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Book Chapter

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Critical Disability Theory, Disabled Canadians, Equality Rights, Partial Citizenship, Inclusion


This chapter is a development and exploration of an idea we suggested in our introduction to an edited collection, Critical Disability Theory: Essays in Philosophy, Politics, Policy, and Law.1 Our goal here is to pursue two lines of inquiry. The first (and perhaps least controversial) is a descriptive claim: despite having their equality rights enshrined in the Charter, persons with disabilities in Canada are denied full citizenship status; they are treated as “partial citizens”2 and, as such, they experience a “cheap and shoddy imitation”3 of citizenship, a regime of dis-citizenship. The second (perhaps more controversial) inquiry is normative and prescriptive: it explores whether the idea of dis-citizenship can be deployed proactively to highlight the analytical and jurisprudential potential of a new category of political subjects. Specifically, we hope to identify the particular rights of persons with disabilities and to take account of their differential needs, in order to ensure that they have genuine equality and access to all the benefits (and responsibilities) of Canadian citizenship. Our goal is to go beyond abstract and formal understandings of citizenship to one that is grounded and inclusive, in tune with the lived material circumstances of persons with disabilities. As part of the effort to keep our analysis grounded, we will incorporate four case studies into the discussion.