Skip to the content you'd like to read about:What is the Optional Protocol?
The Optional Protocol has been set up to make sure that people with disabilities have a way to fight back against discrimination and barriers like these.
Before you can understand what the Optional Protocol is, you need to know about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Why? Because the two agreements work hand-in-hand together.
So let's talk about the UNCRPD: it's an international human rights convention that sets out the fundamental human rights of people with disabilities. The purpose of the UNCRPD is to ensure that people with disabilities are treated fairly, have the same opportunities as people without disabilities, and are fully included in society. Canada ratified the Convention (that is, agreed to it) in 2010.
How does the Optional Protocol factor in? The Optional Protocol is an additional agreement to the UNCRPD, which Canada acceded to (that is, agreed to) in December of 2018.The Optional Protocol is a way that people with disabilities – and groups representing people with disabilities – can make human rights complaints if they believe their rights under the Convention have been denied, and if their complaint hasn't been resolved through local measures.
In other words, the Optional Protocol is a final but important resource for people with disabilities to make human rights complaints. For instance, if a Canadian (or group of Canadians) experiences a human rights violation because of their disability and they aren't able to have their complaint addressed through all of the tribunal and court processes available, they may have the opportunity to escalate their complaint to the United Nations Committee once all other legal processes have been exhausted.
Anyone can lodge a complaint with the United Nations Committee through the Optional Protocol.
That means that individuals with a disability can make a complaint themselves, a person can make a complaint on someone else's behalf, or, in some cases, an organization (such as a disability group) can make a complaint on behalf of an individual or group of individuals. But it's important to know that people who make a complaint on behalf of someone else must first obtain that person's written consent.
Also, although it's a good idea to have a lawyer bring your complaint forward, it's not necessary.
Put simply, the Optional Protocol is a last resort. Before making a complaint through the Optional Protocol, the person or group making the complaint must already have tried and failed with all local resources.
It's also important to note that complaints can only be made on violations that happened after or during the time when Canada agreed to the Optional Protocol, which was December of 2018. What's more, although you can make a complaint at any time after the violation happened (post-December 2018), it's best if complaints are filed quickly after you've exhausted your local resources.
* Left Out: Challenges faced by persons with disabilities in Canada's schools, a report by the Canadian Human Rights Commission