by Cynthia Brown, LLM Candidate, Windsor Law – April 9, 2019
Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was in Canada from April 2, to April 12, 2019, for an official visit at the invitation of the federal government. On April 3, 2019, Professor Laverne Jacobs, Professor Tess Sheldon and Cynthia Brown, LLM Student from Windsor Law had the privilege of participating in a telephone meeting with Ms. Devandas Aguilar, and with representatives from several other organizations dedicated to disability issues from across the country. Representing the Law, Disability & Social Change Project at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law, Professor Jacobs spoke on access to justice issues with respect to access to legal aid for people with disabilities and Bill C-81, the proposed federal accessibility legislation (Accessible Canada Act). She highlighted two significant legal cases that have put the concept of access to justice for people with disabilities to the test – Elizabeth Portman’s case and Judy Gayton’s case. She stated that legal aid boards and commissions are usually given the discretion to determine the areas of law in which they will provide legal aid and the process they will follow to decide if applicants are successful. They should be required to consider human rights principles and accommodate people with disabilities to the point of undue hardship in doing so.
Other represented organizations included: the Canadian Association of the Deaf, Communication Disabilities Access Canada, Canadian Association of Community Living/Community Living Toronto, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, Canadian Federation of Library Associations, British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS), People First of Canada and ARCH Disability Law Centre.
The meeting was very informative and resulted in a number of thoughtful questions from Ms. Devandas Aguilar. She stated that, at the end of her 10-day visit on April 12th, she will hold a press conference to present the highlights of her visit, along with a mission statement with preliminary findings. Her full report will be presented in March of 2020.
Read our submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities: