Oct 17, 2023

What could the Canada Disability Benefit mean for poverty and food insecurity?

On October 11, 2023, Daily Bread Food Bank hosted the panel discussion: “What could the Canada Disability Benefit mean for poverty & food insecurity?” with panelists from the new season of the 2030 Project Podcast.  

The event focused on the forthcoming Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), an income support that would provide financial security, and help lift working-age people with disabilities, out of poverty. Close to half of food bank clients in Toronto have a disability. The CDB provides an opportunity to reduce, and even eliminate, poverty and food insecurity among Canadians with disabilities.  

The event attracted members of the public, policy experts, disability advocates, elected politicians, government staff, researchers and academics, students, and non-profit representatives from across the city. Our speakers included: 

  • Amanda MacKenzie, National Director of Public Affairs, March of Dimes Canada (Moderator) 
  • Margaret Eaton, National CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association 
  • Rabia Khedr, National Director, Disability Without Poverty 
  • Jonathan Lai, Executive Director, Autism Alliance of Canada 
  • Trevor Manson, Secretary Co-Chair, ODSP Action Coalition 

The roundtable discussion explored the different aspects of the CDB, such as accessibility, eligibility, adequacy, and important questions on how the CDB came into the picture.  Why does it matter to Canadians? What should it look like? What can we do?

Here are the top five insights we heard

Takeaway #1: People with disabilities face higher rates of poverty and food insecurity due to ableism and discrimination when seeking housing and employment. Additionally, people with disabilities receive inadequate social assistance rates – thus aggravating the conditions that trap them in poverty – as they are forced to rely on charity to survive. 

The CDB should matter to all Canadians because, not only will it help lift people with disabilities out of poverty by supplementing their incomes, but it will reduce the strain on food banks, healthcare, and housing providers. 

Takeaway #2: While panelists stressed the need to grow the grassroots movement, activate the non-profit sector, and engage with government officials to emphasize the reality of living in poverty with a disability; they spoke in solidarity with the principle of ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ and reaffirmed the importance of co-design and the perspectives of lived experiences. 

The best approach is to keep Canadians with disabilities at the frontline. They have lived the reality, and they know best how the Canada Disability Benefit should work for them.  

Takeaway #3: Proxy eligibility for those already on disability support programs, such as the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Canada Pension Plan–Disability (CPP-D), should be prioritized so that payments can start flowing immediately. People with disabilities can’t afford to wait any longer. 

People with disabilities that are already receiving disability benefits should not have to “prove their disability” all over again and go through onerous and complex application processes to receive the CDB.  

Takeaway #4: Given that the definition of disability is ambiguous, depending on who is asked, the definition of “disability” used to determine criteria for the CDB needs to account for episodic and chronic disabilities – including mental health. 

Mental health should also be included in these definitions, and efforts should be made to ensure that consultations are carried out through meaningful formats with people with disabilities to determine this definition – and it should not be decided solely by the government.   

Takeaway #5: The CDB needs to be budgeted for in the upcoming 2024 federal budget, and panelists stressed the importance of flooding the office of the Federal Minister of Finance with #BudgetTheBenefit postcards – underlining the power of influencing the government if the public acts and prioritizes this issue.  

We can all tell our story by writing to the Minister and signing a digital postcard. It’s time to spread the word to every friend, family member, and colleague to take action to ensure the rapid implementation of a CDB that is adequate and accessible. 

You can watch the full recording of the discussion. 

You can listen to the 2030 Project Podcast

Take Action by sending a digital postcard to the Minister of Finance and your local MP asking them to #BudgetTheBenefit. 

Daily Bread collaborates with all to eliminate food insecurity and advocate for solutions to end poverty as we continue to push for the rapid implementation of an adequate, accessible and equitable Canada Disability Benefit.

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