About the Filibuster

The Disability Filibuster was an audaciously ambitious grassroots online protest on a scale never before undertaken in Canadian disability history. The idea was conceived on March 3, 2021. In the span of a mere three days, a nation-wide working group of disability rights and equality rights activists had come aboard, seed funding was secured, extensive disability accommodations were arranged, a suitable online platform was determined, publicity was generated and a round-the-clock, inclusive livestream protest of disabled artists, activists, scholars and allies was launched. The inaugural Filibuster broadcast began at 7 PM on March 8, 2021. After an initial invasion by ‘Zoom bombers’ shortly after launch forced a sudden interruption, we resumed at 7 PM on March 9 and continued late into the night. In total, the Disability Filibuster ran live, continuous broadcasts for almost 60 hours with only brief nightly breaks between 4 AM and 6 AM EST. Content ranged from lectures, interviews and panel presentations to artistic, comedic and dramatic performances and laid-back ‘coffeehouse’ late-night conversations. Each and every contribution was thematically tied to the Filibuster’s central mission of stopping the passage of a dangerous amendment to Canada’s assisted suicide laws, by exposing the injustice, ableism and inhumanity at its core.

About ‘filibustering’
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origins of the word Filibuster can be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was used to designate bands of adventurers whose lawless and/or revolutionary exploits were described by colonial powers as “marauding” by land and “piracy” by sea. In later times, the word has been used more broadly to describe “unauthorized and irregular warfare”. In contemporary North America, to filibuster means to practice an act of obstruction in a legislative assembly.

We took the concept, doused it in disability culture, modernized it, and made it ours.

About the Disability Filibuster 2021
Early in 2016, a dangerously eugenic bill was making its way through the Canadian parliamentary process. Known as Bill C-7, this proposed amendment to Canada’s 2011 law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide would radically expand eligibility for medically hastened death so that it was no longer limited to persons already at the end stages of life, but instead would be available to anyone with an incurable disability who found the conditions of their life to be intolerable. Were this amendment to pass, people with disabilities, at any stage in life, would henceforth find that our cries for help could result in a state-sanctioned death. The same so-called “compassion” would not be afforded to nondisabled people, for whom suicide is deemed tragic, and worthy of every possible life-affirming intervention. This differentiation between disabled and nondisabled lives represented an alarming escalation toward a resurgent eugenic state.

A broad and perhaps unprecedented coalition of disability rights defenders and our allies had come together in opposition to this Bill, but we were being sidelined, stonewalled, patronized and betrayed at every turn.

Extreme measures were called for. With Parliament conducting its affairs and lawmaking virtually during a pandemic shutdown, we would focus our disruptive efforts in a virtual arena. And with our lives, our constitutional rights, and our human dignity under threat, we would wage a radical and irregular form of warfare, striking directly at the heart of the ableist logic that makes sense of our annihilation.

We would be ourselves, in a space where we made the rules, we set the pace and we call the shots.

About the Disability Filibuster 2022
To learn about the Disability Filibuster 2022, visit the 2022 page.
About our impact
Spoiler alert: Sadly, though not surprisingly, we did not stop or significantly delay the passage of Bill C-7. Until we can overturn it, it is the law in Canada.

Our objectives for the Disability Filibuster, however, went beyond the immediate defeat of Bill C-7. We had (and still have) larger, bolder and more radical objectives in mind:

  • to expose and disrupt the ableist underpinnings of eugenic state policy and to resist policies and ideologies that threaten to annihilate disabled lives;
  • to serve as a virtual hub for the expression, preservation and promotion of activist disability culture – a culture that is radically accessible and expansive, premised upon foundations of equality, respect and love for ourselves and each other;
  • to centre the diverse experiences and expressions of disability, and to do so proudly, without the contortions and performative rituals that make nondisabled power-holders more comfortable in our presence; and
  • to be a force for dynamic and intersectional movement building through mutual learning, vigilance, testimony, analysis and action.

How did we score against these objectives?

You be the judge of that. Please browse the Disability Filibuster broadcast collection, relevant media and other resources archived on this website.

  • Link to Disability Filibuster 2021 video archive
  • Link to the original concept outline for the Disability Filibuster on Bill C-7
  • Link to 2021 Media reports and commentaries
  • Link to March 2021 letter to supporters and volunteers
About our future
The work isn’t done, and neither are we.

As an activist-driven space for cultural, educational and political work, we take our cues for action from you. Please join our grassroots social movement to resist any eugenic enterprise or ideology that:

  • is of life-or-death significance for people with disabilities in Canada;
  • builds solidarity across generational and social justice vectors; and
  • is national and/or global in relevance.
Contact Us
Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @DisabilityFili1