Canada Disability Benefit legislation gets royal assent

Stakeholders express hope, skepticism about new benefit

Canada Disability Benefit legislation gets royal assent

Bill C-22, also known as Canada Disability Benefit Act, received royal assent on Thursday after it passed unanimously in the House of Commons and passed in the Senate.

The legislation allows the federal government to create the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), which will supplement existing federal and provincial/territorial disability supports, according to the government.

"No person with a disability in this country should live in poverty. Yesterday, the Canada Disability Benefit Act became law, creating the framework for a new federal benefit which will lift working-age persons with disabilities out of poverty,” said Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.

“This law follows years of tireless activism from the disability community. This is their victory. I look forward to working with the community this summer as we begin the regulatory process to make the Canada Disability Benefit a reality."

In 2021, the federal government introduced legislation to establish the framework for CDB for working-age Canadians with disabilities. It rebooted the legislation in 2022.

Bill C-22 includes wording that it won’t come into force for another year, according to a Global News report.

Persons with disabilities 

According to the most recent Canadian Survey on Disability (2017), nearly 917,000 working-age Canadians with disabilities (23 per cent) live in poverty. Persons with severe disabilities (28 per cent) and very severe disabilities (34 per cent) are particularly vulnerable and experience a high rate of poverty.

The same survey found that Canadians with disabilities – including women, men, 2SLGBTQI+ people, racialized people and Indigenous people – are more likely to be financially insecure than other Canadians:

  • 25 per cent of Canadians with disabilities spend more than 30 per cent of their total income on shelter costs.
  • 59 per cent of Canadians with disabilities aged 25 to 64 have gainful employment, compared to 80 per cent of Canadians without disabilities.
  • Canadians with disabilities aged 25 to 64 earn less than Canadians without disabilities (12 per cent less for Canadians with milder disabilities and 51 per cent less for Canadians with more severe disabilities).

Ottawa vowed to develop the CDB in consultation with persons with disabilities, disability organizations, Indigenous representatives and other stakeholders. The government also said it will engage its provincial and territorial government partners on the CDB.

In 2022, the Saskatchewan government committed $10.8 million for Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities (EAPD) programming and services.

Stakeholder comments

One stakeholder expressed a positive attitude about the passing of Bill C-22.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Rabia Khedr, the national director of Disability Without Poverty (DWP), in the Global News report. “We are pleased that our parliamentarians worked hard to get us to this point.

However, the actual framework for the benefits is leaving other disability advocates skeptical.

"We don't know who will be eligible for it or what bureaucratic hoops they'll have to jump through to apply for it. We don't know when it will start to be paid," the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance said in a statement released after the bill's passing, reported CBC. "We only know from the Trudeau government that in the best-case scenario, it is at least a full year away."

While the bill may be passed, many details need to be worked out, said Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk.

"We will be working directly with the disability community to design the actual framework, the actual regulations to determine what is the amount, to determine eligibility for example," said Kusmierczyk, who is also the parliamentary secretary for the minister responsible for disability inclusion.

Latest stories