Losing PALS 2011 is a major blow to Canadians with disabilities. It can only indicate that Prime Minister Harper intends to dismantle the existing supports for Canada's disabled.
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The long-form census controversy is stirring many Canadians. The Globe and Mail reported a small part of the cancellation that will hurt the 4 million Canadians living with Disabilities. "Scrapped mandatory census cuts even deeper for disability advocacy group" July 24, 2010.
The Participation and Activity Limitation Survey known as PALS has a long, wordy name that belies its importance.
It is a comprehensive profile of the 4 million Canadians living with disabilities: who they are by age, sex, province, by disability, income level, etc. It also tells us what they need which is vital in setting effective social policy. Statistics Canada issues the report every 5 years.
The canard that similar information can be gathered from "tax information, welfare rolls and similar data-banks" is grossly misinformed. Many Canadians with disabilities don't claim anything on their tax returns, have jobs and are not on welfare. There is no other place to find this information than PALS.
For example, most people identify disabilities with children. The annual Easter Seals and similar charities perpetuates the myth that children with disabilities are pitiable and need charity. Only 200,000 children have disabilities out of 4 million Canadians. (5%). Children have more of their needs already met than any other age group with disabilities. PALS has the facts on children and their needs.
Most Canadians with disabilities by proportion are seniors. The probability of disability increases with age. Seniors with disabilities are also the most neglected. In PEI for instance supports for wheelchairs and other assistive devices ends on your 65th birthday.
Without accurate information disability advocates and the government will end up in the useless game of chasing the current "hot" disability. Well-organized advocacy groups are already using modern marketing techniques to influence government programs away from real needs to perceived needs.
It took over ten years of concerted discussion and work to get the provinces and Federal government to agree on a comprehensive survey which became PALS 2001. We are now 20 years into the process of reforming services to Canada's disabled.
Disability organizations in Canada need to get behind a protest against the cancellation of PALS 2011.
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