Next to social isolation, poverty is the biggest barrier felt by Canadians with disabilities. Too many Canadians with disabilities are living paycheque to paycheque, earning too little to get ahead. However, the Indigenous population experiences a disability rate twice that of the non-Indigenous population. As Indigenous people with disabilities represent a marginalized population within a marginalized population, the complexity of their unique situations and needs cannot be ignored. It is estimated that over 350,000 Indigenous people in Canada live with a disability.

To help combat poverty for disabled Canadians the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) came into effect in 2008. The RDSP is a long-term savings plan that helps Canadians living with disabilities and their families to save for their future. As well as being a tax deferred savings plan, the RDSP offers bonds and grants from the federal government. The Canada Disability Savings Bond (CDSB) provides eligible individuals with up to $20,000 without making any contributions and the Canada Disability Savings Grant (CDSG) provides up to $70,000 when contributions are made. The RDSP has to be opened by age 60 and bonds and grants are payable to age 49. Since 2008, uptake of the RDSP has been less than anticipated with only 31 percent of eligible Canadians opening an account.

Despite the high number of Indigenous people in Canada living with a disability, there is a lack of participation in government programs such as the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the RDSP. The following barriers contribute to the low up-take for the RDSP:

  • Cost – There are no set limits on what a medical practitioner can charge someone for completing a DTC application. For some, this can be hundreds of dollars and for those already on low incomes, this financial barrier is too great. Individuals may have to spend a significant amount of time and money travelling to and from medical appointments to get their application completed.
  • Access – A lack of access to health care practitioners, particularly for those in rural communities is a significant barrier. Those with certain medical conditions may require a medical specialist or multiple practitioners to complete their application. There is often no access to public transportation in rural communities and individuals may struggle to complete their application. 
  • Understanding and awareness – Health care practitioners’ often lack the knowledge about an individual’s medical history in cases where they have no general practitioner or they use walk-in clinics. There is also a lack of understanding among health practitioners on how individuals qualify for the DTC. This results in the client’s inability to apply for the DTC or the client being denied the DTC.

Whilst these barriers are not unique to Indigenous Canadians with disabilities, they are felt more strongly in these communities. In order to overcome these barriers, British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) launched its Indigenous RDSP Navigator Program with the support of the Vancouver Foundations part of the Access RDSP project.


BCANDS RDSP Navigators provide support to Indigenous clients in the following ways:

  • Provide them with information packages and assist clients in connecting with health practitioners.
  • Complete tax returns up to 10 years prior through BCANDS’ partnership with the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.
  • Assist clients in obtaining identification to open RDSPs.
  • Provide information and resources to health practitioners about the DTC Certificate and review the DTC prior to submission to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
  • Support clients to complete legal representative agreements to allow caregivers to submit the DTC and open the RDSP on their behalf.
  • Follow-up with CRA when there are delays in processing and informal reviews are requested when DTC’s are denied.
  • Support clients through the whole process of obtaining an RDSP.

BCANDS Indigenous RDSP navigators work with all Indigenous people including BC’s 203 First Nation Communities, BC’s 37 Métis Chartered Communities, and Inuit, Métis and First Nations across Canada now residing in BC. BCANDS works one-on-one with these communities to foster relationships while raising awareness and support for the BCANDS Indigenous RDSP Navigator program. As of March 31, 2020 RDSP, navigators have helped open 144 RDSPs, completed 267 tax returns and have over 170 clients at various stages of the DTC certificate process.


To contact the BCANDS Indigenous RDSP Navigators:

  • Call Toll Free – 1-888-815-5511 ext. 219 or Capital Region  (250) 381 7303 ext. 219
  • Email –  
  • By mail at: #6 – 1610 Island Highway – Victoria, British Columbia – V9B 1H8


About Access RDSP

Access RDSP was launched in 2016 as a provincial initiative between BCANDS, Disability Alliance BC (DABC) and Plan Institute. Its goal is to see every eligible individual in British Columbia and the rest of Canada hold an RDSP. Access RDSP was designed to reach the population that has been inaccessible from the launch of the RDSP by providing one-on-one support to navigate the requirements. Access RSDP has developed a shared understanding of the gaps that exist within the DTC/RDSP program and works to understand the system and the barriers that they need to help their clients overcome. To see a full list of the supports provided as part of this initiative, please visit the website:

BCANDS and the Access RDSP Program receiving the Essl Foundation’s Zero Project International Award in 2019, for their work within Indigenous Disability across Canada.


BCANDS is an award winning, Indigenous not-for-profit, charitable society that serves the unique and diverse disability and health resource/support service needs of the Indigenous population. BCANDS has led the way for over 29 years in delivering disability and health resources, information and support services to their clients, families, support workers and communities. BCANDS is a “stand alone” organization and the only organization of its type in Canada.

Thank you to BCANDS for sharing information about the program and the need for services in this area. To learn more about BCANDS and the Indigenous RDSP Navigator Program visit: