Advocacy & Issues 11/24/2022 In the last weeks, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (or HUMA), has been holding public hearings on the Canada Disability Act, or Bill C-22. These public hearings are the next step in passing the bill. Along with several partners across the country, Community Food Centres Canada has made a submission to the committee. Our hope is that our submission sends a strong message that a Canada Disability Benefit done right can reduce poverty and food insecurity for millions of people with disabilities across the country. You can read our submission below. Context There are 2.7 million Canadians who live with a severe or very severe disability and, as such, are more likely to be unemployed. Thirty percent of people with a disability live below the low-income measure, the majority of whom rely on provincial programs that do not meet basic needs and/or the additional costs associated with their conditions.1 The outcome for many people with disabilities is experiencing food insecurity. This means worrying about food scarcity, compromising on the quality or quantity of their food, skipping meals, or going entire days without eating. 50% of people 15 and older who are food insecure identified as having a disability.2. These numbers and lived experience make clear that food insecurity is directly linked to poverty and income insecurity. That’s why CFCC supports the introduction of a new monthly Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) that eliminates poverty and significantly reduces food insecurity among people with disabilities. Community Impact Through our network of over 350 community partners, we know that food insecurity is on the rise. We also know that this is not a food shortage issue but an income issue. Too many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet, and this is especially true for people living with disabilities. In 2020, through interviews and surveys for our Beyond Hunger report, respondents with and without disabilities told us that food insecurity permeates all aspects of their lives. For example: 81% said food insecurity had a negative impact on their physical health; 79% said it had a negative impact on their mental health; 64% said it affected their relationships with loved ones; 59% said it had a negative impact on their children; 58% said it isolated them socially; 57% said it was a barrier to finding and maintaining employment; 53% said it impeded their ability to find meaning and purpose in life; and 46% said it impeded their ability to express and share their culture. These “side effects” of food insecurity are extremely troubling, clearly illustrating that people are forced to live without dignity or agency. Given these devastating effects, combined with an ever-rising cost of living, the time could not be better to implement a Canada Disability Benefit. Need For Urgent Action Community Food Centres Canada has been following the House of Commons proceedings on Bill C-22 and is encouraged by the all-party support. It is clear that all parties believe that no Canadian with a disability should live in poverty. That said, we know that legislation can often get held up in debate or delayed. We are urging all parties to prioritize Bill C-22. Time is of the essence. People with disabilities cannot afford to wait. We have the following advice for members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development: Weigh the consideration of introducing any amendments against whether they hinder implementation in 2023; If you propose amendments, ensure they support the co-creation principles shared by the disability sector (listed below). It is imperative that Bill C-22 is not bogged down at the committee stage and swiftly returned to the House of Commons for third reading. Guiding Principles As a member of the Disability Without Poverty Partner Table, CFCC supports the principle of “nothing about us, without us.” We support Bill C-22 as framework legislation. We call on the federal government, through regulations, to co-create the design of the Canada Disability Benefit in partnership with people with disabilities, who have lived experience of poverty. While co-creation takes time, it should not be used as an excuse for a delay in implementation. The disability sector has laid a strong foundation for co-creation. We support the principles proposed by Disability Without Poverty and encourage the federal government to support them as well: Include people with disabilities in the design of the Canada Disability Benefit. Create a disability income-support system based on the principles of equity and autonomy. Acknowledge the extra costs associated with disability. Raise the income of Canadians with disabilities above the poverty line. Make sure everyone currently receiving disability benefits (at the federal, provincial and territorial level and from private insurers) is automatically eligible for the Canada Disability Benefit. Create a separate application for those not currently receiving any type of disability benefit. Make eligibility simpler and consistent across the country. Include a generous earnings exemption. Index the Canada Disability Benefit to the disability cost of living. The Canada Disability Benefit administration and application process must not be managed by CRA. No clawbacks. Maintain existing health benefits, transportation allowances, adaptive equipment, employment supports and other in-kind benefits available from provincial and territorial governments. Establish the Canada Disability Benefit as an individual income-based benefit — not a family-based benefit. This would prevent people from being disqualified from the CDB or having their benefits clawed back if they are in a relationship. Conclusion At CFCC, ensuring people have access to good food is at the core of our work. For far too many, this basic right is out of reach. Everyone needs adequate income to afford food and other basic needs. The federal government has an opportunity to act now and lift millions of people with disabilities out of poverty. All parties need to work together to make this a priority — minimizing legislative delays — so that people with disabilities can live with dignity and independence. Alongside our partners, we support calls to fast-track Bill C-22 into law and roll out the Canada Disability Benefit in 2023. 1. Morris, S., Fawcett, G., Brisebois, L. and Hughes, J, (2018). A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017. Canadian Survey on Disability Reports. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2018002-eng.htm. 2. Statistics Canada, Centre for Income and Socioeconomic Well-being Statistics, Canadian Income Survey. Table C1010445. August 12, 2022. Reproduced and distributed on an "as is" basis with the permission of Statistics Canada.