be backdated to March 15, 2020; and
2. Continue to provide equal support for Canadians as outlined above for the duration of CERB, as well as continuing to provide this support indefinitely through a guaranteed basic income, with the monthly rate increased annually to reflect any increases in of the cost of living.

Response by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): IREK KUSMIERCZYK

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for sharing their views on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and recognizes their request to amend the program criteria. The Government acknowledges concerns that some workers may have been unable to meet the minimum earnings required to qualify for CERB due to their individual circumstances, including some persons with disabilities.

This is a challenging time for all Canadians, and the Government of Canada is taking significant actions to help people facing hardship because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is important to acknowledge that income security is a shared responsibility across different levels of government. As such, the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of working with provinces and territories to find solutions to common challenges.

A human rights-based approach to disability issues is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programs and initiatives. The Government fully supports the equality rights guarantees provided to Canadians with disabilities by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Government has acted to strengthen this commitment through the development and passage of the Accessible Canada Act.

The Government also provided a one-time, tax-free, non-reportable payment of up to $600 to assist with additional expenses incurred in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lower-income persons, including Canadians with disabilities, also received a doubled GST/HST credit in April 2020.  The average additional benefit from this measure is close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.

As announced on September 23, 2020 in the Speech from the Throne, the Government will bring forward a Disability Inclusion Plan that will introduce a new Canadian Disability Benefit. The Plan will also include a robust employment strategy for persons with disabilities, and a better process to determine eligibility for Government disability programs and benefits.

From the onset, the Government has taken steps to ensure that the interests and needs of persons with disabilities are being taken into consideration in the decisions and measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in the spirit of “Nothing About Us Without Us ” from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Government established a COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group (CDAG), comprised of experts in disability inclusion, to provide advice on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis, the issues, challenges and systemic gaps that exist as well as the best strategies and measures to be taken.

Notable among the Advisory Group’s contributions and achievements was advising on broadening the reach of the one-time payment of $600 for persons with disabilities.  The Government expanded the payment to include recipients of Canada Pension Plan Disability, Quebec Pension Plan Disability Pension and Disability supports provided by Veterans Affairs Canada

The Advisory Group and the disability community have raised accessible communications and the need for engagement with persons with disabilities as a key issue. That is why, as part of National AccessAbility Week, the Government announced an additional $1.1 million in funding to support national disability organizations through the Disability component of the Social Development Partnership Program. This funding will enhance their communications and engagement activities to better address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities.

We are making strides on accessibility of public announcements and Government of Canada communications. Sign language interpretation is being provided at Government of Canada press conferences and the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group provided advice on public service policies related to accessible communications.

With respect to the CERB, it is important to note that the program has now ended.  Of note, the CERB was not intended as a universal income support program, but was introduced on a temporary basis to replace income from employment or self-employment workers who had stopped working for reasons related to COVID-19.

As of September 27, 2020, the Government implemented plans that transition people who have been receiving the CERB to a more flexible and accessible EI program. As a result of these temporary measures, EI will now be available to more Canadians, including those who would not have qualified for EI in the past.

Additionally, the Government introduced three new temporary recovery benefits to support Canadians who are not eligible for EI and who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. The Canada Recovery Benefit supports workers who are not employed or self-employed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or are working and have had a reduction of at least 50 per cent in their employment/self-employment income for reasons related to COVID-19, and who are not eligible for EI. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit supports public health measures by providing income support to workers who are unable to work because they are sick or must self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19. Finally, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit responds to situations in which workers are unable to work because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or a family member who requires supervision because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19 or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19.As part of the Government of Canada’s COVID response measures, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provided financial support from May to August, 2020 to post-secondary students and recent graduates who could not find summer employment due to COVID-19. Students with dependants or a disability received an additional $750 in support for a total of $2,000 for each four-week period. For the purposes of the CESB, students with disabilities was defined as someone having an impairment, such as a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment, or a functional limitation—whether permanent or episodic in nature, or evident or not—that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

This investment builds upon an extensive suite of disability-related supports currently available for post-secondary students with permanent disabilities. These targeted supports include the Canada Student Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities, which provides $2,000 per academic year (doubled to $4,000 in 2021-22 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic) and the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities, which provides up to $20,000 per academic year to help offset exceptional, education-related costs associated with permanent disabilities. Moreover, students with permanent disabilities have additional special provisions, such as flexible eligibility criteria, increased lifetime loan assistance, and more generous repayment assistance measures. Most recently, as of October 1, 2020, eligible students with disabilities can also take a break from studies for medical or mental health reasons.

The Government of Canada will continue to monitor research and analysis on potential basic income policies and programs that could positively impact Canada’s economy and society, as part of its efforts to ensure that all Canadians have a real and fair opportunity to succeed. As we move towards economic recovery, the Government is continuing to explore a variety of potential shorter and longer-term policy responses that could address the needs of Canadians, including persons with disabilities.

The Government also recognizes the challenges that many Canadians face with finding and keeping good jobs. These challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Strong employment outcomes for persons with disabilities requires specialized programming that ensures they have the training, skills, and other supports to navigate these challenges. 

Consequently, the Government of Canada invests in a number of skills training and employment support programs for persons with disabilities, including the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities (Opportunities Fund), a $40-million-per-year program that supports employment-focused interventions to assist persons with disabilities increase their access to the labour market. Through this program, the Government of Canada provides funding to organizations to assist persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain and maintain employment or self-employment. Projects funded under the program offer a wide range of services, including pre-employability training, self-employment interventions, job placements, wage subsidies and other wrap-around supports.

On June 5, 2020, the Prime Minister of Canada announced several new federal supports for Canadians with disabilities to help address the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They include a $15 million investment in a new National Workplace Accessibility Stream under the Opportunities Fund program in 2020-2021. This new stream helps support workplace accessibility and access to jobs for Canadians with disabilities, with a focus on the following activities:

  • Helping employers set up accessible and effective work-from-home measures;
  • Expanding online training opportunities;
  • Creating inclusive workplaces, whether virtual or physical;
  • Connecting people with disabilities, including those who work from home, with employers;
  • Training for in-demand jobs; and
  • Establishing wage subsidies to encourage the hiring of Canadians living with disabilities or expanding existing grants.

 

Open for signature
September 1, 2020, at 2:59 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 1, 2020, at 2:59 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre)
October 9, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00111)
Government response tabled
November 23, 2020
Photo - Matthew Green
Hamilton Centre
New Democratic Party Caucus
Ontario
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