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 Act. He 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!