Down Syndrome Resource Foundation Advocates to Senate for Creation of Canada Disability Benefit

Burnaby, BC, Mar 24, 2023 — The Down Syndrome Resource Foundation (DSRF) appeared on Thursday as a witness before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, calling for the establishment of the Canada Disability Benefit.

DSRF was represented by Director of Communications Glen Hoos, who is also a husband and father to a wife and two children with disabilities. Hoos appeared alongside Michelle Hewitt, Co-Chair of the Social Policy Team with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

The Committee is currently studying Bill C-22, an Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada Disability Benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act. The bill received cross-party support and passed third reading in the House of Commons in February 2023. It is now before the senate and recently passed second reading.

Hoos advocated for the swift passage of the bill and implementation of the Canada Disability Benefit before the end of 2023. Below is a copy of his opening statement.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you this morning about this critical legislation for the creation of the Canada Disability Benefit.

I come here today wearing two hats: the first, as a representative of the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation, a Burnaby-based organization that provides programs, services, and support to hundreds of people with Down syndrome and their families; the second, as a husband and father whose wife and two children all have multiple permanent disabilities: physical disabilities in my wife’s case, and intellectual disabilities for both children.

I would like to commend the Senate for the speed with which you are working to create this first of its kind benefit, with the aim of lifting Canadians with disabilities out of poverty. The establishment of the Canada Disability Benefit will make Canada a world leader in promoting economic, social, and individual inclusion for all citizens, and these are values that we as an organization, and I as an individual, hold dear.

The case for a significant Canada Disability Benefit is clear. The Canadian poverty line for 2022 was estimated to be approximately $26,000.  Provincial disability assistance rates in all provinces fall well below this amount; in our home province of BC, persons with disabilities (PWD) received approximately $16,300 in 2022. This is one of the highest rates in Canada, but still falls nearly $10,000 short of the Canadian poverty line. This is to say nothing of the other flaws of provincial assistance, including the fact that most married people with disabilities are not even eligible to receive it.

The poverty line of $26,000 is itself an underestimate for persons with disabilities, who often face higher costs than people without disabilities, for essentials like medications, equipment, special diets, and other necessities.

Here in Metro Vancouver, where the average rent is over $2,000 per month, shelter alone can cost more than the provincial disability amount. BC recently announced an increase in the monthly shelter allowance for persons with a disability from $375 to $500, which remains self-evidently insufficient. Canadians with disabilities have suffered under poverty-level disability assistance amounts for many years, and the inflation of these past few years has created a true crisis situation.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government swiftly and admirably enacted the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, at a rate of $2,000 per month – an amount deemed to be the minimum necessary to maintain a basic standard of living. This did not go unnoticed by Canadians with disabilities, who – years later – are still expected to subsist on significantly less than this, even as the cost of living has dramatically increased.

As a result of low disability assistance rates, persons with disabilities disproportionately face:

  • Poverty and ongoing debt
  • Homelessness and tenuous shelter
  • Starvation and malnutrition
  • Inability to pay for much needed medications
  • Depression and mental health issues

Conversely, lifting persons with disabilities out of poverty would help these individuals:

  • Avoid homelessness and access safe shelter and housing
  • Prevent starvation and malnutrition
  • Afford life-saving medication and therapy
  • Buy suitable clothes for themselves and their children
  • Avoid being forced to choose between which bills to pay
  • Break out of poverty and debt cycles
  • Improve their mental health

The benefits extend far beyond persons with disabilities themselves. By giving these individuals the means to fully participate in the Canadian economy and society, everyone wins.

To ensure maximum inclusion, equality, economic security, and personal dignity for all Canadians with disabilities, I urge the swift development and implementation of the Canada Disability Benefit before the end of 2023.

I recognize that developing a highly complex benefit that meets the needs of a population with diverse needs takes time. Unfortunately, poverty does not wait – and persons with disabilities cannot wait any longer.

Thank you for recognizing the urgency of this crisis and working to make the Canada Disability Benefit a reality.

For more information, please contact:
Glen Hoos, DSRF Director of Communications |