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Disability Justice: Access and Beyond

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Access to Justice Week 2021

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Disability justice is a core issue for millions of Canadians. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many of the continuing injustices faced by Canadians with disabilities/disabled Canadians: punitive social assistance programs, substandard conditions in supportive housing, and ableist assumptions in the delivery of healthcare, to name a few.

Accessibility legislation is one important element of disability justice. Speakers in this session will detail what accessibility legislation does and why it is important. They will describe the development and implementation of accessibility legislation in Ontario and federally, as well as the current efforts to have such legislation adopted in Alberta. They will reflect on the promise and limits of law reform and invite us to consider “what else” we must do to achieve real disability justice in Canada.

Register to receive your link to this event, which will be emailed to you in advance of October 28.

SPEAKERS

Ameil Joseph

Ameil Joseph is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at McMaster University. Ameil currently holds a Professorship in Equity, Identity, and Transformation from the Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University and is the Academic Director of Community-Engaged Research & Relationship with the Office of Community Engagement, also at McMaster University.

He draws on perspectives of critical forensic mental health, mad studies, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, and critical disability studies to analyze the historical production of ideas about difference, normalcy, sexuality, eugenics, race, ability and mental “illness” as they cohere, diverge, interdepend, and perform within policy, law and practice. Ameil has presented and advocated across Canada, in the US and in Europe on issues related to racism, critical mental health and social justice. Ameil has over a decade of experience in the mental health field in areas of assertive community treatment, community-based early intervention, supportive housing, crisis respite, and governance settings. Ameil is also the author of Deportation and the Confluence of Violence within Forensic Mental Health and Immigration Systems published by Palgrave-MacMillan. The book is a historiographical post-colonial analysis of the practice of deportation in Canada for those identified as “undesirable”.

David Lepofsky

David Lepofsky (Twitter: @davidlepofsky) is a visiting professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education (part-time) at the Osgoode Hall Law School. From 1982 to 2015, he practised law in Toronto with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, in the areas of constitutional, civil, administrative and most recently, criminal law. In 2004, he was appointed to the position of General Counsel. For 30 years, he has served as a part time member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he taught an advanced constitutional law seminar each year on freedom of expression and press.

Since the late 1970s, he has been active in a volunteer capacity, advocating for new laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada. From 1980 to 1982, he served on the leadership team of a broad disability coalition that successfully advocated for inclusion of protection against discrimination based on disability in the Ontario Human Rights Code. From 1994 to 2005, he led the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. That coalition successfully campaigned for ten years to win passage of two new Ontario laws to make Ontario fully accessible to persons with disabilities, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. In late February, 2009, he became the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which advocates at both the provincial and federal level. His advocacy efforts combined with those of many others to lead to the enactment of the Accessible Canada Act in 2019.

Awards include investiture in the Order of Canada (1995), the Order of Ontario (2007), and the Terry Fox Hall of Fame (2003), honorary doctorates from Queen's University, the University of Western Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada, and awards from other organizations including e.g. the City of Toronto, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Ontario Bar Association Public Lawyers Section, the Advocates Society, the Ontario Crown Attorneys Association, the Ontario March of Dimes and Community Living Ontario. In March 2020, the American College of Trial Lawyers awarded him the Samuel E. Gates Award for contributing to improvements to the litigation process.

Greg McMeekin

Greg McMeekin is Chair of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and The City of Calgary Advisory Committee On Accessibility. Greg received his law degree from the University of Calgary in 2015 and was called to the Alberta Bar at the Calgary Courts Centre in 2016. Greg has many connections within the Disability community, both as an advocate and a liaison as well as having a disability himself, Cerebral Palsy.

MODERATOR

Stella Varvis

Stella Varvis is a lawyer, researcher, and advocate for children with disabilities. Born and raised in Edmonton, she graduated from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law in 2001 and was called to the Alberta bar in 2002. She currently works as legal counsel at the Alberta Law Reform Institute, which is dedicated to improving the laws of Alberta through independent research, analysis and consultation. She is also an LLM candidate at the Faculty of Law with a research interest in disability and the law.

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