It is imperative to ensure that all those living with a disability have the financial ability to live their best life.
Duncan’s Jeff Leggat who has been a grass roots disability advocate since 2019 is embarking across Western Canada from Sept. 7 to 16 to spread awareness on the challenges and sometimes poverty that those living with a disability in Canada face with his ‘END Legislated Poverty of Disabled Canadians’ tour.
This will be Leggat’s second tour. It’s a cause that’s dear to his heart, as he has been working on managing his own acute anxiety disorder that has come with its share of challenges over the years.
“My anxiety disorder has caused chaos in my life for as long as I remember with episodes of panic attacks, agoraphobia, issues with my eyesight, body numbness, tics, and depression,” said Leggat. “Since becoming assessed and designated as a Persons With Disability, I organized my life in a manner in which to best become an active member of my community while protecting, and addressing my mental health.
“I realized the disability support here in B.C., and in every other province, was severely lacking in one of the most important factors — financial support. I will be meeting other disabled Canadians along the way as well as politicians from different provinces in an effort to raise awareness about this dire social issue.”
Leggat, who received about $700 last year from GoFundMe, is aiming to raise another $1,200 through this year’s campaign which he will match dollar for dollar to cover all the costs for his seven major city tour from B.C. to Manitoba over 10 days which he estimates will cost around $2,500.
Leggat’s booth will include banners, temporary tattoos, postcards to send to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, information, as well chocolates and e-petitions, all which he purchased. Leggat has also travelled to Ottawa in an effort to reach politicians at the federal level to push for proper financial support for all disabled Canadians across the country.
According to Leggat, the average monthly financial support for people with disabilities unable to support themselves is $1,068 per month, which is based on all 10 provinces’ disability income support levels.
The official poverty level of Canada per Market Basket Measure is one of two official poverty level guides — the other is the LICO table which in 2022 was at $2,106 per month. Leggat says this means that more than 1.5 million Canadians are suffering in a legislated government imposed poverty at the hands of the provincial and federal governments of Canada.
READ MORE: Letter: People with disabilities live in government imposed poverty
“Fellow Canadians are under the impression that our government takes care of our disabled in Canada by providing at least poverty level support; this is incorrect,” said Leggat. “All 10 provincial governments have let the level of disability support slide to desperate levels hoping no one would notice.
“I feel that if the provinces continue to fail in their responsibility for this social contract, then the federal government must step in and ensure government imposed poverty is eliminated. It is heartbreaking to hear the devastating consequences of failed financial support and witness the desperation of those just trying to survive.”
Leggat, who also advocates online with other disabled Canadians to ensure their voices are heard, shares that he has made incredible headway with bringing these concerns to the table with both provincial and federal politicians, and has had a hand in organizing disability advocate groups like “Disability Without Poverty” which according to Leggat is well funded through foundations and grants in Ontario.
Before embarking on this year’s tour, Leggat had a booth set up in front of Duncan United Church where the public could pick up a “No Poverty” temporary tattoo, and a postcard to send to Trudeau, as well as sign the e-petition that is currently before the House of Commons calling for emergency support for disabled Canadians.
“I will educate about the reality of living as a Person With Disability in this country and clarify the specifics about the newly created Canada Disability Benefit — that won’t be in effect until at least 2025,” said Leggat.
“This is not a political party issue, but a social contract between Canadians and our disabled brothers and sisters that need to be supported at no less than the poverty level so they may participate in life, and their community, and enjoy everything our first world country affords its citizens. A life of comfort, dignity and respect.”