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The Globe and Mail

Ottawa rolls out funding for small business to hire people with disabilities

Canada's Human Resources Minister Dinae Finley speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 20, 2012.


The federal government is rolling out a new phase in its program to encourage the hiring of people with disabilities.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley was in Calgary today to announce a call for proposals that will see $30-million spent over the next three years.

The money is expected to create 1,600 jobs at small and medium-sized businesses, providing employment to people who have had a tough time cracking the labour market.

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"Through discussions with employers from across the country, it is clear that skills shortages are top of mind," Ms. Finley said in a news release.

"In order to support Canada's continued economic growth, we must ensure that everyone who wants to work has the opportunity to do so, including under-represented groups such as people with disabilities."

A recent Bank of Montreal survey says more than half of small businesses in Canada have never hired a person with a disability.

The $30-million in funding was first announced in the 2012 budget, adding three years of life to the Opportunities Fund program that has been around since 1997.

The money will go to projects designed to give people with disabilities a range of skills and work experience.

The employment rate for working-age people with disabilities is about 53.5 per cent — significantly lower than the 75.1 per cent rate for workers without disabilities, according to the federal government's 2010 annual report on disabilities.

Finley is launching the call for proposals despite not yet having heard from a private-sector group she appointed to find ways to better integrate people with disabilities into the workforce. The group is set to deliver its report by the end of the year.

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