Backgrounder: COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group


In the spirit of “Nothing Without Us” and the Accessible Canada Act, and in recognition of Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations, the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring it considers, respects and incorporates the interests and needs of persons with disabilities into its decision-making and actions.

To support this, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, is announcing that the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group (CDAG) is being renewed, with an updated mandate.

Building on their work, the CDAG was created to provide advice and contribute to the development of the Government’s pandemic response. Moving forward the CDAG will provide expert advice to the Minister on disability inclusion. Comprised of 11 experts from the disability community, additional experts from the community may be invited to join the Group at the Minister’s discretion.

The Advisory Group’s main focus will be to:

  • provide advice to the Minister on promoting disability inclusion and targeting barriers to the full participation of Canadians with disabilities in specific areas based on Government of Canada priorities and the Minister’s mandate; and
  • provide advice on the implementation of Government of Canada programs and initiatives related to the Minister’s disability inclusion and accessibility mandate.

The group will include the following experts from the disability community:

Chair – Krista Carr – a long-time advocate in the inclusion movement.  She is the Executive Vice President (CEO) of Inclusion Canada, one of Canada’s 10 largest charitable organizations. Inclusion Canada is a national federation of 300 local and 13 Provincial/Territorial Associations working on behalf of approximately 1 million Canadians with a developmental disability and their families.

Krista has over 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector as a champion of inclusion. Before joining Inclusion Canada, she was the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL), a leading provincial non-profit organization that works with people with an intellectual disability and their families to accomplish the mission of full inclusion across the lifespan.

In her current role, Krista is responsible for leading the Inclusion Canada National organization, the Inclusion Canada Foundation, Inclusive Education Canada (IEC).

Krista is a graduate of the University of New Brunswick (UNB) where she earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA) and several diplomas in Human Resources and Management from UNB’s College of Extended Learning. She is fluently bilingual and works on behalf of Inclusion Canada’s federation in both French and English. She currently resides in New Brunswick with her husband and two daughters.

Bill Adair -
Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. Mr. Adair offers a depth of provincial and national experience in the spinal cord rehabilitation field. He has nearly 3 decades of expertise in non-profit management and strategic leadership, including as a:

  • former Ontario government employee;
  • national task force leader; and,

Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Prior to joining Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, he was Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society for 13 years. His involvement in providing services to people with disabilities includes serving as:

  • the Director of the International Year for Disabled Persons
  • the Executive Director of a national task force that designed a system to coordinate cancer control efforts throughout Canada, and
  • the Founding Executive Director of Wellspring

Neil Belanger
- Executive Director of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS). Mr. Belanger has over 30 years of experience working within in Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous disability and health sectors. Since 2013, BCANDS has been the recipient of 8 provincial, national and international awards. The most recent was the Zero Project International Award presented to the Society in Vienna, in February 2019. He also serves in a variety of disability related advisory roles, some of which include:

  • Canada Post’s Accessibility Advisory Committee
  • Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction
  • Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility
  • Minister’s Registered Disability Savings Plan Action Group and
  • Board Member with Inclusion BC

He is a member of the Lax Se el (Frog Clan) of the Gitxsan First Nation. He resides in Victoria with his wife and 2 children.

Diane Bergeron - President, CNIB Guide Dogs and Vice President, International Affairs. As President of CNIB Guide Dogs, Ms. Bergeron brings lived experience to the position. As a guide dog handler for more than 35 years, she raises her voice to challenge stigma and support equal rights. In addition, as vice president of International Affairs for the CNIB Foundation, she is actively engaged in regional, national and international initiatives. These initiatives enable people impacted by blindness to live the lives they choose. Before joining CNIB, Ms. Bergeron held senior roles with the Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton.

Bonnie Brayton - Ms. Brayton is a recognized leader in both the feminist and disability movements. She has been the National Executive Director of the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) of Canada since May 2007. In this role, she has proven herself as a formidable advocate for women with disabilities here in Canada and internationally. During her tenure with DAWN Canada, Ms. Brayton has worked diligently to highlight key issues that impact the lives of women and girls with disabilities. Since 2016, Ms. Brayton has served as a member of the Federal Department of Women and Gender Equality Minister’s Advisory Council on Gender-Based Violence. She also presents regularly to Parliamentary and Senate Committees at public consultations. She has represented women and girls with disabilities in both Canadian and International spheres.

Maureen Haan - Ms. Haan has been the President and CEO of the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) since 2012. CCRW is the only national organization with the sole vision of equitable and meaningful employment for people with disabilities, in operation for over 40 years. Under her leadership, CCRW has seen an increase in direct program service throughout Canada. As well, CCRW has a more transparent, stream-lining of understanding the business case of hiring a person with a disability. She has been very active in the cross-disability sector, currently focusing on employment issues. Ms. Haan has been involved with numerous committees and groups that increase awareness of and access for the disability sector and the Deaf community. She has been involved with civil society on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She was also involved in the co-development and leadership of the pan-Canadian Strategy on Disability and Work.

Hélène Hébert - Présidente, Réseau québécois pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (ReQIS). Ms. Hébert is president of the ReQIS, a provincial organization defending collective rights and promoting the interests of the deaf and hard of hearing. The organization’s mission is also to contribute to the development and to influence its members through networking and knowledge sharing. In addition, Ms. Hébert is a member of Voir dire, a bimonthly publication servicing Quebec’s deaf population since 1983. She is a long-standing activist committed to different provincial and national organizations for the deaf. Furthermore, she holds a DESS in educational administration, a bachelor’s degree in education, special education section, and a certificate in children’s literature. She has previously educated deaf signers.

Dr. Heidi Janz - Assistant Adjunct Professor with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, University of Alberta. Dr. Janz specializes in the field of Disability Ethics and she was affiliated with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre since 2006. She was previously the Curriculum Coordinator for an emerging Certificate Program in Disability Ethics in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. In her “other life,” Dr. Janz is a writer and playwright. Dr. Janz is also Chair of the End-of-life ethics committee for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).

Rabia Khedr - CEO, Disability Empowerment Equality Network Support Services and Executive Director, Muslim Council of Peel. Rabia is a community leader who helps others with issues of fairness and justice that affect persons with disabilities, women and diverse communities. She was recently the Commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Ms. Khedr created the Canadian Alliance on Race and Disability, which represents persons with disabilities and organizations at local, provincial and national meetings. She is also a member of the Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee. She is a motivational speaker and documentary commentator and received many awards, including a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Dr. Michael J. Prince - Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria. He teaches courses on public sector governance and public policy analysis in the School of Public Administration and the School of Public Health and Social Policy. As a policy consultant, Dr. Prince has been an advisor to various federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal government agencies. He was an advisor on 4 Royal commissions and to a number of parliamentary committees federally and provincially. An active volunteer, Dr. Prince has been a board member of:

  • a community health clinic
  • a legal aid society
  • a hospital society and hospital foundation
  • the BC Association for Community Living, and
  • the social policy committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Since 2018 he has been Board Chair of Community Living British Columbia (CLBC). CLBC is a provincial crown corporation that funds supports and services to adults with developmental disabilities, as well as individuals who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. CLBC works with individuals, families, service providers, community and government partners to help people to have lives filled with possibilities in welcoming communities.

Josh Vander Vies- Lawyer at Versus Law Corporation. He practices the law of charity with a focus on creating and defending not-for-profit organizations, charitable status and charitable gifts. A Terry Fox Humanitarian Award scholarship recipient, much of Josh’s approach to legal advice on disability matters was forged by his experience helping build and defend the BC Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI) and as a past member of the BC Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility. He won bronze in boccia at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and after retiring from sport continued as a leader, serving as President of AthletesCAN, a director of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Ombudsperson for Team Canada at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. Josh is continuing his support of athletes as the Assistant Chef de Mission for the Canadian team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. An electric wheelchair user born without much of his arms and legs, he has spent his life identifying individual and collective issues and deciding when and how to engage each.

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