Government of Canada invests in Victoria, BC based program aimed at helping youth with disabilities find good job opportunities 

News release

June 1, 2021              Victoria, British Columbia              Employment and Social Development Canada

The Government of Canada remains committed to building a more inclusive and accessible Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. One way to strengthen Canada’s workforce and economic recovery is to address the barriers faced  by persons with disabilities when trying to find a job.

Today, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, held a virtual event with the University of Victoria, to announce over $958,000 from the federal Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities for the CanAssist Program. An organization of the University of Victoria, CanAssist is dedicated to helping people with disabilities improve their quality of life and gain work experience. The program provides young Canadians who experience physical or cognitive barriers with innovative technologies, programs and services that address unmet needs and increase independence, inclusion and well-being.

The federal Opportunities Fund supports projects that assist Canadians with disabilities who have little or no work experience. Through these projects, persons with disabilities acquire the tools and skills required to prepare for, obtain and maintain employment or become self-employed. Some of the activities supported by the program include setting up accessible and effective work-from-home measures; expanding online training opportunities; wage subsidies, and training for in-demand jobs. The program also funds projects that raise awareness of the benefits of hiring persons with disabilities, and helps employers to create inclusive workplaces.

As Canada continues to address the COVID-19 pandemic, job opportunities will be an important part of building back better. Equally important to the country’s pandemic recovery is making sure all Canadians can participate right from the start.

As announced in the September 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada is developing its first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, which will include a new Canada Disability Benefit, improved processes for eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits, and a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities. These initiatives and programs will help more persons with disabilities successfully join and fully participate in the Canadian workforce.


“As we work to ensure a strong economic recovery, young Canadians continue to be a top priority for us. For youth with disabilities, the pandemic has deepened the already existing inequalities faced. That’s why we’re making big and bold investments that focus on key elements of disability inclusion, like employment. Thanks to this federal funding, CanAssist will be able to reach more young Canadians with disabilities and set them up for success. There’s no doubt this project will have a positive and long-lasting impact on young Canadians with disabilties’ careers.” 
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

“The CanAssist team works with the exceptional students and faculty at the University of Victoria, along with many other youth and partners in the wider community. By together improving access to resources, job coaching support and successful paid work experience, CanAssist programming changes lives. It provides youth access to tools and supports that promote independence and long-term success.”
– CanAssist team Executive Director, Robin Syme

Quick facts

  • Among working-age Canadians with disabilities, more than 1.5 million, or 41 percent, are unemployed or out of the labour market entirely. Among those with severe disabilities, this rate increases to over 60 percent.

  • On June 5, 2020, the Government of Canada announced a $15 million investment under the Opportunities Fund in 2020-2021 for the creation of the National Workplace Accessibility Stream. The investment was one of the measures introduced to help address the extraordinary challenges faced by persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • The National Workplace Accessibility Stream provides additional funding to support persons with disabilities and employers seeking to improve workplace inclusion and access to jobs. Some of the activities supported by this stream include

    • setting up accessible and effective work-from-home measures;
    • expanding online training opportunities;
    • creating inclusive workplaces, whether virtual or physical;
    • connecting persons with disabilities and employers;
    • training for in-demand jobs; and
    • offering wage subsidies.
  • The Fall Economic Statement announced an additional $65 million in 2021–2022 under the Opportunities Fund. These investments will further support training, accessibility and career advancements for persons with disabilities.


Marielle Hossack
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion,
Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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