It’s Been a Year of Losses in the Disability Community

It’s been a year of losses in the disability community. Early last year, we lost Dianne Pothier, a leading activist in the area of disability and law, and my dear friend and mentor, Pat Kelln, a woman who worked tirelessly to address violence against women with disabilities. And in December 2016, we lost international founder of Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI), Bengt Lindqvist, a man I have quoted and had hoped to meet in person one day. And this past weekend, we lost two disability activists in Canada—Teresa Daw, president of ARCH, and Claredon Robicheau, human rights change maker, CCD Council member and friend. I am personally struggling with such profound losses in our community. These are the people I look up to and seek out advice from during struggles when the bureaucracy seems insurmountable, or when internal conflicts seem to drown the solidarity. These are people that I read their work and want to do more and build a better world with.

How to make sense of the loss of such leaders and mentors? I don’t know. What I have tried to do is reflect on their words and their work. I have tried to work with the same passion in this field of disability and human rights, and I am working on a way to honour their legacy (and our many leaders and mentors that are still with us!). Today, I spent nearly two hours on the phone with a young woman who I mentor, and who has become a friend over the last year. We reflected on the losses and on the things these leaders have taught us and that they have left as their legacy. She said something that really struck me, personally. She said: “you are honouring their legacy in the mentoring you do, in the activism you are so passionate about, and in the way that you are modeling as chair of CCD, and board member for NEADS” (I paraphrase her words). But I was struck, in my grief, of how clearly she can see the imprint of these leaders in my own work. Thank you, Roxana. You teach me as much as I ever could teach you.

I am still struggling with this new loss. Claredon was a man that stood strong in his convictions about equality and access, he made certain that he was the change-maker in his community, in federal work and internationally. I just saw him in Ottawa. It was so busy. I thought I would have time to hang out and catch up in Winnipeg this coming June, at our AGM. Dear Claredon, I am going to miss your support and advice. I will miss your smile and our random conversations in the parking lot outside the venue in Winnipeg (when we both would go out to seek some fresh air and sunshine).

To the other mentors and friends in my life, if I haven’t said so in the last few months how much I respect and value you, please know that I do. It’s been a busy and difficult time. This is no excuse; therefore, I am going to try to be better at reaching out.

Thank you to all of you that are working for equality in the disability community. I love you and honour you.

With great respect,

Jewelles Smith.


Happy International Human Rights Day!

December 10th is designated as International Human Rights Day, and I thought it would be a good time to update on where civil society is at with regard to the upcoming United Nations Universal Periodic Review. These past couple years been busy times for those of us who work towards full implementation of international human rights treaties! Between 2015 and 2017, Canada submitted reports to a number of the UN Committees and their related Conventions. These include: The Human Rights Committee (2015), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2016), the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (2016), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or CRPD (2017), and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2017). If you are interested in more information about these reviews, go to: In 2018, Canada will face what is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). According to, the Universal Periodic Review provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists.

Canada has begun the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and in the spring, government representatives and civil society will go before the UPR working group to discuss Canada’s record on human rights. Civil society groups had to submit our parallel or shadow reports in October. The Canadian government will be submitting its report soon. Shadow reports or parallel reports are submitted by civil society groups so that the United Nations will receive the perspectives of both government (official reports that counties are obligated to submit within a specific timetable). Civil society submissions ensure that the voices and experiences of citizens are heard at the UN level. In many cases, official government reports gloss over difficult areas therefore shadow reports are an opportunity to have all areas of concern voiced. The working group or committee will then ask Canada directly and on the record about these concerns. We do not yet have the date for the review but will share this as soon as it is available, likely in early May 2018. Canadians who cannot be in Geneva for the review will be able to watch the proceedings live via UN video feed. The proceedings will be translated into several languages.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities was part of a coalition group representing civil society that submitted a report to the UPR on October 5th, 2017. There are numerous concerns voiced by our coalition in this report, but I would like to focus on two for this update: the first is on accessibility and the second is on implementation of domestic monitoring mechanisms for the CRPD. Currently, Canada has place reservations on the CRPD in a couple areas and one of these is on Article 33 –National implementation and monitoring.

Canada is currently developing a national accessibility act and disabled Canadians have been working hard to ensure that our concerns and needs will be met by this act. We recognize that as a federal piece of legislation, it does not automatically impact provincial and territorial legislation, however, we strongly believe that the federal government can and should take the lead in developing a strong, forward-thinking legislation that will serve as a model for provinces and territories! The Council of Canadians with Disabilities formed a group with partners called the Alliance. This group has conducted round tables, surveys and interviews to document what Canadians would like to see in this Act. It is clear that Canadians want to ensure that the definition of disability in the act reflects the definition of the CRPD and that Canadians want this Act to have “teeth” and to be enforceable. And more than that, I believe that Canada should take the lead in educating the Canadian public on accessibility and inclusion. Some of the recommendations on accessibility made by the DPO UPR Coalition in their submission to the UN are:

·      Canada should work with provincial and territorial governments to review existing and planned accessibility laws and policies to ensure that they comply fully with Article 9.

·      Canada should incorporate or adopt Article 9 of the CRPD when developing National Accessibility Legislation, and should give due consideration to the CRPD Committee’s General Comment No. 2 on Accessibility.

·      Canada must ensure that all levels of Government commit to robust enforcement of accessibility requirements enshrined in Law. 

·      Canada must ensure that communications and information services on the transportation systems are designed and constructed so that they can be used, or reached by people who are Deaf, deaf-blind or blind.

·      Canada must address to improve accessibility on telecommunication services for Text with 911 services that requires a faster response time between 9-1-1 responders and Deaf person in order to meet the functional equivalency.

·      Canada must ensure that broadcasters are required 1) to provide French-language audiences with access to captioned programming that is fully equal to English-language access in both quantity and quality; 2) online captioning and descriptive video content for the website and social media; and 3) improve quality standards and to provide captioning and descriptive video for 100 percent of their programming.

·      Canada must strengthen the mandate of regulatory bodies to allow for license denial in the event of non-compliance with accessibility standards and guidelines.

The Canadian government has the opportunity to be true leaders in the realm of disability rights in our country! Although some provinces and territories may hesitate to embrace full human rights for all citizens, our federal government can and should stand firm on these. By taking the lead, they set an example for others to follow, including the provincial/territorial governments, businesses, and institutions. Canadians with disabilities recognize that it is a complicated process to implement accessibility legislation, but we strongly believe it should be strong legislation that sets a tone for the way forward.

The second issue that I think it is important to highlight is the development of a Domestic Monitoring mechanism of the CRPD. This is one of the reservations that Canada put on the CRPD when they ratified it and Canadians with disabilities would like to see this reservation lifted and the mechanism put in place. Article 33 reads:

 1. States Parties, in accordance with their system of organization, shall designate one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a coordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels.

2. States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention. When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights.

3. Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.

We believe that the government should mandate and allocate resources to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to conduct this monitoring. We also believe that Canada should allocate resources to civil society as mandated in the CRPD (Article 33.3). Without this monitoring, as we have seen, the CRPD fails to take root in our country in a way that will substantively change the lives of people with disabilities. We were pleased to hear that the Minister of Sport and Disability tabled legislation to ratify or sign the Optional Protocol in November, this is one step toward ensuring that our rights are addressed—the Optional Protocol gives Canadians the opportunity to take our concerns to an international level after exhausting all of our domestic legal mechanisms. However, in order to avoid having to do that, Canada should take the lead and enshrine domestic monitoring so that Canadians with disabilities are able to address discrimination at home. The recommendations on this concern, made by the UPR DPO Coalition are:

·      Canada must designate the Canadian Human Rights Commission as the independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention. Additional resources must accompany this designation in order to enable the Commission to adequately fulfill the role.

·      Canada must designate funding to support disability organizations to fulfill their role in planning, implementing and monitoring the Convention. Particular attention must be paid to ensure that children and youth with disabilities, indigenous persons with disabilities, Deaf persons and women with disabilities must also have sufficient resources and opportunities to participate in monitoring and implementation efforts.

·      Canada, through the existing federal-provincial-territorial mechanism and in consultation with the disability community, must develop and execute a shared plan to implement the Convention.

These are some big asks of the Canadian government, but we believe they are achievable with strong leadership. Our current government has said it wants to once more be a leader in human rights, addressing the concerns of the disabled community is one giant step in this direction. There is an opportunity at hand with the upcoming accessibility legislation and we challenge our government to step up and take the lead!

Happy International Human Rights Day!

Jewelles Smith, Chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities


International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and part of the 16 Days to End Violence Against Women Campaign in Canada. As the Chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), I have had an exciting and busy year.

Some of my activities included traveling to Geneva with a delegation of representatives from our nation to meet with the UN CRPD Committee members during Canada’s first Review since ratification of the CRPD Convention. This was very exciting and a powerful statement on what Canadians with disabilities need from our governments. From this, a list of Concluding Observations was released by the Committee, demanding that Canada do better under their obligations. I have also attended numerous Housing consultations across the country: one focused on homelessness, another focused on women, and then a more general one. My message at each of these roundtables and forums was simply this: Stop building inaccessible housing! I also attended a National Poverty Reduction Roundtable in my own community of Revelstoke, BC. Over the year, as part of the Alliance, CCD has hosted and organized many conversations to see what Canadians with disabilities want in a disability legislation, I was in attendance at our event that hosted representatives from around the world who have implemented legislation to learn from their experiences. As well, I attended several consultations that included Minister Qualtrough and her staff to discuss the legislation. I had the incredible privilege to be nominated and accepted as one the 150 Canadian women leaders and will be part of the Gender Equality Network over the next three years. We attended a three-day event in Toronto this autumn and will be meeting again in Halifax in April 2018.

Last week, I was in Ottawa to meet with friends, colleagues, government and others who are working to engage equality for people with disabilities in Canada. Last year, Minister Qualtrough and Minister Dion attended CCDs event in Ottawa to announce that Canada would be taking steps to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Optional Protocol, and I was happy to hear that legislation to move this forward was tabled by Minister Hehr on Thursday. This is a step forward to ensure that we have one more mechanism to ensure our human rights are respected.

While in Ottawa, I focused on CCD business and work while many of our executive members attended other conferences and events. We made time to have an in person executive meeting, especially important as we welcome two new executive members to our team. We also hosted a CRPD update meeting focused on addressing 12 areas of the UN CRPD Concluding Observations—during this meeting we came up with a number of action items to ensure that Canada continues to improve the lives of people with disabilities. We also brought together the executive and leads who have been working on the Strategic Plan and over a short afternoon, we pulled together a Vision, Mandate and Values statement that will guide our next steps. Thursday evening, many of us attended Minister Hehr’s Reception in honour of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. And my final event was to attend DAWN Canada’s #MorethanafootnoteWwD Campaign launch.

It is important to reflect on some of the issues that people with disabilities experience. Nearly 60% of complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission last year were related to disability, many related to employment.

Approximately 1 in 2 people with disabilities are unemployed and many who are employed are payed less than their peers. We also know that students with disabilities who graduate from universities and colleges are not equally represented in the workforce with their peers.

Women with disabilities experience a disproportionate rate of violence. For woman who are racialized, immigrant, refugee, or Indigenous, and disabled these numbers only increase. Further, some disabilities are known to put woman at higher risk, such as those living with a mental health diagnosis or a developmental disability. Too often, women with disabilities are a footnote to any gender based violence policies - see the campaign launched by DAWN Canada #MorethanafootnoteWWD for ways to press for change.

To close, it has been an exciting year and I have been proud to serve as your chair. I am excited to see what the next year brings and I encourage all of our council members and community partners, colleagues and friends to continue the work we have been doing and challenge the discrimination and stigma that we all face.

--Jewelles Smith


Geneva, April 4th, 2017

If you were observing the session yesterday either via the live feed or through twitter updates, you will see that the UN CRPD Committee put numerous very concerning questions to Canada. It was fascinating to observe first hand and to participate in.

Yesterday, April 3rd, was an exhilarating and very long day. We started the day by heading to the UN building here and Geneva, to arrive by 9 AM. In order to attend, we had to fill out accreditation forms ahead of time, present our passports, and go through security. Today will be much easier as we all now have our UN passes. We gathered in a private meeting room near where the CRPD sessions were being held that day, and completed the preparations that we had begun the day before.

The first thing we did was to go over the order of our presentations, and our timing overall with the presentations. This was an important and useful exercise as a few people were overtime and needed to condense their message. One of the ways to do this is to not repeat information that a colleague is presenting and to reinforce that many of us have similar concerns. The plan was that we would have one hour of private time with the committee to present some of our concerns regarding Canada’s answers to the lists of issues, and then to answer any questions that the committee had for us. One of the things that we created at this time was a group skype meeting, this was so that we could communicate with one another during the sessions. This is especially important so that we could coordinate responses to the committee’s questions.

First off, we were suddenly called in early to present. Several of my colleagues had taken a moment to go for coffee. Those of us who were in the private room pulled our laptops and notes together and scrambled to the room. I was to be the first speaker, providing an overall statement of Canadian DPO concerns, and then I introduced and passed the microphone to the next speaker. About half of us had an opportunity to provide a statement, and the other half were prepared to answer questions that we knew the committee would most likely ask of us.

This is how it went: I was not yet seated when my microphone was turned on and I began—I am very grateful that we had practiced, and one good thing about feeling rushed and out of breath was that I paced myself (due to a need for oxygen!), and I did not (according the observers in the room) sound as hustled as the reality was. I actually feel like I was less nervous than I might have been because I did not have the luxury of nerves. The rest of our delegation arrived and settled during my presentation portion (3 minutes—which is a lot at the UN!). Behind the scenes, once the committee began their questions, our IDA representative, Juan, was quietly captioning the questions of the committee and coaching us with two of my new mantras: DO NOT PANIC & DO NOT LIE! The second point is in regard to answering questions we do not know the answers to—the thing that is amazing about the UN Committee members is their understanding that we do not all hold the information and in fact, with regard to many things in Canada, we do not have the data that is required by the committee—this is not our fault. It is much better to use an anecdotal story to reinforce our points than to panic or make up anything. The committee trusts the information we share, and we do not want to ever put them in a position where they hold false information (alternative facts). The time goes very quickly when you are the persons answering the questions.

Once we got through this meeting, we had an opportunity to get something to eat (I did not, cafeteria food is not very allergy friendly, I have a better plan for today), and then we had a meeting set up with our Rapporteur, Theresia Degener, to go over our priorities and to address any new concerns that have arisen since the reporting period. Many of us used the opportunity between meetings, throughout the day, to speak with different committee members, and they also found ways to approach us to ask questions and to compare situations between our countries. A thing to remember is that these are people who are as passionate as we are about equality for our community. For a list of the committee members go to:

The session with Canada began in the afternoon and you can find more information online, and read the tweet updates by looking for the hashtags: #CRPD17, #CRPD2017 and #CanadaCRPD. The format is that the Rapporteur makes a presentation asking her questions and providing an overview, then the committee asks questions related to Articles in order, in groups of 10, Canada has a period of time to prepare, then responds, and then the committee asks the next set of questions. The rapporteur then closes for the day by thanking Canada and addressing gaps in responses. Then the session breaks overnight and Canada responds in the morning (10 AM in Geneva).

It has been an incredibly exciting event so far, and we will be heading back to the meetings shortly (you will be reading this a little later).

Today, you can watch live again at:

April 3nd, 2017—Geneva

It is my second day in Geneva and despite an additionally eventful, and twice delayed journey thus far, I arrived safe and in one piece.

Our first night, nine of us met for dinner and despite jetlag, we caught up and began preparations for the meeting we held Sunday, April 2nd. I met at noon with Steve Estey and Juan Perez Bello (International Disability Alliance, IDA) to prepare for our first delegation planning meeting (or as I like say, the meeting to plan for the planning meeting). We met for nearly two hours to discuss the steps we needed to work through with our delegation. Steve and I were both in Geneva last September, and the work we did at that time assisted our understanding of what we need to do to prepare for an intervention with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

At 2 pm, a total of 14 Canadian DPOs & NGOs met with four sign language interpreters, one IDA person, and twelve Japanese observers to discuss our plans for the next two days. We had the opportunity to meet with the CRPD Committee members both individually and as a whole in preparation of Canada’s report. Our intention is to bring attention to issues experienced by people with disabilities in Canada. We have a very passionate group and it took a very engaged four and a half hours to work out our strategy as to how we should proceed. All the work we have done over the past year and a bit leading up to this week has certainly helped our process, especially in identifying our priorities as a cross disability group that represents many interests in Canada.

Since we will have only one hour with the Committee tomorrow, Frank Folino voiced the obvious challenge for us: government representatives of Canada have a full six hours to engage in discussions with the CRPD Committee, while we have one hour and whatever bilateral meetings we can arrange with individual Committee members to address the very long list of concerns that DPOs and NGOs have.

I want to thank our guide and mentor through this process, Juan Perez Bello, as it is not easy to organize so many people. Although we have much that intersects and rises to the top as issues of concern for people with disabilities in Canada, we each have very particular points we have traveled far to bring to the attention of the CRPD Committee, and each one hopes to have an opportunity to express these issues—it is not an easy task to move us forward to consensus. I believe we can all agree that too often, people with disabilities do not have an opportunity to express their concerns in a way that will be heard, and this is an important opportunity to do this. I also would like to thank our delegation for their hard work today to address our approach.

Our meeting with the Committee tomorrow is a private meeting, and we cannot tweet from within, including direct quotes or content. This is an opportunity to have engaged conversation with committee members as they prepare to query Canada on their steps to address the CRPD until now, and their next steps.

You can read the many reports submitted by DPOs and NGOs , and you can read Canada’s reports at:

If you wish to watch the public sessions, you can follow this link—please note the time in Geneva of the sessions. You can also watch the videos posted later. For sign language options go to:

What we definitely agreed on in the room today was one of Canadian DPO strengths: a commitment to intersectionality. We understand in Canada that specific groups experience multiple barriers, and when we intersect these, the substantive discrimination is multiplied. We recognize that the experiences of disabled people who fall within one or more of the following groups experience discrimination and barriers that are often left unaddressed, underfunded or completely ignored: women, Indigenous peoples, Deaf people, immigrants and refugees, children, LGBTQ2I+, and people living with psychosocial diagnosis, and those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

We also want to recognize the themes and key issues that repeatedly come up within any organization. These include but are not limited to: poverty, housing, employment (and unemployment), health, education, inclusion, stigma, cultural and social exclusion, and access to justice. We also understand that all groups are particularly vulnerable during transition years—these include infancy to preschool/daycare, daycare to elementary school, elementary school to high school, high school to adulthood (which sometimes corresponds to higher education, employment, and community integration, but more often than not, the barriers occur with the change in financial and government support related to health, education, and support to families and caregivers).

I also recognize that there are groups that were unable to attend the sessions this round, including Francophone Canadians; we are grateful for their contributions to the shadow reports and their representation with our delegation last September. Please take the time to read these reports. We look for continued support from all Canadians and our government to address discrimination. We look to our government to listen to the concerns of Canadians with disabilities and address these in a systemic, cohesive, and organized manner.

Motherhood Dialogues: Visual Interrogations - Opening Reception Tomorrow Night!

Much like Ursula LeGuin’s She Un Names Them, this series of work seeks to redefine definitions and assumptions about disAbled mothering through a critical disability and feminist lens. In this series, I am contemplating visual concepts of disabled bodies, mothering responsibilities, disability as a structure, and the tensions that exist between the theories, as well as the exploration of my own identity and myths.

Building on theories from Paulo Freire, Michele Foucault, Adrienne Rich, and Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, I explore how disabled mothers experience surveillance and societal constructions of Motherhood.

Each painting in this series explores an aspect of disabled mothering from a theoretical lens. Some of these themes include, post-partum depression, PTSD, physical disabilities, and socially constructed disabilities. Painting is an integral practice as I navigate my PhD path.

I work in oil on canvas, and occasional in collage and with found objects.


Motherhood Dialogues: Visual Interrogations Exhibition From Oct 7-28

Opening Reception at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre
October 7th, 2016
6:00-9:00 PM
by artist, Jewelles Smith

Much like Ursula LeGuin’s She Un Names Them, this work seeks to redefine definitions and assumptions about disAbled mothering through a critical disability and feminist lens. In this series, I am contemplating visual concepts of disabled bodies, mothering responsibilities, disability as a structure, and the tensions that exist between the theories, as well as the exploration of my own identity and myths.

Building on theories from Paulo Freire, Michele Foucault, Adrienne Rich, and Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, I explore how disabled mothers experience surveillance and societal constructions of Motherhood.

My work is inspired by the artists Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Kathe Kolwitz, and Salvador Dali.

Each painting in this series explores an aspect of disabled mothering from a theoretical lens. Some of these themes include, post-partum depression, PTSD, physical disabilities, and socially constructed disabilities. Painting is an integral practice as I navigate my PhD path.

These images are part of my ongoing PhD work at UBC-Okanagan.

Motherhood Dialogues: Visual Interrogations

Opening Reception at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre
October 7th, 2016
6:00-9:00 PM
by artist, Jewelles Smith


Much like Ursula LeGuin’s She Un Names Them, this work seeks to redefine definitions and assumptions about disAbled mothering through a critical disability and feminist lens. In this series, I am contemplating visual concepts of disabled bodies, mothering responsibilities, disability as a structure, and the tensions that exist between the theories, as well as the exploration of my own identity and myths.

Building on theories from Paulo Freire, Michele Foucault, Adrienne Rich, and Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, I explore how disabled mothers experience surveillance and societal constructions of Motherhood.

My work is inspired by the artists Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Kathe Kolwitz, and Salvador Dali.

Each painting in this series explores an aspect of disabled mothering from a theoretical lens. Some of these themes include, post-partum depression, PTSD, physical disabilities, and socially constructed disabilities. Painting is an integral practice as I navigate my PhD path.

These images are part of my ongoing PhD work at UBC-Okanagan.


Thoughts on Last Day in Geneva

The last day in Geneva our delegation presented to the UN-CRPD Committee on issues in Canada. We also were able to answer many of the questions put forward by the committee regarding areas of concern in Canada. 

It is apparent that internationally, many countries are surprised that Canada, a leader in the development of the CRPD, has not signed the Optional Protocol which allows for monitoring of the country by international bodies. We are hopeful that under the new government, this will be ratified. As well, the committee expressed its concerns on the reservations Canada has over some of the articles, especially Article 12. This is one of the priority concerns of Canadians with Disabilities as well. We are hopeful that both concerns will be addressed by Canadian government and rectified. 

Having a governing mechanism in place and the optional protocol to rely on gives Canadians security in the event that we are once again in a position of having a government that does not support human rights as a right for all. As well, it offers individuals and organizations an additional place to address our concerns, much like the current Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry and the visit from the Special Rapporteur that brought national attention to this issue via protocol under CEDAW. Canadians with disabilities deserve these same protections and international options.

The Committee also expressed concern for many other issues. One that was particularly important is the discrepancies of definitions across the country. How disability is defined directly affects access to resources and services. Definitions by the UN include that disability is an evolving and changing concept. In Canada, the differences in definitions between provinces, territories and federal jurisdictions mean that so many Canadians fall through the cracks and cannot access many resources. 

Another question the committee had was regarding services and resources for children with autism. As many of you know, this is an issue that has affected my own immediate family. Because the transition between provincial and federal resources vary depending on age, and because many families cannot benefit from the disability tax credit (those with low incomes), or from the disability child tax credit (those with high incomes, or for children 18 and older), families are struggling to provide the best services possible for their children and youth. 

The committee had concerns about our Deaf community as well, especially considering that Canada does not recognize Deaf languages as official languages. This creates an immediate barrier to many Canadians for many essential services. During crisis, such as a fire, flood, or other, Deaf Canadians rely on sign interpretation for directions. Without official recognition, for example, during the Alberta fires last year, the official television and other notifications did not include sign or captioning to inform Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians what they needed to do, where they needed to go, and other important information. Committee members asked about specific issues for disabled women (some of this is related to General Comments #3 that was just released). There were many questions, and some we were unable to address in the time we had and will be following up in the coming weeks.

There is so much more that I want to write on this, but for now, I will end it off. It was an incredible experience and I learned how very important it is to build these relationships in order to have international support for human rights. In the coming weeks, I will try to write a bit more about the behind the scenes and what comes next for Canadian Civil Society DPOs.

Thanks for following the adventure!


The Long Road Home

I had a long travel home and I'm so tired and sore, but so happy to be in bed with Mister DaVinci by my side. Will blog more tomorrow.

Nearly the Last Day!

We were at Palais Wilson today and what a full day it was! We spent a lot of the day preparing for our presentation to the CRPD committee tomorrow but we also met with a number of Committee members over the day, either as a group or later at the reception celebrating the 10th anniversary of the drafting of the CRPD. 

For more information on current committee members, check out the membership description

We met with Theresia Wegener, Vice Chair of the Committee. Later we met with Mr. Rusksu from Nigeria, and Mr. Basharu from Nigeria. For me, what was interesting was to hear the questions that the committee members have for our country and the clear interest they have for the issues we are experiencing. Much like those of us in our delegation, each member has a number of issues that they are clearly passionate about. I look forward to our formal presentation tomorrow and the opportunity to answer the questions they bring to us. 

We also had a brief meeting with the brand new legal advisor to the Canadian Mission, Lorraine Anderson. Although short, I think our meeting was productive in that she clearly was interested in our comments and concerns. 

I feel the process we have been through in the past few days is a critical piece to the work of addressing clearly the situation in our country. Many countries do not have the opportunity to meet with the committee members this early in their process of drafting the questions to a state. I have come to realize how critical these face to face discussions are for delving into the complicated issues present in a country. I think it is incredibly helpful for us as a delegation to hone our issues down and through each discussion, become clearer about the themes that run through our communities and the top priorities for our country to address at this time. 

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day! 

Meetings and Fondue Success!

Today was an incredibly full day! We began the day with a meeting of our delegation over breakfast to try and nail down our top priorities and to discuss our notes from the  precious meeting with Victoria Lee from IDA and her advice related to the specific roles of those we were meeting today. I think it's a good thing having a solid group as we each had noted particular points from the meeting. 

We then headed out in a cab (all six of us) to the first meeting of the day with Fecundo Chavez, OHCHR human rights and disability advisor. Fecundo Chavez is a human rights lawyer and was keen to hear our key issues. he explained the structure of their office and the specific work that he is involved with related to report writing and the process of submitting concerns. 

Chavez is just wrapping up two reports: one related to Article 5 of the CRPD, and one specifically discussing Mental Health and Human Rights. I mentioned some of the issues we are experiencing with the BC Mental Health ActHe is interested in a charter challenge that CCD is attached to and I already followed up with him related to the specifics of that case.  

This was a very interesting meeting and I am still processing all that I learned as it was a very full meeting.

We next met with Carlos de la Torre, OHCHR desk officer on Canada. He was very generous with his time and we spent over two hours discussing many of the issues each of our organizations are involved with. Unfortunately, at this time, there is not an office in Canada, therefore, he does his work from Geneva. Mr. de la Torre is preparing a report on Canada and was quite interested to speak to us directly after reviewing all of our reports, and other reports he has been examining. It became really clear to me why these face to face meetings are so critical as often issues are not as easily understood from the reports, media, statistics, and such. 

Again, it was stressed the importance of identifying our key issues as a group. I think that the process of these meetings is actually helping us to filter what is critical to address and what is most likely to be something that the UN-CRPD Committee can actually address. One thing is very clear to our organizations is the difficulty to see federal legislation implemented into provinces and territories. I feel like there is so much to understand of the process and I will be digesting this for many weeks to come. I also think that our work this visit will truly inform our next steps after the List of Issues is formally filed. 

Our final meeting of the day was with Stefan Tromel from ILO. Stefan gave us an overview of his work and the role of the ILO related to disability issues as well as the ways in which he can and cannot support work in a developed country. The ILO is made up of a very strict structure: 50% government, 25% employer representatives and 25% trade unions. They have adopted over 200 Conventions with the disability one having been adopted in the 1980s (Convention 159). It was ground breaking at that time but in many ways it is out of date at this time. The structure of the ILO is different from the other UN committees and branches but I won't get into that here. 

I did bring up a couple of issues I see related to his file: specifically some of the work NEADS is doing related to unemployment rates of university graduates who are disabled, and the example of WorkBC related to supportive employment plans and the engagement of an individual's support network when developing a plan to move to employment. 

It is interesting to me how many pieces of my work (both paid, volunteer and school related) intersect and are important to my own knowledge base and expertise. 

We wrapped up our meetings and headed back to the hotel for a little rest and regroup after which we went on a food adventure that was facilitated by our incredible helpful and funny cab driver when we left the ILO. Several members of our delegation wanted to experience Fondue. Our cab driver suggested Café du Soleil as one of the best Fondue places. We made a reservation and headed out a little before 7 PM. When we left the hotel to wait for our cab, a double rainbow appeared outside for what several took to be a good sign for the evening, however, we had some issues with our cab not arriving. Eventually we made it to the restaurant. Now, let me tell you, I was feeling less than hopeful. I mean, it's bread they dip in the cheese and I did not think that I would be able to enjoy the experience with the others. I was wrong! 

The servers and kitchen were simply incredible and accommodated me not only with my own fondue and gluten free fresh baked bread, but with a lovely and mouth watering dark chocolate mousse. OMG!!! I am stuffed and so content. Enjoy the photos! We had a full and fulfilling day. I am tired but look forward to the next series of meetings tomorrow and the 10th anniversary reception in the evening!

Meetings and Unusual Art with the IDA Team

That moment when your group arrives and there is the potential for 3-4 languages and you feel safe to order food once again. That was the moment today. I am so excited to be addressing the issues that people living with disabilities are experiencing in Canada with this team. Although very jet-lagged, we hit the day running. Thank you to Bonnie, Audrey-Anne, Frank, Steve, and Liz! What a great day meeting with IDA (International Disability Alliance)--many people at the IDA were simply amazing and I don't want to post one or two names when I don't have all the others in front of me. Suffice to say, their work is indispensable in support disability rights organizations in doing the work we do. 

The IDA folks--great support in creating our timeline for the coming days and supporting us in the protocol and possibilities. Photos include photos of some unusual art at the IDA office and of Victoria Lee from IDA. and then our lovely delegation. 

If you are interested in the background of the work I am doing, click the CRPD link to read the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

So technically, we are at the 16th Session of the CRPD. there is much going on around us as the CRPD is celebrating the 10th year anniversary of the implementation of the CRPD. Canada ratified in March 11. 2010. Canada is currently conducting a review of implementation. We have many hopes that Canada will rescind some of their reservations. 

I am excited to review the General recommendation that have just been adopted: No. 3 Article 6: Women and Girls with Disabilities and recommendation No. 4 for Article 24: The Right to Inclusive Education

We, as a delegation, need to narrow our focus to the key issues over the next day or two before we address the UN-CRPD Committee. We also must prepare to discus in more depth some of the issues in side events. 

other links: Monitoring Tools for Inclusive Development: the Role of DPOs in Monitoring CRPD

I rarely write about accommodation in my blogs. I often allude. I was having a really difficult time here before my colleagues arrived. It is clear to me that the Swiss understand French and English but they regarded my English as an affront. I was actually very concerned about travel and food. the front desk was irritated with me for asking about food outside the hotel (all their food here comes from without and is mostly frozen and reheated). NOT safe for me and my allergies. but also, I am struggling with my pain management and travel, so traveling with vague directions is frightening. Amsterdam is truly a multi lingual society that is so inviting and helpful--I have at least 10 stories of folks that went out of their way to make sure I found the place I was going to.

SO, my colleagues arrived and we have French (albeit Quebec French) speakers--the mood changed in this place. and now there is more English from the staff than before.

I had an incident at the IDA meeting where out of nowhere I could not catch my breath. probably some waft of orange or peanut or perfume but I don't know. It was incredible to know that I was okay, whatever happened.

I am not going to stop doing what I love (which requires travel) but I am so grateful for a team when I have it around me.

The thing about allergies and travel is that the world needs to think more about this as we move forward. Thank you to my friends that helped me translate my allergies into the languages where I was traveling. You made it so much safer. xx


Friends, Herring, and Adventures in the Atlantic Ocean

I spent a lovely day in den Hague with Anila Noor, her friends and family. What lovely excursion from the solo exploring. 

I managed to put my feet in the Atlantic Ocean from the European side, tried the Dutch traditional herring (not to my taste, most likely much better with the fixings but I could not try those with my allergies in mind), and explored the city...Attached, please find a few photos of my explorations. I managed to go to the Mauritshuis Museum--simply incredible.

Today, I awoke at the early hour of 515 AM to take the tram, then train back to Amsterdam airport. boarding was easy and KLM treated me wonderfully. The arrival in Geneva was beautiful and I checked in without incident. However, I am having a challenge to find food here. And there is most definitely a language barrier. It is incredible to me how much I can understand when I catch bits of conversation, alas, I am not willing to attempt to burden the Swiss French speaking people with my West Coast Quebec inspired high school French. Language is something I have always lamented I did not get to practice more. but the truth is that I haven't spoke French or German since I was 19 years old. Netherlands was truly easy with nearly everyone speaking English and other languages. 

The rest of the Canadian delegation arrive tomorrow morning and then the UN meetings begin. I cannot wait to engage in the many conversations that are about to occur. 

More tomorrow!

Good Grief I'm Tired.

So today was an incredible day filled with art and adventure. And perhaps I could do better by this but I am going to attach a few photos and say:

I went to Rijks Museum.

It was all you can imagine and more. so I am attaching a couple photos and telling you: go to it!

I then went on one of the canal tours--be careful which one you choose. I was not happy with mine, but not prepared to dish on social media. 

Tomorrow is another adventure. 

Dear goddess, I am tired! 

Look at the photos. (there will be more, sorry)

I miss DaVinci and I shamelessly pet a bunch of stranger's dogs xx


Going to Van Gogh

My final night in Montreal was great! Once again the staff at the Hotel William Gray took exceptional care of me. Although they have only been open for six weeks, this hotel and attached restaurant--The Maggie Oaks enhanced my very busy few days in Montreal with their friendliness and accessible space. A big shout out to Simon Faucher "LeRoux" and Jessica at the Maggie Oaks for their friendly banter on my last night! I hung out there to do my prep before heading to Amsterdam. As well, the front staff of the hotel offered printing support and directions to places I was going througout my stay (their business centre is not yet open but they were able to make sure I got my work completed). Thank you Hotel William Gray!

I arrived in Amsterdam at the early hour of 715 AM local time (1015 PM my own time, if you're counting!). I was terribly jet lagged but had worked through the flight and was ready to start my new adventure. My first task was to get through customs and get my bag. I then went to the kiosk where I purchased my Holland Pass the gives access to museums and other adventures using either the attached tickets or discounts via the card. I had attempted to purchase online but encountered difficulty with the website not recognizing my email and not accepting my credit card. 

My next adventure was to check in at the New West Inn (the verdict is still out on this hotel, but the price was good). I took a taxi to the hotel and they let me store my bags until I could check in later in the day. 

Next adventure, you ask? Well what else do you do in Amsterdam when you are jet lagged, with no room and needing to attempt to get on local time somehow? Well, you head to Van Gogh Museum, of course!

As many of you know, Van Gogh is one of my three favourite dead artists and my lifelong obsession with his work is well documented and probably indicated in my own style of painting. What an experience to stand before so many of his works and see the brush strokes, the energy and mood in his pieces. And to see the progression of his work from his early days to later works. The museum also displays works by artists that were friends and inspiration to Vincent, as well as letters he wrote and the stories around all of the displays. I did not purchase the multi media bit of the package as I truly just wanted to encounter his work in my own space and thoughts, not those of historians. Currently there is a display related to his mental health state. I am not sure that I appreciated it as the museum  has set it up. I think with this particular display, the multimedia aspect is key. It was the last section that I visited and by then I just could not take in any more and the museum was much busier. 

I was close to tears with so many of the works and I know that this experience will affect me for many years. thank you Vincent Van Gogh for your passion and your legacy. I am sorry you could not hold on to this life. 

An aside on accessibility for the museum: the outside staff were quick to direct me away from the line and into the building, for which I am grateful. If you have a visible indicator of disability, they will absolutely accommodate. I saw many individuals with canes, walkers, wheelchairs and such exploring the museum at their own pace. As well, they have a piece in one of their gift shops that has multiple sensory appeal--you can touch the reproduction to feel how the build up of paint is experienced, and there are several other sensory displays (smell of paint, sounds, etc). I recall when that display was being advertised and wish I could have experienced it.

I then found food, drank more water and avoided my beloved coffee. I will not get into my earlier "adventure" on the tram--it was not good although I met a wonderful young woman who directed me to my transfer--she is doing work with revitalizing and building community through a student program. Very interesting and I would have loved to chat with her longer. By the end of Van Gogh and food, my body was unhappy with me, pain was at 8 and I asked a lovely door greeter at a restaurant to help me get a taxi. I will attempt the transit again today. I have a lot I am thinking about related to accessibly in this place with its old streets and such, but I was able to navigate in my own manner. 

Back at the hotel, I checked in, showered, unpacked and crashed. Woke up about at 1030 PM local time. I need more sleep but wanted to check in with the world and eat something!

Tomorrow, more adventures!