Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities- Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities– Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments

 

October 16, 2019

 

            SUMMARY

 

With the October 21 federal election so near, so close in the polls, and with every vote so important, what are the federal parties committing to do for over six million people with disabilities in Canada? The grassroots AODA Alliance has sought 11 specific commitments to strengthen the recently-enacted Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced. So far, only two federal parties have even answered.

Polls are suggesting that Canadians are about to elect a minority government. If there is a minority government, no matter who is our next Prime Minister, there is a real potential that Canada’s next Parliament could be persuaded to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. While in opposition last year, the Greens, NDP and Conservatives all advocated for this law to be strengthened.

On October 15, 2019, the Liberal Party of Canada announced which election pledges it would make to people with disabilities, in response to the July 18, 2019 request for 11 major commitments which the AODA Alliance directed to the leaders of the six major federal parties. The Liberals’ response and its accompanying online statement on disability equality which it posted on its website on October 15, 2019, both set out below, give fewer promises than the only other federal party to respond to date.

On September 16, 2019, the federal New Democratic Party became the first federal party to answer the AODA Alliance’s request for these 11 commitments. The NDP response is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

With only five days left before voting day, the AODA Alliance is continuing its blitz. The federal Conservatives, Greens, People’s Party and Bloc Quebecois have not yet answered. Last year, the Greens and Tories teamed up with the NDP in an unsuccessful to press for amendments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, at the request of a number of disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. During debates on the bill in the House of Commons last fall, the Tories promised to make it a priority to strengthen this law if they form the next Government. On November 22, 2018, Tory MPP John Barlow pledged: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.” Tory MP Alex Nuttall promised Parliament “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Below we also set out the excellent October 15, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, posted online by Global News. It is the only news article we have seen in this election campaign covering the parties’ positions on this issue, and disability community efforts to secure such commitments. We urge the media to give this issue more coverage in the election campaign’s final days.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate. It seeks to secure the strongest commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities from all the parties. As part of this campaign, it is tweeting to as many federal candidates across Canada as possible to press for the commitments it seeks. This evening, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to speak on a panel that will give action tips for the election campaign’s final days at a federal election disability issues public forum in Toronto, organized by a number of disability organizations. It takes place from 7 to 9 pm at Ryerson University’s Tecumseh Auditorium, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street, Toronto.

Here is a summary of the 11 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its July 18, 2019 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

  1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.
  1. The ACA should be effectively enforced.
  1. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.
  1. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.
  1. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
  1. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in One federal agency, not splintered among several of them.
  1. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.
  1. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.
  1. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.
  1. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.
  1. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the voting process in federal elections has not been assured to be barrier-free for voters with disabilities. We will be monitoring for these barriers, and are urging voters with disabilities to alert us of any problems they encounter. To follow all the action on Twitter over the last days leading to the election, follow @aodaalliance Email reports of voting barriers to us at [email protected]

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For background on the AODA Alliance’s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

          MORE DETAILS

October 15, 2019 Response from the Liberal Party of Canada to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

Over the past four years, we have made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. For a full list of these actions please refer to Appendix A.

There is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

To read our full statement on disability equality and inclusion, as well as consult our 2019 platform, please visit: https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Specific Additional Information in Response to Your Questions

Questions 1 and 2:

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 3 (application to public policy):

Disability rights are human rights and we will always stand up to see these rights brought to life across government. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act. This builds on the work we have done over the past four years, putting into place measures that harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre, as well as the update to procurement policies across government.

Questions 4 to 6 (implementation and enforcement issues):

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 7

As stated above, we are fully committed to continuing to work with stakeholders and the disability community as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.

We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes.

We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 8:

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote. As we do after every election, we will review lessons learned from these changes and work with stakeholders and the disability community on further steps we can take to address barriers that may exist.

Question 9:

Should any exemptions be implemented in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act these will be limited and due to very exceptional circumstances. The rationale for the exemptions will also be made public.

Question 10:

We will examine this issue as part of promised comprehensive review of federal policies and programs. In doing so we will work closely with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the disability community to effectively identify and reduce barriers.

Question 11:

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

Appendix A: Our shared progress

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

        We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

         We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

         We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

         We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility.  And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

         We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

         We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

         We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

         We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

         We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making.  This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

         We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

         We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility.  We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

         We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

October 15, 2019 Online Statement on Disability Equality by the Liberal Party of Canada

DISABILITY EQUALITY STATEMENT

Originally posted at https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

OUR SHARED PROGRESS

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility. And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making. This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility. We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

THE PATH TO EQUALITY THROUGH DISABILITY INCLUSION

Moving forward, there is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

 Global News October 15, 2019

Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6034294/canadians-disabilities-election-campaign/

Canadians with disabilities cast doubt next federal government will address needs

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE -THE CANADIAN PRESS

Amy Amantea, who lost her eyesight due to complications while undergoing surgery more than a decade ago, poses for a photograph at her home in North Vancouver, on Oct. 11, 2019.

Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders’ debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.

The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.

The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canada’s disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.

“We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that don’t get addressed,” Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.”

Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canada’s disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.

They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.

The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment, and the People’s Party of Canada said its platform contained “no policy related to disabled persons.”

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.

Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.

“The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures,” reads the NDP’s response. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.”

The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.” Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.

The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.

“Canada’s approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve,” Peters said. “Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.”

Other disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.

Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a person’s identity.

Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.

A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.

“That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities,” Haagaard said.

Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.

Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties’ failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.

“What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us,” she said. “Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other  words — most of us.”



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AODA Alliance Writes Federal Party Leaders Seeking Election Commitments on Advancing the Cause of Accessibility for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Writes Federal Party Leaders Seeking Election Commitments on Advancing the Cause of Accessibility for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada

July 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

A hotly-contested federal election will take place this October. The candidates are already fanning out across Canada, campaigning for our votes.

Once again, the AODA Alliance is jumping into the fray. On July 18, 2019, we wrote the leaders of the major federal parties. We asked them for election pledges concerning accessibility for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada. We set that letter out below.

Our letter offers this short summary of what we seek:

“In summary we ask your Party to make 11 commitments to ensure that the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) is swift, strong and effective, including, e.g. making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the law, establishing a single unified process for complaints under the ACA, ensuring that nothing is done under the ACA that cuts back on the rights of people with disabilities, and ensuring that public money is not used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.”

The specific pledges we seek include:

  1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.
  1. The ACA should be effectively enforced.
  1. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.
  1. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.
  1. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
  2. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in One federal agency, not splintered among several of them.
  1. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.
  1. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.
  1. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.
  1. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.
  1. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

We will let you know what responses we receive. We will be active over the next three months on social media and elsewhere, in an effort to raise these issues leading up to the federal election. In future AODA Alliance Updates, we will offer you action tips on how you can help.

As we say time and again, but must repeat here: We don’t support or oppose any candidate. We try to get the strongest commitments on accessibility from as many candidates and parties as we can.

To learn about our efforts over the past four years to get a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act enacted by Canada’s Parliament, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the July 18, 2019 Letter to the Leaders of the Major Federal Political Parties

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

July 18, 2019

To:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: [email protected]

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and the Conservative Party

Leader of the Conservative Party; MP, Regina-Qu’Appelle

Via email: [email protected]

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh Leader of the NDP

Via email: [email protected]

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Elizabeth May Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Twitter: @ElizabethMay

The Hon. Rhéal Fortin Interim Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Via email: [email protected]

3730 boul. Crémazie Est, 4e étage

Montréal, Québec H2A 1B4

Twitter: @RhealFortin

The Hon. Maxime Bernier, Leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 Canada

Twitter: @MaximeBernier

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking Your Commitments to Ensure the Effective Implementation of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA)

With a federal election approaching, we seek 11 commitments from each federal political party on Canada’s new national accessibility legislation, the Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81). It is good that Parliament recently passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act . That is only the first step on the road to making Canada accessible to people with disabilities in Canada.

In this letter, we explain what we seek, who we are, and why over six million people with disabilities in Canada need these strong election commitments. Founded in 2005, the AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario and at the federal level. We were one of the disability organizations that appeared before the House of Commons and Senate to call for amendments to strengthen Bill C-81. During debates in Parliament over this bill, MPs and Senators relied on our submissions.

In summary we ask your Party to make 11 commitments to ensure that the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) is swift, strong and effective, including, e.g. making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the law, establishing a single unified process for complaints under the ACA, ensuring that nothing is done under the ACA that cuts back on the rights of people with disabilities, and ensuring that public money is not used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

1. Enforceable Accessibility Standard Regulations Should Be Enacted Within Four Years

The ACA’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standard regulations. These regulations will specify what an organization must do and by when, to become accessible. The ACA lets the Federal Cabinet, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) enact these regulations. However, it does not require them ever to be enacted. If they are not enacted, the ACA will fail.

  1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years?

2. The ACA Should Be Effectively Enforced

We have learned from extensive experience with provincial accessibility legislation that the ACA will be ineffective unless it is effectively enforced.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced?

 3. Federal Public Money Should Never Be used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers

The ACA does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds, to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the ACA doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

It is helpful that the ACA lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

This allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs that held hearings on Bill C-81 made this important observation in its May 7, 2019 report to the Senate:

“Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.”

  1. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g. , payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?

4. The ACA Should Never Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

The ACA includes only limited and insufficient protection to ensure that nothing under the ACA reduces the rights of people with disabilities. The ACA provides:

“121.1 For greater certainty, nothing in any provision of this Act or the regulations limits a regulated entity’s duty to accommodate under any other Act of Parliament.”

  1. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

A discriminatory provision was included in the Accessible Canada Act. It is helpful that it was softened in the Senate, after extensive advocacy efforts by people with disabilities. However, it should be repealed altogether.

Making this worse, section 172(3) of the ACA unfairly takes away important rights from people with disabilities in a discriminatory way. It bars the CTA from awarding justly-deserved money compensation to a passenger with a disability, even if the Agency finds that an airline or other federally-regulated transportation-provider has imposed an undue barrier against them, so long as a federal transportation accessibility regulation wrongly says that the airline did not have to provide the passenger with that accommodation. Section 172 of the ACA provides:

“Inquiry — barriers to mobility

172 (1) The Agency may, on application, inquire into a matter in relation to which a regulation could be made under subsection 170(1), regardless of whether such a regulation has been made, in order to determine whether there is an undue barrier to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

Remedies

(2) On determining that there is an undue barrier to the mobility of persons with disabilities, the Agency may do one or more of the following:

(a) require the taking of appropriate corrective measures;

(b) direct that compensation be paid for any expense incurred by a person with a disability arising out of the barrier, including for any costs of obtaining alternative goods, services or accommodation;

(c) direct that compensation be paid for any wages that a person with a disability was deprived of as a result of the barrier;

(d) direct that compensation be paid up to a maximum amount of — subject to the annual adjustments made under section 172.2 — $20,000, for any pain and suffering experienced by a person with a disability arising out of the barrier;

(e) direct that compensation be paid up to a maximum amount of — subject to the annual adjustments made under section 172.2 — $20,000, if the Agency determines that the barrier is the result of a wilful or reckless practice.

Compliance with regulations

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”

This unfairly protects huge, well-funded airlines and railways from having to pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

  1. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”” And replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.” ?

5. The ACA’s Implementation and Enforcement Should be Consolidated in One Federal Agency, Not Splintered Among Several of Them

The 105-page ACA is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, and the CRTC.

This makes the ACA’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will make it take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation.

It is wrong for the ACA to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

  1. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

6. No Federal Laws Should Ever Create or Permit Disability Barriers

It is important to ensure that no federal laws impose or permit the creation of barriers against people with disabilities.

  1. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

7. Federal Elections Should Be Made Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities continue to face disability barriers in federal elections, including, for example, barriers that can impede them from voting independently and in private, and verifying their choice. Recent amendments to federal election legislation do not ensure this.

  1. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

8. Power to Exempt Organizations from Some ACA Requirements Should be Eliminated or Reduced

The ACA has too many loopholes. For example, it lets the Federal Government exempt itself from some of its duties under the ACA. The Government should not ever be able to exempt itself.

  1. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

9. Federally-Controlled Courts and Tribunals Should be Made Disability-Accessible

People with disabilities continue to face barriers when they try to take part in proceedings in courts for which the Federal Government is responsible.

  1. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible.

10. Other Measures Needed to Strengthen the ACA

In 2018, federal opposition parties proposed a number of amendments to strengthen Bill C-81 in the House of Commons. The Government defeated most if not all of them.

  1. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

We would appreciate a response by email in MS Word format. We will make responses public. We would be pleased to answer any questions you have.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance



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In a powerful Open Letter sent to the House of Commons, An Extraordinary Lineup of Twenty-Eight Disability Organizations Unite to Press for the House of Commons’ Ratification of All the Amendments that the Senate Just Passed to Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

In a powerful Open Letter sent to the House of Commons, An Extraordinary Lineup of Twenty-Eight Disability Organizations Unite to Press for the House of Commons’ Ratification of All the Amendments that the Senate Just Passed to Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

May 15, 2019

SUMMARY

A strong concerted effort by Canada’s disability community has been unveiled to get the House of Commons to swiftly ratify all the amendments that the Senate just passed to improve Bill C-81, the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act. This legislation is needed to tear down the many accessibility barriers that impede over six million people with disabilities in Canada, in areas that the Federal Government can regulate, such as air travel, banking, broadcast, telecommunication services, and the services of the Federal Government itself.

Twenty-eight disability organizations in Canada have just united to jointly send the House of Commons an open letter, set out below. It urges all MPs to swiftly ratify all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate recently passed. Check out what those Senate amendments say, and why they’re needed.

This open letter, which the Council of Canadians with Disabilities delivered to all MPs on behalf of its 28 signatories (all listed below), explains that these amendments improve the bill. The Senate formulated these amendments after holding public hearings, where disability organizations and advocates pointed out the need to strengthen the bill that the House of Commons originally passed last fall. The Senate got the message, and formulated a short package of 11 amendments that together fit on two pages.

If the House of Commons passes all these amendments, the bill becomes a law. If the House of Commons rejects even one of those amendments, the bill must go back to the Senate yet again. As the open letter explains, that could delay the bill at a time when Parliament will soon rise for the fall election campaign.

The timing of this open letter is pivotal. A swift House of Commons vote on these amendments is needed to ensure that the bill does not die on the order paper.

“A federal election is fast approaching, and Canada has millions of voters with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance who made presentations to a House of Commons Standing Committee last fall, and a Senate Standing Committee last month, on why this bill needed to be strengthened. “What political party would want to vote against measures to strengthen protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 and risk it dying on the order paper?”

Any disability organization or group, whether national, provincial or local, can co-sign this open letter. The list of signatories will be updated as more disability organizations and groups sign on.

For your Organization/Group to co-sign this letter, just email [email protected]

Please give the following information:

  1. a) Name of your organization/Group
  2. b) Name of a contact person at your organization/group
  3. c) Email address for your organization/group
  4. d) A statement to the effect that:

My organization/group would like to sign the May 14, 2019 Open Letter to the House of Commons on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act.

To see more about the blitz that the AODA Alliance now has underway to press MPs to vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the May 14, 2019 Open Letter from Disability Organizations and Groups to the House of Commons of Canada

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament

Date: May 14, 2019

The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.

We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.

The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committee’s debates by stating that the committee’s amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: “Nothing about us without us.

While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senate’s amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.

It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senate’s amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.

We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election.

Signed:

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario for the Vision Impaired

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB Foundation (Ontario and Québec)

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité.

À: Tous les membres du Parlement

Date: 14 mai 2019

Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de s’engager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).

Nous félicitons l’honorable ministre Carla Qualtrough d’avoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel qu’exprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.

Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme d’organisations de personnes en situation de handicap et d’intervenants marteler le besoin d’une loi nationale sur l’accessibilité et recommander l’amélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt d’obstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées “Rien pour nous, sans nous”.

Bien que n’incluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt d’obstacles d’ici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à l’élimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que l’American Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant l’application du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, l’Office des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière d’emploi et la loi régissant la GRC.

Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.

Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.

La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque d’être stoppée avant l’élection de cet automne.

Lettre ouverte signée par:

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario for the Vision Impaired Doing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB Foundation (Ontario and Québec)

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation



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Help Our New Blitz to Get the House of Commons to Swiftly Ratify All the Amendments to Bill C-81(the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate Standing Committee Has Passed


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Help Our New Blitz to Get the House of Commons to Swiftly Ratify All the Amendments to Bill C-81(the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate Standing Committee Has Passed

May 6, 2019

Summary

The AODA Alliance has just launched a new blitz to get Canada’s House of Commons to swiftly ratify all the amendments to Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019.

Please email, tweet, phone or send a note by carrier-pigeon to your Member of Parliament. Ask them to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee approved. To find out how to contact your MP, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en.

We’ll soon provide you with more details on the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed.

MORE DETAILS

What’s Happening and How You can Help

The Senate is expected to hold its final or “Third Reading” vote on Bill C-81 on or before May 16, 2019. It is widely expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by the Senate Standing Committee. We’re now focusing on what comes next after that.

Once the Senate as a whole passes the amended Bill C-81, the bill comes back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons then gets to vote on the Senate’s amendments. If the House of Commons passes all the Senate’s amendments, then Bill C-81 becomes a law, complete with these amendments. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of the Senate’s amendments, Bill C-81 does not become a law. It is sent once again back to the Senate, for a vote on the bill without any of those Senate amendments.

What does all this mean for you? After the Senate passes Bill C-81 with the Senate Committee’s package of amendments, we want the House of Commons to hold a swift vote on those amendments, and to pass all the Senate’s amendments. This would improve the bill, (though not as much as we had wanted). As noted above, it would also make Bill C-81 become a law.

For that reason, we’ve now unleashed a campaign to get all MPs in the House of Commons to commit to a swift vote on Bill C-81, and to also commit that during that vote, they will vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments.

We’ve done four things to get this blitz started.

  1. We’ve already started a campaign on Twitter to tweet to as many MPs as possible. We’re asking them to commit to vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We invite you to retweet these tweets, or send your own. Include the hashtag #AccessibleCanada in your tweets. You may want to use this wording in your tweet, in which you should also include the MPs Twitter handle:

The Senate amended Bill C-81 (proposed #AccessibleCanada Act) to improve it. Please commit to vote in the House of Commons to swiftly pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/senates-standing-committee-passes-amendments-to-strengthen-the-weak-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-now-its-time-for-the-full-senate-and-house-of-commons-to-pass-all-those-amendmen/ #accessibility #CRPD #AODA #canpoli #a11y

For example, if you want to tweet to Minister Qualtrough, you start the tweet with her Twitter handle: @CQualtro.

To find your MP’s Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

  1. We’ve given a media interview to the Canadian Press on the importance of the Senate’s amendments. CP’s Michelle McQuigge quoted the AODA Alliance in a great article, which has been run in City News Vancouver, and elsewhere in the media. We set that article out below. Please circulate it to others.
  1. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister a short letter, set out below. It asks her to commit to a swift vote in the House of Commons on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and to vote to pass all those amendments. It also explains why the Federal Government should agree to these requests. We invite you to circulate that letter widely, and share it with your MP.
  1. On May 3, 2019, we sent the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs a short submission, set out below. It recommends that the Senate Standing Committee attach three “observations” to the bill in its report to the Senate. A Standing Committee’s “observations about improvements needed in connection with the bill are not the same as actual amendments to the bill. They are suggestions that are not binding on the Federal Government. However they can trigger further Senate oversight of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the bill.

Text of the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 Letter to Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

May 6, 2019

To: The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

Place du Portage, Phase III, Room 18A1

11 Laurier Street

Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0S5

Via email: [email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Seeking the House of Commons’ Swift Ratification of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

We write to ask you to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed on May 2, 2019. We ask the Federal Government to commit to pass all these amendments as soon as possible after the Senate passes Bill C-81 on Third Reading, expected to be on or before May 16, 2019. We have every reason to expect that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended, and no reason to doubt this.

There are compelling reasons for you and your Government to pass all these amendments, and to commit now to do so. There are no good reasons for you not to do so.

The Senate only passed a short, limited package of amendments. A good number of them were presented and requested by the Federal Government’s official sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson. He clearly presented them on the Government’s behalf. The other amendments were all presented by Senators at the request of disability organizations and advocates who requested them both at the Senate’s public hearings, and last fall, during public hearings before the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee.

There is substantial disability community support for these amendments, as needed to improve the bill. To that end, it was very helpful that during your April 3, 2019 appearance at the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, you committed that you were open to the Senate making amendments to the bill, and that you wanted the bill to be “the best it possibly can be”. You also committed:

“I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations”.

The Senate’s amendments are all completely in tune with the bill’s overall structure and design, and your goals for the legislation. The Senate’s Standing Committee arrived at these amendments after careful non-partisan study and, in the classical Canadian sense, sober second thought.

This is a very modest amendments package. These amendments are far, far fewer and less than many of us sought at the House of Commons during its public hearings last fall. They are much less than the much narrower requests that we placed before the Senate during its hearings.

Within the short amendments package that the Senate Standing Committee passed, the only small group of three amendments that the Senate passed and that reflected a different approach than yours were those that specified the end date for achieving a barrier-free Canada as 2040. Both in the House of Commons and the Senate, you had expressed a reluctance to include this in the bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee was keenly aware of and alert to your perspective. It took your perspective very seriously. The Senate Standing Committee also carefully weighed the strong message from so many in the disability community, to the effect that that the lack of such time lines in the bill was a significant shortcoming that hampered the bill’s effectiveness.

The Senate Standing Committee was especially alert to your primary concern that if such an end date were included in the bill, this might lead some to delay efforts on accessibility. For our part, we too were alive to your expressed concerns. As you know, for that reason and to address your concern, the Committee passed a specific amendment which we had proposed, that was specifically designed to ensure that setting a time line for accessibility in the bill could not be used to delay progress on accessibility. According to the senate Standing Committee’s new section 5.2:

5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.”.

We are in the unique position of having worked at the front lines of Ontario’s advocacy efforts on accessibility for a quarter a century. From our actual hands-on experience, we know that the twenty-year deadline in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has played an important role in helping us make progress on accessibility in Ontario. It has not had the adverse impact that you had feared.

The widespread view that this time line is needed was eloquently articulated at the Senate Standing Committee’s public hearing on May 1, 2019 by Ontario’s former Lieutenant Governor david Onley (to whom you have turned for advice on this legislation). His input was based on his consultation with Ontarians with disabilities last fall while conducting the third mandatory Independent Review of the AODA. Mr. Onley and three other deputants before the Senate Standing Committee on its last day of hearings were asked to identify their top priority for a reform to Bill C-81, if only one change could be added. Mr. Onley, supported by the three other deputants at the hearings’ final panel, said that this priority would be to add to the bill the 2040 deadline which the Senate Standing Committee was later to adopt. The Senators saw that this was consistent with other feedback from the disability community that they had heard throughout this process.

When you spoke to the Senate Standing Committee on April 3, 2019, you said that a ten year period would not be long enough. The 2040 date which the Senate Standing Committee adopted is 21 years.

We hope and trust that the opposition parties in the House of Commons will support this amendment. During clause-by-clause debates in the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee, the opposition parties supported the inclusion of an end date. Both the Conservatives and NDP proposed a ten year period. We will be urging them to approve the 2040 deadline, and know that if they thought ten years was enough, they should surely accept 2040 as not being too short.

Minister, it is so commendable that you have many times said that at the core of your Government’s approach to this bill has been to honour the disability community’s message: “Nothing about us without us!” Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Chair of the Standing Committee, concluded the committee’s debates by noting that her Committee’s amendments are the very embodiment of that principle. This is because those amendments are the direct result of the strong feedback that the Standing Committee received from disability organizations and advocates. We therefore ask you and the Federal Government to honour the principle “Nothing about us without us,” by agreeing now to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee passed to Bill C-81.

We have made it clear to all political parties in the House of Commons that we want to ensure that a swift vote is held on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81. We are calling on all the political parties to reach an agreement among themselves to schedule that swift vote. We don’t want the scheduling of that vote to be impeded by any other issues that may be occupying Parliament’s attention.

Minister, for the Federal Government to oppose any of these amendments, and particularly the 2040 time line, would be to weaken this bill. We urge you and the Federal Government not to vote to weaken this bill. The Senate, like the House of Commons, heard about the importance of adding such time lines to this bill. We urge the Federal Government not to vote against such time lines.

As always, we welcome the opportunity to work with you and all parties in Parliament to achieve these important goals.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [email protected]

CITY News Vancouver May 3, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/05/02/senate-committee-votes-to-strengthen-federal-accessibility-law/

Senate committee votes to strengthen federal accessibility law

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

A Senate committee proposed changes to Canada’s first federal accessibility law Thursday that members of the disability community said addressed some of the most pressing concerns about the legislation, though some worried the bill may still be too weak to be effective.

Nearly a hundred disability organizations and advocacy groups had been calling on the committee to introduce major changes to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act, arguing it lacked teeth.

Following a detailed hearing, the Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology voted to propose the government include a timeline in the bill that would require it to be fully implemented by 2040 rather than leaving the date open-ended.

“We are dealing with a bill that is very important for Canada and is going to make our country a better country,” said Sen. Donna Dasko. “The issue of a timeline has come up many times … this is an important thing, this gives accountability to the bill, this gives a goal to the actions being undertaken.”

The committee also voted to recognize various forms of sign language as an official language of deaf Canadians and see it included among government services. That amendment also included Indigenous sign languages among those that should be acknowledged.

The committee’s proposed amendments will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

David Lepofsky, a long-time disability rights advocate, said the full impact of the committee’s proposed amendments won’t be known until they’ve been formally incorporated into the act. He noted that the House of Commons could vote to reject any steps the Senate may suggest to strengthen the law.

But he said the committee’s moves signal hope the existing bill, which he had previously described as “inadequate,” could be improved.

“We do know that the amendments do, to some extent, strengthen this bill,” Lepofsky said. “Any improvement is welcomed.”

Lepofsky said adopting a timeline would mark a significant step forward, adding that doing so would bring the federal government in line with the three Canadian provinces that have put accessibility legislation on their books.

Senators on the committee said during Thursday’s meeting that the absence of a timeline was the unifying issue that emerged from hours of testimony from disability rights groups.

It was also one of the core issues activists raised in an open letter to the committee last year that detailed concerns about the power and scope of the proposed law. The October 2018 letter also said the bill should enshrine American and Quebec sign language as the official language of the deaf community.

While the committee tackled those concerns, it did not address others raised in the letter signed by 95 organizations including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March of Dimes Canada,

The letter had criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies, and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures.

Advocates also raised concerns about the way the bill was written. The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives, meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them, they argued. An amendment brought before the committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, who helped spearhead the letter, focused on what it viewed as positive developments from the committee vote.

“These proposed reforms did not get much traction at the time (the bill was passed through the House of Commons), So today, we are very pleased to learn that the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee has been more responsive to our calls for reform,” it said in a statement.

But Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, expressed disappointment at the committee’s unwillingness to change the bill’s language from “may” to “must.”

Not addressing the issue of federal funding, she added, risks allowing governments and those supported by them to continue treating disability rights and accessibility as a perk rather than a basic human right.

“They keep using the word ‘historic,’” Peters said of the government. “Historic means you create legislation that will fundamentally shift the direction we continue to be on … (The Accessible Canada Act) is not … a historic document.”

The office of Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough did not respond to request for comment.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

May 3 AODA Alliance Submission Asking the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach Three Key “Observations” to Bill C-81

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Proposed Observations for the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach to Bill C-81

May 3, 2019

We respectfully propose that the following observations be attached to Bill C-81:

  1. Because the bill’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards as enforceable regulations but the bill does not require any of those regulations to ever be enacted, and because the bill gives the Federal Government a range of powers that it may use but does for the most part not provide that the Government must use those powers, the Committee recommends that

(a) the Federal Government should report back to the Senate in one year on its action to date, its plans and time lines for enacting accessibility standards regulations and for deploying its other discretionary powers under the bill, and

(b) within five years after the bill comes into effect, at least one regulation should be enacted that sets enforceable accessibility standards in each of the areas in section 5, namely employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, communication, procurement of goods, services and facilities, the design and delivery of programs and services, transportation and any other areas that are designated by regulations under the bill.

  1. Because of concerns expressed by the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that:

(a) the Federal Government should report to the Senate in one year on the effectiveness and impact of splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among four federal agencies, for further study by the Senate, and

(b) within six months, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board should establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the bill.

        1. Since the Federal Government spends billions of dollars of the public’s money on procurement of goods, services and facilities, on new infrastructure projects, and on business development loans and grants, the Federal Government should establish, implement, monitor and publicly report on policies to effectively ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers and should report to the Senate within one year on its actions in this regard and the results achieved.



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AODA Alliance Writes Federal Party Leaders Seeking Commitments to Strengthen Bill C-81, and to Bring It Back Before Parliament After This Fall’s Federal Election If It is Not Passed With Amendments to Strengthen It


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Writes Federal Party Leaders Seeking Commitments to Strengthen Bill C-81, and to Bring It Back Before Parliament After This Fall’s Federal Election If It is Not Passed With Amendments to Strengthen It

April 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

We are diving head-first into our blitz before Canada’s Senate to get much-needed amendments to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act. Bill C-81 is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Canada.

Last week, on March 29, 2019, we sent the Senate our punchy 6-page brief on Bill C-81. It describes five of the major amendments that are desperately needed to strengthen this bill. See also the Open Letter to the Federal Government that fully 95 disability organizations (including the AODA Alliance) sent to the House of Commons last fall. It called for essential amendments to the bill.

In parallel with our strategy before the Senate, we have today written the leaders of the major federal parties in the House of Commons. We set that letter out below.

In this new letter, we ask the federal parties to each make two important commitments to us. We want these commitments now. In short, we want them to support amendments to strengthen Bill C-81, if the Senate passes any, and returns the bill to the House of Commons for a vote on those amendments before the fall federal election. We also want the party leaders to commit that they will bring a stronger national accessibility bill before Parliament after this fall’s federal election, if this bill does not get passed before the fall election, or if it is passed this spring “as is”, without these much-needed amendments.

We want Canada’s senators to feel free to strengthen Bill C-81 over the next short period when they consider this bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will be holding hearings on this bill on April 10 and 11, and May 1. After that, that committee will only have one meeting to consider passing amendments to the bill. That will be on May 2. We are all operating under extreme time pressure.

We are delighted that individuals and organizations have already been emailing the Senate’s Standing Committee to support the AODA Alliance’s March 29, 2019 brief. They are calling on the Senate to strengthen this weak bill.

It is not too late for you to help with this effort! Please add your voice. Get others to do so as well. Use your own words. Email the Senate Standing Committee today, by writing this email address:

[email protected]

We will have more to share over the next days about this blitz. Over five million people with disabilities in Canada deserve a strong national accessibility law. We need not settle for a weak bill. Now is the time to be heard!

We are tenacious! Visit our website to learn all about the background to Bill C-81 and our efforts to get it strengthened.

          more details

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

April 5, 2019

To:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: [email protected]

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and the Conservative Party

Leader of the Conservative Party; MP, Regina-Qu’Appelle

Via email: [email protected]

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh Leader of the NDP

Via email: [email protected]

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Elizabeth May Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Twitter: @ElizabethMay

The Hon. Rhéal Fortin Interim Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Via email: [email protected]

3730 boul. Crémazie Est, 4e étage

Montréal, Québec H2A 1B4

Twitter: @RhealFortin

The Hon. Maxime Bernier, Leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 Canada

Twitter: @MaximeBernier

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking Your Parties’ Commitments to Ensure that Canada Has A Strong and Effective National Accessibility Law

With a federal election this fall, we seek commitments from each federal political party now on the need for Canada to have a strong national accessibility law. Last fall, the House of Commons passed a weak bill, Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is now before the Senate.

We and others in the disability community are urging the Senate to strengthen that bill. It is unclear whether Parliament will finish with this bill before this fall’s federal election, and if so, whether the current weak bill will be strengthened before it is enacted. We seek your parties’ commitments now, as this will help ensure that the senators can feel free to amend this bill to strengthen it, without fearing that this will jeopardize the bill.

In this letter, we explain what we seek, who we are, and why over five million people with disabilities in Canada need Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

Commitments We Ask Your Parties to Each Make Now

We ask your parties to now make these two commitments:

  1. If this spring, the Senate amends Bill C-81(the proposed Accessible Canada Act) to strengthen it, and returns the bill to the House of Commons before it rises for this year’s federal election, will your party support swift passage of amendments that strengthen the bill in the areas that we refer to in this letter and in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate?
  1. If Bill C-81 does not finish its path through Parliament before this falls’ federal election, or if it is passed without the amendments needed to strengthen it in areas referred to in this letter and in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate, will your party commit to bring this bill, these needed amendments, back to Parliament to be enacted or strengthened, as the case may be, after the fall federal election?

Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that has advocated in Ontario since 2005 for the effective implementation and enforcement of Canada’s first comprehensive provincial accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. In every Ontario election since 2005, each provincial political party that has made election pledges on Ontario’s provincial accessibility legislation has done so in the form of letters to our coalition.

We have given advice to many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment.

We have been very actively involved in the campaign for national accessibility legislation in Canada. We have gathered input from our grassroots supporters and have actively worked with other key players in Canada’s disability community to forge common ground on what national accessibility legislation needs to include. We provided input to each successive federal minister responsible for this legislation, to federal parties, and to the Federal Public Service.

Why Canada Needs Strong National Accessibility Legislation

People with all kinds of disabilities in Canada face too many accessibility barriers when they try to get a job, use public or private services, or enjoy all the other things that the public ordinarily takes for granted. As the Federal Government has commendably recognized, it is unfair and ineffective to leave it to individuals with disabilities to have to bring their own legal proceedings to battle against these obstacles, one barrier at a time, and one organization at a time. We need comprehensive accessibility legislation to remove these barriers along reasonable timelines, and to prevent the creation of new disability accessibility barriers in the future.

Canada needs a national accessibility law to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities dealing with those operating in the realm that the Federal Government can regulate, such as banking, air travel, postal services, services offered by the Federal Government, as well as radio, television and telephone/cell phone services. We also need it to ensure that whoever receives federal funding never uses that money to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

How Does Bill C-81 Measure Up?

The bill has very serious problems. It is quite weak.

Bill C-81 is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Canada.

  1. The bill gives federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government needs to take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. This is the bill’s vital core. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.

  1. Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, this bill does not set a deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.
  1. The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement more confusing, complicated and costly. It will take longer and be harder to get strong, effective and non-contradictory accessibility regulations enacted.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

  1. The bill does not ensure that federal public money is never used by any recipient of those funds, to create or perpetuate disability barriers. Under it, the Federal Government can continue to sit idly by when those who receive federal money use that money to create new disability barriers. This allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money.

The bill lets the Federal Government set accessibility requirements for instances when it buys goods or services. However it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

The bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. That’s what happened when the Federal Government helped fund the construction of Toronto’s new Women’s College Hospital, which has accessibility problems.

Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

  1. The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not ever be able to exempt itself.

Will Bill C-81 Be Passed by Parliament by the Fall 2019 Federal Election?

The Senate is expediting its debates on Bill C-81. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is scheduled to complete its consideration of Bill C-81 on May 2, 2019.

We and others from Canada’s disability community are urging the Senate to make vital amendments needed to address Bill C-81’s serious flaws, such as those addressed in this letter. Our preference is for the Senate to make these amendments, and for Bill C-81 to be returned to the House of Commons for a vote on those amendments this spring, before Parliament rises for the fall general election. We are eager for the Senate and then the House of Commons to pass those amendments.

Should this bill not pass before the fall federal election, or if it is simply passed by Parliament before the election “as is”, we are eager to get commitments, sought earlier in this letter, that after the fall election, people with disabilities in Canada will have a chance to get a national accessibility law addressed in the next Parliament. We seek an assurance that after the fall federal election, a national accessibility bill will be returned to Parliament for debate – one that includes the improvements to Bill C-81 that we seek.

People with disabilities should not be confronted with the unfair choice to have to accept this bill “as is”, no matter how deficient it is, just because it might not otherwise be passed before the fall federal election. Years of experience have also taught us never to settle for the palpably inadequate, without pressing for better, simply because that is all a government has offered. This is not a charitable hand-out to  be gratefully accepted, no matter how inadequate.

This bill is about the fundamental equality and human rights of people with disabilities. All parties agreed in the House of Commons that there is a need for new national accessibility legislation. After all the effort that has gone into the public consultations on this bill, and with the widespread support in the disability community for the need for strong federal accessibility legislation, there is no reason why this effort should be treated by anyone as dead if it did not finish its travels through Parliament before the fall federal election.

We would be happy to answer any questions your party may have as it considers this request. We are eager to get an answer to our request as soon as possible. We want to ensure that the Senate is not deterred from making much-needed amendments to Bill C-81, out of any fear that doing so might jeopardize the bill’s future. A commitment that a national accessibility bill will be brought back before the House of Commons after the fall election, if needed, will remove that issue, and free Senators to do the right thing when they consider this bill over the next four to six weeks.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance



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Disability Advocates Call for Action Limiting When Principal Can Exclude Student from School – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Advocates Call for Action Limiting When Principal Can Exclude Student from School

January 30, 2019 Toronto: At a news conference in the Queen’s Park Media Studio today at 10:30 a.m., disability advocates will unite to demand that the Ford Government rein in the sweeping power of school principals to exclude a student from school. The Ford Government has so far announced nothing on this. It hasn’t answered the Ontario Autism Coalition’s December 13, 2018 letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson, which asks the minister to meet about exclusions. It hasn’t publicly responded to recent media focusing on this issue. See e.g. the Globe and Mail.

“School principals have a sweeping, unmonitored discretion to exclude students from school. It’s an especially unfair barrier for students with disabilities, who are too often forced to stay home because the school is failing to provide appropriate supports,” said Laura Kirby McIntosh, President of the Ontario Autism Coalition, a non-profit political advocacy group for people with autism and their families. The principal just has to think that the student “would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils;” (Education Act s. 265)

“In over 5,000 Ontario schools, each principal is allowed to be a law unto themselves. They are not required to keep track of how many students they exclude, or for how long, or for what reason, or to report this information to anyone. They don’t have to tell the student and their family the reason for their exclusion from school or to advise them of their right to appeal,” said David Lepofsky, visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance (which campaigns for disability accessibility, including in Ontario’s education system.)

“Many families have contacted ARCH Disability Law Centre when their child has been denied access to school via formal exclusions or otherwise. It is not unusual in these circumstances that the ultimate problem is that the school has failed to meet its duty to accommodate the student’s disability. With legal assistance, students are more likely to receive appropriate accommodations to facilitate their return to school. Without this assistance, there are many cases where students have endured many months of exclusion,” said Luke Reid, Staff Lawyer at ARCH.

At the news conference, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition will jointly call on the Ford Government to take these immediate actions:

  1. The Minister of Education should now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this festering mess.
  2. In the interim, the Minister of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school.

Contact:

Background Facts

* There are at least 340,000 students with special education needs in Ontario or 1 out of every 6 students in Ontario-funded schools. That figure does not include all students with disabilities. Therefore at least one-third of a million students with disabilities are exposed to the principal’s arbitrary power to refuse to admit them to school.

* Section 265 of the Education Act requires each school principal to refuse to admit ‘a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils.’

* In the absence of proper oversight of school boards by the Ministry of Education, it is hard to find out whether a school board has a policy on the use of the principal’s power to exclude a student from school, or how often students are excluded from school, or for how long they are kept out. The AODA Alliance has a team of Osgoode Hall Law School law students now surveying the boards and their websites.

* It is wrong to confuse the issue of exclusions from school with the issue of when students with special education needs should be included in the regular classroom. When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that means that the student is entirely shut out from school, pure and simple. They are excluded from any and all classrooms, be it inclusion in the regular classroom or taking part in a separate or special education class. Any discussion over whether a student should be placed in the regular classroom (inclusion or integration) or in a special education classroom cannot even begin when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all.

* In January 2018, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board submitted a detailed recommendation to the school board trustees. It recommended that the TDSB place clear limits on when a principal can refuse to admit a student to school. One year later, the TDSB just circulated a draft procedure on exclusions from school, which incorporates some of SEAC’s recommendations.

* In a January 7, 2019 article, the Globe and Mail reported that:

“A Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for days. Most school districts don’t formally track these exclusions or shortened days. Informally, parent and advocacy groups have documented the problem and have seen a rise in the incidence of these events.”

* “People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, has reported an increase in the number of elementary and secondary school principals who report recommending a special-education student stay home for at least part of a day. The organization found 58 per cent of elementary school heads and 48 per cent of high school principals made the request, up from 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in 2014.”

* A recent report by ARCH Disability Law Centre and its partners found that more than half of all students with intellectual disabilities experienced a “shortened day,” losing on average, almost 4 hours out of a 6 hour school day. Almost half of all parents surveyed reported that they had to keep their child home at one time or another as a result of accommodation issues. Finally, the report stated that 25% of parents reported that they had been “told” not to bring their child to school that day, with many of them stating that no reasons were given or that when they were given, they often related to staffing shortages or other accommodation issues.

* The Ministry of Education’s policy directive to school boards PPM-145, available at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/145.pdf  states:

“In Part X of the Education Act, clause 265(1)(m) permits a principal to “refuse to admit” to the school or to a class someone whose presence in the school would be “detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils”. This provision is frequently referred to as the “exclusion provision.” Exclusion is not to be used as a form of discipline. If a principal does decide that it is necessary to exclude a student from the school, the principal is expected to notify the student’s parents of the exclusion as soon as possible in the circumstances, and to inform them of their right to appeal under clause 265(1)(m).”

* Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

  1. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).

* The AODA Alliance survey of school boards, still in progress, has yielded the following partial and interim results so far:

* Based on results so far, only about 10% of boards, or 9 boards, have provided a policy that addresses refusals to admit. Four school boards told the AODA Alliance that they wouldn’t say if they had a policy until research approval was obtained from a Research Advisory Committee.

* Before the 2018 Ontario election, a Government-appointed committee was investigating disability barriers in Ontario’s school system, in order to recommend reforms under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He planned to put the problem of exclusions from school on that committee’s agenda. However, the work of that committee has been frozen for the past 7 months in the wake of last June’s Ontario election. This is so despite the fact that the Conservative Party, while in opposition, had demanded that the former Ontario Government establish that very committee. For more on that issue, visit www.aodaalliance.org/education

* If each school board used a unique attendance code to mark the absence of a student due to the principal’s refusing to admit the student to school, school boards and the Ontario Government would have instant access to comprehensive data on the amount of time that students are kept from attending school on this ground. However, the province does not direct that a unique attendance code be used for that purpose. The Ministry of Education’s policy direction entitled

Enrolment Register Instructions for Elementary and Secondary Schools” for 2018-2019 states: the following on the duty of school boards to keep records on the refusal to admit a student to school: (which, as far as we have ascertained, is not provincially monitored and enforced)

“Excluded Pupils

Pupils excluded under clause 265(1)(m) of the Education Act should not be demitted from the enrolment register as the school board is actively working to re-integrate the pupil back into the education system.

During the exclusion period, the pupil’s absence is recorded with a “G” on the Daily Attendance Record. An excluded student can remain on the enrolment register until the end of the current school year if the board is actively working to re-integrate the pupil back into the education system.

Retain the following for audit purposes:

  • Documentation that shows the reason for the exclusion.
  • Documentation of successful notification of exclusion and the response between the school board and the pupil (if the pupil is an adult) or the pupil’s parent or guardian
  • Documentation of the plan (signed by the principal) to re-integrate the pupil into the education system.
  • Documentation of communication with other parties involved with re-engaging the pupil (e.g. social agencies.)
  • Data on the number of students who have been excluded during the school year (including the name of the student, OEN, length of exclusion, and the reason for exclusion.)”



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