Readout: Disability Advisory Committee Meeting – September 28 and 29, 2023

The Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) held its third meeting of the year, in Ottawa, Ontario over two days. Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) DAC co-chair, Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch, Gillian Pranke, began the meeting by welcoming everyone to the first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. She was pleased to announce that the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of National Revenue, would be joining for part of the afternoon. She then introduced Elder Barb Brant of the Turtle Clan, Mohawk Nation from Tyendinaga, to open the meeting.

Elder Barb Brant highlighted the importance of the committee’s work to promote a better life for persons with disabilities. She urged the group to turn the words and discussion into concrete action that would help further support Canada’s most vulnerable individuals.  

Ms. Pranke thanked Elder Barb Brant for her presence and reiterated the importance of honouring Indigenous culture. She then introduced DAC co-chairs Sharon McCarry and Jonathan Lai to reflect on DAC accomplishments and future priorities.

Ms. McCarry acknowledged the additional hours that committee members have contributed, which is a reflection of their dedication to facilitating change by assisting the CRA in making improvements to how it administers taxes and benefits. Mr. Lai expressed that the committee’s hard work is reflected in the quality of the fourth annual report.

Ms. Pranke then commented on the work completed on the CRA’s priorities in the areas of low filing and disability tax credit (DTC) uptake among vulnerable populations and persons with disabilities. She emphasized that the CRA continues its commitment to improving services for underserved individuals. 

Ms. Pranke then introduced Jennifer Zwicker to discuss the DAC’s fourth annual report. Ms. Zwicker presented the structure, background and recommendations in the report, and highlighted key statistics on disability in Canada, including DTC application rates.

CRA representatives then discussed the Agency’s service strategies for youth, newcomers and Indigenous Peoples. Luc Morin, Director, CVITP and Benefits Outreach Division, presented the CRA’s youth and newcomer service strategies. He outlined some of the CRA’s key findings and initiatives that are designed to improve tax literacy, raise awareness about benefits and credits, and support tax filing for youth and newcomers. Sujata Verma, Director General, Disability, Indigenous, and Benefits Outreach Services Directorate, engaged the room to provide input on the CRA’s Indigenous service strategy. Ms. Verma stressed the need to develop a tailored outreach approach to help Indigenous Peoples access benefits and credits, including the DTC.

Ms. Krista Wilcox from Employment and Social Development Canada then provided an update on the Canada Disability Benefit regulatory development process. This was followed by questions and a discussion with members about their perspectives on the benefit.

The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau was then introduced and expressed her appreciation to the DAC for their dedication to making Canada a fairer place for people with disabilities, and their supporting caregivers. She shared her priorities as Minister of National Revenue and then invited each member in attendance to introduce themselves, and share their top priorities with her.

Mr. Pierre Leblanc from the Department of Finance Canada presented the changes to the registered disability savings plan (RDSP) from Budget 2023. This was followed by questions and discussion with committee members.  

Ms. Pranke thanked Ms. Wilcox and Mr. Leblanc for their time. Ms. Pranke and Ms. McCarry concluded the day by thanking everyone for their contribution.

On the second day, Ms. Pranke provided a short recap of the topics discussed from the previous day. Ms. McCarry introduced the following breakout session topics; DAC terms of reference, recruitment and succession, workplan and next steps, and topics for the fifth annual report. Once the sessions concluded, Ms. McCarry and Mr. Lai summarised the discussions.

Ms. Pranke proposed the CRA’s next steps, including gathering feedback to revise the terms of reference and membership recruitment process, and re-engaging with the committee to further discuss proposed revisions.

Ms. McCarry provided suggestions related to the structure of the working groups based on the priorities identified during the committee’s breakout session discussions. She suggested having six to seven working group meetings per year, and proposed that the next meeting take place the end of January 2024. Mr. Lai and Ms. McCarry will review the priority topics for each working group in order to formalize their structure by the end of October 2023.

Ms. Pranke concluded the meeting by thanking the DAC members for their attendance and contributions. Elder Barb Brant closed the meeting by inviting everyone to reflect on the conversations that took place in the past two days. 

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