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Disability, Human Rights and the Law 2012-2013



Human rights and disability law have evolved with significant strides over the last decades. Individuals, advocates, communities, institutions, governments and nations have championed and advanced legal reforms beyond local or national borders. Today, global standards explicitly complement and compel national standards. In 2006, member states of the international community adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRDP), as the first international human rights treaty on disability.

As Canada, the European Union, the US and other nations have signed the CRDP over the last six years, it has become a barometer of disability rights, duties and standards. It reinforces a human rights priority, helps empower advocates to create enabling environments, fosters inclusive policies and programs, and advances new and existing laws. Despite its passage, however, important issues, ignorance, and major legal and policy challenges remain. They stand as barriers to advancing full equality and the fundamental human rights of people with disabilities.

The seminar series

To explore some of these advances, challenges and questions, the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism is pleased to present its 2012-2013 seminar series on selected issues of human rights and disability law. We do so in the wake of the CRDP. We offer this series to engage in one of the most compelling human rights issues of our day, consistent with the Faculty of Law’s tradition of analysis, scholarship and promotion of human rights and social justice.

This interdisciplinary series aims to identify and discuss key human rights issues, norms, strategies and challenges to implementation of CRDP standards, and to educate ourselves—legal scholars, community members, students, institutional players—with interdisciplinary and pluralistic insights. The seminar series unfolds with an initial overarching look at implementing the Convention, followed by three particular contexts on the frontiers of change. The events will follow the format of a teaching seminar and required resources will be circulated ahead of time.

Fall semester

From Rhetoric to Practice: Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Monday, September 24, 2012
12:30 – 2:00
Chancellor Day Hall, Stephen Scott Seminar Room (room 16)

This seminar will provide a forum for discussion  of conceptual challenges, legal standards and  international best practices for implementing the CRPD and constructively impacting the lives of people with disabilities. The topics of discussion include challenges of implementation, community living, accessibility to educational and workplace institutions, mental capacity, and monitoring. The event will also allow participants to reflect on the shift from traditional welfare-oriented supports for persons with disabilities to a rights-based model that affirms equality, independence and active citizenship.

Equal Citizenship for Persons with Disabilities: Recognizing Legal Capacity

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
12:30 – 2:00
Chancellor Day Hall, Stephen Scott Seminar Room (room 16)

Historically, persons with disabilities have faced significant socio-legal barriers that have impeded the exercise of their rights as citizens.  Such barriers have typically been grounded on a fallacious assumption: that physical or mental disability disentitles one from legal capacity. The law has conspired in such presumptions and treatment.  Indeed, property, health, voting and inheritance laws have helped institutionalize the fallacy and inequality.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRDP) intends to reverse this heritage by correcting the reasoning.  In concert with other provisions, article 12 recognizes individuals with disabilities as persons equal before the law. The article thus outlines enjoyment of legal capacity on an equal basis, mandates nations to provide reasonable access to the exercise of legal rights, encourages appropriate and effective safeguards to prevent abuse, and mandates full and equal property and financial rights. The extent to which governments may limit a person’s right to legal capacity proved a contentious issue in drafting the CRPD. Its translation into daily life impacts access to justice and judicial review, health and housing, financial, property and asset management of persons with disabilities. Amidst ongoing UN discussions on the interpretation and full implementation of article 12, this seminar will discuss legal and non-legal issues, challenges and steps to overcoming lingering barriers.

This second seminar will be moderated by Derek J. Jones (Research Group on Health and the Law at the CHRLP).

Anna MacQuarrie (Human Rights Officer at Inclusion International), Michael N. Bergman (lawyer; founder of the Legal Information Clinic at McGill), andRoger Bill (law student; Human Rights Intern at Disability Rights International) will serve as resource persons.

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