Human rights complaint alleges Manitoba First Nation adults with disabilities left behind

Three human rights complaints have been filed against the federal government alleging systemic discrimination and a failure to provide proper services to First Nations adults with disabilities in Manitoba.

The complaints were brought by the Public Interest Law Centre this week on behalf of two First Nations people and a coalition of Indigenous adults with disabilities.

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“The needs of children do not disappear when they turn 18 years old,” Joni Wilson, who complained on behalf of her son, said in a news release. “Adults with disabilities like my son Aidan also deserve and have the right to services and supports just like other Canadians enjoy,” she said.

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First Nations leaders call out Ottawa’s ‘nonsense’ litigation on Jordan’s Principle expansion

First Nations leaders call out Ottawa’s ‘nonsense’ litigation on Jordan’s Principle expansion – Jan 7, 2021

Aidan Wilson, a 19-year-old Anishinaabe man from Peguis First Nation, has lived in Winnipeg most of his life because of challenges getting help with his disabilities.

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He was born with six different heart conditions and had several surgeries before his first birthday. He also had cancer as a baby and suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his right arm, leg and side of his face.

The complaint says disability-related services weren’t available on his First Nation for most of his life and the family had to move to the city. Living in Winnipeg has meant that he has been separated from his community and culture, the complaint says.

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“Canada’s continued failure to provide necessary supports for First Nations adults with disabilities is unconscionable, particularly at a time when reconciliation is stated to be a top priority for Canada,” Joelle Pastora Sala, a lawyer with the Public Interest Law Centre, said in a news release.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found in 2017 that Jordan’s Principle, which ensures First Nations children get services they need when they need them no matter the jurisdiction, must be fully implemented.

It is named for Jordan River Anderson, a boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.

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He spent five years in hospital while the Manitoba and federal governments argued over which level of government had to pay for his care in a special home.

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The recent complaints say that while the principle has brought important change, there is one big issue: it ends once people reach adulthood. The complaints say the needs of First Nations people with disabilities don’t disappear once they turn 18.

They say adults are often forced away from families, language and tradition because disability-related services aren’t available in their communities.

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Indigenous Services Canada has not yet provided any comment.

Another complaint filed this week alleges family members of a First Nation woman with disabilities are struggling to get respite and financial support as they manage her care full time.

Carly Sinclair, 30, is an Anicinabe woman from Sagkeeng First Nation. She was four years old when she contracted a rare neurological disorder from a mosquito bite.

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Indigenous Services minister says review of CHRT decision on Jordan’s Principle ‘was not taken lightly’

Indigenous Services minister says review of CHRT decision on Jordan’s Principle ‘was not taken lightly’ – Jan 20, 2021

She developed a severe form of childhood epilepsy and intellectual impairment. She has to use a wheelchair and requires daily care.

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The complaint brought by her mother says Sinclair was unable to finish school as she had no supports and still doesn’t receive regular doctor visits.

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The complaints say First Nations adults are denied social inclusion and the ability to meaningfully participate in daily life.

“These families show tremendous courage and determination in working to get the kinds of necessary supports for their loved ones that other Canadians enjoy,” Sala said.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Doug Ford’s use of notwithstanding clause for third-party ads law may backfire: experts

TORONTO — Representatives have returned to Ontario’s legislature for an emergency weekend debate on election finance law with implications for free speech that experts warn may backfire on Premier Doug Ford’s government.

Debate was scheduled to start overnight into Saturday morning and continue over the next several days on the bill tabled this week using the notwithstanding clause — the rarely-used constitutional tool that allows legislatures to override portions of the charter of Rights and Freedoms for five years.

The bill in question restores rules on third-party ad spending which a provincial judge rejected as unconstitutional earlier this week. The law doubles the restricted third-party ad spending period to 12 months before an election campaign gets underway, but keeps the spending limit of $600,000 the same.

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Unions have said the rules infringe on their rights to free speech. The Progressive Conservative government has argued the changes are necessary to protect elections from outside influence, but critics have been quick to label the move a power play aimed at silencing opposition ahead of next June’s election.

Western University political science professor Cristine de Clercy said the term “third party” may sound vague, but the legislation has free speech implications for the majority of Ontarians.

“It basically affects all the rest of us, all the people and groups who are not actual political parties,” she said in an interview.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College, said there are also press freedom issues at stake.

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News outlets often rely on the excess revenue from advertisements during elections, he said, and the changes to the Election Finances Act threaten that income stream.

“It’s dangerous politically, and it’s dangerous for a free media,” Dvorkin said. “It actually really has a lot of damaging consequences for the state of a healthy and independent media landscape, and I don’t think the government has considered this.”

At the heart of this weekend’s debate is an effort to balance free speech and fair access to political expression, de Clercy said, describing them as complicated issues that Canadian governments and courts have grappled with before.

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It’s not usual for courts to find legislation unconstitutional and for governments to respond by re-drafting laws or appealing decisions, but de Clercy said Ford’s drastic methods — of using the notwithstanding clause and holding an emergency weekend debate to get it done quickly — stand out.

“It sort of underscores the concern that Mr. Ford is moving to expedite this legislation out of partisan self-interest, because he thinks that will help his party in the next election rather than because he thinks it’s good legislation that Ontarians need,” she said.

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Ford government uses notwithstanding clause

Ford government uses notwithstanding clause – Jun 10, 2021

Andrew McDougall, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said use of the notwithstanding clause is not a politically smart move because the baggage behind the measure often overpowers discussion about other issues.

“As soon as you use the nuclear option of the notwithstanding clause, it changes the entire tenor of the debate to one about civil liberties and how they can be limited, and that’s not a great message generally,” he said.

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Experts agree that using the notwithstanding clause to push the legislation through will be unpopular. But since Ford’s government holds a majority, it’s likely to pass after the weekend of debate unless public pushback grows too strong.

De Clercy noted that Ford appears genuinely worried about third party influence, to the point that he’s willing to face the public after using such an unpopular legislative tool to push through a law deemed unconstitutional. However, she said his methods might contribute to the very problem he hopes to avoid.

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Everyday Joe: What about the notwithstanding clause?

Everyday Joe: What about the notwithstanding clause? – May 7, 2021

“In the very act of trying to perhaps control third party voices against him, he may actually generate more opposition than he can squash,” she said.

McDougall said the government also runs the risk of drowning out news stories that might reflect well on them, such as improvements in COVID-19-related trends and the first stage of the province’s economic reopening plan, which took effect on Friday.

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“Instead of having that story, we’re going to have a discussion about civil liberties, which may not be the best political spin for them right now,” McDougall said. “It’ll be interesting to see how this debate plays out on their numbers.”

Opposition parties have acknowledged that they have limited options for fighting the bill. They began on Thursday by introducing motions on other issues to drag out the process, and have called on Ontarians to voice their concerns.

The vice president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, which was involved in the original court challenge, said on Friday that the union was looking into its legal options.

Karen Brown said at a news conference that no matter the outcome of the marathon weekend debate, voters can still mobilize against the government next June.

“Ford can pass legislation that tramples on our democratic Charter rights, but he will not silence us,” she said. “We can replace this government.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Health authorities are responsible for abortion access, not the government: Higgs

New Brunswick’s premier and health minister say it’s the responsibility of the regional health authorities to determine if abortion access in the province is adequate or not.

“Our position has always been, and we’ve been very public about it, that the (regional health authorities) are responsible to deliver the health-care services in this province, to deem whether or not they are appropriate,” health minister Dorothy Shephard said in Wednesday’s question period.

“That is their responsibility. They will deliver the services as they see they need.”

Those comments were in response to Caraquet MLA Isabelle Theriault, who pushed several female PC cabinet ministers to say whether they think the province is providing adequate access to abortion procedures. The three cabinet ministers included women’s equality minister Tammy Scott-Wallace, infrastructure minister Jill Green and aboriginal affairs minister Arlene Dunn.

Shephard rose to answer each time.

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“No, it’s not their responsibility, it is your responsibility, minister,” Theriault told Shephard.

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Shephard’s comments are a subtle shift in how the government has spoken about abortion access in the province. Premier Blaine Higgs has said repeatedly that he believes the province is providing adequate access and is not in violation of the Canada Health Act.

“We actually believe that, certainly in the last few years, they are indeed very accessible here in the province,” Higgs said in August 2020.

“I think that we are very much in line with meeting our objectives and providing access as warranted and as needed.”

On Wednesday Higgs said his previous comments were based on statistics showing the demand for surgical abortions were lagging while demand for the abortion pill mifegymiso was growing.

“It’s not for me to judge,” Higgs said of access levels. “The same with every health service delivered in our province, I don’t think politicians should judge.”

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Experts say N.B. PC majority government continuing to defy the Canada Health Act

Experts say N.B. PC majority government continuing to defy the Canada Health Act – Dec 18, 2020

Right now surgical abortions are only available in three provincial hospitals in the province: one in Bathurst and two in Moncton. Out-of-hospital abortions are not funded by Medicare, due to regulation 84-20 of the Medical Services Payment Act.

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Clinic 554 in Fredericton was the only clinic performing surgical abortions, but announced it would “all but close” in September of 2020 due to funding issues.

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Whether or not the province is meeting legal requirements for access is contentions. The province is facing litigation from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has launched a challenge of regulation 84-20 saying it violates the Canada Health Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The federal government has also deemed the province to be in violation of the Canada Health Act and has docked health transfers to the province by $140,216 each of the last two years.

Higgs has maintained that funding abortions outside the hospital system would create a two-tier health-care system.

“Where does it end? What other private services should we start in the province?” Higgs said on Wednesday.

At least one of the health authorities has previously called for Medicare funding to be extended to abortions performed out-of-hospital, as well. The board of Horizon passed a motion in 2019 saying it would “advocate to the government of New Brunswick for payment to physicians to provide abortion services in a quality and safe environment outside of hospitals.”

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On Wednesday, Higgs said that’s not for the health authorities to decide.

“They could pass a resolution that they’re not doing any more heart surgeries,” Higgs said. “That is not their option.”

The health authorities are currently looking at whether they should add abortion services at more hospitals, at the request of the government.

“Why is this service, if there is a demand and a need here, why it is being provided in two locations in Moncton and one in Bathurst and not here in Fredericton or Saint John,” Higgs said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Burlington’s RBG receives $1.7 million in federal, provincial funding to improve access

Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington, Ont., is the recipient of the latest local funding announcement by the federal and provincial governments.

RBG is receiving almost $1.7 million towards improvements and repairs to its properties.

CEO Nancy Rowland says the work will include reconstruction of a boathouse, a viewing platform and a boardwalk as well as repairs to nature trails and garden paths, all part of the RBG’s 25-year master plan.

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RBG will also be updating wayfinding signage and installing audio units at major entrances to adhere to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“As Ontarians turn to nature for both physical and mental health wellbeing during these challenging times,” Rowland said, “this initiative will provide Royal Botanical Gardens with the tools to significantly improve access” to its properties.

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“We are very much committed at RBG to providing a safe destination for people from all walks of life,” she added, “and this investment will help even more people experience RBG.”

The Government of Canada is investing more than $908,000 in the project through the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan.

The Government of Ontario is providing more than $756,000, and the Royal Botanical Gardens is contributing more than $605,000.

The installation of an entry gate for the Hendrie Valley Trails and an expansion of the Rock Trail parking lot are also included in the project.

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Burlington MP Karina Gould said the result will be “a more enjoyable visitor experience.”

MPP Jane McKenna, the city’s provincial representative, said she’s “delighted that visitors to the Royal Botanical Gardens will benefit from our joint investments.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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London, Ont., MPP introduces bill to cover devices that help with mental health treatment

With the number of people struggling with mental health on the rise, a local MPP is proposing a new bill that would cover devices used to support mental health treatment.

NDP London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan says if approved, the bill would extend Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program to cover technological devices used to support mental health care treatments and the data costs associated with them.

“This would include coverage of devices which allow patients to virtually access medical and counselling appointments, relay heart rate, physical activity, and sleep data to health-care providers and automatically dispense medications,” said Kernaghan.

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Kernaghan says this is especially important with the ongoing issue of hallway health care.

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“We have to ensure Ontarians experiencing mental health crisis are not left stranded in hospital hallways or beds because our health-care system simply does not have space for them,” Kernaghan said.

“By providing mental health supports right at home with assistive devices, this bill can help people lead fuller more independent and safer lives and help people end the cycle of crisis and hospitalization.”

Research by the London Health Science Centre researchers showed Ontarians with mental health needs showed positive health outcomes once they had access to devices that support their treatment plan.

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A study by researcher Cheryl Forchuk of Lawson Health Research Institute found that Ontarians who use assistive devices for their mental health felt more empowered, less isolated and more integrated in their communities.

According to the study, nearly 80 per cent of participants found assistive devices for mental health improved their overall health and resulted in fewer visits to a social service provider or a hospital emergency department.

“The pandemic has reaffirmed that there can be no health without mental health. In the 21st century, we know new technologies are available to support mental as well as physical health,” Forchuk said.

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“We need legislation that does not discriminate based on the type of disability.”

Kernaghan’s private member’s bill, Bill 277, will be debated in the legislature and voted on Thursday.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Legislation introduced to provide income support program for Manitobans with severe disabilities

The province is introducing legislation to provide an income support program for Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities.

Current legislation puts Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities in the same category as those experiencing temporary losses of employment due to shorter-term or less severe disabilities.

The province says Bill 72 would create a program separate from Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) and include disability support payments and shelter assistance tailored to the specific needs of those who apply.

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Families minister Rochelle Squires says about 10,000 people will be moved into the new category.

“It will make life easier for them. They will not have to go back and prove on a regular basis that they still are impacted by their disability,” Squires said. “We believe this will be a great reduction in unnecessary regulatory requirements and paperwork and inconvenience for them.”

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“We’re also going to be moving forward with a better income for these individuals.”

NDP critic for persons with disabilities Danielle Adams claims “Bill 72 would propose sweeping changes to Manitoba’s income assistance programs, including how Manitobans are eligible for programs and what level of support they can receive.”


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London West MP Kate Young announces she won’t run in next federal election – London

London West Liberal MP Kate Young announced Thursday that she’s decided not to run for a third term.

“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to step back from political life,” she said in a statement.

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Young was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019. During that time, she’s also served as parliamentary secretary to ministerial portfolios including transport, science, people with disabilities, and economic development.

“This is not an easy decision because I am honoured to represent the people of London West. However, I believe the time has come to let someone else serve this riding,” she said.

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She says she will continue to represent the riding until the next election.

“While the timing of the next election is unknown, I think it is important that I give the London West Riding Association the time needed to nominate a candidate who will successfully represent the Liberals in this riding. I know there are many strong community members who would serve London well.”

A release states that Young’s accomplishments include increased funding for affordable housing in London West and improvements to environmental infrastructure in the riding. She’s also “proud to have been part of bringing in the Canada Accessibility Act in 2019.”

Young says she plans to continue advocating “for increased funding for childhood cancer research during her remaining time in office.”

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Trudeau, Liberals rising in popularity thanks in part to handling of COVID-19 pandemic: Ipsos poll

Trudeau, Liberals rising in popularity thanks in part to handling of COVID-19 pandemic: Ipsos poll – Mar 8, 2021

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B.C. increases income and disability assistance by $175 per month

The British Columbia government is increasing disability and income assistance rates by $175 per month, but is falling short of making the $300-per-month COVID-19 boost permanent.

Social Development Minister Nicholas Simons said Tuesday the increase will cost about $400 million per year and benefit more than 300,000 people.

It’s the largest ever permanent hike to income assistance and disability assistance rates in the province and will be applied starting in April.

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COVID-19 relief benefits meant to help people on income and disability assistance are coming to an end

COVID-19 relief benefits meant to help people on income and disability assistance are coming to an end – Dec 16, 2020

“This past year has been challenging for everyone, and especially so for those British Columbians already relying on assistance to make ends meet,” Simons said.

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“Now that we are seeing signs of some economic recovery from COVID-19, it’s essential we provide the stability of a permanent rate increase for people and families, including 49,000 children who live in poverty.”

The province is also raising the seniors’ assistance supplement, by $50 a month per resident, for the first time since 1987.

This lifts the maximum rate for a single person from $49.30 to $99.30 per month and benefits up to 20,000 more low-income seniors.

Click to play video: 'B.C. cabinet minister defends decision to cut $300 in monthly COVID-19 income and disability assistance'

B.C. cabinet minister defends decision to cut $300 in monthly COVID-19 income and disability assistance

B.C. cabinet minister defends decision to cut $300 in monthly COVID-19 income and disability assistance – Dec 15, 2020

The temporary $300-per-month disability and income assistance benefit to help recipients deal with the pandemic expired in December.

Eligible British Columbians can still access the COVID-19 Recovery Benefit, which helps people based on income.

“This increase — the largest that people on income assistance and disability assistance have seen – is a critical piece in working toward the fulfilment of our province’s poverty reduction goals,” Together Against Poverty Society executive director Doug King said.

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As of April 1, a single person on income assistance will receive $935 per month and a single person on disability assistance will receive $1,358.42.

A couple on income assistance will receive $1,427.22 per month and a couple on disability assistance will receive $1,947.56, after increases of $350 per month.

A single parent with one child will receive $1,270.58 if on income assistance and $1,694.08 if on disability assistance, plus up to $697 in federal and provincial child benefits.

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