Voters with disabilities: Don’t get mad, get elected

July 23, 2012 | By | Reply More

Voters with disabilities urged to run for political office

Paul Caune is the executive director of CIVIL RIGHTS NOW!

By Paul Caune       

Get elected: that’s my advice to Canadian voters with disabilities. Join a mainstream political party; become the center of gravity in whichever coalition supports your principles; convince a plurality of voters in a majority of ridings to vote for you; get elected.

The Canadian government says there are 4.4 million Canadian voters with disabilities. You are hardly a special interest group. And any Canadian without a disability can become a voter with a disability in the blink of an I-phone.

Over the last fourteen years I have spoken with hundreds of voters with disabilities. They’ve all told me credible stories of being subjected to abuses of power by government, service providers, unions, religious organizations, schools and the private sector.


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I’ve read thousands of pages of reports, legal documents, newspaper articles and history books describing atrocities inflicted on, and neglect of, Canadians voters with disabilities by government from the 1840s onwards. The abuse of Canadian voters with disabilities by our governments is a systemic problem. There can only be a systemic solution.

Canadian voters with disabilities must not make the same strategic error that so many citizens of our country have made over the last thirty years. Too many of us have wasted our limited time, energy and money on creating non-governmental organizations, spreading awareness campaigns or Facebook events in support of everything from the Environment to random acts of kindness. By such antics the greater good has got nowhere fast.

Canadian voters with disabilities don’t waste your time trying to get “influence”. Don’t waste your life trying to get moral victories. Instead, get control of the ministries and crown corporations that are abusing Canadian voters with disabilities and abolish the abusers of power.

The great reformers of 19th century Canada lived in a society that had much more serious problems than our own. Did the reformers waste their limited time, energy and money on publicity stunts?

The 19th century reformers were imaginative, daring and practical. The reformers concluded that the solutions to the most pressing problems of their day could only be solved if they became the government. Acting with clarity, focus and persistence, they formed an alliance based on ideas in support of fairness across religious and ethnic barriers. They faced down mobs who didn’t hesitate to use violence and screech hysterical accusations of treason against the reformers. And after a long struggle the reformers got a majority elected.

A few Canadian voters with disabilities have won real victories that make it possible for them to live in freedom and dignity. But these are only individual victories and they are very fragile. They can be taken away at the whim of an indifferent, malicious or ignorant civil servant. Most Canadian voters with disabilities do not have a practical way to enforce their civil rights. This is the big picture eclipsed by the misery porn reported in the media.

You need to get organized. You need to join a mainstream political party. You need to make sure either a reformer gets your party’s nomination in your riding, or convince your riding association to nominate you. Then do the hard work of convincing your neighbours that the reform you want is for the greater good. And then convince your neighbours to vote for your reformer or you on Election Day. Don’t get mad, get elected.

Paul Caune is the Executive Director of CIVIL RIGHTS NOW! Contact him at or his website.


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Category: Opinion

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