Canada’s unions are urging MPs from all parties to come together in support of Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefits Bill. The bill would raise the floor on federal disability income support with a guaranteed monthly benefit and help lift people in Canada with disabilities—including mental illness—out of poverty.
This week marks Mental Illness Awareness Week, which is aimed at raising awareness and increasing action in support of Canadians living with mental illness. More than two million Canadians have a mental health related disability and one in three Canadians will be impacted by mental illness in their lifetime.
According to a recent poll, 40 percent of Canadians reported feeling like they were at a mental health breaking point, while almost 60 percent said someone in their immediate circle of close friends, co-workers and family members has suffered a mental health crisis.
“People living with a mental illness must have access to social safety nets that will help them live in dignity and pursue decent work. Unions welcome the new disability benefits bill because we believe it is part of the solution to pull back the barriers that work against people with mental illness in our society,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
People with mental illness are disproportionately unemployed when compared to their counterparts in the labour market, and consequently, they are more susceptible to living below the poverty line. Even when they are employed, they are more likely to receive wages that are either at or below minimum wage. The Mental Health Commission of Canada found that up to 90 percent of people living with a serious mental illness are unemployed.
The Commission also found that a rising number of people with mental illness are transitioning to various federal, provincial, territorial and private income supports, a situation that has only gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic began. What’s worse: these income support programs have already been proven to provide insufficient and inconsistent financial resources that often deepen the economic disparities faced by people with disabilities in Canada compared to the general population.
“Unions across Canada will stand in solidarity with our coalition partners in the disability rights and disability justice movements demanding that this government live up to its promise to build a Canada without barriers. Fast tracking the disability benefits bill is a critical part of fulfilling that promise,” said Lily Chang, CLC Secretary-Treasurer. “Reducing disability poverty through the adoption of Bill C-22 is the right thing to do.”
The Canada Disability Benefit bill was first introduced in the throne speech of fall 2020. It was then reaffirmed in the 2021 mandate letter for Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough. Learn more about advocacy efforts to fast track the benefits bill from the National Disability Without Poverty Network.