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Dear Sisters and Brothers:

CUPE is very pleased that Canada has joined the majority of the rest of the world by signing the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is the first UN convention of the 21st century. The text was adopted in December 2006 and opened for signature on March 30, 2007. Canada finally signed on March of this year!

The treaty boldly articulates a human rights framework for addressing the exclusion and lack of access people with disabilities have encountered in Canada and in all societies.

The guiding principles of the Convention are:

  1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
  2.  Non-discrimination
  3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
  5. Equality of opportunity
  6.  Accessibility
  7. Equality between men and women
  8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities

The Convention adopts a social model of disability, and defines disability as including “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

The prevention of discrimination includes the right to be able to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life. The right to education where persons with disabilities should be guaranteed the right to inclusive education at all levels, regardless of age. The right to health is included and means full participation rights in the community, political and public life, cultural life, leisure and sports. It also means the right to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums.

CUPE, the labour movement and our social justice partners working specifically for persons with disabilities need to work together to ensure that the Canadian government lives up to its new commitment.

In addition, CUPE needs to take up the principles of the convention and ensure that at all levels of our union we too do not discriminate against workers with disabilities. We commit to work with the Persons with Disabilities National Working Group to guide us.

Locals, staff and Divisions can work with members with disabilities to help ensure accessible, non-discriminatory meetings, workshops, and other CUPE events. Use the Bargaining Equality Binder to check the language in your collective agreement to ensure that persons with disabilities are not discriminated against. Think about what you and/or your local can offer that would be most valuable and relevant such as resources and capacity building that can mark the day and more importantly support members with disabilities throughout the year.

Please share the actions that you and your local are participating in to mark this important day – December 3 – International Day for Persons with Disabilities, by emailing equality@cupe.ca.

In solidarity,

National President

National Secretary-Treasurer

How can we work to reduce poverty for people with disabilities in Canada?

Disability rights and anti-poverty organizations have formed a partnership to call on the federal government to take three, concrete steps:

  1. A basic income program for Canadians with severe disabilities, modeled after the long-established Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors.
  2. Make the Disability Tax Credit refundable, extending compensation for the extra costs of disability to the lowest-income people with disabilities
  3. Reinvest savings and work with provincial and territorial governments to create a comprehensive system of disability support and services

For more information

Visit the Disability Web page on cupe.ca for information including:

  • CUPE People With Disabilities Working Group Report 2009 (Video)
  • Summary of literature review: The impact of privatization/contracting out on workers with disabilities