British Columbia

B.C. advocate says proposed federal COVID-19 benefit for Canadians with disabilities leaves many with nothing

Ottawa is considering a one-time emergency benefit of $600 for people with disabilities and Heather Walkus, first vice chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, says even if the legislation passes, it will not benefit everyone who needs it.

One-time $600 payment would only be paid to people who claim the federal disability tax credit

Heather Walkus, first vice chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, says the one-time payment proposed by the Liberal government would only apply to people who currently receive a disability tax credit and this excludes about 60 per cent of Canadians living with a disability. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The federal government is considering a one-time emergency benefit for people with disabilities to help them cope with the added costs imposed by the pandemic, but a B.C.-based disability advocate says even if the legislation does pass, it won't go far enough.

Heather Walkus, first vice chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, says the legislation only applies to people who currently receive a disability tax credit, which she says is only about 40 per cent of Canadians living with disability.

According to Walkus, the majority of people receiving government money due to a disability receive the Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) benefit and those individuals will not receive the $600 payment recently debated in the House of Commons.

"You are leaving about 60 per cent of people with disabilities in Canada without those supports," said WalkusTuesday on The Early Edition.

Legislation in limbo

The Liberal government announced their proposed new benefit on June 5. However, the plan remains in limbo after the bill, C-17, failed to secure unanimous consent in the House of Commons on June 10.

The Commons adjourned without any sort of resolution, with the parties at an impasse over how to proceed. 

All of the opposition parties — not just the Conservatives — had problems with the bill as written.

NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, raised the same concerns as Walkus and asked for the disability payments to be sent to more people.

"We are already struggling with inclusion, accessibility and poverty and those are issues that have been opened up greatly in the COVID response," said Walkus, adding the disability community suffered disproportionately to the rest of the population due to the pandemic.

She said specific examples include: lack of accessible accommodation for people with disabilities who need to self-isolate, reduced home support staff, lack of personal protective equipment, challenges accessing information for the blind community, and challenges accessing appointments and stores because of reduced public transportation service.

"Most systems in the emergency response plan did not contemplate people with disabilities," said Walkus, adding the government should have included disability advocates in conversations about emergency provisions at the onset of the health crisis.

There are approximately six million people living with a disability in Canada.

Tap here to hear the complete interview with Heather Walkus on The Early Edition.

With files from The Early Edition and John Paul Tasker


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