Special education policies across Canada need update, renewal: report

July 8, 2015

OTTAWA—The majority of special education policies in place across Canada are more than 10 years old and out of step with current practices around inclusive education, says a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report, by disability rights researcher Helena Towle, provides a general picture of special education policies across Canada, including how inclusive education is defined, the policy in how inclusive education is implemented, and how funding is allocated to students with disabilities.

Canada has no federal legislation protecting a child with a disability’s right to inclusive education, because education comes under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Although every province and territory has some form of policy on inclusive education, they vary widely from one another in how they define inclusion, how they put inclusive education into practice, and how they fund it.

“As long as they are not fully included in the education system, it is students with disabilities and their families who will pay the price. Compared to adults without disabilities, adults with disabilities in Canada face challenges obtaining secure employment, accessing affordable housing and health care, and have lower levels of education and average household income,” says Towle.

The report provides a detailed overview of inclusive education policy and funding in each province and territory and makes a number of recommendations to improve special education policy, implementation, and delivery:

  • Ensure that education policy is inclusive, in accordance with international covenants.
  • Provide teachers with more resources and support.
  • Provide adequate support to students with disabilities and their families both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Improve stakeholder engagement and increase awareness of transitions from school to community life.

“Truly inclusive education needs to become a priority for all of Canada’s communities, because educational outcomes for people with disabilities have a long-lasting impact on everyone,” Towle says. “Investing in better understanding of and support for inclusive education will benefit us all, because it will create a more cohesive, equitable and compassionate society. Residential institutions have been closed, so let’s not keep students with disabilities separate and segregated any longer.”


Disability and Inclusion in Canadian Education: Policy, Procedure, and Practice is available on the CCPA website.

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.