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February 25, 2013

A simple question of Human Rights

If, like me, you frequently check the website of The Disabled Persons Commission to see what those tireless folks are doing on your behalf, you won't find this program advertised: 



Weldon Law Building, Dalhousie University
March 6th 2013, 7pm

Moderator: Ann Divine, Manager, Race Relations, Equity & Inclusion
Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

David Shannon, Director and CEO, Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

Background, History and Significance of the CRPD
Steve Estey, Chair, Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Legal background of the CRPD
Archibald Kaiser, Professor, Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law

Focus on CRPD Article 12, Equal Recognition before the Law
Sheila Wildeman, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, Schulich School of

Focus on Article 29, Participation in Political and Public Life
Anne MacRae, Executive Director, Disabled Persons Commission

Community Engagement with the CRPD
Anna MacQuarrie, Human Rights Officer, Inclusion International

Seats will be reserved for those requiring CART and sign language interpreters. An
accessible entrance is located on Edward Street.

For more information, please contact Melissa Brayley at 424-4671 or

This is a timely event, since March 2013 is the third anniversary of Canada's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  I'm not sure why a government with such a poor track record on the rights of persons with disabilities should be lecturing us on a topic with which it is so manifestly unfamiliar.  One really simple question can illustrate the history of unfairness: 

Why does the government of Nova Scotia continue to discriminate against people with disabilities by allowing MLAs to have inaccessible constituency offices?  Disabled citizens can't meet with their elected officials, and they cannot work for them.  

Surely it is possible for the Director and CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and the Executive Director of the Disabled Persons Commission, who both are paid by the government that tolerates this longstanding injustice, to right this wrong.  

The Legislature's Members’ Manual, which outlines Members’ Compensation, Expenses and Constituency Administration details the 15 types of furniture permitted and how big the TV can be (32 inches), but does not mention an accessible washroom, TTY, door widths, elevator, parking, alarms or any other commonly accepted standard of accessibility.  The regulations stipulate "The space should be wheelchair accessible and on a public transit route if possible."  Not a very high standard.

There are standards and they are easily referenced.  The members manual should say:

Facilities should be wheelchair accessible complying with guidelines set out in "Accessible design for the built environment" CAN/CSA-B651-04. This includes, but is not limited to a dedicated parking area close to the entrance (Clause 5.2), ramp access from the exterior (Clause 5.2.1), elevators (Clause 4.1.6) between levels inside the building (Clause 4.1.7), power-assisted doors (Clause and accessible washrooms (Clause 4.3).

There are many other questions that should be asked at this program, but let's keep it simple. 

The government which is supposed to act for us, acts against us. 

Gus Reed 

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