Issuing a call to action to recognize rights of persons who have disabilities

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Educating the public about a universal declaration of human rights
Monday March 21, 2011 — Kristian Partington

Little more than a year ago, Canada signed an historic treaty meant to guarantee that the rights of people who have a disability will be honoured in societies across the globe.

By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Canada declared that recognizing disability rights is a matter of fundamental human rights, and it is committed to a truly inclusive society.

The true test is actually implementing the principles of the convention and last month, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living issued a working paper meant to open the dialogue and propose real strategies for implementation.

The British Columbia Association for Community Living (BCACL) has joined the call to action and is asking all partner agencies to do the same.

“We’re finding that the general population has no clue that (the convention) even exists, and I’m talking about people who are involved in social policy,” says Karen De Long, BCACL’s director of community development.

She says educating the public and those who are responsible for developing social policy about what the convention promises, in terms of basic rights, is of critical importance.

“It’s about awareness at this point,” says De Long.

“If a parent is struggling to have their child included in their school classroom with appropriate supports, then if they know that (the convention) is there, they can feel empowered and strengthened moving forward to say, ‘Hey, I have this behind me. I know it’s the right thing to do and always have, but now there’s something that Canada says must happen.’”

Other parts of the country are using the convention as a tool to argue for human rights before the courts.

A major point of discussion before the courts in Ontario, for example, is the recognition of legal capacity and the rights of people who have a disability to take ownership of their decision-making ability.

Article 12 in the convention addresses this issue specifically and advocates refer to it while working with governments to strengthen legislation.

In B.C., De Long says “we haven’t really seen a big appetite for governments to take on those challenges.”

She says she’s hoping that will change as the BCACL and its partner agencies push for practical implementation of the convention.

Please contact 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail kristian(at)axiomnews.ca, if you have any questions or comments.

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