DSRF Submits Brief in Support of Canada Disability Benefit

On November 7, 2022, the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation submitted the following brief to HUMA, the Government of Canada’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, outlining our recommendations with respect to Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit.

On behalf of the hundreds of families who receive programs, services, and support from the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation (DSRF), we are pleased to submit this brief with our recommendations for Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit.

First, we commend the government for taking steps 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 at DSRF hold dear.

The case for a significant Canada Disability Benefit is clear. The Canadian poverty line for 2022 is estimated to be approximately $26,000.[1] Provincial disability assistance rates in all provinces fall well below this amount; in our home province of BC, persons with disabilities (PWD) will receive 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 (and it should also be noted that our Metro Vancouver region has the highest cost of living in Canada).

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 allocates just $375 per month for shelter for persons with disability, which is obviously insufficient.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government swiftly enacted the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), 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 drastically increased.

As a result of low disability assistance rates, persons with disabilities disproportionately face:[2]

  • 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:[3]

  • 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.

For all these reasons, we urge the swift development and implementation of the Canada Disability Benefit. Canadians with disabilities have suffered under poverty-level disability assistance amounts for many years, and the inflation of 2022 has created a true crisis situation.

We 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. Therefore, first among our recommendations below is immediate emergency assistance, similar to CERB, to bridge the gap between now and when the Canada Disability Benefit comes into full effect.

Thank you for considering our recommendations.


To ensure maximum inclusion, equality, economic security, and personal dignity for all Canadians with disabilities, and to lift all persons with disabilities out of poverty, we recommend the following:

  1. Immediately institute emergency funding for persons with disabilities at a minimum amount of $1,000 (non-taxable) per person, per month, to remain in effect until the Canada Disability Benefit is fully implemented.
  • The Canada Disability Benefit should provide a monthly non-taxable payment to persons with disabilities at an amount that, when combined with provincial disability assistance, lifts all individuals with disabilities above the poverty line. In BC, we currently estimate this amount to be approximately $1,000 per month, though the amount may vary by province due to differences in provincial disability assistance amounts and local cost of living.
  • The Canada Disability Benefit should function as guaranteed income for individuals with disabilities. It must not create a disincentive to work, by being subject to means testing.
  • The Canada Disability Benefit should be indexed to inflation, rising annually with the cost of living.
  • The Canada Disability Benefit should not impact eligibility for Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) grants and bonds.
  • Negotiations with the provinces are necessary to ensure no clawing back of provincial benefits. Receipt of the Canada Disability Benefit must not result in a reduction in provincial assistance. Further, the Government of Canada should urge provinces to index provincial disability assistance rates to inflation, so persons with disabilities do not continually fall further behind as the cost of living increases.
  • Individuals who have been approved for the Disability Tax Credit should automatically qualify for the Canada Disability Benefit, with no further application needed. Those with permanent disabilities, such as Down syndrome, should be qualified for life. Further, the application and approval process for the DTC/CDB should be reviewed to ensure that individuals with legitimate disabilities are not being denied.

About the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation

The Down Syndrome Resource Foundation (DSRF), located in Burnaby, BC, has been serving the Down syndrome community of the Metro Vancouver region of BC and beyond since 1995.

Our mission is to support people living with Down syndrome and their families with individualized and leading-edge educational programs, health services, information resources, and rich social connections so each person can flourish in their own right.

Our vision is a Canada that values and empowers people with Down syndrome, fostering economic, social, and individual inclusion throughout their lives.

DSRF offers a wide variety of programs, services, and resources for individuals with Down syndrome of all ages and their families. DSRF is a one-stop-shop for Down syndrome, or as one parent put it, “a boutique of supporting our son for success.”

DSRF provides:

  • Group programs for youth and adults with Down syndrome
  • One to one services for individuals and families at all stages of life
  • Down syndrome resources to equip parents, caregivers, and professionals, including 3.21: Canada’s Down Syndrome Magazine (co-published with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society) and The LowDOWN: A Down Syndrome Podcast

Learn more at DSRF.org.

[1] All numbers courtesy of BC Disability. https://www.bcdisability.com/pwd

[2] BC Disability. https://www.bcdisability.com/pwd

[3] BC Disability. https://www.bcdisability.com/pwd