Right now I basically eat one meal a day. With the new Canada Disability Benefit, people like me would be able to eat more than one meal a day, and this would be a luxury.”

Eating more than one meal a day shouldn’t be a luxury for a person with a disability. Sadly, when we talked to people about the Canada Disability Benefit, we heard that this is true for many people with disabilities who live in poverty. We heard that many people have to make hard choices between their basic needs. They have to choose between buying food and paying rent. They can’t get treatment and support. They feel alone.

In Canada, people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty. Here are some facts:

  • About 22% of Canadians have a disability.

  • More than 40% of people who live in poverty in Canada have a disability.

  • For people with intellectual disabilities, it’s even worse.

  • 73% of adults between the ages of 18 and 64 with an intellectual disability who live alone live in poverty. Only 23% of similar adults without a disability live in poverty.

This is unacceptable and it doesn’t have to be this way. The Canada Disability Benefit can help change this. It is a chance for our country to do better to support people with disabilities.

Making sure that people with disabilities have enough money is important, but it’s not just about money. It’s also about having more choices, more freedom, more independence, and more dignity. Everyone should be able to have these things.

The Canada Disability Benefit sends a clear message that we won’t let people with disabilities live without them anymore.

A young man with an intellectual disability smiling in front of an older man

What is the Canada Disability Benefit?

The Canada Disability Benefit is a part of the current federal government’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). This is a plan that looks at many different things, not just the Canada Disability Benefit. The government was interested in the views of people with disabilities on all the areas of the plan. It asked the disability community to do its own consultations and give a report to government.

The Canada Disability Benefit would mean that adults with a disability in Canada would get money from the Government each month to help with their daily living costs. This is something that the disability community has been fighting for for a long time.

The government doesn’t know exactly how it will work yet, but so far, they have said the new benefit will be a permanent program that gives money to Canadians with disabilities. It will help people who are between 18 and 64 years old and who have a low or modest income. It will be like other government programs like Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) program.

The Consultation on the Canada Disability Benefit

In a team effort, many national disability organizations came together to work on consultations for the DIAP project. Inclusion Canada was asked to lead the work on the Canada Disability Benefit.

This wasn’t a government consultation. This was many disability organizations consulting with people with disabilities to get their opinions on the government plan.

Between May and September 2022, we worked with many disability organizations across Canada to talk to the disability community. We talked to people with disabilities, disability organizations, and some policy experts.

We wanted to:

  • understand people’s struggles with money and if they had enough money to live

  • understand people’s everyday experiences and problems in getting government support and services

  • get feedback on what the new Canada Disability Benefit should look like and how it should work.

We held small focus groups and one-on-one interviews. In total, we talked to 260 people. To make sure we heard from even more people, in October 2022, we worked with the other disability organizations who were working on the DIAP consultation project to create a survey. As a team, we wanted to get even more feedback on the other goals of the plan. We also wanted to get more feedback on the Canada Disability Benefit. Over 1200 people filled out the survey.

A woman in a wheelchair typing on her laptop

What Did We Hear?

During the consultation and survey on the Canada Disability Benefit, people shared their personal stories and talked about many important things.

They talked about whether they had enough money to meet their daily needs and goals, and what they thought were the most important parts of the new Benefit. They also shared their fears about the new Benefit, and the challenges they have getting government benefits and support. There were many other important topics talked about as well.

This is what we heard:

  1. We heard that poverty makes life hard, not disability. Because people with disabilities can’t get support, they are afraid of the future. The Canada Disability Benefit would let people with disabilities live with more dignity, choice, and freedom.

  2. We heard that the different parts of someone’s identity create even more challenges for them as a person with a disability. This means that things like race, gender, or language really affect how someone experiences day-to-day life with a disability. It also really affects if and how they get government support. This can’t be ignored if we want a fair Canada Disability Benefit.

  3. We heard that if you already get other government disability supports, you should automatically get the Canada Disability Benefit. We also heard that there should be a separate application for anyone who doesn’t already get any government disability support.

  4. We heard that the definition of disability should be as broad and inclusive as possible. It should be based on a social model of disability, not a medical model. The definition of disability should consider what disability means in people’s daily lives.

  5. We heard that there should be no employment test to get the Canada Disability Benefit. This means that getting the Canada Disability Benefit shouldn’t be based on if you can work. We also heard that there should be no asset testing. This means that people with disabilities living in poverty shouldn’t have to get rid of their assets (for example some savings) to get the Benefit.

  6. We heard that you should be a legal resident to qualify for the Benefit, and the Benefit should be paid to an individual, and not their family.

  7. We heard that the application to get the Canada Disability Benefit should be simple, accessible, and flexible. We also heard that there should be “Navigators” who could help people figure out the complex government systems and get benefits easier. This would help the Canada Disability Benefit reach the people who need it the most.

  8. We also heard that there should be someone you can go to if you’re not approved for the Canada Disability Benefit (this is called the appeal process). This means that it should be simple and easy for people to ask why they were not approved for the Canada Disability Benefit.   

  9. We heard that there should be no claw backs to the government supports that people are already getting. This means that you shouldn’t lose any of the benefits you already have. People shouldn’t be put into a worse situation by getting the Canada Disability Benefit.

  10. We heard that there should be a generous earnings exemption. This means that people should be able to work at times while receiving the Benefit for better financial security.  

  11. We heard that the Canada Disability Benefit shouldn’t be tied to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and should be non-taxable.

  12. We heard different ideas about if the Canada Disability Benefit should be income tested. Income testing means that you will receive less benefit from the government if you have some income. If the Benefit is income tested, it could mean that people with the lowest incomes who need it the most get more benefit. It could also mean that some people with disabilities who are living in poverty can’t get the Benefit because of their income and are excluded.

  13. We heard that the Canada Disability Benefit should increase the income of people with disabilities and bring people above the poverty line. It should also acknowledge the extra cost of disability. We heard that the Benefit should be between $2,200 and $2,400 per month, at minimum.

  14. We heard that the Benefit should be indexed to the cost of inflation. This means that it would increase over time with the cost of living. The amount of the Benefit should also take into consideration someone’s individuals needs and location in Canada.

  15. We heard that we need to change the way we think about and treat people with disabilities. We need better values, attitudes, and beliefs to have a more inclusive society for everyone. We need to provide accessibility as a human right.

  16. We heard that the Canada Disability Benefit is just one part of reducing poverty for people with disabilities in Canada. People with disabilities also need personal supports, affordable and accessible housing, adaptive equipment, affordable and accessible internet and phone services, transportation, healthcare, education, food security, and employment.

“Goals and wants aren’t in the picture here, right now people can’t even cover their basic needs. People should be able to have joy in their lives – go to a concert, educate themselves. More money would mean people wouldn’t have to choose between eating and paying their bills.”

When we talked to people about the Canada Disability Benefit, we heard that people with disabilities are having a hard time surviving because they are living in poverty. The Canada Disability Benefit is an opportunity to change that. People with disabilities don’t have to live in poverty. It’s time for the government to do better.

What’s Next?

The full Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) report will be available at the end of the month and will share information from all 4 of the DIAP pillar consultations. The report will be available on Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s website: https://muscle.ca/services-support/advocacy/diap/

Passage of C-22

An image of the inside of the senate, over which text that reads "Bill C-22 passes at Senate!"

We’re happy to celebrate that parliament passed Bill C-22 (The Canada Disability Benefit) on June 20 and it was proclaimed as law on June 22nd! This is a historic moment. The Canada Disability Benefit will create a more inclusive life for millions of Canadians with disabilities.

It is because of the hard work and dedication of the disability community that we can celebrate this new law. The disability community should be proud.

Now that the bill is officially law we can focus on the regulations (this means the details) of the Canada Disability Benefit. Even though there is a lot more work to do, we look forward to working together with the disability community on this. This is a historic opportunity to end disability poverty in Canada.

The What We Heard report has been given to the government and will help them create the benefit.

If you have more ideas about the Canada Disability Benefit, there is still time to share your thoughts. Once the government starts working on the regulations of the Canada Disability Benefit, they will want to figure out who can get the benefit, how much it will be, and all the other details. The government has promised to keep working with the disability community and get ideas on the details of the benefit.  If you have something to share you can send us an email at inform@inclusioncanada.ca.

To view more resources and learn more about our Canada Disability Benefit consultations, you can view this webpage.

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