Your Jan. 6 story about Tessa Hawkins and her assistance dog and the discrimination she has faced from prospective employers is a clear illustration of the need for a Canadians with Disabilities Act. What is the difference between the treatment given Ms. Hawkins and the disgusting “Chinese need not apply” signs seen years ago? The discrimination she experienced was at best ignorant and at worst small-minded meanness.
The barriers people with disabilities face are many: physical, legal, bureaucratic, communication, technological and, above all, attitudinal. In Canada, we continue to treat inclusion of people with disabilities as a privilege rather than a right. We are one of the few countries which do not have a national Disabilities Rights Act.
Canada has no comprehensive legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities. What we have instead are vague principles and tame enforcement. Although we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and some provincial and municipal codes, a Canadians with Disabilities Act would be proactive, forcing governments and private businesses to remove barriers or face sanctions. People with disabilities would have the legal means to go after changes.
There are roughly four million Canadians now living with a physical, psychiatric or developmental disability. That number is expected to rise to about nine million by 2030. Disability is found in all ages, genders, nationalities, cultures and religions. Canada should catch up to the rest of the world.