We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve life for people with disabilities who live in poverty.
In 30 minutes or less, you can change the future right now.
Your 3-Step Checklist:
- Learn about Bill C-22 and the Canada Disability Benefit
- Read about needed amendments to strengthen Bill C-22
- Write to the Senate to urge them to include important amendments in the Bill
Taking action to strengthen the Bill now means spending less time in the future addressing barriers to access and other problems that we can already foresee.
Want to get involved? Start scrolling and let’s go!
Step 1: Learn about Bill C-22 and the Canada Disability Benefit
What is Bill C-22?
Bill C-22 is the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. Its stated purpose is to develop a federal income benefit that will reduce poverty and support the financial security of persons with disabilities. Bill C-22 was developed by the federal government after pressure from people with disabilities, disability justice advocates, and anti-poverty advocates, and as part of a broader government action plan to end discrimination against people with disabilities.
What is the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB)?
The CDB is a proposed federal income benefit for people with disabilities that would be created by the passage of Bill C-22. There are many important details missing from the text of the Bill. The specific details around who is eligible, what amount will be paid, where to appeal if denied the CDB, how the CDB will impact other provincial disability benefits, and other important considerations are not currently included in the text of the Bill. You can read the current text of the Bill here.
What part of the legislative process are we at right now?
Bill C-22 was passed in the House of Commons in early February 2023 and is currently at the Senate for review. The Senate now has the opportunity to consider some of the gaps that advocates of the CDB have been asking to address by introducing amendments to strengthen the Bill.
Why do we need amendments to the Bill?
Amendments change the text of the Bill, which provides direction for how the government administers the Act. Introducing amendments to the Bill will strengthen the Bill and can help ensure that the CDB will work as intended, which is to reduce poverty and support the financial security of persons with disabilities.
Some important amendments to the text of the Bill were made when it was being debated in the House of Commons, such as the adoption of a broad definition of disability and including wording about indexing the CDB to inflation. It is now up to the Senate to consider further amendments, many of which will provide protections and assurances for people with disabilities who will access the CDB.
We can already foresee some problems with leaving important issues out of the text of the Bill, such as the lack of an accessible appeal mechanism for people who are denied access to the CDB. We can avoid having to address this gap in the future by amending the Bill now.
What types of amendments should the Senate consider?
The Senate should consider important issues like appeal rights; interactions with other disability benefits (also known as clawbacks); barriers to access such as restrictive identification and tax filing requirements; paying recipients enough to bring them above the poverty line while accounting for the cost of their disabilities; and other issues that will impact the success of the CDB in reducing poverty and supporting the financial security of persons with disabilities.
The explainer in Step 2 below provides more information about much needed amendments that will improve access to the CDB and ensure that it achieves what it is intended to do.
Which Senate Committee is going to be studying the Bill? When will the Committee meet?
The Bill is expected to be studied by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI). You can email SOCI to tell them to strengthen the Bill at email@example.com. More information on the specific Senators that sit on SOCI can be found here. SOCI is expected to start meeting on this Bill in March 2023.
How can I support?
We are asking advocates like you to take three steps:
Step 1 is to learn more about Bill C-22 and the CDB – You’ve already done this by reading this far!
Step 2 is to read more about much needed amendments – Read on to find out more about specific amendments and why they’re important.
Step 3 is the last and most important step you can take: Write to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) and urge them to include amendments in the Bill. You can submit a letter or document (also known as a brief) and/or apply to appear at SOCI to speak to Senators directly.
Step 2: Learn about needed amendments to Bill C-22
We can and must strengthen Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act
The aim of Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act, is to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities. However, Bill C-22 is missing some important details.
For example, the specific details around who is eligible, what amount will be paid, where to appeal if denied the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), how the CDB will impact other provincial disability benefits, and other important considerations are not currently included in the text of Bill C-22. These important questions should be addressed in Bill C-22 now.
The current text of Bill C-22 can be found here.
Key amendments needed to make sure the Canada Disability Benefit works as intended:
Appeal rights must be included in the Bill. Dispute resolution should be accessible, timely, and transparent.
- Disputes about benefits that are delivered through the tax system, such as the Canada Child Benefit, must go through the Tax Court of Canada to be settled. This is a complicated and inaccessible forum for appeal, and it can take a long time for decisions to be made.
- Administrative tribunals are a better option for government benefit dispute resolution. Tribunals are less formal, more flexible, more equipped to handle people representing themselves, and they usually produce quicker decisions.
- People should not have to go through expensive court processes and lengthy wait-times to appeal decisions about their benefits.
- Without strong appeal rights and appeal mechanisms built into Bill C-22, people denied the CDB will face barriers to accessing appeal mechanisms and face an increased risk of poverty while they wait for a resolution.
People with disabilities who already qualify for pre-existing provincial or territorial disability programs should automatically qualify for the CDB, and it should be easy for those who are not already on other programs to apply directly for the CDB.
- People with disabilities should not have to re-prove that they have a disability and are living in poverty to receive the CDB.
- People with disabilities are often asked to prove and re-prove their disability because of the broad range of disability definitions across provincial, territorial, federal, private, and public programs. Some may qualify for one program and not another even though their disability remains the same.
- Proving and re-proving eligibility for disability benefits is administratively, emotionally, and sometimes financially difficult. It is an additional and time-consuming burden, especially when the person already qualifies for other disability benefits.
- Including automatic eligibility in the Bill as well as an expansive and inclusive disability definition will take the stress off those living in poverty and will allow them to access the CDB much faster.
The CDB must not be clawed back by any level of government or any private insurance company.
- Clawbacks re-direct money away from their intended recipients (people on social assistance) and back to governments or private insurance companies, further trapping people on social assistance in poverty. Income programs have complex rules that make saving money, earning a living wage, and receiving other income support benefits difficult.
- Clawbacks occur when benefits “interact” with one another, reducing a person’s existing benefits to account for additional income the recipient receives via earnings or a new, separate benefit.
- This has the effect of reducing the income of people with disabilities who receive social assistance, preventing them from having adequate income for daily needs or from saving money for future needs.
- The text of Bill C-22 currently contains no protections against clawbacks of the CDB by the federal government, provincial or territorial governments, and/or private insurance companies. Clawbacks must be addressed in Bill C-22 or the CDB will not work as intended.
Strict identification and tax filing requirements should be removed, ensuring broad access to the CDB.
- Currently, Bill C-22 requires that applicants for the CDB must have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN) to receive the benefit. However, many people, particularly vulnerable people, do not have a SIN or file taxes. Requiring either will create a barrier to access.
- There are many reasons why someone may not have a SIN or file taxes, including people who do not have proof of address and/or are homeless. Requiring a SIN or tax-filing may create a barrier to access for transgender people, Indigenous Peoples impacted by the residential school system and the sixties-to-eighties scoop, and people with precarious immigration status even if they work in Canada and pay taxes.
- Removing the limited SIN and tax-filing requirement will improve access to the benefit for people with disabilities who have been further marginalized due to intersectional experiences of societal and legal discrimination.
The benefit amount must be high enough to raise people with disabilities above the poverty line and should include the cost of living with a disability.
- People with disabilities face increased costs associated with their disabilities so the CDB’s purpose “to reduce poverty” is not enough.
- Living with moderate disabilities can increase the cost of living by 30%, and additional costs for people living with severe disabilities may be even higher. Therefore, bringing people just above the poverty line will still leave people with disabilities living in poverty.
- Right now the Bill does not include a dollar amount for the CDB. The Bill should be amended to ensure the Canada Disability Benefit will set an amount above the poverty line that incorporates the additional costs of living with a disability.
Other amendments have been suggested as well – this discussion paper by ARCH Disability Law Centre, AODA Alliance, and ISAC includes more suggestions.
Step 3: Participate in the Senate Committee Hearings on Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act
Senators need to hear from you about what is missing in the current Bill, and which amendments are important to include. Bill C-22 is expected to be studied by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI).
There are two important actions you can take:
- You can submit a written document (known as a submission or brief) to SOCI
- You can ask to appear as a witness before SOCI
Unfortunately, Parliamentary hearings are not widely advertised. There is no webpage where invitations to submit a brief and appear before a Committee will be posted. Follow the guide below to find out how to take action.
Your efforts now can change the future of disability poverty in Canada.
Write your submission/brief
In your submission, use examples from your experience as well as facts to support your opinions. Include specific recommendations or proposed amendments that you would like SOCI to consider.
- Include your name and/or the name of the organization submitting the brief
- Include the name of the Senate committee
- Include a summary of your main points
- Not exceed 10 pages – if so, include a one-page executive summary at the beginning
Do not include sensitive or personal information in your brief.
Submit your submission/brief to SOCI
You can submit your submission/brief to SOCI via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in getting in touch with a specific Senator that sits on SOCI, you can find the list of Senators sitting on this Committee here.
Request to appear before SOCI
To request to appear before SOCI, email the same address listed above (email@example.com).
If you are chosen to appear, the SOCI clerk will be in touch with you. They can answer any logistics questions you may have before you appear.
If you are chosen to speak at SOCI
- Provide your name, title, and contact information to the committee clerk;
- Submit your speaking notes to the clerk so they can be provided to interpretation services;
- Prepare and practice a 5-minute presentation for the committee; and
- Expect to answer questions from the senators about your presentation.
For more information on participating in Senate committees and what to expect, check out this guide created by the Senate called How to Participate in A Senate Committee Study: Oral and Written Evidence.
We are encouraging people with lived experience, allies, and advocates to share this info and take these steps, on their own time or together as a group!
You can also download and share a Word doc that includes the 1-2-3 Steps & related information outlined above by clicking here.