Canadian policies are killing disabled people

Last year, I argued for a meeting with a producer at a news organization I had worked with in the past to address my concerns about a new outreach strategy. While they try to create networking opportunities and entry points for disadvantaged workers in the industry, it still only benefits the most privileged. I have seen and witnessed the ways in which people were discriminated against, especially if they were disabled, they were expelled from universities and workplaces, thus they could not get the credentials or knowledge needed to be considered.

After hours of back-and-forth and tearful recollections of painful personal experiences, I realized that many people don’t understand how discrimination in the workplace is one cog in the clock that is oppression.

That assembly may have consisted of one company in one industry, but our social structures do not exist in isolation.

For many people with disabilities, access to work is not just about whether we can pursue our dream jobs. A steady job can make the difference between survival and suffering.

This and other policy failures are, for us, life or death — and that’s the goal.

Eugenics – the movement to “improve the human race” through selective breeding and elimination – is based on society deciding who is valuable or not. It ensures only those deemed desirable have access to the necessary resources to not only succeed, but survive.

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As a person with a disability who also faces discrimination from others for my identity, traveling the world has made me acutely aware of how policies and laws limit the chances of survival not only for me, but for all people with disabilities. And these programs are interconnected.

Take work for example – it affects our access to health care. I really enjoyed being independent, but health insurance is more affordable as part of a group benefits plan at work. Without being paid, I have had to earn enough money to cover my expenses, as well as my ever-increasing medical expenses.

If you are too disabled to work, your only option for medical assistance is welfare, which in all states, does not meet the poverty line. People with disabilities experience poverty at higher rates than people without disabilities, according to Statistics Canada.

There is already a housing crisis and this is exacerbated for people with disabilities, who face high costs of affordable housing. It is not surprising that there is a high prevalence of disability in the homeless population. Homelessness and poverty take a toll on physical and mental health, yet evictions remain a priority in Toronto.

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Eugenics requires the elimination of undesirable groups, and policies like these create state-sanctioned poverty that leads to death. Throughout society, the stigmatization of people with disabilities is widely accepted.

With these roadblocks still in place, the Canadian government has continued to pave the way for medical assistance in dying (MAID) for people with disabilities. Several stories of those who chose MAID talk about the fight against poverty. The government plans to expand eligibility to include non-standard conditions such as mental illness from March 2023. Recently justice minister David Lametti wants to delay the expansion after much criticism. But there are no real plans to improve social services and financial support.

But it seems governments are allowing COVID-19 to produce the same effects.

During the crisis, Ontario’s solution to hospital ICU overcrowding was a protocol that meant people with disabilities who needed life-saving care could not be turned away. Considered the inherent minimal social value of saving the lives of the disabled.

And since you’ve abandoned public health measures, there’s more burden on the system. And the decline in public health becomes an excuse to privatize Ontario’s health care.

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But the hidden nature of these goals is that they actually create paralysis.

While Ontario is allowing COVID infections to spread, there is growing evidence that prolonged COVID can affect anywhere between 50 to 80 percent of people infected with the virus. Health stigma and poverty can allow treatable problems to become chronic or life-threatening.

The link between poverty, discrimination and health compliance ensures that certain groups experience disability at higher rates than others. This is why when it comes to COVID-19, Black and Indigenous communities are the most vulnerable groups.

This systemic pressure to treat disabled people like me as throwaways teaches everyday members of society to accept and do the same.

If we allow the value of humanity to be integrated and appropriated rather than seen as natural to all of us, it will always be used to justify violence and oppression of any difference we find.

Dev Ramsawakh is a multi-award winning multi-disciplinary storyteller, producer and educator. You can find Dev on Twitter and TikTok @merkyywaters and Instagram @merkyy_waters or on their website IndivisibleWriting.com

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