Disability Awareness in Canada: 1890 – 1970

Disability Awareness in Canada: 1890 – 1970

Canada has a long and complicated history with its perspective on disability. Beginning at the end of the 19th century, disabled persons were largely segregated throughout the country in archaic institutions and church-run homes. As a result, social stigma grew around these citizens, one that would take over a century to dismantle and rectify.

After the First World War, Canadian perspectives of people with disabilities changed with the return of Canadian veterans, and the difficulty they faced reintegrating into society. This did, however, result in the foundation of the War Amps in 1918, which provided veterans with essential services like rehabilitation.

The disparity between the treatment of war veterans and civilians with disabilities increased after World War II, attracting support from a larger community of civilians interested in developing more services and opportunities for those in need. New social movements and coalitions formed that advocated for the deinstitutionalization of pre-existing centres that segregated and alienated people living with disabilities, offering community-based services instead.

War Amps

The 1950s and 1960s saw further growth in disability awareness and advocacy with the development of organizations such as the Canadian Association for Community Living. In the 1970s, Canada saw the beginning of new organizations formed by people with disabilities themselves, fighting for their civil rights. These groups were plentiful, and by the end of the 1970s they came together as one national organization called the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped, later renamed the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

On December 9th, 1975, the United Nations issued the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, and, as a result, new offices, councils, and committees were formed at all levels of Canadian government.

Check back next month to see what progress has been made from the 1980s till today!


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