Statement by Minister Qualtrough on Canada’s Disability-Inclusive approach to its COVID-19 pandemic response


April 10, 2020              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, today issued the following statement:

“From the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has taken significant steps to curb the spread of this virus and to reduce its impacts on the health of Canadians and our economy.

We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities.  For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19.  Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care.  For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity.  This includes through more formal communication channels and touch points with the disability community.

To this end, we are establishing the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, comprised of experts in disability inclusion.  This Group will provide advice on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis; disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps; and strategies, measures and steps to be taken.  Areas of particular focus will be equality of access to health care and supports; access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation; and employment and income supports.

From the onset, our Government has worked hard to ensure that the interests and needs of persons with a disability are being taken into consideration in our decisions and measures adopted in response to COVID-19.  We have put a disability lens on decision-making and have been consulting national disability organizations and other stakeholders. We are also working with other levels of government.  We are making strides on accessibility of public announcements and Government of Canada communications.

But we know that there is much more to do.

We have heard the concerns expressed by individuals and organizations for persons with disabilities, as well as their recommendations for ensuring a disability-inclusive approach to this pandemic.

Rest assured that as we support Canadians through this crisis, our Government is unequivocal in our commitment to the rights of every citizen and the value of every life, including the right to equal access to medical treatment and care. This is in keeping with our Government’s commitment to “nothing without us”, and in line with the principles and objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Accessible Canada Act.”

Related product

Backgrounder: COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group

Associated Links
Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Making an accessible Canada for persons with disabilities

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For media enquiries, please contact:
Marielle Hossack
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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