A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART FOUR: YOU SAY ENTITLED, I SAY EQUALITY

Please read A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART THREE: MOTHER MINISTRY, HER CHILDREN, AND THEIR CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP before continuing.

”Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – I Thessalonians 5:18

Corrie ten Boom, and her sister, Betsie, put this verse into practice in the very direst of circumstances—while in a Nazi-controlled concentration camp in World War II. Read her story in her book, The Hiding Place, or listen as a dramatized radio drama by Focus On The Family.

How terrible it would be to find even one thing to be thankful for in a concentration camp! I’m continually encouraged by Corrie and Betsie’s attitude of thankfulness and I try (and often fail) to adopt it for myself.

On the inaugural day of a week-long girls getaway, it became my mantra as everything seemed to be going wrong. From twisting my ankle, taking transit in the rain for seven hours with multiple missed or late buses, losing my credit card, winding up in emergency for my foot, and getting excruciating menstrual cramps, I repeated “give thanks in all circumstances” through the day. And though it didn’t change my circumstances, it changed my attitude.

Thankfulness can be a tricky concept. Many a disabled person can regale you with experiences where, when trying to explain the challenges they face living with disabilities, they are told to “just be thankful.” That same sentiment echoes in my brain when considering the system that both gives financial support for disabled people in British Columbia, and also takes it away, which, in doing so, puts the disabled person in financial stress. Ironic, isn’t it

But there’s one glaring problem with this response, and it’s this, that in telling a disabled person to be thankful for what they have, you imply that they are entitled if they ask for more.

If we are less than enthusiastic about the amount of income we receive from the Ministry, and even insinuate that the amount should be higher, we are perceived as entitled. If we want more, then we’re dissatisfied with what we have, and maybe even greedy. We expect too much, and think that we’re more deserving than we really are.

But hear me, oh please hear me now: This is not an issue of entitlement, but an issue of equality.

As a disabled person, I’m not being entitled to expect equitable treatment and support.

It is not entitlement to want enough money to supplement my husband’s income that allows us to sufficiently cover our living expenses.

Disabled people are not being given special treatment if they receive disability income support.

And there is one more misconception I’d like to clear up: Disability support is not a handout. It isn’t money given at will so that disabled people don’t have to work. It’s compensation to help sustain us month to month as we search for employment in a society in which it is very challenging for disabled people to obtain. We are not greedy, or lazy, and I’d wager that each individual receiving it would choose not to be reliant on it if they had a choice.

But the fact does remain that many people are in need of it for any number of reasons. And they should never feel shame or embarrassment at being in receipt of this support. It’s been my lifeline for years now, and I don’t know how my life would have unfolded without it.

But should disabled people be thankful for this sum of money that is, at times, laughable, because how does the government deem $375 enough to cover shelter costs for a single person?

Yes. We should be thankful that the Canadian government does provide a system for supporting its disabled citizens. The support we receive keeps many disabled people afloat, and acts as their only source of income. There are places and systems that don’t give, but take from its citizens. So yes, I am very thankful to live in a country that provides for people like me.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t criticize or speak out about its flaws or discriminations. If we keep quiet, nothing will change. And striving towards a positive change is what this series, and this blog, seek to do with each word written. Of course it’s uncomfortable and even hurtful at times, but that is because I’m addressing issues in a flawed world. But nothing will change if we don’t raise our voices.

And this blog is my voice. I hope that through this mini-series, you’ve been able to hear me, and hear not only the words I’ve said but the person behind those words. Because I am not the only one whose reality I have just stripped bare. This is life for many, many Canadians, and though every situation is individual, there is one commonality that binds us: Every disabled person deserves equality.

And my hope is that through more and more disabled people speaking up, we will grow ever closer to achieving it.

A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART ONE: WHEN I SAID I DO, THE GOVERNMENT SAID WE DON’T HAVE TO ANYMORE

Important Disclaimers:
Firstly, everything I’m about to share in this post is derived from my own experiences and unique situation. In no way is this a complete or accurate portrayal of every person’s circumstances. However, after speaking with several friends who also receive disability income support as well as broader research, I can confidently say that my situation is not uncommon. But more than the numbers I’ll be sharing through this mini-series, I’m speaking more to the governmental system that provides this service and the attitudes and perceptions therein. Please read with an open mind, and please do your own research if interested, but remember that no matter what you read, on my blog or via another source, nothing can be verified unless it comes directly from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and its employees.
Secondly, I will be referencing the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction in each post in this series. But for the ease of reading, I will simply refer to it as the Ministry. For further reading, visit the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s Disability Assistance page.


Getting married in British Columbia is synonymous with financial hardship for people with disabilities. And I, as a fully blind woman, was all too aware of this as soon as my partner slipped the ring onto my finger. Our six-month engagement was not only a countdown to our becoming husband and wife, but also to the start of a bleak and downward turn for our financial situation that required as much, if not more, planning than our wedding.

Here are the facts of what we were facing:

  • A single person receiving disability income from the Ministry can earn up to $15,000 before their disability payments get cut, dollar for dollar.
  • When a disabled person receiving disability income gets married, that household can earn up to $18,000 cumulatively before their disability payments get cut, dollar for dollar.
  • The payments reset each spring and the client receives monthly support, but only until their income threshold [$15,000/$18,000] is met.

What did this mean for my husband and I? First, let’s look at this in a broader scope.

At the time of this writing in May 2022, minimum wage in British Columbia is $15.20 per hour. And if you dare to follow my less-than-exemplary math skills, let’s find out how much a full-time job at minimum wage turns out to be:

  • $15.20 per hour x 40 hours per week = $608
  • $608 per week x 4 weeks = $2,432
  • With a month’s income as $2,432, and using this income tax calculator the net income that is brought home is $1,851.

With one partner earning $1,851 at minimum wage, it will take an estimated seven months before their income threshold is met and the income support for the disabled partner is cut off for the remainder of the year. But many factors can affect this. What if the non-disabled partner works a job that pays higher than minimum wage? What if they receive a promotion or work a second job? What if the disabled partner has a job as well? It simply means that the income threshold will be met sooner and each dollar earned is one less that the disabled partner can receive from the Ministry.

And I’d be remiss not to mention that the income earned from the Ministry is less than that of minimum wage. And pardon my bluntness, but particularly in this province and the current economic situation, how is anyone supposed to make it as a single-income household? Rent is extortionate depending on the region in which you live, but prices are rising everywhere. Food and fuel are going up, and being disabled has its own costs—adaptive equipment, service animals, medical expenses, etc. It’s hard for anyone. And it’s under these circumstances that the government deems it appropriate to cut a disabled person’s income while they are already earning below minimum wage.

So for an average, newlywed couple without any financial advantages—you know, normal people—this means my husband and I are only able to receive my disability income for seven months, unless I’m able to get work and thus, reach the limit in less time. Any financial success we may come upon, every dollar we earn between the two of us, is one less dollar we won’t have once we reach $18,000.

But the most disheartening part of all of this is that getting married is the cause for these financial losses. When my husband and I first delved into the realities of what we had to prepare for, I sat at the kitchen island and cried. It wasn’t fair. Why was I being punished for finding love? Simply because I was getting married, the government felt that I didn’t need the financial support anymore. Was I supposed to marry rich just because I’m disabled? Sorry, but I didn’t get that memo.

Was I such a burden that even the government didn’t care to support me and help me thrive in our predominantly able-bodied society anymore? Could they not wait until their burden was shuffled off onto her husband to deal with now? *Sigh of relief*

I’ll never know. But what I do know is how it feels to make a decision that I believe in wholeheartedly and yet, feel as though I’m being devalued and penalized for it. But, there was a potential way out and I had to weigh my options carefully.

Marriage or money … it shouldn’t need to be such a stark choice. But it was, and even though you know what I decided, stick around for my next post to find out how I got there.

Read this next: A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART TWO: HOW TO HAVE YOUR COMMON-LAW CAKE AND EAT IT TOO [BUT WHY I DIDN’T]

A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART THREE: MOTHER MINISTRY, HER CHILDREN, AND THEIR CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP

Please read A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART TWO: HOW TO HAVE YOUR COMMON-LAW CAKE AND EAT IT TOO [BUT WHY I DIDN’T] before continuing.

After a lengthy process of phone calls, office visits and mountains of paperwork, the drama of getting married in the eyes of the Ministry was complete. My surname was changed to match my husband’s, and he was added to my profile. We received reimbursement for our security deposit since it put us in “financial stress.” And, to our great surprise and utter relief, we also received a month of back payments to account for our substantial increase in rent.

My husband rested his head on my shoulder and we both let out deep sighs of relief. With a move, a possible job change, bills to pay, and dreams we want to fulfill as a newlywed couple, it’s reassuring to know we can make this month’s rent.

And yet, it grates under my skin the fact that working a full-time job at minimum wage, I would earn more money than what the Ministry provides to disabled people on permanent support. And with minimum wage set to increase, the difference is even more distinct. Yet, in a society that is still glaringly discriminatory against people with disabilities, finding work with which to support myself and my husband is a prospect I’ve grown bitter about—I can’t dare to hope for it because I know I’ll be disappointed yet again.

So I go back to the Ministry, month after month:

  • Yes, I am still in need of support.
  • Yes, I am still searching for employment.

It isn’t dissimilar to a parent-child dynamic in my mind:

A child is growing up, eager to spread their wings and fend for themselves in the world. Follow your dreams, fall on your face, and get back up again. It’s the only way you learn. And the cycle repeats itself over and over again until life itself is over.

But sometimes, parents don’t want to let go. They can’t let go. They know the thirst for freedom and independence their child has—it’s the same freedom they chased when they were young—but now, on the other side, it’s hard to let go and grant the independence that will transition their child from a dependent youth into a well-rounded, self-sufficient adult. And the struggle persists between parent and child, a struggle for freedom, control, independence and ultimately, life itself.

Okay, so it’s a flawed example. For starters, unlike the Ministry, parents usually want the best for their children even when it’s difficult. And though I’m speaking about financial dependence and not emotional or relational control in a familial context, my point remains: Children want to be set free, to experiment, fail, learn, grow, and not be under their parents’ authority.

And that is the sum of what I long for as a child of Mother Ministry. But to my chagrin, I’m dependent on her support to do that.

But I long to be free of the Ministry’s grasp, not to be dependent on the money that drops into my bank account every month which for years, has been my only means of survival. And even though I am married now, we are still dependent on it, as rent has increased, utilities have increased and the cost of a household of two costs more than we expected. In short, we need the Ministry’s money to make it.

But I long to claw my way out of the government’s hold, to follow my dreams, fall on my face and get back up again… Just like everyone else. I don’t want to need their support. I want to be a self-sufficient adult, earning my own money to put food on the table for my husband and I to enjoy together each night. I want to work and be productive, and believe that the work I do is worthy of monetary compensation, and feel a camaraderie with the majority of the world who go to work, earn a paycheck and come home, knowing that they worked for it. I want to use the drive and ethics and principles that my parents taught me, and that I want to pass down to my own kids.

They say not to bite the hand that feeds you. But whether I like it or not, I need the sustenance the government offers to make it. And don’t think I’m not grateful. But I’m despairing of the relationship that leaves me stuck, reliant, but unable to escape.

All right, so I won’t bite. But what did a nibble hurt anyone?

Read this next: A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART FOUR: YOU SAY ENTITLED, I SAY EQUALITY

A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART TWO: HOW TO HAVE YOUR COMMON-LAW CAKE AND EAT IT TOO [BUT WHY I DIDN’T]

Please read A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART ONE: WHEN I SAID I DO, THE GOVERNMENT SAID WE DON’T HAVE TO ANYMORE before continuing.

I got married.

And with that, my husband and I prepared for a unique financial situation—the inevitable loss of my disability income. But, there was a possible escape, a way to have my cake [ahem, income] and eat it, too.

Enter common-law relationships.


I grew up in a solid Christian home and as an adult, I still choose to hold to those values and beliefs. And I have always dreamed of getting married and having a godly, Christ-centered marriage. But by the time my husband and I met, it was clear that we had to make a choice between my financial stability and my longing for a godly [and legal] marriage. And I wasn’t the first to face this dilemma.

In British Columbia, the Ministry slashes a disabled person’s disability income once they get married. Because, as we all know, disabled people marry rich, financially secure partners with no money woes or debt to pay off, so it’s totally fine to cut back one partner’s entire income once they say “I do.”

Exaggerated? Maybe. But it’s sure how it feels, considering that is the choice my husband and I faced and now, the consequences we live with.

Let’s take a moment and refresh our memories, shall we?
As a married couple, both partners have to claim every dollar made between them, and each dollar claimed is a dollar less that can be received through monthly disability support once the income threshold for a couple [$18,000] is reached.

However, there is one loophole one can jump through in order to keep both their disability income and a shared life with their partner—living common-law. Many disabled British Columbians are opting for this option rather than legal marriage because as stated, it allows them to live with their partner and keep receiving support payments, which is often that partner’s only means of income.

My husband and I wanted a legal, on-paper, out-loud, God-honouring marriage. But that isn’t to say we didn’t seriously consider foregoing the tradition and simply moving in together and beginning our lives together without the fanfare.

Financial success isn’t everything. But being financially stable is not something to be dismissed, and it has always been a goal for my marriage. And we knew what we were up against: Being disabled is expensive. Caring for a service animal is expensive. And finding a job to pay for these expenses is next to impossible, since too many employers are unwilling to hire people with disabilities in favour of their convenience. Living common-law would at least let me share a home and a life with my partner while contributing to our financial future, whereas legal marriage would ensure a regress in our goals and a slap in my face for doing the right thing.

Now, being married and living with the aftereffects of that choice, I do have to say that I do not regret it. My faith and the values I glean from it are more important. But admittedly, it hurts, knowing that I can’t contribute equally to our financial future, that what I can contribute will be lost in a few months’ time, and that we have to have a “Scary Fund” to keep us afloat when the months without my income arrive.

But this is how it is with the Ministry every time I make a call, go to the office, or claim my husband’s and my income on our monthly report. It’s a slap in the face for doing the right thing, both legally and biblically. I did not hide my marriage nor skirt around it to keep my income, but in following their policies and procedures, I lose my income.

Why?

Because the government system in place to provide for people like me makes us choose between a loving relationship and financial security.

Because God knows, we don’t deserve both.

Read this next: A SILVER DOLLAR FOR DISABLED MARRIAGE, PART THREE: MOTHER MINISTRY, HER CHILDREN, AND THEIR CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP

DISABILITY IS ABOUT PEOPLE, NOT POLITICS

My high school history teacher said there would come a time that I’d need to understand politics. And although I know bits and pieces of governmental bodies and systems, I can’t participate in dinner table discussions or understand news articles in a way I always hoped to. I want to learn more.

Now, thanks to Bill C-22, I have a reason to.

In its own words, C-22, called the Canada Disability Benefit Act, is “An Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act.” In plain words, this is what disabled Canadians have been fighting for, and even though it’s on the political radar with its second reading earlier this week, no one knows if it will even happen.

I can’t explain the details of C-22. I’m still learning about this myself even as I’m writing about it now. Nonetheless, I felt it was important to speak up, because this is an issue that directly impacts my life as a disabled person, and so many more lives.

Recently, I’ve been researching the statistics regarding blindness in Canada, and I came upon a list of such statistics from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind [CNIB]. Here, they list the numbers of Canadians living with sight loss in each province and territory. If you will, take a look through this list and I’ll see you in a minute.

  • Alberta: 160,000
  • British Columbia: 252,000
  • Manitoba: 57,000
  • New Brunswick: 37,750
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 21,700
  • Nova Scotia: 49,500
  • Ontario: 681,000
  • Prince Edward island: 6,250
  • Quebec: 205,900
  • Saskatchewan: 43,000
  • Northwest Territories: 1,220
  • Nunavut: 1,280
  • Yukon: 1,400

A significant portion of the population, would you not agree?

However, this list doesn’t account for Canadians living with the myriad of other disabilities, physical, mental, emotional and invisible. Can you imagine what the number is? It’s 22%, or 6.2 million over the age of 15.

That’s almost one quarter of the Canadian population. And what is being done to support those people?

My people.

“Oh but Rhianna, didn’t you get a Covid-19 benefit?”

You mean the $600 one-time payment that we received, when able-bodied, working Canadians received $2,000? Yes, yes we did. Thanks government for covering less than half of my rent for one month.

And let’s not ignore rising costs due to inflation, and the income PWDs [persons with disabilities] receive from the Ministry that don’t account for this, and already keep disabled people below the poverty level. If you want to read a more detailed account of how the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction handles income for its disabled citizens, particularly after marriage, you might want to check out my four-part series here.

Am I over reacting? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? [Whatever a molehill is… is it actually a hill where moles live? Someone tell me, I need to know!]

I don’t think so. Please let me offer another perspective from fellow disability advocates regarding C-22, the response from the Canadian government, and the heartbreaking outcry of disabled Canadians who just want to know that they are valued and be treated like equal citizens.
As a disclaimer, yes, I retweeted these posts, but that does not mean I take responsibility for the exact wording or the messages of other tweets on these accounts.

This is not about politics, elections or legalities. It’s about people. And it’s about time we start seeing it that way and treat each citizen like the equal, valuable member of society they are.