ActivismAdvocacyDisabilityDisability Rights

Throne Speech 2020 – Big Aspirations for Supporting Disabled People While Excluding the Voices of those in Long Term Care

The September Throne Speech was touted as being big on caring for Canadians as we “build back better” from the pandemic. While there are definitely glimmers of hope for disabled people in the speech, we will wait to see proof of these words in action, particularly for those disabled Canadians that live in long term care.


As we all know, the pandemic has made the cracks in our social system bust right open for everyone to see. It could be said that the government acted quickly, with a range of programs for those out of work, to support businesses, and vulnerable populations like seniors. Disabled people, however, felt very much forgotten as there appeared to be no supports coming for them. Finally, a one-time payment of $600 for those disabled people that meet the criteria passed the House of Commons on July 21st. Over two months later, we still have no news of when we will receive the funds. So, colour me sceptical about these glimmers in the Throne Speech – and particularly how fast disabled Canadians might actually see a Canadian Disability Benefit in their pockets. [Edit – since I wrote this article, it has been announced that we will finally receive payments on October 30th].


However, it’s the section of the speech immediately before disability that concerns me the most – long term care. The Government rightly recognizes the tragedy of the lives lost in long term care facilities during the pandemic, but then goes on to define issues relating to long term care as solely a seniors issue. This is not the case. In 2018, for example, of the 35,000 people in long term care facilities in BC, 1865 were aged between 19 and 65. You might think that the small number of younger people means that in fact, yes, this is a seniors issue, but it is precisely this small number that creates the problem. These non-senior disabled people are simply forgotten – tacked on to a long term care system designed for people with the average age of 85, typically with dementia. It’s not just that the care is neglectful, like that highlighted by the actions of some facilities during the first stages of the pandemic, it’s simply the wrong care. It’s like going to the dentist to get a broken arm fixed. And, for someone in their 30s, this could mean living in these facilities for 50 years or more.


This care isn’t free, of course. In BC, roughly 80% of someone’s income is taken to pay for their stay in the long term care facility. If this Canadian Disability Benefit does make it into law, for these most vulnerable disabled people, we can assume roughly 80% of it will go to pay for this care that fails to meet their needs. Those glimmers of hope just got even smaller for these disabled Canadians.


There is a better way forward – one where we recognize everyone in our society, no matter how small of a minority they are in. We must see our long term care facilities as more than exclusively seniors homes, and we must listen to all voices of those with the lived experience of our care system, so that we can build back better for everyone.


Apologies – not the most timely response, but that’s how it rolls living with a chronic illness.


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