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Canadian Business Disability Network launches with support of industry heavyweights including Manulife, TELUS Health and IBM

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December 4, 2023
By Talent Canada

Photo: Firm V/Adobe Stock

More than one-quarter of Canadians (27%) — or eight million people — identify as having a disability, which represents an enormous pool of talent for employers.

With that in mind, the federal government celebrated the launch of the Canadian Business Disability Network (CBDN) today in Toronto at an event hosted by Manulife Canada.

“Employers in Canada recognize that having inclusive businesses and workplaces is a business imperative. A culture of diversity and inclusion is required to attract and retain the best talent, and to foster the growth and vitality of a business,” Ottawa said in a press release.

“The launch of the Canadian Business Disability Network is a true testament to the government and Canadians’ commitment to building accessible businesses. I want to congratulate the Disability Inclusion Business Council on the launch of the network which will help Canadian businesses develop and share knowledge that will create more a more accessible economy. In particular, I would like to thank EY Canada, Manulife Canada, TELUS Health, and IBM Canada for their leadership on this important initiative,” said Kamal Khera, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities.


Support from private sector

Manulife president and CEO Naveed Irshad said the company was proud to be a founding member of CBDN and to play a part in helping organizations create fully accessible work environments.

“Recognizing that we can – and must – do more is an important first step. I look forward to following the progress of the newly-launched network and offering my ongoing support to this important initiative,” said Irshad.

Paula Allen, TELUS Health

Paula Allen, global leader of research and client insights at TELUS Health and a founding member of CBDN, said her company will be an active participant in this ntwork.

“We firmly believe that fostering greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace and in all aspects of society is not only essential for upholding the dignity and unlocking the potential of individuals but also for strengthening the fabric of our society as a whole,” said Allen.

Leaders from EY and IBM also put their weight behind the announcement. Jad Shimaly, chair, CEO and chief inclusiveness officer at EY, said the company has “invested in creating workplace environments that are free of barriers and biases, while fostering independence and dignity to help unleash the full abilities of all Canadians.”

Dave McCann, president of IBM Canada, said his company was proud to join the network.

“As part of this commitment, IBM plans to provide an in-kind contribution to help enable member organizations to adopt best practices that will benefit their employees, customers, and businesses. This contribution may include IBM technology, services, expertise, and other resources,” he said.

Action plan

In 2022, the federal government presented a Disability Inclusion Action Plan as a blueprint for change to make Canada more inclusive for people with disabilities.

Under the employment pillar of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, the Disability Inclusion Business Council (DIBC) was formed. This council, created with the aim of addressing workplace barriers faced by persons with disabilities, has worked towards incubating, designing, and now launching an independent, self-governed business disability network.

The Canadian Business Disability Network’s mission is to empower its member organizations to embrace disability-inclusive best practices that not only enhance their businesses but also contribute positively to their employees and customers. This collaborative effort will bring together industry experts, jointly resourced by member companies, to provide innovative programs and services, it said.

These initiatives will support businesses in enhancing the accessibility of their workplaces, as well as the products and services they offer to clients.

Moving forward, the collaboration between the network and the disability community will ensure its programs and services fully meet the needs of both businesses and persons with disabilities.

Quick facts

The 2022 Canada Survey on Disability found that 27% of Canadians aged 15 and over—or about 8.0 million persons—report having a disability that limit them in their daily activities. An estimated 30.4% of persons with a disability are not in the labour force.

On Dec. 7, 2022, the Government of Canada created the Disability Inclusion Business Council (DIBC) to provide advice and recommendations to the Government, and to design and launch a self-governed independent business network.

The Canadian Business Disability Network announced today, has the following as members: EY Canada, Manulife Canada, TELUS Health, and IBM Canada,

On Sept. 23, 2020, the Government committed in its Speech from the Throne to create Canada’s first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) that includes a new Canada Disability Benefit, a robust Employment Strategy for Canadians with disabilities, and a better process to determine eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits. Launched on Oct. 7, 2022, the DIAP includes 4 pillars for change: financial security, employment, accessible and inclusive communities, and a modern approach to disability0

As part of the 2023-24 Government of Canada Advertising Plan, Employment and Social Development Canada is launching an advertising campaign in January 2024 to promote the hiring of persons with disabilities by small and medium size enterprise (SME) employers. The campaign will inform SME employers that persons with disabilities are a significant untapped source of labour that can address their labour force needs and that there are tools and resources available to help employers hire persons with disabilities.

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