Your Fight,

                is Our Fight

NBCPD reaches out to government officials on a regular basis, advocating against what we feel are injustices faced by people with disabilities in our province. In 2020, some of the things that we have advocated for have been:  

  1. To get the federal Covid19 emergency payment for those with disabilities passed in the House of Commons.

  2. To get the provincial Household modified to allow couples to live in the same dwelling without losing benefits;

  3. To get a new disability benefit implemented to replace social assistance in order to lift people living with severe disabilities out of poverty. 

Jenica Atwin, Federal Member of Parliament for the Green Party, reads an excerpt from one of our letters at the House of Commons in defense of passing a bill to get Covid19 top up payment for people with disabilities. 

Some of Our Letters

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July 3, 2020

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Andrew Scheer
Mr. Jagmeet Singh
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability
Inclusion
Mr. Wayne Long, Member of Parliament
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor

On June 5, many people with disabilities across Canada rejoiced over the news that the Federal government of Canada would be helping them lessen the financial strain of Covid19 with a one-time payment of up to $600.00. Times have been difficult for everyone, but for people who greatly rely on
services offered outside their home, it has been very stressful and most often very costly. Every day, this already much marginalized population felt left behind as they listened to the Prime Minister’s daily address to the citizens of this great country, announcing financial help to practically every group of
people, while barely mentioning people with disabilities. Sometimes, people just need to be acknowledged. But acknowledgement was slow to come.

 

Fast forward to June 10th, when Bill C-17 was very disappointedly crushed at its first reading in the House of Commons, as it contained not only the payment for people with disabilities, but also the Act that would see CERB recipients who knowingly received an income support payment that they were
not eligible to receive penalized. Even after being presented on its own, the disability payment was rejected once again – by the Conservative Party. This behaviour on behalf of our trusted politicians, at the expense of people with disabilities, is unacceptable. This is no time for political games.
That being said, as you prepare to return to Parliament next week, we trust that you will all do the right thing and pass this much needed payment for people with disabilities. These people need this money now. They may not have seen their income affected, but they have surely seen their expenses
affected as everything becomes more and more expensive. Buying food and getting much-needed services was already a huge challenge previous to Covid19 on their very very limited budget.


Please do the right thing. You MUST do the right thing.

Sincerely,
Brent MacPherson
Chair
New Brunswick Coalition for Persons with Disabilities

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The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

The Honourable Premier Blaine Higgs, Prime Minister of NB

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

The Honourable Carl Urquhart, cabinet committee on Covid19

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Cabinet Committee on Covid19 (Federal)

Mr Wayne Long, Member of Parliament

 

As we wait and hope for a vaccine, government at all levels scrambles to halt the spread of CoViD-19 and deal with the economic crisis that has followed those measures. New words have entered our daily speech. Words like “pandemic”, “physical distancing”, and “social isolation”.Internet memes poke fun at this unprecedented and abrupt change to our way of life. We joke about our hair, and binge-watching Netflix. Good times.

 

But the reality is much, much different for the most vulnerable of us. For those of us who live with disability, this pandemic is far more frightening than it is funny.

 

As our federal government creates new programs and funding to help mitigate the financial burden created as provinces across Canada shut down their places of business, forcing millions out of work, special challenges have arisen for those Canadians living with disabilities. For those that are unemployed due to provincial shutdowns, or who are students or seniors, there has been some relief. But so far, no relief specifically for persons with disabilities. In fact, there is barely any mention at all about people with disabilities in any of the press conferences being broadcast daily across the nation.

 

Cuts to municipal transit can leave many persons with disabilities struggling to find alternate means to get to work, to doctor’s appointments, or to go grocery shopping. While delivery services are certainly helpful, with many working disabled persons already struggling to keep bills paid, costs are often associated to these handy delivery services. Additionally, those receiving CPP Disability Benefits have yet another financial burden to add to the growing list of bills. Social isolation and physical distancing are necessary precautions that must be followed to flatten the curve of Covid19. But while some disabled Canadians have access to high-speed internet, many live alone in rural areas and already experience problems linked to isolation, with no high-speed internet for meetings & family time. This lack of access and increased expense can make video chat next to impossible.

 

Our Government has recommended the wearing of masks when it is impossible to follow physical distancing guidelines. However, persons with asthma or other respiratory conditions may find breathing all the more difficult when wearing one, and anxiety then soars to new heights when not wearing one. Those with cognitive disabilities may not always be able to manage the abrupt changes in protocols. Guide dogs for the blind, or other service animals may not have been instructed in physical distancing or lineups. And lets not forget, that service animals should be thoroughly cleaned after an outing, as to not track any germs inside the house. The same is true for wheelchairs. People with auditory disorders who rely on lip reading may suddenly find themselves with no way of communicating in a world where people are suddenly masked. In many cases, persons with disabilities are forced to plan their outings in much finer detail than they may be used to, in order to meet their own needs, and comply with current restrictions. All this, while struggling to hold on to a sense of “normalcy” that many may now feel was once a privilege.

While pay top-ups, Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and some increases to GST payments are certainly helpful, more concrete actions are needed to ease fears of financial instability in the long term for persons with disabilities. Yearly grants specifically for things like transportation, adaptive equipment, or assistive technology would be a great start. Guaranteed Income to raise more Canadians with disabilities out of poverty would be the ultimate goal. All of these would be miracles - but any one of them a blessing to Canadians.As our province prepares to re-open its businesses and public spaces, New Brunswickers with disabilities prepare for a new wave of COVID-19 infections, more physical distancing, socialisolation, and more anxiety. That has become our “new normal”. When the Hippocratic oath was rewritten in 1964, it included the following:

 

“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.”

 

As we have seen, this pandemic has had far reaching ramifications, and there must be a holistic approach. We must not forget Canadians with disabilities. In closing, Prime Minister Trudeau in his May 12th address noted the CoViD-19 pandemic had laid bare some “uncomfortable truths”regarding the lives of seniors in Canada. I strongly urge our Prime Minister to face the same difficult truths regarding Canadians with disabilities. Before ‘too little’ becomes ‘too late’.

 

Best regards,

 

Brent MacPherson, Moncton

Murielle Pitre, Riverview

Scott Rinehart, Saint John

Kathleen Leger, Moncton

Andrew Cosman, Saint John

Mike Parker, Dieppe

Gerry Harris, Saint John

 

Cc: Telegraph JournalMoncton Time-Transcript

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The Honorable Blaine Higgs

The Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick

364 York St Suite 215

Fredericton, NB E3B 3P7 

 

Dear Premier: 

 

We would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We know how invaluable your time is, especially during this Covid19 pandemic which has you and your entire Cabinet so busy. Our thoughts are with every New Brunswicker as we all struggle to make the best that we can of this very challenging year. It has been a huge burden on everyone.

 

I would like to ask you to pause for a minute and imagine going through all this alone. You have been having a difficult life, dealing with a disability and struggling with nearly intolerable pain. You require outside help for your very basic needs. Plus, you live on so little money, you are never really sure if you will have enough food for the whole month. You are permanently disabled, and you know you will never get a chance to a “normal life” and be able to work. So, what you have now is as good as it will ever get. But you’ve learned to make the best of your situation anyway. 

 

Suddenly, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You meet someone, fall in love and want to get married! Think about what a difference it makes for a person to share his or her life’s journey with someone they love. It should be everyone’s right. Especially today. But it isn’t, is it? Because in New Brunswick, the Household Income Policy can see a person with a disability lose their income, as well as all their services, if they decide to get married. 

 

We are aware that some cases may be considered separate and that some recipients may not lose their income and/or services. However, it is almost impossible to take such an important decision as marriage when you are unsure of what this change might bring. Asking a person to make this type of decision is unjust and feels like an infringement on their right. Having to choose between spending the rest of their lives alone or keeping what little support that they do have from their province…. that is in our view, and in the view of many, just wrong. It is understandable that this policy exists for welfare recipients, however for (some) people with disabilities, Income Assistance is their only possible source of income. They should not be included in such policy and they should be automatically exempted from it. In short, they should not be punished for falling in love. 

 

Please, Honorable Blaine Higgs, take this opportunity to make history in New Brunswick and allow people with disabilities in this province break free from the Household Income Policy. I am sure you know as well as we do that it is the right thing to do. 

 

Yours sincerely, 


 

Brent MacPherson 

Chair, New Brunswick Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, Inc. 


 

Murielle Pitre 

2nd Vice-Chair & Director of Communications 



 

CC:    Mr. David Coon, Green Party of NB

          Mr. Roger Melanson, Liberal Party of NB

          Mr. Kris Austin, People’s Alliance 

          Mr. Bruce Fitch, Social Development

          Mrs. Christyne Allain, Premier’s Council on Disabilities

In The

Media

The NBCPD talks about the NB Covid19 vaccine rollout with Global News.