The LCO looked to a broad range of sources to identify principles for the law and persons with disabilities. The description below outlines the key types of sources and the most foundational documents and processes. However, for reasons of length, not all sources considered can be identified or analyzed here.
A. Analyzing the Current Legal Framework
One cannot develop principles for an area of the law without first developing an understanding of that area – the issues that it does and does not address, the presuppositions on which it is based, and the approaches used to tackle issues. As a preliminary step therefore, the LCO undertook a review of all Ontario laws that directly reference persons with disabilities, as well as research on laws of general application that may affect persons with disabilities differently or disproportionately. This research formed one of the underpinnings of the LCO’s Preliminary Consultation Paper.
This review identified a number of overarching issues that principles should either take into account or directly address. The following are examples:
The lives of persons with disabilities are, for better and for worse, heavily regulated, so that the law is both broad and complex.
Due to a tendency to develop laws that are focused on addressing specific issues, the law is fragmented and may be limited in its ability to address persons with disabilities in a holistic fashion; this issue is highlighted by the research that the LCO has undertaken on transition points for persons with disabilities and the law.
There is a general tendency in designing laws to emphasize a functional model of disability.
The law generally relies on persons with disabilities to navigate complex systems and advocate for themselves.
Many laws that are crucial to the well-being of persons with disabilities lack monitoring and accountability mechanisms to ensure that they are operating effectively and as intended.
B. Public Consultations
As described in Chapter I of this Final Report, the LCO carried out public consultations at a number of stages in this project. These public consultations, particularly the extensive community consultations undertaken in the spring and summer of 2010, were crucial to the development of the principles and of the Framework in general. In particular, they assisted the LCO in the following ways:
understanding the lived experience of persons with disabilities with various laws, including identifying common challenges and positive practices within the law,
understanding how various groups of persons with disabilities may experience the law differently,
identifying the aspirations of persons with disabilities for their lives, and how the law may act as a barrier or a bridge to achieving these aspirations,
understanding the challenges that service providers and policy-makers face in designing and implementing policies and practices that are effective in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities within the constraints under which they operate, and,
identifying how ableism may operate in both the substance and the implementation of the law.
In short, the consultations informed all aspects of this project.
C. International Documents
Two of the most influential international documents relating to disability are the World Health Organization’s 2001 International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
World Health Organization ICF
The ICF is intended to provide a standard framework for the description of health and health-related states and to provide a tool for measuring function in society, regardless of the reason for a person’s impairments.
The ICF advances a “biopsychosocial” model of disability, attempting to synthesize the biomedical and social models of disability. The WHO describes the conceptual approach underlying the ICF as follows:
ICF puts the notions of “health” and “disability” in a new light. It acknowledges that every human being can experience a decrement in health and thereby experience some degree of disability. This is not something that only happens to a minority of humanity. The ICF thus ‘mainstreams’ the experience of disability and recognises it as a universal human experience. By shifting the focus from cause to impact it places all health conditions on an equal footing allowing them to be compared using a common metric – the ruler of health and disability. Furthermore ICF takes into account the social aspects of disability and does not see disability only as a ‘medical’ or ‘biological’ dysfunction. By including Contextual Factors, in which environmental factors are listed ICF allows us to record the impact of the environment on the person’s functioning.
The implications of this shift are explored in more depth in the LCO’s preliminary consultation paper for this project.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The international legal community has created numerous legal instruments that advance the rights of persons with disabilities. The most recent and encompassing is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Most significantly, the CRPD codified the commitment of the international community to recognize the rights of persons with disabilities. The CRPD was ratified by Canada on March 11, 2010. The purpose of the CRPD is “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”. It reflects social and human rights models of disability and therefore highlights the need for society to adapt to the specific circumstances and realities of persons with disabilities in order to ensure respect and inclusion. The CRPD does not provide for “new” rights for persons with disabilities, since they are entitled to all the rights accruing to persons under other UN conventions, but recognizes that “without a legally binding treaty that spelled out their rights, persons with disabilities faced being legally ‘invisible’ in their societies and even in the international arena”.
The CRPD details the rights that all persons with disabilities enjoy and outlines the obligations of States Parties to protect those rights. These specific rights include, among others, the right to life, liberty and security of the person; equal recognition before the law and legal capacity; freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse; respect for mental and physical integrity; live in the community; privacy; expression of opinion; education, health and work; an adequate standard of living; and participate in political, public and cultural life. The State’s obligations are to “respect, protect and fulfill” the rights under the CRPD, concepts which are further described in Chapter III of the Final Report.
The CRPD also sets out a number of general principles:
respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons,
full and effective participation and inclusion in society,
respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity,
equality of opportunity,
equality between men and women,
respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
Article 33 of the CRPD provides for “national implementation and monitoring”. Furthermore, States Parties are to develop a framework (or strengthen existing ones) “to promote, protect and monitor implementation” of the CRPD that takes into account existing human rights regimes. Monitoring of the CRPD is to involve civil society organizations, especially persons with disabilities.
D. Domestic Laws
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Human Rights Law
As was briefly noted in Chapter II, any discussion of Canadian law and persons with disabilities must begin with a consideration of the rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and their interpretation in the caselaw over the past 30 years. The Charter applies to provincial, federal, territorial and municipal governments and to organizations with a nexus with government, such as bodies that are performing delegated functions (for example, hospitals). It applies to legislation, regulations, municipal by-laws, government action and the executive branch. It does not apply to the private sector; however, the private sector may be influenced by the Charter when its actions are subject to legislation that is challenged under the Charter. The Charter rights most important to the identification of principles for the law as it affects older adults are those set out in sections 7 and 15.
Section 15(1) of the Charter provides for equality before and under the law, and for equal protection of the law without discrimination on the basis of a number of enumerated grounds, including physical and mental disability, age, sex, race, colour, national and ethnic origin, and religion. Section 15(2) of the Charter shields laws, programs and activities that aim to ameliorate the conditions of disadvantaged groups or individuals, including those experiencing disadvantage due to their disability, from succ