(No. 368 - December 3, 2009 - 11 a.m. EST) The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, on behalf of the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that the Government of Canada today tabled in the House of Commons the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Tabling a treaty, such as the Convention, allows Parliament to review and discuss it before the government ratifies it.
"The government’s tabling of the Convention on the day the United Nations officially designates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities demonstrates Canada’s strong commitment to removing obstacles and creating opportunities for persons with disabilities," said Minister MacKay. "The Convention is important internationally because it is the first international human rights treaty that explicitly reaffirms existing human rights guarantees for persons with disabilities."
The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on December 13, 2006. Canada was among the first countries to sign it when it was opened for signature on March 30, 2007.
The Government of Canada sought the views of the provinces, territories and the Canadian public, in particular the community of persons with disabilities. Their views and recommendations made over the course of the consultations will continue to play an important role in informing any future measures that may be taken post-ratification of the Convention at the federal level.
"The Convention will serve to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity," said the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. "Once ratified, it will complement domestic laws, as well as provide an opportunity for Canada to share its best practices in areas such as equality, reasonable accommodation and accessibility."
"The Government of Canada continues to invest in programs and services to meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities and provide them with the same access to opportunities that all Canadians enjoy," said the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. "Ratification of the Convention will give us the opportunity both to recognize the many contributions that people with disabilities make to society, and to acknowledge the progress we continue to make as a society towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities."
Canada has had a long-standing commitment to uphold and safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and to enable their full participation in society.
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A backgrounder follows.
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The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 13, 2006, and signed by Canada on March 30, 2007.
The Convention reaffirms that persons with disabilities enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others. It also sets out practical steps that States Parties are required to take to promote, protect and ensure these rights.
The Convention embodies an important shift toward a human dignity approach to disability and away from a charity and medical model approach. This shift is already largely reflected in Canada’s laws, but it requires an ongoing policy commitment to make it a reality in the daily lives of persons with disabilities, who number about 4.4 million in Canada—14.3 percent of the population. This number is expected to grow as Canada’s population ages over the coming years.
The core obligation imposed by the Convention is to protect the right to equality and non-discrimination for persons with disabilities in relation to all human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as by ensuring that reasonable accommodation is provided. States Parties are also required to promote an enabling environment by taking measures to promote accessibility and independent living for persons with disabilities.
The Convention builds on existing international human rights instruments to which Canada is already bound, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.