Update (December 3rd, 2016): On the morning of December 2nd, 2016, Minister Dion and Minister Qualtrough have made further commitments to having Canada adopt the UN Optional Protocol by the end of 2017. This is a huge step in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, as it gives Canadians an opportunity to bring their issues to the UN committee if they feel personal or systemic violation of their own rights.
Their commitment has begun a consultation process that would make Canada a part of the UN Optional Protocol. It has been noted that all provinces, territories and indigenous governments will play a significant part in the success of this process. This has Salvatore and many others, showing some level of concern in regards to whether or not Canada will follow through with their commitment. He adds, “We need to remain vigilant to make sure that our government is accountable for the promises it made back then to people with disabilities.”
Still, there is a caveat to this: the person filing the complaint must attempt to resolve that issue in every way possible in Canada before it can be brought up to the UN. Navigating these kinds of situations may prove to be tricky but there are far more positives coming from this agreement. Regardless, thanks go to the effort and support gathered by Salvator Amenta and his petition on change.org, which created major progress in what used to be a closed end for those struggling to have their voices heard.
By Sean Celi (June 22, 2016)
Nine years ago, the Canadian government signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international human rights treaty intended to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.” However, it has never taken the important step of signing and ratifying the Convention’s Optional Protocol that requires states to report and investigate any violations to the act. For this reason, we will never know if or when Canada is already violating the rights of persons with disabilities it vowed to protect.
Six months ago, a petition was started on change.org urging the federal government to ratify the Optional Protocol. The petition was initiated by Dr. Salvatore Amenta, a retired professor and disability rights advocate. The petition now has 18,560 signatures and has received much attention from the public, the media, and the Parliament.
The Optional Protocol is a side-agreement to the CRPD. By signing the Protocol, signatories agree to give the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the power to directly receive complaints from individuals or groups regarding violations to the convention. If Canada signs the Protocol, Canadians with disabilities who feel that their rights are violated by federal policy can directly report their concerns to the Committee. 92 countries have already signed the Protocol, including Australia, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, and Sweden.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disability Carla Qualtrough, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion assured all the signees of Dr. Amenta’s petition that they are carefully considering the option of ratifying the protocol and encouraged everyone to participate in the development process of the proposed Canadians With Disabilities Act.