Monday, 15 April 2013

What Does Justin Trudeau Have to Say About Disabled Canadians?

Photo courtesy
"I know that you're optimistic about us, but cautiously so. You are, after all, Canadians," said Justin Trudeau yesterday after he was elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Justin Trudeau, the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, took 80% of the votes at the Liberal Party Convention. The tally included votes from a newly-created class of Liberal supporters that could register and submit a weighted vote online; 180 000 people from across Canada participated.  The Liberal Leadership race has 6 candidates, and for Justin Trudeau to have taken 80% of the votes is no small victory.

I'm thrilled. I think he's great. Not just because I'm a great admirer of Pierre Trudeau, (if you're not familiar with Pierre Trudeau and what he did for Canada, here's some reading to get you started: and not just because I and about half the woman under 3o in Canada fell in love with Justin Trudeau after hearing the powerful eulogy that he gave at his father's funeral (I was 22 at the time, in rehabilitation in Ottawa, and didn't even know that Pierre Trudeau *had* children...)

I just really like his worldview and how it informs his politics. So much so that I was one of the 180,000 who registered as a Liberal supporter and then voted online to make Justin Trudeau leader of the  Liberal Party of Canada.

And any candidate that could convince me to affiliate myself with the Liberal Party of Canada in any way, shape or form would have to be pretty damn compelling, let me tell you.  I've felt like a Canadian without any appealing political options on the federal stage for about a decade now, voting for whomever seemed the least of all evils rather than a candidate in whom I had any real faith. Plenty of people say that Justin Trudeau got to the Liberal leadership on the strength of his father's name, and they're entitled to their opinion, but when you consider the landscape of federal Canadian politics of late and Trudeau's strengths, he's not needed the push from his father's name (in fact, in some areas of Canada it will likely only hold him back; far from everybody has fond memories of the senior Trudeau).

However, I *Am* Canadian

But I'm cautious, yeah. For the same reasons that I've become cautious of any politician since I had my stroke, no matter how much I happen to like them or their politics or how moving I find their speeches.

And Justin Trudeau certainly does speak well. In fact, his acceptance speech brought memories of Obama's past speeches:

  • Both men are exceptionally good orators

  • Both talked about the middle class and the importance of strengthening it

  • Both talked about minority groups and how they live on the fringes of society.

  • Both talked about the people of their respective countries being the driving force behind change.

  • Both talked about the importance of unity, within their respective political parties, and within society at large.

But nothing from either man about disabled people.

Granted, services and supports for disabled people explicitly, such as income support programs and funding programs like Ontario's Special Services at Home program for families with disabled children are administered provincially, and Departments of Education operate on the provincial level. Justin Trudeau is the Liberal leader at the federal level.  However, disabled people are also affected by programs that run at the federal level:

  • Canada Human Rights Commission and Canada Human Rights Tribunal

  • Canada Pension - In Ontario, income support for disabled people stops at 65 and Canada Pension takes over

  • Health Canada (through transfer payments to provinces...but this is a big one, affecting primary physician care, ER and hospital care, care in the home, and care in long-term care facilities)

  • Veterans Affairs

There are others that obviously affect disabled Canadians just by virtue of the fact that they're Canadian, but these four departments in particular require special awareness of the fundamental challenges that often come along with being disabled or with caring for a disabled person:

  • Poverty due to inability to work and extra expenses associated with equipment, special diet, adaptations to dwelling, specialized vehicles, and/or attendant care

  • Discrimination in the employment sector, medical community, and community at large

  • Health issues requiring specialized care either within the home or with frequent hospitalization 

  • Lack of funding and resources to allow caregivers to adequately care for themselves as well as the people they love

  • Increasing lack of options for people that require a high level of care as caregivers age and can no longer physically provide care.

As the population in general ages, these issues become more and more real across Canada and the world, and increasingly pressing. All levels of government need to be involved in generating viable solutions.

Justin Trudeau, I Want to Help

You brought me back to the Liberal party. I didn't think that could happen.

I'm cautious. Yes, I am. But if you start talking about these things - for me, for the people I support, for Paul Kaune out in Vancouver fighting for the right to manage his own care and for the freedom of all people with disabilities in Canada to do the same I will throw my full weight behind you.

I desperately want to believe that you're going to start to turn this around for us. Please don't let me down.

Justin Trudeau's acceptance speech:

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