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Acton fights for disabled at UN

By July 20, 2022July 21st, 2022No Comments
Robin Acton, right, president of Inclusion Canada, delivered her remarks about persons with intellectual and physical disabilities to delegates at the UN General Assembly in June. On her left is the organization’s executive vice-president, Krista Carr. Supplied Photo

 

COVID-19 proved to be the worst of times for persons with disabilities in Canada, and the fallout continues.

Inclusion Canada president, Robin Acton from Lloydminster, got a chance to address the UN General Assembly in New York City on the ongoing plight of persons with disabilities and their families in Canada in June.

Acton was invited to the UN’s 15th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with a pandemic theme.

A total of 181 countries, including Canada, have ratified the Convention that Acton says is basically a rights-based document with clauses relating to education and housing etc.

“I feel really privileged and fortunate to be representing Inclusion Canada at the UN,” said Acton, who talked about the trip at the Rotary Club of Lloydminster lunch on Monday.

“Getting to address the General Assembly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Acton was part of a delegation from Canada to support the election of a Canadian to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Inclusion Canada, which advocates for persons with intellectual disabilities, also hosted a virtual side session at the Convention to draw attention to medically-assisted dying in Canada—and to forewarn the international community.

“We had one of the highest attended sessions ever at the conference of states parties for the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities,” said Acton.

During the pandemic, Canada legalized a pathway to euthanasia for people who are not terminally ill, provided they have a disability or disabling medical condition.

In 2023, people with a mental illness or psychiatric disability will also be eligible for euthanasia.

Inclusion Canada notes, in practice, people with disabilities are dying because they live in poverty, can’t secure affordable adequate housing, and are avoiding institutionalization.

“These causes of suffering can be alleviated, yet the legislation only requires that people be informed about what could alleviate their suffering,” said Acton.

“It doesn’t compel anybody to provide the resources to alleviate that suffering.”

Disability advocates and disabled peoples organizations are working in a coalition to challenge the law, arguing that it is the antithesis of disability inclusion and participation.

Acton says the government should be providing assisted living.

“Allowing medical assistance in dying to people who are not otherwise dying, but have a disability or a disabling medical condition, amounts to a state-assisted death,” said Acton.

“Whereas, what the disability community has been advocating for is supports to live a good life.”

Acton also made a three-minute presentation to the General Assembly from the perspective of a non-government organization relative to the Convention.

Each government also makes a presentation.

Acton says many people with disabilities became even more isolated during the pandemic and many had underlying health conditions that made them at risk for COVID.

“We also know that poverty exacerbated the impact of COVID on people and many people with disabilities lack basic income,” she said.      

Acton took a personal approach in her speech, advocating for families, telling the world her daughter Erin has down’s syndrome and her husband John has a physical disability.   

“Families play a vitally important role in building disability-inclusive and participatory societies. And during this COVID-19 pandemic, like people with intellectual disabilities and their families worldwide, we have been put to the test,” said Acton at the UN.

“People with intellectual disabilities and other disabilities were triaged out of care, not prioritized for ventilators or other life-saving measures. This is NOT a right to life on an equal basis with others.”

She went on to state this is NOT the highest attainable standard of healthcare. 

“Those living in congregate settings were locked in their rooms in institutions. They got sick and died in disproportionate numbers,” she said.

Acton’s full speech can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=20E2PMt0-78.