Activism

Here are some Canadian highlights, directly in opposition to the expansion of assisted dying to people who are not dying (Bill C-7 Track 2).

Hand-lettered sign says KILL BILL C-7
DJNO protest in Ottawa, March 2021

Or this one, which started in March 2021, when it became clear that disability rights advocates voices were not being heard by Parliamentarians and Senators, and that C-7 was going to pass.

A screen shot of Filibuster participants in the March 8, 2021 event.

The Filibuster continues …

One kind of activism is direct presentations to government. Many people with disabilities and their allies made presentations to the Parliamentary Committee reviewing the expansion of Canada’s MAID regime in February and March of 2021. More presented in May and June of 2022 as the committee again considered the expansion of categories of people who can legally die at the hand of their doctor or nurse-practitioner. Presentations to the government committee, which were limited to 5 minutes per person, with a few questions being allowed at the end of each panel, felt rushed and in some cases outright disrespectful. Although this kind of lobbying is an essential form of activism, it often leads to feelings of great frustration.

Activism takes many forms, in many places. Social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even TikTok — are places where quick responses can emerge, where ideas and campaigns can gain traction in ways that would have been unheard of in the old pre-internet days. The down side is that there is enormous competition for attention, and the “short message” format may lead to misunderstandings and unintended consequences. And the news cycle gets quicker and quicker.

Another kind of activism, the Webinar, uses the reach of the internet, but allows for longer format programming. The Disability Filibuster is the most original and effective anti-eugenic measure undertaken by an informal grass-roots collective of Canadian disability activists. Watch for an upcoming blog post with more of the behind-the-scenes story, but in the meantime, every moment of The Filibuster (almost) is preserved online. You can watch whole broadcasts or specific clips. Participants were (and continue to be) non-professional broadcasters. They are individuals with disabilities who feel strongly about the need to have their voices and points of view aired respectfully and without the artificial 5-minute limit imposed by the Parliamentary Committee.

Here’s a clip from the Filibuster broadcast on the night that Bill C-7 was passed on March 11, 2021. [If the clip only takes you to a page with lots of videos, choose the one called “The Vote”] Host of the session, Catherine Frazee, calls this session, “Part C7 Watch Party, Part Wake for Our People”.

Another example of disability rights activists using the Webinar format is the amazing effort of the Quebec group Toujours vivant/Not Dead Yet and it’s talented and very dedicated chief, Amy Hasbrouck. Amy published episodes — sometimes weekly — from 2012 to 2020. Here is a link to the searchable list of broadcasts — 245 in all! Most impressively, they are all available in text transcriptions in both of Canada’s official languages!

In addition to the webcasts, TV/NYD, Not Dead Yet published a toolkit for disability rights advocates, filled with excellent suggestions and resources.

There are many other ways of effecting social change, including radical stuff like chaining yourself to the front of a bus, or occupying a building, like the disability rights activists in America did in order to force attention to their demands for a comprehensive disability rights law. The ADA is now a fixture of American law and policy, and the changes across the country have been enormous. Canada does not have an equivalent law.

In the MAID debates and hearings, the subject of discrimination does come up. But in almost every instance, the “victims” of discrimination are the people in rural and remote communities who may not have “access” to death by MAID. They seem especially concerned to have indigenous people “understand” and sign on to the idea of MAID. The other “victim” group has been people with disabilities — not the way they have to live in our ableist society, but rather the thought that they might be excluded from the only “benefit” that matters — MAID.

There are many, many other sources of information about activism around the world. For example:

Another American organization, DREDF, did a comprehensive and careful study called “Why Assisted Suicide Must Not Be Legalized”, published in 2009. DREDF = Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.

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