December 3, 2014
Today, LEAF recognizes the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. LEAF is committed to using the legal system to work toward ensuring the protection of equality rights for persons with disabilities under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
LEAF decries all forms of discrimination against persons of disabilities, and seeks, through legal intervention, to protect and guarantee the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities.
LEAF is proud to have partnered with the DisAbled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN) to intervene in R. v. D.A.I.. In R. v. D.A.I., the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the importance of hearing the voices of women with mental disabilities in court, affirming that their testimony is essential to stopping sexual abuse, and ensuring that sexual offenders are brought to justice.
The Court ruled that persons with mental disabilities are not required to meet a more onerous test than other witnesses before they can take the stand. For instance, they should not be required to explain the meaning of being under oath. The Court also notes that the questioning of mentally disabled adults may require “accommodation” or individualized supports so that their evidence is best communicated in court.
This week, DAWN launched a campaign, We Can Tell and We Will Tell, to document disabled and Deaf women’s experiences of violence and abuse, as a way to give voice to a group of women who are often silenced by ableist beliefs and systems. We invite you to support this important campaign and to commit to raising awareness about the challenges and obstacles faced by persons with disabilities in all walks of life.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a time to make a renewed commitment to the ratification and full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. While Canada ratified the Convention in 2010, we have not yet signed the Optional Protocol that provides an individual complaint mechanism for the Convention. We call upon the federal government to take this important step to affirm the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada.
LEAF will continue to advocate for substantive equality in order to promote inclusion and accessibility of the justice system and beyond. We believe that accommodation and inclusion are necessary to enable women with disabilities to fully and equally participate in our society. Equality is for all of us!