On June 22, 2023, Bill C-22 received Royal Assent and became law. We now have a Canada Disability Benefit Act. This is great news, but the important work of figuring out the details of the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) is just beginning.
In our last update, we discussed the difference between a Bill receiving “Royal Assent” and a law “coming into force”, and we went into detail about the process to develop and create the CDB through regulations.
Where are we at in the process now?
The text of the Canada Disability Benefit Act left a lot of decisions to be made *after* it became law. Those decisions/detailed rules on how the law should be carried out (officially called “regulations”) have to be made before the law “comes into force”. The law must come into force no later than June 22, 2024. People who qualify may begin to receive the CDB once it comes into force, or the “regulations” will set out a further deadline for when people can expect to receive the CDB.
We are now in the period of time when government staff are working on putting together their first proposed set of regulations. This first draft will then be published in the Canada Gazette (this is the standard practice for regulation drafting) likely some time in the first half of next year. After this publication, members of the public can provide their feedback on the first draft, which will be considered before the regulations are finalized and start to take effect.
How is the government engaging people with disabilities in this process?
The government has decided that they will design the regulations in two phases. We are in the first phase now. According to the Canada Disability Benefit Act, the government is required to table a report that sets out how the government engaged and collaborated with the disability community – disability advocates, individuals with disabilities, organizations that support and serve people with disabilities, and members of the public – in developing the regulations of the CDB.
Government staff appears set to conduct engagement of the disability community in a few ways, though they may still undertake additional forms of engagement. Currently, we know that they are organizing technical roundtables throughout the Fall and Winter to “bring together the views of experts, stakeholders, and persons with disabilities on key areas under the regulations” (full text from their July news release here).
They have also created a public email address to receive feedback and thoughts from the public. This email address is: ESDC.PCPH-CDB.ESDC@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca.
The government also plans to develop an online engagement tool. We will promote this tool, as well as any other opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in the process of designing this benefit, as the government provides more information.
This process does not seem very different than any other legislative process. What happened to “co-creation”?
We have heard from some disability advocates and members of disability communities that this process as laid out (i.e., two regulation periods, technical roundtables, an online engagement tool, and a public portal) is not what they were expecting.
The Canada Disability Benefit Act says that the government must report on how the collaborative process is going within six months of the Act coming into force. The law also says that the government must produce a progress report on how the development of the regulations is going a year after the Act comes into force. We hope that the process moves quickly while staying true to the intention of “co-creation” with people with disabilities and the “nothing about us, without us” framework.
What can I do right now to move this process along?
We encourage everyone who is interested in making sure that the CDB is the best it can be to: learn more about the different considerations being discussed at this time, such as how much should the benefit be for, who should qualify, what route of appeal should be given if a person is denied access, etc.; join events and mobilize with ongoing campaigns both at the local and national level; and speak with elected representatives and community about the importance of the CDB.
LEARN: The 2030 Project podcast, sponsored by the Daily Bread Food Bank, has recently released a five episode series all about the Canada Disability Benefit discussing questions like the co-creation process, who gets it, how do you get it, and is it enough. ISAC staff lawyer Adrian Merdzan was a guest on Episode 5: Is it Enough?, alongside Andrea Hatala (ODSP Action Coalition) and Bill Adair (Spinal Cord Injury Canada). Check it out here through Daily Bread’s website or here on Apple podcasts.
JOIN: The way provincial and territorial governments and insurance companies are going to handle the CDB is of great concern to those receiving disability benefits. ISAC and many others have been advocating for the provincial government to treat the CDB as a “top up” benefit that cannot be clawed back from other provincial disability benefits. We anticipate that this will be a major issue as work on the CDB continues. On this point, ISAC staff is participating in a seminar hosted by Osgoode Hall Law School called the “Promises and Pitfalls of the Canada Disability Benefit” on October 23, 2023. The seminar is broken into two sessions, and Adrian Merdzan, ISAC Staff Lawyer, will be a panelist in the first session called “Clawbacks and Constitutional Issues”. The event is online and will be livestreamed. Attendance is free to the public, though registration is required. To learn more about this event and to register, click this link here.
MOBILIZE: Organizations like Disability Without Poverty have started to mobilize and campaign on ensuring that the federal government allocates enough money in the 2024 Budget so that when the CDB is created, funds can begin to flow as soon as possible. The digital postcard campaign is aimed at MPs – send one to your MP today. Disability Without Poverty is also about to launch a “Shape the CDB” campaign. More info about the Shape the CDB campaign can be found here.
SPEAK: We encourage people to talk to their elected officials, friends, families, and community networks about the importance of the CDB, and the need for it to be rolled out as soon as possible. The new federal Minister of Diversity, Inclusion, and Persons with Disabilities is Kamal Khera. You can email Minister Khera at email@example.com and let her know your thoughts about getting the CDB created urgently. Don’t forget to copy your local MP on your email as well. You can find out who your MP is using your postal code at this Government of Canada link.
People with Disabilities NEED income support now. When will the Canada Disability Benefit be available?
There is still no concrete date for when the CDB will be paid to those who qualify. The only concrete date is that the CDB must come into force no later than June 22, 2024. The regulations will inform whether the CDB will be paid out right at the coming into force date or at some later date. Our best estimate is that the Benefit will be available in one to two years time.
In the meantime, if you think you qualify for existing disability benefits, or you want to know more about what benefits are available, check out the Income Assistance section on the Steps to Justice website or contact your local community legal clinic.