Paru le samedi 1er août 2009 sur The Toronto star
Ratify disability rights agreement now
Aug 01, 2009 04:30 AM
What can a six-foot-10 Turkish hoops star teach us that the Bank of Canada can't?
When it comes to money, the financial capital that drives the economy, the central bank likes to think of itself as the last word. If it says things have bottomed out, we are meant to take heart.
Personally I'd rather put my faith in our social capital.
Social capital is all about our ability to live with each other, to build communities that include everyone.
Toronto's reputation in that regard is reportedly one of the key factors that lured basketball's Hedo Turkoglu from the mighty Magic of Orlando to the, ahem, more modest northern Raptors.
As his agent Lon Babby told the Star, Turkoglu's wife, Banu, liked the idea of bringing their baby daughter, Ela, to a place that included a strong Turkish community.
The will to harbour people of all backgrounds and abilities is a key element of social capital. Way beyond the basketball court and the Bank of Canada, it is what will make or break us as a healthy society.
Social capital underpins the very fabric of strong communities. It's easier to find in small spaces, much more elusive in giant urban environments, as the late Jane Jacobs, an icon among community builders, was fond of pointing out. But you gotta start somewhere.
Every neighbourhood school that welcomes kids of all abilities into its classrooms is banking assets that will sustain future generations. Every playground that draws on the resources of all children is shaping adults who will treat each other with respect.
And adults who treat each other with respect rule a world worth having.
As a people, Canadians are used to thinking of themselves being rich in social capital. Not so much these days.
Two years ago, Ottawa inked the landmark United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (un.org/disabilities). Signed by 140 countries at last count, it emphasizes that people who move or communicate or process information differently from the majority are active and valued members of society.
They are entitled to inclusive schools, workplaces, affordable housing, transportation systems and communities.
The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion calling for Canada to ratify the agreement after consulting with the provinces and territories.
Ratification means agreeing to enact laws and shape policies that translate into meaningful change for the more than 4 million Canadians with disabilities. It also means abolishing laws and practices that discriminate against them.
But here we appear to be dragging our feet.
A spokesperson for foreign affairs did not return phone calls in time for this column's press deadline. And one of the key Canadian players who worked on getting the UN convention adopted sees "no sign of enthusiasm" for moving things along.
"I don't see the type of collaborative dialogue here that we're used to on human rights issues in Canada," says Diane Richler, president of Toronto-based Inclusion International, a worldwide organization advocating for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities (inclusion-international.org).
Coincidentally, Richler also notes there has been what amounts to a sea change on the issue south of the border.
Under the administration of George W. Bush, the United States never gave much weight to UN protocols.
But last week, as he marked the 19th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, President Barack Obama announced he had instructed UN Ambassador Susan Rice to sign the convention on the rights of people with disabilities.
Now the treaty moves to the U.S. Senate for ratification.
It took a special world committee a mere eight sessions over four years to get an agreement on disability rights adopted by the UN General Assembly.
That makes it the fastest negotiated human rights treaty in UN history.