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The following blog post was written by Michael Bach, Managing Director at IRIS.

Welcome to IRIS’s new website! We are re-launching our online platform as IRIS’s development initiatives are expanding, and as the federal government is renewing and growing its policy commitments to advance the inclusion of Canadians with disabilities. It makes for promising times in policy and social development.

The team at IRIS is excited to be better positioned to deliver on our mandate to provide research and development support to the Canadian Association for Community Living’s bold and ambitious agenda for inclusion. We look forward to using our online platform to:

  • share updates, findings and publications from our work in three primary areas of activity – policy research, social development and information and training;
  • contribute commentary on public policy development in Canada and internationally as it affects people with an intellectual and other disabilities;
  • point to leading-edge resources and innovations that inform and help advance our work; and,
  • profile our growing number of partnerships in Canada and around the world.

I would like to launch our new site with a few reflections on the policy moment we are in with the federal government signaling renewed leadership in social policy. Numerous federal consultations and policy initiatives that are completed or underway have immense potential to make a significant and lasting positive impact on disability policy in Canada – for example, accessibility legislation, poverty reduction, a National Housing Strategy, labour market policy, national early learning and child care framework, social and community infrastructure. Together, these initiatives could take a major step forward in realizing the human rights of people with disabilities, especially given that a ‘principle of inclusion’ is getting embedded in each one.

However, the policy promises and potential could well be dashed without a sustained federal commitment and machinery of government to maximize potential, ensure integration and coherence across these initiatives and secure the gains through substantive law and policy reform. Without this policy vision, we risk a collection of discrete program initiatives that fail to add up to more than the sum of their parts.  Success will require proactive engagement of the disability community including enhanced resourcing of national representative disability organizations. As well, sustainable impact of these initiatives will fall short without mechanisms like a federal disability policy lens, along the lines of the federal ‘gender plus’ policy lens, and the recently announced commitment to developing an Indigenous lens on federal policy and programs across departments.

IRIS is pleased to have worked with CACL and People First of Canada to prepare a joint brief titled, “A Path to Coordinated Federal Leadership and Investment” that lays out a proposed framework for federal leadership that could catalyze its discrete commitments into a robust federal disability policy agenda. The coordinated multi-prong strategy the brief recommends could, if implemented, finally make a substantive dent in the completely unacceptable scale of poverty, unemployment, housing precarity, social exclusion, poor health and violence experienced by Canadians with an intellectual and other disabilities.

Federal commitments in the past 18 months suggest all the pieces are there for such a strategy to be activated. But it will take concerted federal leadership, from the centre and through inter-departmental commitment, to ensure the promises are kept and potential is realized.

We will be tracking and sharing policy developments and bringing our rights-informed analysis to what we hope will be a changing federal policy landscape.