March 1, 2022
Hon. Minister Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Hon. Minister Anita Anand, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K2
As President of Inclusion Canada, I am writing regarding the recent conflict in Ukraine. We all have been shocked with the unilateral aggression launched by Russia on the independent country of Ukraine. We continue to hope for a cease fire and a return to peace.
In the meantime, the people of Ukraine are caught in the crossfire and when conflicts occur we are mindful of the casualties of war. We applaud Canada’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid and its partnership with the Canada Red Cross. As you may be aware, Inclusion Canada works within Canada to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families. We also are a member organization of Inclusion International and work regularly with our international partners to advance inclusion globally. In particular, the European Disability Forum has been communicating for the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in Ukraine, of which is a population that unfortunately is forgotten and often left behind during international conflicts.
Our colleagues at the European Disability Forum recently issued a statement calling on governments to recognize their obligations. Specifically, the European Disability Forum calls for all parties to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in Ukraine, by respecting:
- Their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in particular Article 11 on situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies
- The UN Security Council Resolution 2475 (2019) on Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Conflict
- International Humanitarian Law and the Humanitarian Principles.
In addition, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), which represents over 1100 organizations of persons with disabilities around the world, including our own, is calling on all engaged parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to ensure protection and safety for persons with disabilities in Ukraine. In particular, Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Canada and also ratified by both Russia and Ukraine, and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2475, which creates clear non-derogable obligations to ensure equal protection and safety for all persons with disabilities as well as timely and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance.
The International Disability Alliance also calls on all humanitarian actors who are actively involved in providing aid to Ukraine to ensure fulfillment of international humanitarian standards – including the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. Any international decisions, resolutions, or measures adopted to address the situation in Ukraine must be inclusive of persons with disabilities facilitating their participation in decisions that affect them.
In any situation of crisis or conflict, persons with disabilities face disproportionate risk of abandonment, violence, death, and a lack of access to safety, relief, and recovery support. Women with disabilities are at increased risk of sexual violence and children with disabilities are more exposed to abuse and neglect. Crucial information on safety and evacuation is often inaccessible, and evacuation centres themselves are also rarely accessible, meaning that persons with disabilities are too often left behind.
There are 2.7 million persons with disabilities registered in Ukraine. Our contacts in the country have confirmed that the situation for persons with disabilities is dire. Persons with disabilities living in institutions, already cut off from their communities, risk being abandoned and forgotten. In Ukraine alone, at least 82,000 children are segregated from society, with countless more adults with disabilities permanently institutionalized.
As a signatory to the UN CRPD, and as Canada works with partners such as the Red Cross and other international aid organizations, we request the government of Canada ensure safeguards to our assistance are in place to make certain that persons with disabilities:
- Have full access to all humanitarian aid
- Are protected from violence, abuse and ill treatment
- Are provided with accessible information about safety and assistance protocols, evacuation procedures and support
- Have full access to basic services including water and sanitation, social support, education, healthcare, transport and information
- Are accounted for and not abandoned: it is also essential that measures are in place which fully include people living in institutions or orphanages; and relocation and evacuation measures should not force more persons with disabilities to live in such institutions
- Are meaningfully involved in all humanitarian action, through their representative organizations
Thank you for Canada’s quick response and efforts to assist with the international conflict in Ukraine. We remain hopeful that people with disabilities trapped in this conflict are not forgotten and receive the equitable support and assistance they need and deserve.
Cc: Rt. Hon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P
Hon. Minister Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P
Hon. Harjit Sajjan, P.C., M.P