Woman speaking ASLCUPE joined the Canadian Labour Congress and the disability community on June 22, 2023 in celebrating royal assent for Bill C-22, which will establish the new Canada Disability Benefit.

The benefit, the first of its kind at the federal level, will provide financial support to low-income working-age persons with disabilities.

However, the framework for this new benefit program – including eligibility requirements and benefit rates – will likely not be known until 2024. Despite the law being passed in 2023, the government has a full year before the Canada Disability Benefit Act must come into force.

The disability rights movement has called for this benefit for a long time. The community supported Bill C-22 in good faith that a framework will be developed through the implementation of regulations, following a meaningful consultation process.

As a result of community-led advocacy, the legislation was amended by the Senate to include a specific timeline of 12 months for the regulations to be put in place.

The amendments also require that the government takes into account international human rights obligations, the costs of living with a disability and the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in earning employment income.

In addition, the amendments compel the government to consider “the intersectional needs of disadvantaged individuals and groups” while drafting regulations.

41% of low-income Canadians are persons with disabilities, and among them, people who have intersecting identities, such as women, Indigenous, Black, racialized, and 2SLGBTQI+ people, face even greater barriers.

CUPE is concerned, however, that the final version of the legislation rejected a Senate amendment that would have prevented claw-backs of the benefit from those under an insurance policy or with a long-term disability plan.

Social assistance claw-backs are an administratively burdensome process that penalizes and targets people who are already vulnerable and disadvantaged. CUPE members know this well – we administer social assistance programs at the provincial and municipal levels across Canada.

CUPE will follow closely the development of the Canada Disability Benefit framework and stands in solidarity with activists and organizations across Canada in the fight for disability justice.