Canada’s performative “disability lens” pandemic relief

tall brown and white concrete building with green metal pointed roof and Canada flag flown from the top. The Peace Tower in Ottawa, Canada

The disability community had been anxiously waiting for a “big announcement” made by Justin Trudeau on June 5th. When we heard it, the all too familiar collective frustration and sadness overwhelmed us. Check out the replies to Minister Carla Qualtrough’s announcement tweet to see what I mean.👇

Needless to say, disabled people are upset. The big announcement was that anyone who currently has a Disability Tax Credit certificate is eligible for a one time payment of (up to) $600. What they failed to mention is that only around 1.3 million disabled Canadians have access to the credit. It is notoriously exclusionary and difficult to obtain. 

There are currently around 6.2 million disabled Canadians. This means that roughly 21% of those people will receive this one time payment. The federal government knew full well what they were doing here. How can they claim they are forming and implementing policy through a “disability lens“?

This type of performative, tokenistic, face saving measure was built up as something that we would get excited about. You could be outside of the disability community entirely and still immediately understand that this is an embarrassing attempt. It is almost like they aren’t even trying, but worse, because if this is them trying?

…There is a lot of work to do.

They waited months into the pandemic to announce any kind of help for the community, just to be able to announce it during “National AccessAbility Week”. The NAAW is already a heated issue within the community as disabled people feel it is performative and doesn’t represent us. How can we celebrate accessibility in Canada if there isn’t any? How can a federal government claim a week to celebrate accessibility when their policy is wildly out of date and lacking? 

They either waited while (the majority of) disabled people continued to live in poverty, or they only decided to do something because it was NAAW and they kind of had to. This something they chose is far less than the something they chose for the abled working population, a total of up to $600 as compared to the $8,000 for CERB recipients. Either way, the message received is that disabled lives are not as valued as others. We heard it loud and clear with this announcement. 

Carla Qualtrough, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion, continues to state that they have “always had a disability lens” in their pandemic decision making.

How is this, in any way, proof of that promise? 

Let me rephrase that.

How is this, in any way, ethical?

2 Comments on "Canada’s performative “disability lens” pandemic relief"

  1. BEST commentary yet on Trudeau’s provocative claim to help disabled people with his exclusionary and restrictive one-time $600 payment. For one fleeting moment I felt validated… only to be crushed down even further between the cracks. Thanks for putting into words what most of us (PWD) are trying to say, Kate. Well done!


  2. With market rents at an all time, and the price of food skyrocketing, This makes no sense. I, for one have to pay $900.00 per month. I thank God every month for food banks, or I would surely starve to death. How is it, thousands got $2000.00 in SERB, and ODSP received $100.00. Who will determine who qualifies for the coming $600.00?


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