International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Honourable senators, it’s nice to see that one of the new senators spoke about disability. It’s nice to have a new ally in Senator Renée Dupuis. To have another ally in the Senate dealing with human rights is extremely important.

Honourable senators, since 1992, December 3 has been recognized by the United Nations as International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and this year coincides with the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This was one of the most quickly and widely ratified treaties put forth by the UN to date. There has been a lot of progress in 10 years, but there is much more work to do.

I commend the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities for her announcement today — I was there this morning — that the Government of Canada has begun a consultation process on Canada’s commitment to the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I am also encouraged to know that the drafting of legislation towards an accessible Canada has already started and is expected next year. I hope we can continue to build on these initiatives. This is extremely exciting. This is not just about physical disabilities; this is intellectual disabilities. In a forum I was at two weeks ago, there were self-advocates coming from across the country who are putting this new Accessible Canada legislation together with the minister and others.

Colleagues, today is about inclusion, making sure all Canadians can participate in our workplaces and in our communities. I believe each of us has a role in creating an accessible future for everyone. Whether as policy-makers, community leaders, advocates or neighbours, there is a part for all of us to play.

This begins with the way we look at the issue. Instead of seeing the disability, we need to create accessibility, with our attitudes and our decisions for all disabilities, physical and intellectual disabilities.

Senator Petitclerc is a strong advocate for accessibility issues, and I’m honoured to work with her. I know she wants to say more about this in the chamber next week. This is so important.

I would like to invite all of you — we can pack the room — to room 160-S downstairs to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at a reception hosted by the minister. That’s this evening in room 160-S at five o’clock.