Disability is the world’s largest minority group and the only minority group that each of us has the potential to join in our lives.
- About 4.4 million Canadians (14.3%) have a disability (2006).
- Of working age persons (15-64 years old) with a disability who live alone, over 70% live below the poverty line. This can be compared to 23% of working-age Canadian without disabilities who live alone.
- The average income for working persons with an intellectual disability is less than half of that of Canadians without an intellectual disability.
- 52% of young adults (20-29) with an intellectual disability are neither working, nor attending school, compared to 12% of Canadians without a disability.
- Young adults with an intellectual disability are five times more likely than those without disabilities to have no formal education certificate.
Recognizing and promoting human rights for children and adults with an intellectual disability helps to ensure that we are all recognized as full citizens and that we have the right to participate as such in every aspect of society. People with an intellectual disability have the right to be included in our public school system, to post-secondary education, to work and contribute to the economic life of our communities, and to receive the supports and assistance to live their daily lives.
Over the years, several laws have been created to ensure that the rights of persons with a disability, including persons with an intellectual disability are protected and upheld.
The New Brunswick Human Rights Act
This law protects the rights of New Brunswickers and prohibits discrimination and harassment in:
- Public services (for example: schools, stores, motels, hospitals, police and most government services)
- Publicity; and
- Certain associations
It prohibits discrimination on the basis of many grounds including “physical and mental disability”. People who believe that they are being discriminated against can file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. The Commission investigates and tries to settle complaints of discrimination and harassment. If a complaint cannot be settled, a human rights tribunal can hear the evidence. If it decides that there was discrimination, it can issue orders to correct it. There is no cost to filing a human rights complaint.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
This is part of the Constitution of Canada and came into effect in 1982. It provides a constitutional protection of the rights and freedoms of all Canadians and applies to the laws, policies and actions of all levels of government. Section 15 (1) of the Charter provides that every person is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. The Charter is usually enforced through the courts, but it has been generally used to promote human rights and dignity of people with disabilities in many areas of life.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities
The Convention is an international treaty that spells out the rights of people with disabilities and the obligations of countries that ratify the convention to promote and protect those rights. The Convention came into force in 2008 and Canada has signed the Convention, but has not yet ratified it. The U.N. Convention is one of the most progressive human rights documents affecting the lives of people with disabilities to date. It contains 50 sections (or articles) and touches on the rights of people with disabilities in the areas of inclusive education, employment, community inclusion, and the justice system.
Intellectual Disability and the Justice System
Research shows people with a disability are five times more likely to be a victim of violence and it is estimated that 80% of women and 40-60% of men with an intellectual disability will be sexually molested or abused by the age of 18.
NBACL works to ensure that people with an intellectual disability have the same access to the criminal justice system as all citizens. We work to make our court system more ‘user friendly’ to people with an intellectual disability, breakdown barriers and promote understanding among law enforcement personnel.
The Right to Decide
People with an intellectual disability are able to make their own decisions and choices about their lives. They have expressed a frustration of being viewed as “incapable” and “dependent” and have expressed a desire to choose:
- Where and with whom they live;
- How they live; and
- How they want to participate in community life.
In Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability, People with a disability have a right to equal recognition before the law. It states:
- States Parties reaffirm that persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere as persons before the law.
- States Parties shall recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life.
- States Parties shall take appropriate measures to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity.
- States Parties shall ensure that all measures that relate to the exercise of legal capacity provide for appropriate and effective safeguards to prevent abuse in accordance with international human rights law. Such safeguards shall ensure that measures relating to the exercise of legal capacity respect the rights, will and preferences of the person, are free of conflict of interest and undue influence, are proportional and tailored to the person’s circumstances, apply for the shortest time possible and are subject to regular review by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body. The safeguards shall be proportional to the degree to which such measures affect the person’s rights and interests. For more information, please contact NBACL.
- Subject to the provisions of this article, States Parties shall take all appropriate and effective measures to ensure the equal right of persons with disabilities to own or inherit property, to control their own financial affairs and to have equal access to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit, and shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not arbitrarily deprived of their property.