Would Jesus or Charles Dickens notice the difference in how people with disabilities are utilized in Canada today

His name is Muki Baum, he has cerebral palsy, he's deaf and can barely speak. Yet for almost 20 years he's been fundraising outside Holt Renfrew for people with disabilities. His tally to date is a staggering $600,000. VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR

Muki Baum is a man severely disabled by Cerebral Palsy who has raised $600,000 begging on the streets of Toronto outside posh stores like Holt Renfrew.

Donna Thompson, wife of Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK, argues in The Four Walls of My Freedom that we are not valuing people like Muki Baum.

The Toronto Star reports Mr. Baum raised this money day-after-day for charities like Wheels in Motion and the March of Dimes. He has done it for 20 years.

It’s a wonderful story of triumph over adversity and personal sacrifice.

It’s also the saddest commentary on how little Canadian society values people with disabilities.

Mr. Baum is not alone.

Many Canadians with moderate to severe disabilities are not employed and resort to street begging to survive.

Mr. Baum is not limited in intelligence but his appearance, mobility and verbal limitations make him fit for the lowest level of activity.

Being a beggar is not an honorable lifestyle.

Most cities have laws that prohibit panhandling.

A story we did this year on Calgary’s attempt to curb panhandling got some pretty nasty and stereotypical comments. Should we give money to panhandlers?

The government of Alberta has an official plan to discourage supporting panhandlers and street begging.

That flies in the face of the Caledon report that show 84% of Albertans on social assistance are moderately to severely disabled.

A single person in Calgary on social assistance is expected to live on $13,000 a year in one of the most expensive cities in Canada.

Other that panhandling what legal source of income do those people have?

How will they make up the shortfall?

Street beggars or panhandlers are seen by Canadians as alcoholics, drug addicts, or generally the scum of the earth. This is not true.

Other than Mr. Baum who enjoys some media attention, the rest of the Canadians with disabilities who work the streets are being urged to move along.

In her book Four Walls Of My Freedom, Donna Thompson argues intelligently and convincingly we need to place value on all Canadians despite their disabilities.

Thompson has devoted her life to caring for her son Nicolas who has severe disabilities resulting from Cerebral Palsy.

Thompson is the wife of James Wright Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK. Without those credentials she might be tossed off as another hysterical mother of a disabled child.

With one family in two touched by disabilities and 4,000,000 Canadians disabled, we need to re-think our policies both as individuals and a society.

Listening to Prime Minister Stephen Harper recommend the status quo on social policies, along with the environment and everything else, reminds me of Marie Antoinette’s famous “Let them eat cake.”

The quote Qu’ils mangent de la briochemay be mis-attributed to Antoinette but what is Prime Minister Harper saying?

Thompson’s book is highly recommended.