Canada’s unions warn that new Disability Benefit Act doesn’t go far enough

June 25, 2021

Canada’s unions are warning that a new disability benefit doesn’t go far enough to support people with disabilities, especially those who are struggling because of COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion tabled Bill C-35: The Canada Disability Benefit Act. While the benefit is a welcome step, Canada’s unions joined disability rights groups in sharing concerns about the program.

“The government has stated that the Canada Disability Benefit will be supplementary and will not replace existing supports,” said Larry Rousseau, CLC Executive Vice-President. “However, the precise nature of the benefit and how it will work with existing programs is not clear. We share concerns that this legislation comes too late, and lacks specificity, eligibility guidelines and implementation timelines.”

Initially announced in the Speech from the Throne in September 2020, a Canada Disability Benefit has long been advocated for, with amplified calls for increased support for people with disabilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s unions stress the need for consultation with rights-holders and swift implementation of this long-promised program.

“With the House of Commons adjourned for the summer, it’s highly likely that the bill will not pass before a fall election is called, and even once it is passed there are many gaps and details to determine,” said Rousseau. “This means that people with disabilities will continue to experience high rates of poverty and marginalization, with little hope of relief in the near future.”

A new poll by Angus Reid shows that the vast majority of Canadians (89%) support a Canada Disability Benefit with 88% agreeing that it is an essential commitment from government to end disability poverty. Despite this support, three-in-five people (62%) say they have very little confidence in the federal government’s ability to manage current supports or benefits and 67% say the same of provincial governments.

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