Speech Article from  Employment and Social Development Canada

Minister Qualtrough: Announcement regarding the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

December 1, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario

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This year marks the tenth anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And what better way to mark this anniversary than by announcing that Canada will actively consider accession to the Optional Protocol?

Before we continue, I'd like to thank Minister Stephane Dion for giving me the great privilege of being a part of this important announcement. I also want to thank him for making the possibility of Canada's accession to the optional protocol a priority for our government.

I’d also like to recognize my colleague Senator Jim Munson who’s a passionate advocate for persons with disability. And Jim sends his regrets—he had to leave a little early—but you all know what a passionate advocate Jim Munson is for us and for Canadians with disabilities.

I’m honoured to be here in the presence of important stakeholders such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the Canadian Association for Community Living, People First of Canada and all you many others.

Please let me thank you for helping us make the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and now the optional protocol a priority over the years. We’re here today in large part due to your hard work, your advocacy and your representation of Canadians with disabilities, their families and their caregivers. What great timing of this announcement, as we are just days away from celebrating the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

A significant step forward in improving the rights of Canadians with disability

Our country’s international role is shifting indeed. When we signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as a country we agreed to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities. We’re committed to strengthening Canada’s relationship with the United Nations and our implementation of the Convention. By beginning this process, we are doubling down on our commitment to strengthening the implementation of the Convention. This is a key step to opening ourselves up to feedback from the international community.

This feedback will allow us to understand the best way to strengthen our own laws and governance and ultimately find ways to better uphold the rights of Canadians with disabilities. As my colleague Mr. Dion mentioned, the optional protocol allows persons with disabilities and disability organizations to bring forward complaints to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities if they believe their rights under the conventions have been violated. It also allows for the Committee to look into grave or systemic violations of those rights.

As a lawyer with experience in human rights law, I can tell you that the accession of the optional protocol will be a significant step forward in improving the rights of Canadians with disability everywhere in our country. The optional protocol will provide Canadians with disabilities an extra measure to safeguard our rights.

It’s important to note that the rights outlined under the Convention are a matter of shared jurisdiction, as Mr. Dion said. Our provincial and territorial partners are key players in working towards Canada’s accession to the optional protocol, and we thank them for their continued collaboration. We are grateful for their sincere dedication to helping us make our country inclusive where everyone can participate in all aspects of life on an equal basis with others.

Consulting with Canadians on accessibility legislation

Consulting Canadians has been a priority for our government, and as part of the review process on the optional protocol, what Canadians want will definitely be taken into consideration, and we will make sure that the review of the optional protocol will be done in full respect of all of you.

Today’s great announcement is perfectly in sync with our ongoing consultations with the public and stakeholders on planned accessibility legislation. In fact, we’ve heard loud and clear from Canadians during our consultations across the country how important the optional protocol is to the disability community. The new legislation will promote equality of opportunity and increase the inclusion and participation of Canadians who have disabilities or functional limitations. Most, if not all, of you are already playing a key part in this journey—contributing your leadership, resources and ideas and your membership to our consultation process—and I’m grateful for the work that you are all doing in this capacity.

For those who haven’t participated—and I actually don’t believe there’s one person in this room that hasn’t participated, but let’s just say—I strongly encourage you to do so. And as you know, the consultation will end in February of 2017.

Canada is dedicated to ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for people with disabilities in our communities and workplaces, and today’s announcement, along with Canada’s accession the Marrakesh Treaty, the launch of video relay services, and most particularly of the consultation on planned accessibility legislation, are evidence that we are taking all the necessary actions to make this happen.

Thank you.


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