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March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada call on federal government to build a barrier-free Canada D

31 May 2023

OTTAWA, ON, May 31, 2023 /CNW/ - March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada call on the Government of Canada to right a history of wrongs that has left people with disabilities in Canada living in poverty. The move comes as Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act, has been returned to the House of Commons by the Senate for final parliamentary review. With the end of the legislative session on June 23, 2023, fast approaching, both organizations are concerned another parliamentary session will end without enshrining the new Canada Disability Benefit into law, further delaying financial relief for people with disabilities living in poverty across Canada.

"We know that a better future is not only possible, but essential for people with disabilities. The new Canada Disability Benefit has the potential to lift people with disabilities out of poverty—if it's done right," said Leonard Baker, President and CEO, March of Dimes Canada. "The government must fulfill its promise to listen and learn from the voices of the community in the design and implementation of the benefit. They must take action on these recommendations to build the CDB to a world-class standard of accessibility, leaving no-one behind."

The two leading national charities have joined with people with disabilities and Canadian disability organizations to co-create principles and recommendations to ensure the design and implementation of the new Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) is as barrier-free as possible and optimizes take-up by all eligible people with disabilities. The principles and recommendations are captured in a new report, A Benefit without Barriers, aimed at ensuring the CDB is inclusively designed, supportively administered, and fully accessible to all eligible applicants and recipients.

The report, which was delivered to the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion this morning, outlines the often-traumatizing barriers that people with disabilities experience in their attempts to access government benefits. These range from confounding bureaucratic processes to the loss of their dignity and agency. The co-created recommendations respond directly to these lived experiences, identifying specific opportunities for the federal government to do better for a community that has been under-served, disempowered, and harmed by government systems and processes for generations.

"The federal government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a fundamental new pillar into Canada's income security system, but also to set a new standard for accessibility and service in the design and delivery of critically needed income benefits," said Elizabeth Mulholland, CEO of Prosper Canada. "When accessing a benefit is the difference between meeting your basic needs or not, then we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. The new Canada Disability Benefit needs to be accessible to everyone entitled to receive it."

Building on their report, March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada are committed to working collaboratively with the federal government to eliminate barriers, maximize take-up of the new benefit, and help realize its extraordinary potential to finally deliver real income security for low-income people with disabilities. Both organizations call on Minister Qualtrough to follow through on her commitment to co-creation, working with the community to ensure the new benefit is barrier-free and fully accessible. 

To read the report, A Benefit without Barriers: Co-Creating Principles and Recommendations for Canada Disability Benefit Administration, visit

People with disabilities in Canada, their families, caregivers, friends, and allies can get involved in informing and shaping the CDB regulations at

Disability in Canada, by the numbers:

  • People with disabilities in Canada are twice as likely to live in poverty than those without disabilities, according to Statistics Canada.
  • 23% of working-age Canadians with severe disabilities live below Canada's official poverty line, according to Statistics Canada.
  • Only 59% of working-age Canadians with disabilities are employed, compared to 80% of the general population.
  • 50% of those who are food insecure in Canada are people with disabilities, according to the Maple Leaf Centre for Food Security.


"Close to half of the food bank clients in Toronto are people living with a disability. They require food charity as a direct result of grossly inadequate income supports. The Canada Disability Benefit is a historic opportunity to rectify this injustice. It is critical that the benefit be co-designed with the disability community to ensure it is adequate, accessible, dignified, and impactful." 
      – Neil Hetherington, CEO of Daily Bread Food Bank

"Autism Alliance of Canada is proud to support the principles of inclusive policy design in this report as we, together, as the disability community, help support and guide the development and implementation of the Canada Disability Benefit. The challenges to make the CDB fit for purpose within the current landscape are real, but the willingness to address those for the benefit of all persons with disabilities is stronger." 
     – Jonathan Lai, Executive Director, Autism Alliance of Canada

"March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada's report on the Canada Disability Benefit is a vital support for eradicating systemic poverty experienced by people living with disabilities. Through direct consultation with the disability community, their report's recommendations are clear and proactive: outlining the administrative steps required for building a fully accessible CDB and ensuring it's successfully implemented. It is a significant contribution toward affecting necessary and lasting change." 
     – Franceska Grantzidis, Interim Executive Director, Plan Institute

"Disability Without Poverty appreciates the collaboration of March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada in producing this report. We certainly share the common principles put forward here. We hope that a co-creation process is adopted in the spirit of "nothing without us" that centers lived experience from the onset of design to delivery of the Canada Disability Benefit." 
    – Rabia Khedr and Michelle Hewitt, National Co-Chairs, Disability Without Poverty

"Holland Bloorview celebrates the Benefits without Barriers report that provides a blueprint for the accessible implementation of the new Canada Disability Benefit (CDB). This report also champions the design of barrier-free and inclusive processes to support Canadians with disabilities in accessing government programs, services and benefits in a way that fosters dignity and minimizes burden. Holland Bloorview feels strongly that you can't care for a child's health without thinking about their future – and the recommendations in this report will help pave the way for many of the children and youth with disabilities we care for at the hospital when it comes to accessing the support they deserve." 
     – Julia Hanigsberg, President & CEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

"As a participating organization, Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) is pleased to support the Benefits without Barriers report by March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada. We know that of those individuals experiencing food insecurity that 50% identify as having a disability. The Canada Disability Benefit will be a game-changer – but only if it's designed according to the principles and recommendations contained in this foundational report. We look forward to seeing these principles and recommendations put into action." 
     – Sherri Hanley, Director, Policy & Community Action, Community Food Centres Canada

"It is unacceptable that people living with disabilities are at risk of falling into poverty and food insecurity. The bottom line is that no one with a disability should have to worry about whether they can afford to feed themselves and their families. It is crucial that the CDB is designed with careful input from people with disabilities and with groups like March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada, who can help ensure the CDB is sufficient, accessible, and dignified." 
     – Sarah Stern, Executive Director, Maple Leaf Centre for Food Insecurity

"L'Arche Canada is proud to have partnered with March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada in the co-creation of the Benefit without Barriers report and strongly support the guiding principles and actionable recommendations. We applaud the focused, strategic, inclusive and impactful co-design session that was community development at its very best. The resulting contents of this report can only serve to propel forward our work on the inclusive design of a Canada Disability Benefit centered on the needs and experiences of people with disabilities across Canada." 
     – Lori Vaanholt, National Vice Executive Director – Innovation and Impact, L'Arche Canada

"The Rick Hansen Foundation supports the Benefit without Barriers report written by March of Dimes Canada and Prosper Canada. It is critical that people with disabilities are directly involved in the co-creation of all stages of the development of the proposed Canada Disability Benefit (CDB). A true partnership between people with disabilities, government, and the stakeholder community is needed as we work toward the implementation of the CDB. The Rick Hansen Foundation is happy to contribute our expertise and connections to help ensure this happens." 
     – Doramy Ehling, CEO, Rick Hansen Foundation

About March of Dimes Canada: March of Dimes Canada is a leading national charity committed to championing equity, empowering ability, and creating real change that will help the more than 6 million people living with disabilities across the country unlock the richness of their lives. As a leading service provider, resource, and advocate, we're paving the way for people living with disabilities to experience full and meaningful lives in an inclusive world.

About Prosper Canada: Founded in 1986, Prosper Canada is a national charity dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for Canadians living in poverty through program and policy innovation. As Canada's leading national champion of financial empowerment, Prosper Canada works with government, business, and community partners to develop and promote financial policies, programs and resources that transform lives and foster the prosperity of all Canadians.

SOURCE March of Dimes Canada

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