UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is irrelevant to disabled Canadians
By Paul Caune
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD) isn’t going to help disabled Canadians.
Why? Because there is no way to enforce it. A right without a remedy is no right at all. There is no way in the real world to make the CRPD enforceable in Canada.
The CRPD is an international treaty which Canada ratified in 2010 on the day before the start of the Winter Paralympics in Vancouver.
Some citizens who support the Pearson Dogwood Policy Statement that I criticized in a recent column do so because the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCH) has committed to “respect” the CRPD.
Let’s use this commitment by VCH to prove the CRPD is irrelevant.
For the sake of argument let’s pretend that I have a secretly taken video of the Chair of VCH telling his Board that West Vancouver will elect a NDP MLA before VCH complies with the CRPD. And let’s pretend that this video has been posted on YouTube and viewed 34,657,832 times.
Surely the embarrassment would force VCH to comply with the CRPD?
If an employee or executive of VCH is convicted of violating the Criminal Code, he or she can be fined and/or put into prison.
In certain circumstances class action suits can be brought against VCH, and if it loses, it can be forced by a judge to pay damages.
But if VCH violates any part of the CRPD there is no legal body within Canada that citizens harmed by the violation can use to force VCH to comply with the convention.
BC’s Health Authorities are unlikely to declare that they will not comply with the CRPD. What they will do, if need be, is unleash their lawyers, who will assert that their clients only appear to be in violation of the CRPD. Or the Health Authorities’ lawyers will assert that the CRPD is only a guideline, that the CRPD is not mandatory.
If you do not have a practical way to enforce your rights, you do not have them. There is no practical way for any citizen to force any public or private entity in Canada to be in compliance with the CRPD.
If you think a law, such as the CRPD, which gives the most likely violator of it the discretion whether to comply with it, will protect vulnerable Canadian citizens—think twice.
What would be useful?
A provincial law similar to the 1980 US Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. This law gives the Attorney-General of the USA the power to investigate alleged civil rights violations in settings such as long term residential care facilities for seniors or for people with developmental disabilities.
If the US Attorney-General concludes that the civil rights of people in these settings were violated, law suits can be brought against the responsible parties. And if the Attorney-General wins those law suits, the violators will be forced to comply with the US Constitution.
Civil Rights Now! is trying to convince the BC Government to pass such a law, to enable investigations and possible civil action resulting from a breach of Charter rights of disabled persons by government or contractors. (For more go to Civil Rights Now’s proposal.)
Paul Caune is the Executive Director of CIVIL RIGHTS NOW! Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through CRN’s website http://civilrightsnow.ca/