Webcast archive: Review of Canadian disability legislation – Alberta

This week, we look at disability rights legislation in Alberta.

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck, Christian Debray, and Taylor Hyatt discuss:

  • Review of Canadian disability legislation: Alberta
  • Second interim report on MAID in Canada released

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.


  • Welcome to Part four of our series reviewing disability legislation in each of the provinces. Today, we’ll be taking a look at Alberta. The province doesn’t have one comprehensive law granting civil rights to people with disabilities. Instead, several laws and regulations providing services address some of the needs of disabled Albertans.
  • The province’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities program pays for personal assistance for adults who acquired intellectual disabilities before the age of 18.  Services are provided in four areas:
    • Community Living (such as meal planning and housekeeping),
    • Employment,
    • Community Access (which includes volunteering, clubs and sports), and
    • Specialized Community Supports to cover short-term emergencies.
  • The Alberta Home Care program provides help to people with severe mobility limitations with personal care that the client either cannot do themselves or cannot get help with from another source, like family or friends. Services include bathing, toileting, dressing, wound care, and feeding. Some light housekeeping – sweeping floors, taking garbage out, setting up the dishwasher, and doing laundry – is also provided. The services available depend on the “health zone” where the person lives; you can only hire services located within an hour of your home.  If you’re out of your zone for longer than 30 days per year, or two consecutive weeks, your file can be closed.
  • The Service Dogs Act and Blind Persons’ Rights Act allow people with certified guide and service dogs to access all public places in the province.
  • The Alberta Housing Act allows non-profits to receive subsidies for the development of specialized housing to meet the needs of people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, people at risk of homelessness, and those with substance abuse issues.
  • The Residential Access Modification Program allows low income people with mobility impairments to modify their homes for easier access. Grants of up to $7,500 per year are available (or $15,000 over 10 years). This applies to homes that are owned or rented, as long as the tenant gets the landlord’s approval. However, the landlord may refuse permanent adaptations, and allow a temporary ramp, porch lift, or stair lift instead.
  • The Disability Related Employment Supports program offers a variety of resources for people who are in school, looking for work, or currently working:
    • Assistive technology, like screen readers or digital recorders
    • Adapted work spaces, like widened doorways or adjustable desks
    • Modifications for work-related vehicles
  • Individuals with disabilities can also receive provincial income supports – up to $1,588 per month – through the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program.
  • Finally, the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, established by law in 1988, is made up of 15 volunteers who advise the Premier about opportunities for “full and equal participation” of disabled Albertans. Groups the Council has advised include: coordinators of an affordable housing strategy, the provincial association of sexual assault services, and even the provincial assisted suicide framework. There is no website with a list of publications, nor links from the annual reports describing the advice provided. The Council also coordinated events for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and annual awards for disability leaders.


  • On October 6, Health Canada’s second interim report on medical assistance in dying was published. It adds statistics from January to June 2017 to the earlier report, which covered the period from June to December 2016.
  • 1,179 people died between January and June 2017, bringing the total deaths in Canada to 2,149 since the Québec program launched in December, 2015. All but five of those died by euthanasia. The January to June numbers represent 0.9% of deaths across Canada. This is more than the most recent percentages available for Oregon (0.37%) but less than the numbers for Belgium (1.83%) and the Netherlands (3.75%). The number of deaths increased by 46.8% compared to June to December 2016; 803 people died during that period.
  • We know that the average age of people who died by euthanasia is 73 years. Cancer was the most frequently cited underlying health issue, followed by neurodegenerative conditions. Over 80% of the deaths took place in hospitals or homes. The number of women versus men is about the same; there were slightly more women last year, and more men this year.
  • The more important information is what’s missing – and once again, quite a bit has been left out. There is no data for the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, due to the territories’ small population. Neither Ontario nor British Columbia, the two provinces with the largest number of AS/E deaths, reported how many requests for assisted suicide were received, and how many were refused. As well, Health Canada did not include information about people who received court permission for euthanasia before the law came into force in June 2016.
  • There is no information about the living situation or other circumstances of the people who are killed (only the location where euthanasia took place). Did people have the pain relief and supports they needed to live well at home? Was anyone pressured to die? Were all safeguards followed? We have no way to know.
  • More information is supposed to be available once a monitoring system is put in place. Future reports under this system should include:
    • a broader set of data
    • a statistical overview of all requests and their outcomes
    • medical and demographic information;
    • information about whether eligibility criteria and safeguards were followed.