ARCH Alert Volume 21, Issue 3
ARCH quarterly newsletter with news and information on disability law. Published on December 3, 2020
Inside This Issue
- Note from the Editors
- MAiD Gone Wrong: Disability Community Outraged By Bill C-7
- Running for Inclusive Education
- Ontario Government Confirms the Ontario Triage Protocol is Not to be Followed
- Celebrating a lifetime of advocacy: Peter Park, Co-founder of Respecting Rights, turns 80!
- ARCH Intervenes in R v Slatter at the Supreme Court of Canada
- Mandatory Mask use in Ontario
- Honouring the Legacy of a Tireless Leader and Dedicated Disability Rights Advocate
- ARCH Receives the Pat Worth Award!
- 10 Years After: Reflections on my Legal Battle for Accessibility
- Connecting People to Home and Community Care: Survey
- OP Lab: Learning, Sharing, Actioning!
- Do the Rights Thing
- Federal Chronic Pain Task Force releases Report
- Download This ARCH Alert
Note from the Editors
By: Amanda Ward and Robert Lattanzio
ARCH Disability Law Centre is pleased to release our fourth ARCH Alert issue for 2020 in celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The United Nations proclaimed December 3rd as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) in 1992 which continues to be celebrated around the world as an opportunity to promote the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life.
ARCH observes this date every year by organizing events and releasing publications that raise awareness on the equality rights, fundamental freedoms, and inclusion of persons with disabilities.
The theme for this year as announced by the United Nations is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.
You can find more information about this day on the United Nations website by using the following link: https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-3-december/idpd2020.html
We hope you enjoy reading this issue. Be well and stay safe.
MAiD Gone Wrong: Disability Community Outraged By Bill C-7
By: Kurt Goddard and Natalia Hicks, Inclusion Canada
“The disability community is appalled that Bill C-7 would allow people with a disability to have their lives ended when they are suffering but not dying. This isn’t how we respond to the suffering of any group of Canadians, much less any Charter protected group.” – Krista Carr, Executive Vice President of Inclusion Canada
In response to the Superior Court of Quebec’s decision in Truchon v Attorney General of Canada, Minister David Lametti has tabled amendments under Bill C-7 to make significant changes to Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying regime. Bill C-7 introduces a two-track system allowing medical professionals to administer medical assistance in dying to people with disabilities and disabling medical conditions who are not dying by natural causes but wish to die.
In other words, Bill C-7 creates a dynamic where most Canadians will have their desire to die by suicide interrupted unquestioningly through suicide prevention efforts while people with disabilities will have their desire to die endorsed through the MAiD system. Many in the disability community fundamentally reject the foundational assumption of Bill C-7: that there is an inherent equation between disability and intolerable suffering that justifies terminating a person’s life. Why is this a problem?
Accessing MAiD based on suffering would be unconscionable for members of other social groups that suffer disproportionately such as LGBTQ2+ or Indigenous persons. Removing the end of life requirement in the legislation essentially makes having a disability, a protected ground in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a reason to die. Moreover, it deepens the stigma and stereotypes associated with disability, as a fate worse than death. If these amendments remain unchanged, they could do irreparable harm to the equal status of people with disabilities.
While some people with disabilities have supported Bill C-7, pushing for access to assistance in dying when suffering becomes too much to bear, the national disability community remains united in calling for medical assistance in dying being restricted to end-of-life circumstances, underscoring that Canada over-rides the autonomy rights of other Canadians by intervening with suicide prevention.
Disabled persons organizations have come out calling not only for equity in dying, but also for equity in the remediation of suffering, prevention of suicide, and freedom from devaluation and stigmatization. The consequences of Bill C-7 will be far-reaching, extending beyond the immediate intentions of the bill.
The Attorney General set a timeline to have Bill C-7 receive royal assent within just three months of it being tabled. This pace does not allow for the reflection, deliberation, and attention to detail that a matter of life and death warrants, particularly when the legislation before Parliament has been flagged as a threat to human rights.
Bill C-7 passed second reading in the House of Commons in October. The Justice Committee then held a limited number of hearings where representatives from the national disability community were able to voice their concerns. In the wake of the hearings, the Justice Committee has been reviewing the amendments clause by clause. The House of Commons will soon begin a debate on the report stage of Bill C-7. In order to meet the compressed timeline, the Senate engaged the Senate’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee to undertake a pre-study of the bill. The Senate Committee hearings are already well underway, and the Senate is scheduled to break on December 11th.
We encourage you to join us in speaking out against Bill C-7.
The Attorney General maintains that Bill C-7 is being rushed through Parliament to meet a court-imposed deadline of the Quebec Superior Court. This raises two questions: is Parliament required to respond to a decision of a court of first instance? And, especially during a global pandemic, is Parliament prohibited from asking for more time for careful deliberation? The answer to both questions appears to be “no.”
“We now confront Bill C7: a cataclysmic convergence of ambition and circumstance that will leave our equality in tatters” – Catherine Frazee, Professor Emerita, Ryerson University, School of Disability Studies
Running for Inclusive Education
By: Peter Eaton
It’s a little strange putting pen to paper for this. It was when I was creating the blurb for my fundraising page too… I don’t consider myself much of a storyteller. Ironic given that I’ve made my living working in theatre, and now ballet these last 20 years, but I’ll do my best to make this entertaining should you decide to take the walk (run?) with me…
Thirty years ago, more or less, my sister started school at Maple Avenue School in Burford, Ontario. Emily was born with cerebral palsy, and has never learned to walk, nor to use a standardized communication system – she’s never had the muscle tone to allow her to do so, starting life with very soft muscle tone, which shifted as she got older into quite a stiff tone, which she now has to work on relaxing when she’s eating, or otherwise interacting with things. It presented challenges to her teachers and school, to be sure, and eventually led the staff at Maple Avenue School, and the Brant County Board of Education, to take the position that she couldn’t be effectively educated in an integrated setting, and that she should be removed to a segregated classroom – a position confirmed through a special education Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC).
My parents fought the decision of the IPRC through a Special Education Appeal Board and Special Education Tribunal. My memory of their fight is admittedly pretty hazy. I was only about ten or eleven at the time, and much of the intricacy of what they undertook to do was lost on me, but I do know they spent A LOT of late nights pouring over whatever legislation and case law they could get their hands on, working with singular focus on crafting their arguments, believing that if they could just find the right words, it would become clear to the board why segregation was not in Emily’s best interest. It was a tough time. Dad was working full time, mom was a stay at home mom, but with four kids, and swimming lessons and soccer practice, and piano lessons, etc. there was a lot on their plates even before you take into account the extra care that Emily required due to her disabilities.
By the end of their presentation at the Tribunal they were exhausted, and the news that it had ruled against Emily was bitter. For all that they were exhausted though, my folks were undeterred. Fervent in their belief that Emily had the right to be accommodated and educated in her “regular” classroom along with her peers, my folks committed to appealing the Tribunal’s decision.
It was around this time that ARCH came into our lives.
Here’s where some of the details that an eleven year old’s brain holds and doesn’t hold on to really shows…
I don’t recall exactly how and when Anne Molloy (the legal counsel provided to us by ARCH) arrived on the scene, but I do remember the immense relief that it brought. Finally my parents had not just the moral support of family and friends, and the advocacy groups my parents were increasingly becoming involved with, but the help of lawyers dedicated to Emily’s case, who shared in my parents’ conviction that there should be a presumption towards inclusion in education and who were ready to fight the Charter challenge that would be required to test that belief.
As the ball got rolling on the Charter challenge, Anne was pretty clear with my folks that the legal importance of the Charter challenge would mean that the battle in the courts was going to be a long one, and so my parents looked for other means to get Emily into a local ‘regular’ classroom with her peers. The Brant County Catholic School Board was willing to integrate Emily with the supports she needed, so my father went through the process of converting and becoming a member of the local Catholic parish. It would have been easy enough to do this cynically, and to have not engaged with the church after conversion, but my father committed to integrating both himself and Emily into that community, which had welcomed them, and they regularly attend Sunday services even to this day.
And so it was, that even as Emily’s case made its way through the Divisional Court, the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and on to the Supreme Court of Canada – the Brant County Board of Education maintained their position that Emily couldn’t be successfully integrated. She lived the proof of how wrong they were.
Ultimately our challenge was unsuccessful, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Emily couldn’t be considered to have been ‘placed at a disadvantage’ by being placed in a segregated classroom. As such there remains no presumption towards inclusion in education under the law.
So, that’s the backstory then, and it brings us to this year, and why a 40 something from Toronto might want to run a marathon to raise money for ARCH Disability Law Centre.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit this spring, and Ontario went into lock down, I found myself with very little to do for the first time in a very long time. I went from a 70 hour work week loading in shows at the ballet to nothing, overnight. It was a shock. I didn’t know what to do with myself. No one knew really. I didn’t know if I was going to have a job, an income going forward…
As the weeks went by, and it became apparent that live performance wasn’t returning any time soon, I took up running. It was something to give some structure to my days, even if it was only for a half hour or so to start, it was something I could schedule, and begin to count on. I’d run, off and on in the past, but mostly as something to help me prepare for other sports – soccer or wrestling – running was never itself the focus. It was, at the time though, one of the few socially acceptable forms of exercise, and so I embraced it.
As the weeks rolled by and we got in to summer, and the numbers started coming down, I started dreaming of running a real race. Something to test me, and to give me a reason to keep pushing my training. I began eyeing the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon, which normally takes place in October, and tailoring my training to be ready for that. When the cancellation of that event finally came down, I knew I’d invested enough already in my training that I wanted to push myself and see if I could run 42.2km… I just needed the right motivation.
The more I thought about things, the more things kind of fell into place, and the more it seemed that this was the perfect year for a run that could make a difference. I turned 42 this year, which coincides with the number of kilometers in a marathon. A nice little hook for a fundraiser. What cause could I champion? My family has histories with heart and stroke, mental health, cancer, Alzheimer’s… but the thing that had the most impact, the thing that we fought hardest for, and champion still was equity in education. As it turned out, it’d been roughly 25 years since Emily’s fight had begun. ARCH is a brilliant, relevant institution, still fighting that fight (amongst other important battles) all these years on, yet it doesn’t have the benefit of a big yearly fundraiser like those other causes…
Well, it was a no-brainer. I would run a marathon, 42.2km on my 42nd birthday, in support of ARCH, and I would do it in a way that would honor Emily’s journey.
So I set to planning:
4 months ahead of my run, I launched my CanadaHelps fundraising website. I thought to myself: “I should tie the goal number to my age/run length. Times are tough for a lot of my friends and family thanks to the COVID shutdowns, but $420 seems a little light… What the heck… $4200. I may not raise more than a quarter of that, but it’s good to have a goal.” Boy oh boy did I underestimate the generosity of my community.
With six weeks to go, I’d managed to cross the $1000 threshold, and reached out to ARCH to say hello and let them know what I was up to. I felt pretty good at that point, having already managed to raise about what I’d initially hoped to for the campaign. Rob Lattanzio was quick to respond with words of thanks and encouragement, and an offer of help spreading the word. Soon after I published the route for my run, a path that would begin at Maple Avenue School in Burford, travel to Evangel Church in Brantford where the Tribunal was held, and back to Blessed Sacrament School where Emily was successfully integrated. The response to that announcement was overwhelming, and quickly brought the fundraising efforts over the half-way mark.
There’s a saying about marathon running: the race begins at 20 miles (32km). That’s when it gets tough and you need to dig deep to finish.
The days rolled by, the donations continued to roll in, and in the way of an after school special, I headed to the starting line of my run having raised $3200 in support of ARCH. As I got ready the night before I sent out a final appeal, knowing that much as the toughest part of the run is that final push, the same would be true for the fundraiser.
The day of my run was incredibly special. My Dad, a life-long runner, who had pushed my sister in a running chair through race after race over the last 30 years, took me to the starting line. He and Emily saw me off, and checked in with me at the 5km mark to make sure I was geared up appropriately for the weather. They passed me a few times, marking my progress in the family van, before meeting me again at Evangel Church. We said a quick hello, and I confirmed everything was still going well, before starting the journey home. I wouldn’t see them again until 4km from the finish line, where we’d determined to meet and run in together.
The second half was rough. It was always going to be harder than the first as Brantford is in a river valley, so the first half would be downhill to the river, and the second half would be climbing up again, but mother nature blessed me with a wind from the west, which made the home stretch (into that wind) particularly tough. I was struggling as I entered the last 10km, but I knew Dad and Emily were waiting for me, and that kept me focused and drove me on. I can’t express in words how special it was to have the two of them run me in. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Even as I ran, the donations kept coming in, and as I crossed the finish line I found we were within $400 of my goal. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought to get so close to that ‘unattainable goal’ I’d set when starting out, yet here we were on the verge of actually attaining it.
The following morning, on the heels of a lovely story in our local paper, a few additional donations came in from the local community and the fundraiser sat just $82 shy of the $4200 goal. 24hrs after the run though, I imagined that this might well be it – that what was coming in had come in. It was close enough that I was thinking about making another donation of my own to tip the balance, but there were a couple of folks still out there who had hinted they might pitch in so…
And that’s when the thing more perfect than I could have written came to pass:
Anne Molloy, who had been the lead council for Emily’s case all those years ago, who had become a family friend, lost to the years, found my little campaign and made the donation that brought it across the finish line.
Twenty years I’ve worked in theatre, telling stories. Few would be bold enough to tell you a tale like this one. There are just too many ways that it comes together to create beauty, to reaffirm one’s belief in humanity, to show that when given the opportunity, people will support what’s right. $4648 is where the fundraiser finished, and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of the community who got it there.
I know, in my heart, that ARCH will take this small contribution, and turn it into something meaningful. That, at the end of the day, is why there was never really any question for me who my run would support. If you’re reading this, you’re someone whose life has been impacted by them in some way. I don’t need to tell you what an important institution ARCH is, you know already. As I’ve been asking my community, my friends and family now for months:
This is a difficult time, and many of us are struggling, but if you do have the means, please consider making a donation to ARCH Disability Law Centre. They don’t benefit from big, annual fundraising campaigns, which means every dollar you donate is important, and makes a difference in the fight they carry forward for us all: the fight for a more equitable future for our province and our country. A one-time donation is excellent, but I hope some of you who’ve read this will join me in making a monthly contribution to this worthy cause. I cannot think of many as worthy of our support.
If you’d like to check out any of the updates I posted to social media along the way, or read a bit more about the fundraiser you can check out my Facebook page at:
or the fundraiser page at:
Thank you to ARCH, my family and friends, and to the Brantford Expositor for all of the help and support along the way. It was a birthday, and a run to remember.
Ontario Government Confirms the Ontario Triage Protocol is Not to be Followed
By: Mariam Shanouda & Jessica De Marinis, Staff Lawyers
In November 2020, the Ontario Government confirmed that Ontario’s Clinical Triage Protocol for Major Surge in COVID Pandemic has been withdrawn and is not to be followed by any hospital in Ontario.
The Triage Protocol was meant to help doctors make difficult decisions about who will receive critical health care during the COVID-19 pandemic if there are not enough medical resources. Doctors will only have to make these hard decisions if there are too many people in hospitals and there are not enough beds, ventilators, or other life-saving medical equipment. The Government released two drafts of this document, one dated March 28, 2020, and the other dated July 7, 2020.
The drafts were problematic because when applied they would have had a disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities and persons from other equity seeking groups, including elderly persons, racialized persons, and Indigenous persons. ARCH was concerned that the Triage Protocol had been provided to hospitals and that it was not made clear that the documents should not be used to make decisions about which patients get critical care and which patients would be denied.
Since March, ARCH has made numerous submissions to Government, and the Government-appointed Bioethics Table, raising grave concerns with Ontario’s proposed approach, making recommendations for reform, and requesting that drafts be withdrawn to prevent confusing and discriminatory decisions being made about critical care. To view all of ARCH’s written submissions in full go to:
Other disability organizations, including the AODA Alliance raised similar concerns and also made their own set of submissions. To access the AODA Alliance’s submissions, go to: https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/in-a-second-covid-19-wave-if-there-arent-enough-ventilators-for-all-patients-needing-them-a-new-draft-ontario-medical-triage-protocol-would-continue-to-discriminate-against-covid-19patients-with-d/
It was not until November 2020 that the Government gave any indication that the previous drafts of the Triage Protocol were withdrawn and not to be followed by hospitals, and this was only provided in response to questions during Question Period at the House of Commons. The Government has yet to make its own public announcement about why it revoked the Triage Protocol, and what next steps, if any, the Government intends to take on this issue.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Chief Commissioner, Ena Chadha, wrote to the Minister of Health to say that withdrawing the Triage Protocol was a step in the right direction but at the same time expressing concern that a revised framework had not been made public. To access the Chief Commissioner’s letter, go here: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/letter-minister-health-follow-bioethics-table-recommendations-and-proposed-framework-covid-19-triage
While it is a positive development that the discriminatory drafts of the triage protocol have been withdrawn, it is problematic that the Government continues to engage in a process that lacks transparency. This is especially concerning as Ontario is currently in a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that is projected to be worse than the numbers of cases in the spring. Ontario is still without a non-discriminatory protocol in place to address any impending shortages in critical care resources.
Accordingly, ARCH continues to call upon the Ontario Government to ensure that the creation of a new Triage Protocol happens through a transparent process. Consultations with persons from communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID must be conducted in an open and public forum. Drafts of any Triage Protocol and any recommendations used to create said Triage Protocol must be made public. Further, any finalized version of the Triage Protocol must also be made public. Ontarians with disabilities must have equal access to health care without discrimination; this is why it is so important for the Government to be open and transparent about the process of creating an approach to help doctors make decisions about who gets critical care.
Celebrating a lifetime of advocacy: Peter Park, Co-founder of Respecting Rights, turns 80!
By: Peter Park & Sue Hutton
Peter Park has a long history of working on advancing the rights of persons labelled with an intellectual disability, and a long friendship with ARCH. Peter shares some reflections on his work with ARCH – going way back to his time on the board in the 1980’s, and his work in co-founding Respecting Rights (over a decade ago). Respecting Rights is the triple scoop project at ARCH uniting the work of self-advocates with ARCH lawyers in advocacy work within the intellectual disability community.
As many people know, Peter is affectionately called the Godfather of self-advocacy in the intellectual disability community. In the year of 1961, when Peter was just 20 years old, he was placed in one of Ontario’s institutions for the disabled: the Oxford Regional Centre in Woodstock, Ontario. Peter did not get released from the institution until 1978, and lost 18 years of his life enduring the abuses of the institution. Peter connected with an ARCH lawyer upon getting out of the institution (David Baker) and decided it was time to turn the horrible things he experienced into something positive – for himself and others, and Peter has not stopped making a difference in the world for the disability community since then. At 80, he is still going strong, sharing his message of strength, and mentoring the team of self-advocates at Respecting Rights.
I’m told I just turned 80, but as a friend just reminded me I’m really only 62. I lost 18 full years of my life in the institution. I’ve been on a wonderful journey. As my niece said to me “You’ve got wonderful tales to tell”. Along with those wonderful tales are ones that aren’t so wonderful. But I like to focus on the wonderful ones, not the ones that are bad.
I’m a co-founder of Respecting Rights and also a co-founder of People First of Ontario. I’ve been involved in the self advocacy movement working on rights of people labelled with intellectual disabilities for “oh – several” years. I’m told I’ll only quit when they put me 6 feet under.
My involvement with ARCH started back around 1984. People First of Ontario wanted to write up incorporation papers (or some kind of official paper – can’t remember quite what it was now). We sought out legal advice about this, and worked with ARCH on this. It took about two years of working together to do this. I was really blown away by ARCH.
Then around 1986, I decided I really wanted to do more work with ARCH, seeing what a worthwhile organization it was. I joined the board, and remained on it for about 3 years. I ran for the ARCH executive. I was successful, and stayed on the executive for some time. I then became very busy with People First of Canada, and in order to really focus on that work, I had to resign from the ARCH Board of Directors. That was a very tough decision. I think it was one of my many friends that helped me make that decision. Everything comes full circle because now I’m back continuing my work with ARCH, with Respecting Rights- after all these years.
A lot of the time good change comes slow, so I have to keep at this and help the next generation to keep with it. Working with Respecting Rights gives me a chance to work toward the future with the next generation. One example about good change coming slow that I remember the most, is what we call the “Name Change”. Way back when, I remember the name the “Canadian Association for Mentally Retarded”. (I actually called it the Association for the Mighty Remarkable). We worked hard to get rid of that language that hurt people so much. It took a lot of years to change that – but as I always say good change comes slowly. We worked hard and stayed with it, and finally got it changed to Association for Community Living. It sure didn’t come overnight, but we did it. With the name change comes attitude change, but we will have a lot of work to do. It is an ongoing journey that I just keep on with.
Well, that was self-advocacy in the past. Now I’m talking about the present. In the present we are working on something new with Respecting Rights across Ontario. We are doing some very positive stuff building a new advocacy community across Ontario – with Ottawa, London, Toronto. We haven’t been able to meet face to face lately with Covid-19, but we are still doing the work, keeping people connected. I see this work going in a good direction.
Looking to the future, I keep dreaming. One of my dreams is for us to get stronger working with other people and grow our movement. Like, for all of us in the ARCH community, and all of us working together building networks making us stronger. With ARCH we have the ear of the government to make change. I hope that in the future we can work more with the Indigenous community. So many of the issues are so similar that it could be very positive to keep building those relationships and make change together. What happened in the institutions and what happened in the residential schools are awful – people had their destiny taken away. We can work together to make even more change. I like to dream. Dreams don’t just happen at night – they are in the day too. Dreams are free, and they lead to action. Part of having a dream is what makes us take action.
ARCH Intervenes in R v Slatter at the Supreme Court of Canada
By: Rachel Weiner, ARCH Project Lawyer
On November 6, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada heard, and released its decision, in R v Slatter, 2020 SCC 36. This case is about how trial judges evaluate the evidence of women labelled with intellectual disabilities in the context of sexual assault. ARCH intervened in this case in partnership with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and the DisAbled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN). To access the full decision, go to: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/18541/index.do
The coalition of LEAF, DAWN, and ARCH was represented at the Supreme Court of Canada by Suzan E. Fraser and by Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer at ARCH. The coalition’s arguments were informed and supported by the Executive Directors of each of the organizations, as well as by a case committee, including Shelley Fletcher (People First of Canada), Karine-Myrgianie Jean-François (DAWN), Barb McIntyre (Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre), Janet Mosher (Osgoode Hall Law School), Roxanne Mykitiuk (Osgoode Hall Law School), and Tess Sheldon (Faculty of Law, University of Windsor).
Facts of the Case
This case began when a woman labelled with an intellectual disability, referred to as J.M., disclosed sexual assault. Thomas Slatter, the accused, pleaded not guilty and the case went to trial. During the trial, J.M. gave evidence about what happened to her. She answered questions posed by the Crown prosecutor, the defence lawyer, and the judge.
During his closing argument, the defence lawyer argued that J.M.’s evidence was not reliable. This argument was based on a medical expert’s general opinion that persons labelled with intellectual disabilities are suggestible. In other words, the defence argued that the complainant was more likely to be influenced by a statement made by someone else because she was labelled with an intellectual disability.
The trial judge, Justice Tausendfreund, was not persuaded by the defence’s argument. He accepted J.M.’s evidence and convicted the accused.
However, the Court of Appeal set the trial judge’s conviction aside. The majority of the panel, comprised of two of the three judges, held that the trial judge’s reasons were inadequate. The majority was concerned that the trial judge did not specifically refer to the defence’s argument about suggestibility and explain why he thought J.M. was reliable.
In contrast, Justice Pepall would have upheld the trial judge’s conviction. She relied on the transcript of the trial which recorded the questions and J.M.’s answers. This transcript showed that J.M. disagreed with statements put to her by people in authority, such as the defence lawyer and the trial judge, if she did not believe they were accurate. Justice Pepall concluded that the defence’s argument about suggestibility, based on generalizations, did not reflect the evidence that J.M. actually provided. Consequently, there was no need for the trial judge to explicitly refer to this argument in his decision.
The Court of Appeal’s decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
LEAF, DAWN, and ARCH’s Arguments
LEAF, DAWN, and ARCH argued before the Supreme Court of Canada that substantive equality requires that judges evaluate the evidence of women labelled with intellectual disabilities based on their actual abilities and circumstances, rather than generalized evidence or stereotypes. The coalition agreed with Justice Pepall’s dissent, which focused on J.M.’s actual ability to recall the events that occurred.
However, the coalition expressed significant concerns about the approach taken by the majority of the Court of Appeal. Based on this ruling, trial judges may have to take additional steps to evaluate the reliability of a complainant labelled with an intellectual disability. These steps would be based only on generalized expert evidence about persons labelled with intellectual disabilities rather than real concerns supported by the testimony the complainant actually provided.
The ruling by the majority of the Court of Appeal could create barriers to access to justice for women labelled with intellectual disabilities. Women with disabilities are at high risk of violence and sexual assault. Requiring judges to specifically address stereotypes and generalizations could discourage women with disabilities from coming forward and seeking redress in the criminal justice system. The coalition argued that women should not be dissuaded from accessing the justice system based on concerns that judges would not believe them.
To access LEAF, DAWN, and ARCH’s written submission, go to: https://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/af-ma-eng.aspx?cas=38870
To access the webcast of the hearing before the Supreme Court of Canada, go to: https://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/webcastview-webdiffusionvue-eng.aspx?cas=38870&id=2020/2020-11-06–38870&date=2020-11-06
The Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision
The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously allowed the appeal from the bench on the day of the hearing. It restored the trial judge’s conviction for the reasons given by Justice Pepall.
The Court reflected the arguments advanced by LEAF, DAWN, and ARCH when it stated:
We would simply underline that when assessing the credibility and reliability of testimony given by an individual who has an intellectual or developmental disability, courts should be wary of preferring expert evidence that attributes general characteristics to that individual, rather than focusing on the individual’s veracity and their actual capacities as demonstrated by their ability to perceive, recall and recount the events in issue, in light of the totality of the evidence. Over-reliance on generalities can perpetuate harmful myths and stereotypes about individuals with disabilities, which is inimical to the truth-seeking process, and creates additional barriers for those seeking access to justice.
This strong statement by the Supreme Court of Canada demonstrates a commitment to substantive equality and to access to justice for women labelled with intellectual disabilities. It reaffirms that generalizations, myths, and stereotypes about people with disabilities have no place in our justice system.
Mandatory Mask use in Ontario
By: Gabriel Reznick, Staff Lawyer
The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a significant impact on all Canadians. Currently, we are eight months into the pandemic and it is starting to become a routine to ensure that we have a mask on before leaving home. In addition to the overwhelming scientific data, one main reason is because of the mandatory mask by-laws and Regulation 364/20 passed by municipalities and the Ontario Provincial Government. These laws were passed in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Although most people can wear masks, there are some people who are unable to wear masks, due to their age, disability, or for other reasons. To capture this, municipal by-laws and Ontario Regulation 364/20: RULES FOR AREAS IN STAGE 3 under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 includes a list of exemptions for people unable to wear face masks. This article will provide a review of the mandatory mask by-laws and Regulation 364/20 with a focus on the exemptions and enforcement.
It is important to state that ARCH believes in the importance of wearing a face mask for everyone who has the ability to wear a face mask. There are many people in the disability community who are more susceptible to COVID-19 and it has been proven that wearing masks reduces the spread of the virus. However, ARCH also wants to ensure that those who cannot wear masks, as a result of their disabilities, are treated with dignity and respect, and are given equal access to receive goods and services.
In the early stages of the pandemic, scientists around the world were trying to find strategies to stop the spread of COVID-19. In May 2020, it became evident that a face mask is a useful tool to stop the spread of COVID-19 droplets. As a result of this discovery, municipalities throughout Ontario passed by-laws which order businesses to create a policy that mandates that individuals who enter businesses or organizations wear a face mask, with some exceptions. More recently, on October 2, 2020 the Ontario Government amended Regulation 364/20 to include a mandatory mask rule similar to the municipal by-laws. The municipal by-laws are still being enforced, however the municipalities may also enforce Regulation 364/20, which depending on the by-law may provide a larger scope of exemptions.
Scope of the Regulation 364/20 and Municipal By-Laws
Regulation 364/20 and municipal by-laws apply to almost all businesses or organizations, including businesses and organizations that operate in a vehicle. In a review of the mandatory mask laws it is clear that neither the by-laws nor Regulation 364/20 apply to schools. The Ministry of Education have outlined general guidelines for school boards, however each school board can create their own policy. According to the Ministry, the general rule is that students in grade 4 to 12 are mandated to wear masks, and all other students are recommended to wear masks. Although most school boards comply with this recommendation, many have different requirements when it comes to proving the student’s inability to wear a mask. ARCH recommends that you contact your school board, if you would like to learn about their mandatory mask policy. Please note that some municipal by-laws may have a more narrow scope. For example, Toronto by-law 541/2020 outlines that transportation companies and hospitals are outside the scope of this by-law.
Relevant Exemptions for Disability Communities
Regulation 364/20 has four exemptions that may be applicable for an individual who is unable to wear a face mask because of their disability. The broadest exemption is stated in s. 2(4)(g), which outlines that an individual who “has a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering” is exempt. This exemption likely covers a wide variety of disabilities which may prevent an individual from wearing a face mask. An additional exception to wearing face masks is found in s. 2(4)(h), which provides an exemption for an individual unable to put on or remove their face mask without the assistance of another person. In addition to these two exemptions, Regulation 364/20 also outlines in s. 2(4)(j) that an individual who “is being accommodated in accordance with the AODA, 2005” is exempt. Lastly, s. 2(4)(k) outlines that an individual who “is being accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code” is exempt. These exemptions when combined should ensure that those who cannot wear a face mask because of their disability are exempt from the mandatory mask rule. Certain municipalities may have different by-laws, however in a review of a number of municipalities, all have an exemption for people whose medical condition makes them unable to wear a mask.
Proof of Exemption
The majority of municipal by-laws are quite clear that individuals who claim an exemption are not required to provide proof of the exemption. Regulation 364/20 followed suit by outlining in s. 2(6) that “it is not necessary for a person to present evidence to the person responsible for a business or place that they are entitled to any of the exceptions set out in subsection (4)”. Without these sections in the by-laws and Regulation 364/20, individuals with disabilities would be forced to carry around a medical letter, and have to show this medical letter to every staff member who requests it which would raise serious privacy and human rights concerns.
If an individual believes that a business is not complying with Regulation 364/20 or a municipal by-law, they can contact their city’s by-law officers or the province’s public health unit. If an individual calls in with an alleged incident, an investigation will be conducted. If a business is found to contravene the by-law or Regulation 364/20, a fine may be implemented.
Effectiveness of Mandatory Mask Rules in ensuring people have access to goods and services
As currently drafted, Regulation 364/20 and the by-laws do not state that companies must allow individuals with face masks in their business. Rather they ensure that individuals who are exempt, do not have to pay fines for failure to wear a face mask in a business. In ARCH’s view this is problematic, as some businesses may decide that they do not want to allow individuals who cannot wear a mask into their premises.
To get some more clarity on Regulation 364/20 and by-laws, ARCH spoke to a by-law officer in Toronto. During this call, it was confirmed that neither the Toronto by-law nor Regulation 364/20 forces businesses to allow entry to an individual not wearing a mask. However, it must be stressed that businesses must still ensure that the individual receives the service that they are seeking through an accommodation as per Ontario’s Human Rights Code. The by-law officer provided the example of curbside pickup for groceries.
It is important to understand and advise businesses that a certain accommodation may not be universally applicable to everyone with a disability. Businesses have a duty to provide an accommodation that is individualized to the person claiming an exemption to the point of undue hardship. It is very important to remember that an individual trying to obtain a good or service may need to provide a business or organization with additional information about their disability for the sole purpose of ensuring that they receive the appropriate accommodation that they require.
If an individual believes that they are not being properly accommodated in accessing goods or services without a mask, they may contact ARCH’s Summary Advice and Referral service for assistance.
Honouring the Legacy of a Tireless Leader and Dedicated Disability Rights Advocate
By: Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
With much anticipation, ARCH has proudly launched the Teresa Daw Legacy Fund.
At our most recent Annual General Meeting, held virtually on November 5, 2020, ARCH launched the Teresa Daw Legacy Fund in honour of our past President. We were honoured to be joined by Teresa’s family including Teresa’s parents, Lorne and Eileen Daw, her sister, Allison, and brother, Trevor.
Teresa Daw was ARCH’s President of the Board of Directors when she died on January 3, 2018 after a short and unexpected battle with cancer. Our ARCH family continues to mourn this devastating loss. Always committed to ARCH’s mandate and advancing inclusion for all persons with disabilities, Teresa in one of her countless acts of unparalleled generosity and dedication, bequeathed to ARCH a significant bequest which has allowed us to establish a legacy fund bearing her name.
If you would like to donate to the Teresa Daw Legacy Fund, you can do so by donating directly to ARCH indicating the Teresa Daw Legacy Fund or through Canada Helps website selecting the Teresa Daw Legacy Fund option. You may use the following links:
If you would like to learn more about Teresa, you may wish to review a previous ARCH Alert article commemorating Teresa’s contributions which can be accessed by going to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/arch_alert/arch-alert-volume-19-issue-1/#teresa-Daws-important-contributions
Also announced at our AGM was that the first initiative to be funded by the Teresa Daw Legacy Fund will be a student internship for Indigenous (First Nations, Metis, Inuit) law students with disabilities or those committed to disability issues in their communities. This Internship initiative is being primarily developed by ARCH’s ad hoc working group which was initially struck to recommend a strategy for ARCH in advancing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. The working group will begin working with communities as we develop the details of this Internship. I wish to thank every member of this working group for their unrelenting commitment and dedication. The working group consists of the following members:
Sandi Bell (Chair)
This internship seeks to support law students with the mentorship of ARCH and its diverse partners to explore and work through live legal and disability related issues that are of utmost importance to the student and their community. ARCH will seek students who exemplify Teresa Daw’s unwavering commitment to advancing inclusion and social justice by demonstrating a passionate interest in supporting their communities and seeking positive change.
Our goals of the internship include the following:
- To create a meaningful experiential learning opportunity with concrete outcomes for Indigenous students that honours the memory and legacy of Teresa Daw;
- To provide and facilitate a safe learning environment for Indigenous law students to self-direct legal research that is important to them and their communities;
- To foster relationship building, mentorship opportunities, and mutual learning;
- To increase ARCH’s capacity to more effectively serve Indigenous Peoples across Ontario;
- To strengthen relationships between ARCH and Indigenous communities;
- To assist Indigenous students to pursue careers in law and disability related fields; and
- To provide direction and mentorship in areas of substantive law within ARCH’s areas of legal practice, including but not limited to, an opportunity to explore the legal intersections between western law and UN treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and declarations such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
ARCH looks forward to working with diverse communities in developing this initiative and honouring the legacy that Teresa has left us.
ARCH Receives the Pat Worth Award!
By: Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
On October 17, 2020, People First of Canada presented ARCH with the Pat Worth Award. ARCH is so honoured and grateful for this prestigious and humbling recognition. This award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the Inclusion Movement in Canada, and we are so moved to be in the company of the extraordinary past recipients of this award.
Over ARCH’s 40 year history, we have been proud to have partners like People First of Canada who are true leaders in advancing the voice of persons labelled with intellectual disabilities. People First of Canada continues to be a beacon in its unwavering leadership to achieve full inclusion for all, and for doing so in a manner that respects and amplifies the voices of all their communities. People First of Canada is an incredibly important partner and ally in the work that we do at ARCH. Our partnership with People First of Canada has been so important for us to advance disability rights and the “Nothing About Us, Without Us” credo.
ARCH cannot do its work without the dedication and commitment of our excellent partners like People First of Canada. ARCH provides the technical and legal support to our communities but it was and continues to be the dedication of advocates like Pat Worth and groups like People First of Canada that lead the way in shining a light on lived experience and the disability voices.
Receiving this award is particularly meaningful for ARCH because of our connection with Pat Worth. In the 1980s, Pat worked at ARCH as an institutional advocate, providing rights training for people with disabilities living in institutions in his ongoing fight for de-institutionalization. Today, we continue to build upon Pat’s legacy by advocating for equality, inclusion, and accessibility for people labelled with intellectual disabilities. To be recognized by an award honouring Pat Worth’s legacy is truly humbling.
On behalf of all of us at ARCH Disability Law Centre, we are so grateful and sincerely thankful to People First of Canada for this honour and recognition.
10 Years After: Reflections on my Legal Battle for Accessibility
By: Donna Jodhan, President, Barrier-Free Canada
November 29 2010 will probably go down in history as having been a day that Canadians with disabilities shall always remember. For it was the day when the Lower Court of Canada handed down a landmark victory mandating the Federal Government to make all of their websites accessible especially to all Canadians with disabilities.
A victory that was long overdue in the making! One that was so very sweet, memorable, and one which would be used as a springboard to propel Canadians to fight harder to convince the Federal Government to pass legislation to enact an Accessible Canada Act which was given Royal Assent in June 2019.
When I began my journey in late 2006, I really did not know what to expect. All that I knew then was that something had to be done. That I had to find the strength and energy to gather others around me who would be willing to walk the walk with me. This being to challenge the Federal Government to make their websites accessible to Canadians with disabilities and that my mission would be to ensure that our kids of the future would be able to benefit from real equality and accessibility.
I could only describe the following four years as ones where I along with my team worked undyingly to ensure that we would carry out our mission through to the end and that success would not be denied. That our community would not be denied what was rightfully ours; this being the right to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms!
It did not matter to me that at times I felt as if I was being pulled in so many different directions. That I felt as if I was standing at the edge of a cliff with nowhere to go or that my professional and personal acumen were constantly under scrutiny. All that mattered to me was that this had to be done for our kids and I had full confidence that my team would walk the walk with me.
I can honestly say that this entire experience was one that taught me great humility and that those around me were never prepared to give up or give in. More often than not we were often forced to swim in very rough seas and to face unexpected adversity but we soldiered on. The sleepless nights were too many to count but thanks to my lawyer David Baker and his team, Jutta Traviranus and her team, and the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and to the ARCH Disability Law Centre; we prevailed in grand style!
To Robin East, John Rae, Sharlyn Ayotte, Susan Pinder, the late Chris Stark and the late Richard Quan, and to those wonderful grade one kids at the Grove Community School in Toronto and to their teachers Shannon and Velvet – I am truly grateful to you all and to so many others too many to name!
Would I do it again? Most definitely! And to all of our supporters across Canada and around the world – A heartfelt thank you!
To learn more, use this link to access the Press Release:
To access the Federal Court decision, please use the following link: http://canlii.ca/t/2dknm
To access the Federal Court of Appeal decision, please use the following link: http://canlii.ca/t/frm7n
Connecting People to Home and Community Care: Survey
By: Dianne Wintermute, Staff Lawyer
During the summer of 2020, ARCH was advised by the Ministry of Health that it would be conducting public consultations later this fall on proposed regulations under the Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act, formerly referred to as Bill 175. Previous ARCH Alert articles raised concerns and highlighted some of ARCH’s work in making submissions to the Ontario Government. One of ARCH’s significant concerns is that the new Act leaves much of the details to the development of future regulations. In preparation for public consultations on the regulations, ARCH posted a survey on October 14, 2020 about current issues in attendant services. The survey closed on October 31, 2020. We received a large number of responses that informed our current understanding of attendant services problems. It is important for ARCH to say that we have not seen any new regulations or a new Bill of Rights. The questions in our survey were designed to provide feedback on possible issues that may arise in any new regulation.
A majority of individuals who responded to our survey are consumers who have been using attendant services for over 15 years. The majority of those persons are women who live in urban areas in Central Ontario.
We separated the remaining topics into three broad areas:
- Bill of Rights
- Complaints and Appeals
The majority of respondents said that they were not getting enough service hours to meet their daily support needs. Reductions in service hours was also identified as a major problem. These issues fall into the category of quantity of services.
Scheduling of attendants, and attendants who do not show up for bookings, were raised as major concerns. We were told that service coordination amongst different agencies is also a problem.
The lack of adequate training for attendants, negative attitudes toward consumers, and abuse were noted to also be significant concerns in the delivery of services.
Bill of Rights
Respondents of the survey suggested the following additions to the current Bill of Rights:
i) The right to choose how attendant services are provided and the right for a consumer to change their mind about how services are delivered over time;
ii) The right to assist in the selection and evaluation of attendants, the right to report your concerns to management and to have those concerns addressed promptly;
iii) The right to participate in training sessions for attendants, including topics like independent living, and conflict management and resolution;
iv) The right to have input into policies, procedures, and complaints processes;
v) The right to a Consumer Advisory Committee in SSLUs; and
vi) The right to an impartial third party for conflict resolution.
Complaints and Appeals
We asked consumers if their service agreements include a Complaints and Appeals Policy. While many people said yes, almost the same number were not sure. This means that close to half of the respondents are not aware of their right to complain about services or how to start a complaint.
When respondents used the complaints process, an overwhelming number said that they were not satisfied with how their complaint was handled or that they were dissatisfied with the result. The issues identified under this category include:
i) Problems created due to the complex structure of home and community services and lack of transparency;
ii) Duplication and many internal levels to escalate a complaint and there being multiple agencies involved; and
iii) Feeling like no one cares at all levels of the service provider.
To resolve these issues, many people suggested that an independent third party should be appointed to hear and resolve complaints. Most people thought that having service providers internally decide complaints about services was unfair and biased. Other respondents suggested that the Health Services Appeal and Review Board (HSARB) should be able to decide quality of service complaints. At this time, HSARB only addresses quantity of service complaints. The primary reason given for needing an independent third party to decide complaints was the fear of reprisal when a complaint is dealt with internally.
Finally, respondents were asked for comments on issues the survey did not address. These included:
i) Disclosure and access to medical and personal files;
ii) A central pool for finding an attendant; and
iii) Fact Sheets or other public information about how to navigate the complex attendant services system.
ARCH asked respondents if they would be interested in discussing these, and other attendant services issues in more detail. Almost everyone said that they would. ARCH will be contacting interested respondents to schedule virtual meetings so we can consult further.
OP Lab: Learning, Sharing, Actioning!
By: Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“CRPD”) is an international human rights law aimed at promoting, protecting, and ensuring human rights and fundamental freedoms for persons with disabilities. It covers virtually all areas of life, such as equal access to employment, inclusive education, equal access to voting and political participation, the right to live independently in the community, and many other rights. The CRPD Optional Protocol is an additional part of the CRPD. The Optional Protocol has been described as the enforcement mechanism for the CRPD. It allows people to make a complaint to the United Nations, in some situations when they believe their CRPD rights have been violated.
Canada ratified the CRPD in 2010 and acceded to the Optional Protocol in 2018. By doing so, Canada took on the legal obligation to implement the rights and freedoms in the CRPD. It also accepted the authority of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to investigate complaints that Canada has violated CRPD rights, and make recommendations to Canada about how to end those violations and more fully realize the rights of persons with disabilities.
From September to November 2020, ARCH delivered a series of educational courses about the CRPD and its Optional Protocol, called OP Lab: Learning, Sharing, Actioning! These courses were offered in two streams: OP Lab for Community Champions was a stream aimed at persons with disabilities and community members, and OP Lab for Legal Experts was a stream aimed at disability rights lawyers. Courses were offered online in English, French, American Sign Language, Langue des Signes Québécoise, and with English and French captioning.
OP Lab courses included presentations from ARCH lawyers, persons with disabilities, disability rights advocates from Canada, Ireland, and Spain, disability rights lawyers from across Canada, human rights lawyers from the United Nations, and a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The courses provided information about the CRPD, its Optional Protocol, and other tools within the United Nations system that could be used to advance disability rights. Speakers discussed strategies that have been used in Canada and other countries to advocate for governments to better implement CRPD rights, and reflected on examples of ways in which disability organizations and disabled peoples organizations have used the CRPD in their work. Participants also had access to course materials in English, French, American Sign Language, and Langue des Signes Québécoise; an online discussion forum; and live networking to share information, ideas, and reflections.
The OP Lab course for Community Champions wrapped up with presentations from participants, reflecting on how they would incorporate learnings from the OP Lab into their work and advocacy. Participants also provided written feedback. One participant said: “I found today’s session to be most interesting. It gave me insights into routes that I may have had to employ had the need arisen. The panel members were knowledgeable and articulate. I learned things about the Canadian processes that I was not fully familiar with. It was a good session.”
Another participant commented: “For the most part, I have really enjoyed the sessions as I have taken part and really appreciate ARCH’s work in bringing this all together. What’s more, I have enjoyed being able to take part from my home – I will feel less isolated when the pandemic is over, but I hope certain things, like the OP Lab continue. This makes such learning accessible, not only to those with mobility challenges but also to people across the province and the country.”
ARCH would like to thank the Government of Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) for funding the OP Lab project under the Social Development Partnerships Program – Disability Component.
ARCH gratefully acknowledges the support and contributions of our OP Lab project partners:
- Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC);
- British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS);
- Inclusion Canada (formerly the Canadian Association of Community Living);
- Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD);
- Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW);
- Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC);
- Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN);
- Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD);
- DAWN Canada;
- Independent Living Canada (ILC);
- People First of Canada;
- National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada;
- National Network for Mental Health (NNMH);
- Tlingit Sovereign Nation; and
- York University – Osgoode Hall Law School.
In particular, ARCH thanks Chantal Oakes and Marcia Yale for all their time and help to ensure that the OP Lab virtual platform was as accessible as possible.
Although the OP Lab live courses have finished, video recordings of the presentations in English, French, American Sign Language, Langue des Signes Québécoise, and with English and French captioning will be made available on ARCH’s website. Accessible formats of OP Lab course materials and resources will also be posted.
In addition, ARCH is launching a network for disability rights lawyers who participated in OP Lab for Legal Experts, and a network for members of the community who participated in OP Lab for Community Champions. We hope that through these networks, people who participated in OP Lab will continue to learn about the CRPD and its Optional Protocol, and continue to share ideas about how CRPD rights can be more fully realized for all people with disabilities in Canada.
Do the Rights Thing
By: Jessica De Marinis, Staff Lawyer
In partnership with DAWN Canada, ARCH led a 2-phased project called “Do the Rights Thing,” which focused on addressing systemic barriers faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women in accessing services and employment.
In phase 1, ARCH invited women with disabilities and Deaf women to attend focus groups, fill out questionnaires, and participate in key informant interviews, to learn from them about the barriers they face when seeking and maintaining employment. Phase 2 involved hosting two virtual workshops based on the results of Phase 1. The first workshop was directed to women with disabilities and Deaf women, with the goal of providing rights-based legal education, practical tools, and strategies about accessing and navigating employment with a disability. The second workshop was designed for employers and service providers to educate them on their obligations with respect to persons with disabilities.
The workshops were a huge success. With over 100 individuals, employers, and service providers registered from across the province, the workshops created a place for engaging discussion about disability rights and accessibility laws in Ontario. Led by ARCH lawyers and Melanie Marsden-Meyers, Project Consultant, participants discussed how to use these laws as practical tools while job searching, and in all aspects of employment.
The presentations from both workshops were recorded and will be posted on the “Do the Rights Thing” page of ARCH’s website. Check back later to view the recordings by using this link: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/do-the-rights-thing/
Federal Chronic Pain Task Force releases Report
By: Dianne Wintermute, Staff Lawyer
The Federal Task Force on Chronic Pain was established in March, 2019 to help the Government of Canada better understand how living with chronic pain affects the lives of Canadians. The Task Force is also identifying best practices and gathering suggestions about how to address chronic pain.
The Task Force’s first report was released in June 2019. It is called “Chronic Pain in Canada: Laying a Foundation for Action”. It can be accessed by using this link:
The Task Force’s second report, “Working together to better understand, prevent and manage chronic pain: what we learned” was released on November 6, 2020. The full report can be accessed by using this link:
In order to gather information for the second report, the Task Force held online and individual consultations about the experiences of persons living with chronic pain. It also considered financial barriers to accessing pain management and other therapies for persons with low incomes or without insurance.
The Report recognizes that there is a shortage of doctors who understand or specialize in chronic pain management, and long waitlists for doctors who know what services or treatments are available. To deal with delay in getting treatment, the Report suggests that self-help tools in multiple languages be available. It also says that virtual care and telehealth will increase doctors’ ability to serve more patients, especially those in rural or remote areas. It discusses the need for more public health education about chronic pain to reduce stereotypes about people living with chronic pain.
The Report recommends more research into pain triggers, developing new treatments, testing the impact of present treatments and making sure treatments are based on each person’s unique experience of chronic pain.
The Report specifically considers Indigenous persons living with chronic pain and their experience in a health system that often ignores traditional knowledge and medicine. Indigenous persons living in rural and remote areas are often challenged by the costs of travel, culturally inappropriate services, and language barriers. The Report recommends that chronic pain be considered along with other complex health conditions, addressing supports and services that reflect identity and healing practices. Extensive training for health practitioners is necessary so cultural factors are appropriately included in the provision of chronic pain treatments.
Finally, the Report ends by considering how COVID-19 has had an impact on chronic pain. Stress, mental health and other disabilities, isolation, increased use of medications, and living with uncertain financial futures have all had a negative effect on many Canadians. The Report states that COVID-19 infections can lead to, or increase, chronic pain. Access to health services like chiropractors, massage therapists, rehabilitation programs, and psychological services mean that treatment options have been reduced. However, COVID-19 has also taught us about the importance of virtual care, better self-management tools, and other options that offer more care to more people given the restrictions of personal visits. It is hoped that after the pandemic, there will be additional research into health care options that will improve access to supports and services for all Canadians, but especially persons living with chronic pain.
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If you would like to become an individual member of ARCH, please visit our website at www.archdisabilitylaw.ca or contact our office to request an Application for Individual Membership form. Membership is free.
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Or you can send your donation cheque to:
ARCH Disability Law Centre
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While ARCH receives core funding from Legal Aid Ontario and grant funding from other sources, we also rely on the donations from individuals. We ask you to consider being a part of our work by contributing whatever you can. If you are able to assist please donate to ARCH through http://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/arch-disability-law-centre.
Or you can send your donation cheque to:
ARCH Disability Law Centre
55 University Avenue, 15th Floor
Toronto, ON M5J 2H7
We will promptly send you a charitable receipt. Charitable No. 118 777 994 RR 0001
About ARCH Alert
ARCH ALERT is published by ARCH Disability Law Centre. It is distributed free via e-mail or mail to ARCH members, community legal clinics, and others with an interest in disability issues. ARCH is a non-profit community legal clinic, which defends and promotes the equality rights of persons with disabilities through test case litigation, law/policy reform and legal education. ARCH is governed by a Board of Directors elected by representatives of member groups reflecting the disability community. The goal of ARCH ALERT is to provide concise information, so that people are aware of important developments and resources. Articles may be copied or reprinted to share with others provided that they are reproduced in their entirety and that the appropriate credit is given. We encourage those who receive it to assist with distribution of information in this way. We do ask that both Word and Text Formats are distributed to ensure accessibility.
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