Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying that our government takes very seriously the challenges faced by people with episodic disabilities.
Episodic disability is a health condition that we all know about but that is difficult to measure and manage because of its unpredictable manifestations. It is for this reason that we take into account the needs of people with episodic disabilities in the development of our legislative programs and policies.
Episodic disability is characterized by moments of well-being and periods of illness or disability. These periods can vary in duration, predictability and severity. It is because of their condition that people with episodic disabilities may have to take time off work and thus use income replacement programs.
In 2012, nearly 3.8 million Canadians aged 15 and over reported having a disability limiting their daily activities, including those with episodic disabilities. People with episodic disabilities often face more employment challenges than people without disabilities. In 2011, almost half, or 47%, of respondents with disabilities aged 15 to 64 reported having a job, but for non-disabled respondents, this proportion was 74%.
Many of us know someone who has an episodic disability, and many people have episodic disabilities as they get older.
Motion No. 192 proposes that the House of Commons request the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to make “recommendations for legislative and policy changes necessary to ensure that the needs of persons with episodic disabilities caused, among other things, by multiple sclerosis, be adequately protected to ensure equity in government policy to support Canadians across all types of disability.”
Our government is well aware that people with disabilities face unique barriers that may limit their participation in our society and economy.
Our efforts to support and advance the integration of people with disabilities are not new. Since day one, we have been committed to this goal. In addition, we have improved and adjusted our programs accordingly. That is also why we have a minister dedicated to accessibility.
Our approach is based on collaboration and communication. That is how the government implements its commitment to people with episodic disabilities. We are committed to supporting people with episodic disabilities through many programs and benefits, such as the Canada pension plan disability program, the disability tax credit and the Canada health and social services disability benefits.
We have heard from people with episodic disabilities and the organizations that represent them that they are not always eligible for benefits of this nature because of the nature of their illness. For example, in June 2018, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology presented concerns such as these in its report, “Breaking Down Barriers: A critical analysis of the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan.”
We are constantly evaluating the extent to which our programs meet the needs of people from diverse groups, including people with episodic disabilities. We also regularly ask for advice on how our programs and policies could be more inclusive and better help Canadians. We appreciate the work of the organizations involved in this regard.
We have already taken important steps to provide better support. For example, in budget 2018, our government announced that it would expand labour provisions for a period of El benefits, maternity and sickness benefits. The purpose of this measure is to provide claimants who have an illness or injury more flexibility to manage their return to work and retain a larger portion of their El benefits.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention Bill C-81. On June 20, 2018, we tabled the accessible Canada act in Parliament. Under this new legislative proposal, our government would require organizations under federal jurisdiction to identify, eliminate and prevent barriers to accessibility, particularly in the area of employment. In addition, Bill C-81 would require consideration of the particular accessibility needs of people with a variety of disabilities, including those with episodic disabilities.
Before we introduced our bill, we talked to and listened to stakeholders. During the “accessible Canada” consultations, we heard from more than 6,000 Canadians and 90 organizations.
Our Government recognizes that it is important to ensure that people with episodic disabilities benefit from the proposed accessibility act in the same way as other people.
In response to stakeholder recommendations, Bill C-81 includes a broader definition of disability and specifically includes episodic disabilities. This addition is a clear sign to those with an episodic disability that our government is working to remove the barriers they face on a daily basis. Our government will continue to work with persons with disabilities, including those with an episodic disability. Our goal is to ensure these people are recognized and supported by our policies, programs and laws. Our commitment to inclusion and accessibility is unwavering.
I want to express my appreciation to our colleague for bringing this issue to the House. There is no reason why all Canadians cannot showcase all of their strengths and talents. People with disabilities share the same contributions to Canada's prosperity as the rest of Canadians. Canada is a country where everyone should be able to benefit from our collective prosperity. We will continue our work to shape an all-inclusive Canada.