A group advocating for people with disabilities is calling on the federal government to expedite passage of a new Canada Disability Benefit currently making its way through the House of Commons.
Known as Bill C-22, the legislation would create a federal income supplement for low-income, working-age people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities are forced to go to food banks, they can’t afford basic medications and in fact, in some cases, people feel so much despair that they feel the only way they can have dignity is to die using medical assistance in dying,” Disability Without Poverty national director Rabia Khedr told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.
She pointed to a study from Statistics Canada, citing 2014 data, which found that people with disabilities made up 41 per cent of the low-income population.
In 2017, 6.2 million people in Canada aged 15 and older had a disability, representing 22 per cent of the population.
Khedr urged parliamentarians to “do right by people with disabilities,” who she says were forgotten during the pandemic, and for payments to arrive as early as fall 2023.
“It’s no longer good enough for people with disabilities to live in poverty in this country of plenty,” she said.
Bill C-22 was tabled in June, but waited for members of Parliament to return in September before advancing further, despite a push from the NDP last spring to see the Liberals follow through on implementing a new federal disability benefit “without delay.”
After passing second reading unanimously on Oct. 18, the bill was referred to committee.
On Monday, sponsor of the legislation, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough will testify before the House Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities Committee that is studying the bill.
This is the second time the government has brought this benefit bill forward. An initial version of the legislation died in the House last year, when the federal election was called.
Although it is unclear how much applicants could receive from the benefit and who would be eligible, a legislative summary of the bill says it would be modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors.
“We’re a First World nation. It’s just a sad state of affairs if we can’t do right by our society’s most vulnerable members,” Khedr said.
Watch the full interview with Rabia Khedr at the top of the article. With files from CTVNews.ca Online Politics Producer Rachel Aiello.