Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act -Here Are Seven Preliminary Reflections – AODA Alliance


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

Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act –Here Are Seven Preliminary Reflections

June 3, 2019

          SUMMARY

We are right back in action, after being off-line during a short but eventful time in the campaign for accessibility in Canada and Ontario. Get ready for a number of updates to bring you up to speed!

In the most important development last week, right in the middle of National Accessibility Week, the House of Commons passed all the amendments to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate earlier made to the bill. Therefore, Bill C-81 has completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament.

The Accessible Canada Act does not go into effect until the Federal Government gives the bill “Royal Assent.” We understand that this step may well take place in the next few weeks.

We thank everyone who helped in our shared efforts to get this bill improved. We thank those disability organizations and groups who worked with us on this shared goal. We thank all the AODA Alliance supporters and volunteers who contributed to our efforts. We appreciate every tweet or email sent to add pressure in favour of a stronger bill. As well the feedback we regularly received from our supporters have helped improve our message and our strategies.

We also thank all the MPs and Senators and their staff who helped press for a stronger bill, and all the federal public servants who did the same. Some of their efforts were undertaken behind the scenes, and without an opportunity for public acknowledgement and thanks.

Below we offer seven reflections on this achievement. In summary:

  1. Final passage of the amended Bill C-81 is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada.
  1. We got some of the ingredients in the bill that we were seeking.
  1. We found creative ways to constructively contribute to advocacy efforts on this legislation where there are so many disability organizations and groups spread over such a big country.
  1. While helpful, Bill C-81 still falls well short of what people with disabilities need.
  1. We’re ready for the next round in this non-partisan campaign.
  1. Our advocacy principles served us well.
  1. The media too often failed to cover this important issue – a disservice to all Canadians.

As well, for those who want more detail on all of the above, below we provide this further background information:

* A May 30, 2019 report by CTV on line, written by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press, on the final passage of Bill C-81.

* The May 24, 2019 Globe and Mail article, also by CP’s Michelle McQuigge, on the Federal Government’s announcement that it would agree to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

* The May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article reporting on efforts to get the Federal Government to finally pass Bill C-81. This article includes some of the inaccurate statements that overstates what Bill C-81 requires.

* The May 30, 2019 news release by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, on the passage of Bill C-81, which provides a good response to the bill’s final passage with which we agree.

* The final version of this spring’s second open letter to the House of Commons, calling for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 to be ratified. Fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed this open letter, listed below.

          MORE DETAILS

Our Top Seven Preliminary Reflections on the Enactment of the Accessible Canada Act

Here are our top seven preliminary reflections we offer about this news:

1. Final Passage of the Amended Bill C-81 is a Helpful Step Forward

It is a helpful step forward that Parliament has passed the Accessible Canada Act, replete with all the amendments to it that the Senate made last month. As amended, this law gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. We plan to be active in pressing the Federal Government to ensure the achievement of the law’s goal of a barrier-free Canada without delay, and in any event, no later than 2040.

2. We Got Some of the Ingredients in the Bill that We Were Seeking

The Act includes features for which we and others pressed over the past four years. These include a fixed deadline to achieve an accessible Canada, a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Working with others in the disability community, we saw improvements to the law at each stage of the process. We saw improvements when the law was being initially designed, when it first came before the House of Commons for debate in the fall of 2018, and after that, when it came before the Senate this spring. This included some improvements to which the Federal Government had been opposed throughout the process.

3. We Found Ways to Constructively Contribute in a Country with so Many Disability Organizations and Groups

We found constructive and creative ways to work within Canada’s disability community throughout this four-year process. From coast to coast, Canada has a large and diverse landscape of disability organizations and groups. The AODA Alliance is but one of them. We certainly were not the leader of the effort, and at no time purported to be such. There was no one “leader” in this effort.

Moreover, in a country as big as Canada, there is no way to bring all of these disability organizations and groups together at one time and in one place to operate as one unanimous voice. With over five million people with disabilities, there are bound to be differences of opinion and approach.

Our goal was to try to offer influential ideas for the content of Bill C-81 and effective strategies for achieving as strong a bill as possible. We wanted to offer ideas around which as many people with disabilities and disability organizations could rally, based on the strength of those ideas.

We found it very constructive to collaborate with a good number of disability organizations and groups. Among other things, this included a close and ongoing collaboration with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Among our contributions and efforts in this process were the following:

* We took part in behind-the-scenes efforts to get 2016 election commitments to pass national accessibility legislation from the federal Liberals and New Democratic Party. We also mounted a major social media campaign to press candidates across Canada to support the enactment of strong national accessibility legislation.

* In 2016, we made public a detailed Discussion Paper on what the national accessibility legislation should include. We refined it after receiving public input on it. We can trace some key features in Bill C-81 to ideas set out in this Discussion Paper. The Discussion Paper built on experience with provincial accessibility legislation.

* In August 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky designed and moderated a 3-hour captioned online policy experts conference on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include. Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough and her deputy minister attended and took active part in this event. It remains archived online for any Canadian province or other government around the world to learn from our ideas. This was conducted under the auspices of a coalition that formed for purposes of the Federal Government’s consultation on this bill, the Alliance for an Accessible and Inclusive Canada.

* We took part in behind-the-scenes briefings of several successive ministers that had responsibility for this file, several MPs from the various federal parties, and senior public servants involved with this issue.

* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky delivered a lecture on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include at the Osgoode Hall Law School where he is a part-time faculty member. This captioned lecture has remained available online, to assist others advocating in this area.

* Before Bill C-81 was introduced into Parliament in June 2018, we made public a beginner’s guide to how a law goes through parliament. This was written to help everyone involved in this campaign learn the processes for passing a federal law.

* We submitted a very detailed brief to the House of Commons in Fall 2017. It analyzed Bill C-81 in detail and sought 96 amendments. We also made an oral presentation to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee that held public hearings on the bill last fall.

* We joined together with ARCH Disability Law Centre and CCD to collectively spearhead an open letter to the House of Commons at the conclusion of its public hearings. Over 90 disability organizations and groups signed it. It listed key amendments needed to make this legislation strong and effective.

* After the House of Commons passed the bill with some but not all of the amendments we and others had sought, we worked together with other disability organizations to advocate at the Senate for further amendments to the bill. Again, our efforts were coordinated with other like-minded organizations, with a special effort together with ARCH and CCD.

* This spring, we submitted a brief to the Senate as well as the text of a short list of amendments that we proposed. We were also one of the disability organizations that made an oral presentation at the Senate’s Standing Committee hearings in April and May of this year. Here again, the Senate made some but not all of the amendments that we and others sought.

* At the Senate, as at the House of Commons, we were also very busy with extensive behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts with several Senators and their staff. We were delighted at how many were open to consult with us right up to the last minute.

* Over the final three weeks, we and others mounted a concerted and successful campaign to get the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. This ratification was far from a certainty when we began that effort. This included our Twitter blitz to as many MPs as possible.

Again, we joined with ARCH and CCD to create another open letter to the House of Commons. This one called for the House to approve all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. Set out below, fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed it.

* We kept our supporters and the broader public aware of each major step in this four-year campaign via our AODA Alliance updates and our tweets. This entire saga is reported at www.aodaalliance.org/canadaHere

* We attempted to use the conventional media, as well as social media, to spread the word on this campaign and get more public support for our cause. We issued news releases at several major steps along the way. Most recently, the April 30, 2019 online Toronto Star included our guest column on this campaign.

* Throughout this process, several members of the House of Commons and the Senate made supportive and flattering references to our presentations and recommendations and advocated for their adoption. We, like ARCH and CCD, were often the sources quoted when a member of the House or Senate was pointing out deficiencies with the bill and the needed improvements. Several other disability organizations pointed to and relied on the detailed analysis of the bill and the detailed recommendations for amendments that we and/or ARCH presented. We worked very closely with ARCH to coordinate our respective analysis and proposals.

4. While Helpful, Bill C-81 Still Falls Well Short of What People with Disabilities Need

While the final version of Bill C-81 is helpful and a step forward, it still suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

* It gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, but largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.

* It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies, which is a real disadvantage to people with disabilities.

* It continues to allow federal public money to be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

* It lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.

* It is excessively complicated and hard to read. This threatens to make it less effective and harder to implement.

In the excitement over the passage of a new law called “the Accessible Canada Act,” it is important not to overstate what this law actually does. As we noted in our April 30, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, Rick Hansen incorrectly stated in a guest column in the April 22, 2019 Globe and Mail that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

We regret that the Globe never ran our letter to the editor correcting this inaccuracy, and that, to our knowledge, Mr. Hansen did not himself correct it. We had asked him to do so.

Similarly, a May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article, set out below, included these two inaccuracies about Bill C-81:

* “If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.”

* “Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.”

We wish Bill C-81 did what the Globe reported in that article and what Rick Hansen wrote in the April 22, 2019 Globe. We regret that it does not require these measures. It only permits them.

5. We’re Ready for the Next Round in This Non-Partisan Campaign

Our volunteer advocacy work is not finished. Over the next weeks and months, we will launch a non-partisan campaign to get the federal political parties to make strong commitments during the upcoming 2019 federal election campaign. We will ask them to make detailed commitments to effectively implement this law, and to strengthen it with further amendments that the Federal Government did not agree to over the past year. Stay tuned for more on this.

6. Our Advocacy Principles Served Us Well

Throughout this process we adhered to important principles:

* We never give up. We took every opportunity up to the last to get this bill strengthened. We did not simply settle for what we considered a weak bill, and we did not give up the chance to get more amendments.

* We maintained complete independence from the Federal Government by not applying for any grant money from the Government at any time. We also will seek no federal grant money in the future.

* We offered our best ideas to the Government and the disability community, focusing on amendments that are substantive and as impactful as possible for all people with disabilities.

7. The Media too Often Failed to Cover this Important Issue – A Disservice to All Canadians

It remains deeply troubling that throughout the past four years, the campaign for this legislation secured very little media coverage. It deserved much more coverage, both during the 2015 federal election campaign, during the Federal Government’s 18-month public consultation leading to the bill, and during the bill’s two trips through the House of Commons and one trip through the Senate. It is commendable that despite this, a few reporters tried to cover this issue. You can find most of these reports at www.aodaalliance.org/canada

This is a newsworthy subject. This bill directly affects the needs of over five million people with disabilities in Canada. It ultimately addresses the needs of all in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they age.

The media should reflect on this. It is profoundly regrettable that the media’s preoccupation with certain scandals and perceived headline-grabbing issues has left far too many Canadians unaware that there even was a Bill C-81 or a campaign to get it strengthened.

CTV News Online May 30, 2019

First national accessibility legislation gets unanimous support in House

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/first-national-accessibility-legislation-gets-unanimous-support-in-house-1.4444877?cache=yes%3FclipId%3D375756%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3Fot%3DAjaxLayout%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3FclipId%3D89619

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Service and Procurement and Accessibility stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Disabled Canadians declared a partial victory Thursday hours after the government voted to enact Canada’s first national accessibility law, calling it a major step forward while cautioning that more work was still needed to ensure it achieves its goal.

The Accessible Canada Act, which aims to improve life for those with disabilities, received unanimous support in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. It awaits only royal assent, expected in the coming weeks, before officially becoming law.

Advocates who fought for amendments to strengthen the legislation praised the governing Liberals for delivering on a promise to implement the bill and bring Canada more in line with other countries that have had such laws for years. But they also cautioned against complacency, saying more work lay ahead.

“We applaud the government for its willingness to listen to Canadians with disabilities,” Council of Canadians with Disabilities chair Jewelles Smith said in a statement.

“CCD reminds the government that there are many serious ongoing barriers that will not be addressed by this act, and encourages the federal government to pursue policy solutions to these well-known concerns.”

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, who spearheaded national consultations on the bill and shepherded it through Parliament, hailed its passage as a significant moment.

“This is the most transformative piece of legislation since enacting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a true testament to the work, commitment and contributions of the Canadian disability community,” she said in a statement. “This historic act sends a clear signal to Canadians that persons with disabilities will no longer be treated as an afterthought.”

The act passed by Parliament bears striking differences from the version initially tabled last June.

Its stated purpose — to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction — was greeted with enthusiasm and remains the same. Those areas include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

But disabled advocates almost immediately began raising concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation and lobbied for changes.

Last fall, a group of 95 disability groups signed an open letter outlining nine areas of perceived weakness, including the lack of a timeline for the bill’s implementation and failure to recognize various forms of sign language as official languages of the deaf.

The Senate’s committee on social affairs, science and technology, citing community concerns, amended the bill to include sign language recognition as well as a timeline for the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

Those amendments were reflected in the bill that garnered parliamentary approval.

Activists celebrated the passage of the act as genuine progress, but some continued to voice concerns about areas where they feel it still falls short.

The Arch Disability Law Centre indicated Thursday that it was particularly troubled by the language employed throughout the bill, which repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives.

This language gives government … power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers,” Arch said in a statement.

An amendment before the Senate committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

Advocates also 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. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, said the government’s failure to address those areas leaves the law lacking compared to similar legislation in other countries. She said she questions whether the law will prove significant for all its meant to serve.

“I and many like me will be at home with my broken wheelchair in my tiny box of an improperly adapted apartment living in poverty in a city with 8,000 corners where I can’t cross the street,” she said.

“Nothing in the act will change that. But I am glad Canada finally has an Accessible Canada Act, however lacking I find it, and I want to recognize the work of those who actually worked on and for it.”

The Globe and Mail May 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-federal-government-will-implement-senate-proposals-to-strengthen/

Accessibility bill will be amended to address concerns: minister

By MICHELLE MCQUIGGE

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government will heed the calls of Canada’s disabled community and amend the country’s first piece of national accessibility legislation to

include some of the changes they sought, the minister spearheading the effort said Thursday.

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government will be adopting all the amendments the Senate introduced to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible

Canada Act, when it comes back before the House next week.

Earlier this month, the upper chamber’s committee on social affairs, science and technology amended the proposed act to include a handful of measures disability

advocacy organizations across the country said were necessary to make the bill more effective.

Ms. Qualtrough conceded that the government had initially resisted some of their most pressing calls, such as the demand to include a timeline that would

require the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

But Ms. Qualtrough said the legislation, which was drafted after cross-country consultations with disabled individuals and advocacy groups, needed to reflect

the will of the people it’s meant to serve.

“It’s just paying tribute to all the work and all the people that have been here in the past 40, 50 years really insisting that disability rights are human

rights,” Ms. Qualtrough said in a telephone interview.

Activists had been crusading for Canadian accessibility legislation for decades and watched as other countries, including the United States, got laws on

their books.

The Liberals began making good on an election promise to deliver a Canadian version when they tabled the Accessible Canada Act last June, pledging $290-million

over six years toward its implementation.

The act’s stated purpose is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes built

environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

Barrier, as defined by the act, includes anything “architectural, physical, technological or attitudinal” that “hinders the full participation in society

of a person with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment.”

Disabled Canadians reacted with wary optimism when the draft act was first tabled, but soon began voicing concerns that it was too weak to make a difference

in their lives.

Last year, an open letter signed by 95 organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March

of Dimes Canada, raised a number of measures they said the act must include to be effective.

Chief among their concerns was the bill’s unwillingness to include a timeline for implementation, as well as its failure to name various forms of sign

language as official languages of deaf Canadians.

The Senate’s social-affairs committee, citing community concerns, amended the bill to address those issues. Ms. Qualtrough said their proposed amendments

will now be incorporated into the bill, which will come before Parliament for final debate next week and could be officially passed into law by the end

of June.

The government, Ms. Qualtrough said, has already begun work to appoint the people who will be tasked with implementing and enforcing the bill.

A chief accessibility officer will oversee the implementation of the legislation across all sectors, while a new Accessibility Commissioner will be responsible

for compliance. A new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, comprised largely of people with a broad spectrum of disabilities, will

also be put in place.

“Canadians deserve this,” Ms. Qualtrough said.

Activists celebrated the inclusion of the Senate’s amendments, saying they help to strengthen the bill in some key areas.

“This is an important victory,” accessibility activist David Lepofsky said in a statement. “While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies

with Bill C-81 … they are an important and helpful step forward.”

Many community members said they remain concerned about other areas the Senate did not address when making revisions to the act.

The open letter 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.

The Globe and Mail May 22, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-push-is-on-to-pass-canadian-accessibility-law/

Activists urge Ottawa to pass accessibility law before summer

By MIKE HAGER

Globe and Mail, May 22, 2019

VANCOUVER – Disabled Canadians and their supporters are pushing Ottawa to pass a bill enshrining their right to more accessible and inclusive federal workplaces before the next election, legislation they say could help improve the lives of those with physical and mental disabilities.

Bill Adair, a spokesperson for a group of 96 organizations, said more than a thousand people and non-profit groups have recently sent letters to every MP in a blitz aimed at getting Bill C-81, known as the Accessible Canada Act, passed by Parliament and written into law before the summer break begins next month.

“We worked hard at bringing this into effect over the past three years and it is time for our country to take this step forward and throw the doors wide open for participation,” said Mr. Adair, who is also executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada.

Mr. Adair said his umbrella group believes the bill, which would “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in agencies and programs that fall under federal jurisdiction, could help level the considerable unemployment gap for disabled people, roughly 60 per cent of whom are employed, compared with 80 per cent for the general population.

If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.

As well, the bill would recognize various forms of sign language – including Indigenous sign languages – and include them among government services.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, said passing the amended bill remains a priority for her government.

“I expect the debate in the House of Commons to take place next week coinciding with National AccessAbility Week – a timely opportunity to highlight the work our government is doing to create a more accessible and inclusive Canada for all,” her statement Tuesday said.

Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.

The government has pledged $290-million over six years toward implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization to develop accessibility standards for the industries covered by the law.

Rick Hansen, a former Paralympian whose eponymous foundation is part of the push to pass the bill, said it would be a huge disappointment if the act didn’t pass before the federal election. “Canada can’t afford to let down the one in five Canadians with disabilities,” Mr. Hansen said.

In the absence of national accessibility standards, his organization is launching an awareness campaign called Everyone Everywhere to identify common barriers disabled people face. These include: a lack of visual fire alarms; no push button doors at a building’s main entrance; steep curbs, narrow parking spaces, circular doorknobs; signage without Braille or raised lettering; ramps that are too steep or not wide enough and a lack of grab bars in bathrooms.

Mr. Hansen said a pilot project completed over two years rated about 1,100 buildings across B.C.

for their accessibility and found just more than a third didn’t meet the minimum standard.

Mr. Hansen’s organization also commissioned a Conference Board of Canada report last year that suggested the estimated 2.9 million Canadians with physical disabilities would be able to contribute $16.8-billion more to the gross domestic product by 2030 if they faced fewer barriers to participating in the workforce. Earlier this year, an independent review found deficiencies to nearly all aspects of Ontario’s 14-yearold accessibility law, including that too many buildings are still designed in ways that make it impossible for some disabled people to enter.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouverbased writer who led a campaign that created a matted trail for wheelchair users to access one of the city’s most popular beaches last summer, said Bill C-81 needs to give Ottawa the teeth to limit the funding of any agencies not making the effort to improve life for disabled Canadians. Ms. Peters, who uses a wheelchair, said she is genuinely uncertain how the legislation would affect her own life and the lives of other disabled people if it passes.

Text of the ARCH Disability Law Centre May 30, 2109 News Release

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-arch-disability-law-centre-welcomes-the-passage-of-the-accessible-canada-act/

Press Release – ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act

ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, an important moment in Canada’s disability rights movement continuing towards our goal of full inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities across Canada.

The Accessible Canada Act is federal accessibility legislation. Its stated purpose is to achieve a barrier free Canada by 2040. To do this, the Act gives powers to the Government of Canada, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission to create new legal requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, the built environment, transportation, procurement of goods, services and facilities, information and communication technologies, communication, and the design and delivery of programs and services. These new legal requirements will be aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers, which the Act defines as anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or functional limitation.

Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act was first introduced in the House of Commons in June 2018. As the Bill wound its way through the legislative process, a number of important changes were made to it. In particular, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made several amendments which strengthened the Bill. For example, SOCI included in the Bill a timeline of 2040 for achieving a barrier free Canada; added multiple and intersectional discrimination as a principle which must be considered when laws, policies, services and programs are developed; clarified that nothing in the Bill or its regulations limits the existing legal obligation to accommodate persons with disabilities; and recognized sign languages as the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

SOCI adopted these amendments after receiving recommendations from disability organizations across Canada. “ARCH thanks Senators for listening to the concerns of disability communities and taking action to address them. The amendments made by the Senate strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We commend Minister Qualtrough and the Government for voting to pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments made by the Senate” said Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of ARCH.

Throughout Bill C-81’s journey, disability communities across Canada were actively involved in advocating for the Bill to be as strong as possible. ARCH worked closely with Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), AODA Alliance and over 90 national, provincial and local disability groups. To support disability communities with their advocacy, ARCH wrote an extensive legal analysis of Bill C-81, provided updates on the Bill’s progress in our quarterly newsletter, gave presentations on the legislation, and produced a series of Briefing Notes explaining key amendments sought. ARCH also worked with CCD and AODA Alliance to coordinate 2 Open Letter campaigns. “Advocating to strengthen Bill C-81 has provided opportunities for disability communities to work together. It has been a privilege to work closely with so many dedicated advocates. The Accessible Canada Act is stronger because of their tireless work” said Kerri Joffe, ARCH Staff Lawyer.

Despite the helpful amendments that were made to the legislation, a number of concerns raised by ARCH and other disability groups remain. One such weakness is the use of permissive language “may” rather than directive language “shall” or “must” in the Accessible Canada Act. This language gives government, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the CRTC and other bodies power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers.

The Accessible Canada Act has been passed by the House of Commons, but there is still one more step before it becomes law – the Act must receive Royal Asset. ARCH urges the Government to ensure that the Act receives Royal Assent before the next federal election is called.

For more details contact:

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director

416-482-8255 x. 2233

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer

416-482-8255 x. 2222

Open Letter to the House of Commons Updated

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:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

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 ImpairedDoing 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

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC)

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society

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:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

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 ImpairedDoing 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

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC)

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society



Source link

New Toronto Star Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Shows How and Why the Senate Should Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, Before Passing it this Spring


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 30, 2019

SUMMARY

Just three days before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments to make to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the Toronto Star online ran a guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It shows why five million people with disabilities in Canada need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81 before the Senate passes it.

Please circulate our guest column to your friends and family. Also forward it to your member of Parliament and as many Senators as you can. You can find contact information for Canada’s Senators at https://sencanada.ca/en/senators/
Our guest column refers to the widely-viewed online video that the AODA Alliance made public last fall. That video documents serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated public transit stations in Ontario. You can watch a 16-minute version of that video at https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o
The new Toronto subway stations with accessibility problems, shown in that video, were built in part with federal money. Unless Bill C-81 is strengthened, the Federal Government will remain free to do that again and again with our money.
Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]
To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail
You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments, and our most recent (and even shorter) supplemental brief. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.
On April 22, 2019, the Globe and Mail ran a guest column by Rick Hansen entitled “Make Canada accessible for everyone,” available at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-passing-bill-c-81-is-critical-to-making-canada-accessible-for-all/ Mr. Hansen argued why Bill C-81 should be passed, even though it may not be “perfect.”

We all know that the Senate will pass Bill C-81. The only real question is whether the Senate will first amend it, to strengthen it. We and others have been emphasizing for months that Bill C-81 is far too weak, and that people with disabilities in Canada need it strengthened.

What Mr. Hansen’s column had to say ultimately rests on one key sentence. He wrote that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

Unfortunately his description of Bill C-81 in that sentence is incorrect. Bill C-81 does not require any disability barriers to ever be removed in public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services or information. It doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever enact any accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. It sets no deadlines for progress towards accessibility. It doesn’t stop the Federal Government from continuing to use our money to subsidize the creation of new accessibility barriers.

We swiftly sent a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail. In it we explain why Mr. Hansen’s description of the bill is incorrect. We regret that as far as we can tell, the Globe did not publish our letter to the editor. We set that letter to the editor out below, right after our Toronto Star guest column.

Last weekend we emailed Mr. Hansen to bring this inaccuracy in his column to his attention. Given his public profile and the circulation of the Globe and Mail, we emphasized the importance of his publicly correcting his description of Bill C-81. We have not received a response.

The question is not whether the bill is “perfect.” No bill ever is. As our guest column in the Toronto Star (below) shows, the bill lacks key features that people with disabilities need and have been requesting for months, if not years.

MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star Online April 29, 2019

OPINION
Originally posted at

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/04/29/liberals-failing-to-strengthen-disability-laws-as-promised.html Liberals failing to strengthen disability laws as promised
By David Lepofsky
When it comes to ensuring accessibility for 5 million Canadians with disabilities, Canada lags far behind the U.S., which passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act 29 years ago. Canadians with disabilities still face far too many barriers in air travel, cable TV services, and when dealing with the federal government. For example, as a blind traveller, Ive faced these barriers. I dread returning to Canadian airspace.

Its great that the Trudeau government promised in the last election to enact a national accessibility law. However Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the House of Commons passed last fall, is much weaker than what we people with disabilities need. The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. Were calling on the Senate to strengthen it.

The bill is called An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesnt require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere.

The bill gives the federal government helpful powers to advance the goal of accessibility. However, it doesnt require the government to use almost any of them, or set time lines for the government to act (with a minor exception). The government could drag its feet indefinitely.

Its good that the bill lets the federal government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set accessibility rules. However, the bill doesnt require the government to ever create any. If the government doesnt, the bill will largely be a hollow shell.

Unlike Ontarios 2005 accessibility legislation (which cannot regulate federal areas like air travel), this federal bill doesnt set a deadline for Canada to become disability-accessible. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.

The bill assigns key responsibilities for this bill to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and CRTC. Both agencies have faltering track records for advancing disability accessibility. Both have slow, labyrinthian processes that are hard for people with disabilities to navigate.

Its inexcusable that the bill lets the federal government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects with accessibility problems, like hospitals and subways.

For example, federal money helped finance the recent TTC subway extension up to Vaughan. Those new subway stations, like the York University stop, have real accessibility problems. Our YouTube video documents this. We need the bill to require the federal government to attach accessibility strings to projects when it uses our money to help finance them.

Its unfair for the bill to let the CTA pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights. The CTA is now proposing new transportation regulations that threaten to cut back on the rights of passengers with disabilities in air and train travel. Thanks, but no thanks.

Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough recently told the Senate that shes open to the Senate amending the bill, and that she wants the bill to be the best it possibly can be. Sen. Jim Munson, sponsoring the bill in the Senate, also confirmed that there will be amendments. Were taking them up on this. Weve proposed a short, focused set of amendments that would improve this weak bill.

If the Senate now strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to ratify those improvements before this falls election. In hearings at the House of Commons last fall, the Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill. Its sad that the Federal Government defeated many important amendments we sought.

With a federal election now looming closer, the Liberals have good reason to see the light, and to support amendments that strengthen this bill. They wouldnt want to head into the fall election having just voted down measures that would help 5 million people with disabilities, many of whom are voters.

Ive battled as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century on this issue, Ive learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. Bill C-81 is weaker in some ways than Ontarios 2005 accessibility (for whose enactment I led the decade-long campaign). A recent independent review of Ontarios accessibility law by former Lt.-Gov. David Onley shows that Ontarios law has not produced the progress we need.

Lets learn from those lessons and strengthen Bill C-81. Everyone will need it, whether you have a disability now, or get one later as you get older.

David Lepofsky is the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Letter to the Editor Submitted by the AODA Alliance to the Globe and Mail on April 22, 2019

Via email to; [email protected]

Rick Hansen is right. Canada has a long way to go to become accessible to 5 million people with disabilities and we need federal legislation to achieve this. (Make Canada accessible for everyone April 22, 2019). He’s incorrect to state that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.” Sadly it doesn’t.

The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesn’t require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere. Canadians with disabilities in Canada deserve better.

The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. It lets the Federal Government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set the rules, but doesn’t require the Government to ever pass any. It lets the Federal Government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects lacking proper accessibility, like hospitals and subways. It lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights.

That’s why so many of us in the disability community grassroots call on Canada’s Senate to strengthen this weak bill.

If the Senate strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to approve those improvements. The Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill in the House’s hearings last fall. Hopefully the Liberals will come around and support us now, with a federal election looming.

Battling as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century, we’ve learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. We need Bill C-81 amended now, before it is passed, to ensure it does what Rick Hansen expects.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Visiting Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School



Source link

New Toronto Star Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Shows How and Why the Senate Should Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, Before Passing it this Spring


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

New Toronto Star Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Shows How and Why the Senate Should Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, Before Passing it this Spring

April 30, 2019

          SUMMARY

Just three days before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments to make to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the Toronto Star online ran a guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It shows why five million people with disabilities in Canada need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81 before the Senate passes it.

Please circulate our guest column to your friends and family. Also forward it to your member of Parliament and as many Senators as you can. You can find contact information for Canada’s Senators at https://sencanada.ca/en/senators/

Our guest column refers to the widely-viewed online video that the AODA Alliance made public last fall. That video documents serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated public transit stations in Ontario. You can watch a 16-minute version of that video at https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

The new Toronto subway stations with accessibility problems, shown in that video, were built in part with federal money. Unless Bill C-81 is strengthened, the Federal Government will remain free to do that again and again with our money.

Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments, and our most recent (and even shorter) supplemental brief. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

On April 22, 2019, the Globe and Mail ran a guest column by Rick Hansen entitled “Make Canada accessible for everyone,” available at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-passing-bill-c-81-is-critical-to-making-canada-accessible-for-all/ Mr. Hansen argued why Bill C-81 should be passed, even though it may not be “perfect.”

We all know that the Senate will pass Bill C-81. The only real question is whether the Senate will first amend it, to strengthen it. We and others have been emphasizing for months that Bill C-81 is far too weak, and that people with disabilities in Canada need it strengthened.

What Mr. Hansen’s column had to say ultimately rests on one key sentence. He wrote that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

Unfortunately his description of Bill C-81 in that sentence is incorrect. Bill C-81 does not require any disability barriers to ever be removed in public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services or information. It doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever enact any accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. It sets no deadlines for progress towards accessibility. It doesn’t stop the Federal Government from continuing to use our money to subsidize the creation of new accessibility barriers.

We swiftly sent a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail. In it we explain why Mr. Hansen’s description of the bill is incorrect. We regret that as far as we can tell, the Globe did not publish our letter to the editor. We set that letter to the editor out below, right after our Toronto Star guest column.

Last weekend we emailed Mr. Hansen to bring this inaccuracy in his column to his attention. Given his public profile and the circulation of the Globe and Mail, we emphasized the importance of his publicly correcting his description of Bill C-81. We have not received a response.

The question is not whether the bill is “perfect.” No bill ever is. As our guest column in the Toronto Star (below) shows, the bill lacks key features that people with disabilities need and have been requesting for months, if not years.

          MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star Online April 29, 2019

OPINION

Originally posted at

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/04/29/liberals-failing-to-strengthen-disability-laws-as-promised.html

Liberals failing to strengthen disability laws as promised

By David Lepofsky

When it comes to ensuring accessibility for 5 million Canadians with disabilities, Canada lags far behind the U.S., which passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act 29 years ago. Canadians with disabilities still face far too many barriers in air travel, cable TV services, and when dealing with the federal government. For example, as a blind traveller, I’ve faced these barriers. I dread returning to Canadian airspace.

It’s great that the Trudeau government promised in the last election to enact a national accessibility law. However Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the House of Commons passed last fall, is much weaker than what we people with disabilities need. The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. We’re calling on the Senate to strengthen it.

The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesn’t require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere.

The bill gives the federal government helpful powers to advance the goal of accessibility. However, it doesn’t require the government to use almost any of them, or set time lines for the government to act (with a minor exception). The government could drag its feet indefinitely.

It’s good that the bill lets the federal government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set accessibility rules. However, the bill doesn’t require the government to ever create any. If the government doesn’t, the bill will largely be a hollow shell.

Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation (which cannot regulate federal areas like air travel), this federal bill doesn’t set a deadline for Canada to become disability-accessible. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.

The bill assigns key responsibilities for this bill to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and CRTC. Both agencies have faltering track records for advancing disability accessibility. Both have slow, labyrinthian processes that are hard for people with disabilities to navigate.

It’s inexcusable that the bill lets the federal government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects with accessibility problems, like hospitals and subways.

For example, federal money helped finance the recent TTC subway extension up to Vaughan. Those new subway stations, like the York University stop, have real accessibility problems. Our YouTube video documents this. We need the bill to require the federal government to attach accessibility strings to projects when it uses our money to help finance them.

It’s unfair for the bill to let the CTA pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights. The CTA is now proposing new transportation regulations that threaten to cut back on the rights of passengers with disabilities in air and train travel. Thanks, but no thanks.

Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough recently told the Senate that she’s open to the Senate amending the bill, and that she wants the bill to be the best it possibly can be. Sen. Jim Munson, sponsoring the bill in the Senate, also confirmed that there will be amendments. We’re taking them up on this. We’ve proposed a short, focused set of amendments that would improve this weak bill.

If the Senate now strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to ratify those improvements before this fall’s election. In hearings at the House of Commons last fall, the Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill. It’s sad that the Federal Government defeated many important amendments we sought.

With a federal election now looming closer, the Liberals have good reason to see the light, and to support amendments that strengthen this bill. They wouldn’t want to head into the fall election having just voted down measures that would help 5 million people with disabilities, many of whom are voters.

I’ve battled as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century on this issue, I’ve learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. Bill C-81 is weaker in some ways than Ontario’s 2005 accessibility (for whose enactment I led the decade-long campaign). A recent independent review of Ontario’s accessibility law by former Lt.-Gov. David Onley shows that Ontario’s law has not produced the progress we need.

Let’s learn from those lessons and strengthen Bill C-81. Everyone will need it, whether you have a disability now, or get one later as you get older.

David Lepofsky is the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Letter to the Editor Submitted by the AODA Alliance to the Globe and Mail on April 22, 2019

Via email to; [email protected]

Rick Hansen is right. Canada has a long way to go to become accessible to 5 million people with disabilities and we need federal legislation to achieve this. (Make Canada accessible for everyone April 22, 2019). He’s incorrect to state that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.” Sadly it doesn’t.

The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesn’t require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere. Canadians with disabilities in Canada deserve better.

The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. It lets the Federal Government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set the rules, but doesn’t require the Government to ever pass any. It lets the Federal Government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects lacking proper accessibility, like hospitals and subways. It lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights.

That’s why so many of us in the disability community grassroots call on Canada’s Senate to strengthen this weak bill.

If the Senate strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to approve those improvements. The Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill in the House’s hearings last fall. Hopefully the Liberals will come around and support us now, with a federal election looming.

Battling as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century, we’ve learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. We need Bill C-81 amended now, before it is passed, to ensure it does what Rick Hansen expects.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Visiting Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School



Source link

Canada Transportation Agency Proposes New Regulations that Threatens t Reduce the Duty to Accommodate Passengers with Disabilities in Air Travel and Other Transportation that the Federal Government Can Regulate, According to a New Brief by the AODA Alliance


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

Canada Transportation Agency Proposes New Regulations that Threaten to Reduce the Duty to Accommodate Passengers with Disabilities in Air Travel and Other Transportation that the Federal Government Can Regulate, According to a New Brief by the AODA Alliance

April 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today, the AODA Alliance submitted a brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the draft regulations that it is proposing to enact under the Canada Transportation Act to address the many barriers that people with disabilities face in the parts of Canada’s transportation network that the Federal Government can regulate, such as air travel. We set out our brief below.

The CTA posted these very detailed draft regulations on March 9, 2019 and gave the public 30 days to comment on them. We regret that we are submitting our brief after the CTA’s deadline for comment. We were not able to prepare this brief sooner, as we have been devoting so much time to our campaign to get Canada’s Senate to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

We regret that we did not have time to post a draft of this brief earlier, for your feedback, as we ordinarily do when we are preparing briefs like this. We had to prepare this brief in an extraordinary rush.

Our brief provides an excellent illustration of why we need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81. Parts of this draft regulation that we had time to analyze threaten to weaken the protection of the duty to accommodate people with disabilities. This is because s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act says that once a regulation like this is enacted, it serves as a cap on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, in so far as the CTA can enforce it. Our brief illustrates by example how this draft regulation would reduce protection for the duty to accommodate people with disabilities in federally-regulated transportation.

We therefore oppose the passage of this draft regulation, for the reasons we set out in this brief. We regret having to do so, because on our first review of the draft regulation, there appear to be some good things in it. As our brief explains, we nevertheless oppose its enactment because it threatens to reduce the rights of people with disabilities.

Sadly, our brief provides a good illustration of some of the problems with Bill C-81. We have called on the Senate to amend Bill C-81 to remove the damaging and harmful s. 172, so that regulations like these cannot serve to weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Our brief illustrates why that amendment to Bill C-81 is so vital to people with disabilities. We will find out on May 2, 2019 whether the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will take up our recommendations for strengthening Bill C-81, including the repeal of s. 172.

It is not too late for you to help. Please email the Senate’s Standing Committee by writing [email protected] and urge the Senators to strengthen Bill C-81. Send them this brief to give a good example of why we need them to get rid of the harmful s. 172.

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You should read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

 

          MORE DETAILS

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the Draft Regulations Posted for Comment on the Canada Gazette Entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”

April 18, 2019

To: Canada Transportation Agency

Via Email: [email protected]

Care of Sonia Gangopadhyay

Acting Director

Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation

Canadian Transportation Agency

15 Eddy Street

Gatineau, Quebec

K1A 0N9

Telephone: 819 953 8961

1. Introduction

In this brief, the AODA Alliance offers the Canada Transportation Agency our summary feedback on the draft regulations which the CTA posted in the Canada Gazette for public comment within 30 days on March 9, 2019, entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”. (ATPDR)

The AODA Alliance regrets that it has had to submit this brief past the CTA’s deadline for feedback. We regret that our volunteer coalition did not have the capacity to address this earlier. The CTA’s short 30-day public consultation period on these complex regulations overlapped with the pivotally important hearings on Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) by the Senate. Moreover, a proper analysis of the CTA’s highly-technical document, which runs over 100 pages, is not something a voluntary grassroots organization can readily undertake on such short notice. This is made more challenging by the draft regulations’ complexity and, at times, impenetrable text.

Due to the insufficient time, we have not been able to fully review and analyze the entirety of the draft regulations’ details. We here address a short number of key points that amply support our core conclusion.

Our position in this brief is summarized as follows:

  1. We commend the CTA for embarking on developing modernized accessibility standard regulations. These are long overdue. We share the CTA’s conclusion that the current situation facing passengers with disabilities is unacceptable, and that mandatory enforceable regulations are needed.
  2. We accept that there are some helpful provisions in the draft regulations. However despite this, the draft regulation should not be enacted in its current form, especially if Parliament does not remove s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act. This is because as written, the draft regulation threatens to reduce human rights of passengers with disabilities.

The Canada Transportation Agency should not infer that the short list of key concerns addressed in this brief are the only concerns that we would have raised about these draft regulations, had we had a fuller opportunity to digest and analyze them.

In general we share the concerns about this proposed regulation that the Alliance For Equality of Blind Canadians has set out in its excellent April 6, 2019 brief to the CTA which is available at:

http://www.blindcanadians.ca/sites/aebc/files/docs/brief/3208/Canada%20Gazette%20regs%20Brief%20final%2004-06-2019.docx

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

Among many other activities, we have been extensively involved in providing input to the Transportation Accessibility Standard enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Our activity at the provincial level in the transportation area can be seen by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/transportation/

3. Endorsing Certain Specific CTA Findings

The CTA’s posting of draft regulation makes a number of key findings which the AODA Alliance endorses and supports.

The CTA correctly recognizes that Canada is not a leader in this area on the international stage. It acknowledged:

“Canada lags behind other countries that have comprehensive and enforceable regulations in this area.”

Later it wisely recognized:

“The CTA’s RMI revealed that its existing accessibility instruments represent a patchwork of regulations and voluntary standards, some of which are outdated and inadequate in their scope. This has resulted in inconsistent accessibility-related services and reduced access to transportation services for persons with disabilities.”

Still later the CTA recognized:

“Canada’s heavy reliance on voluntary codes of practice currently leaves it lagging behind other key jurisdictions that have comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation regulations, notably the United States and the EU.”

Later the CTA similarly recognized how out-of-date its regulatory regime in this area has been:

“The current CTA regulations, voluntary codes of practice, and some of the guidance material relevant to accessible travel are outdated and contain significant gaps. While some gaps have been partially addressed through the CTA’s adjudication of individual accessibility complaints, this approach has resulted in an uneven playing field for industry, as some transportation service providers named in complaints are required to remove undue obstacles while others are not. As a result, extensive consultations have confirmed wide support from disability rights organizations, the general public and industry for the development of a single, comprehensive set of accessible transportation regulations that apply across the national transportation system.”

Elsewhere the CTA fairly acknowledged that its regulatory regime in this area to date has been inadequate, where it states:

“However, current accessibility provisions for the national transportation system are generally voluntary (i.e. not legally binding), and have not kept pace with developments since the early 2000s.”

4. CTA’s Goal In the Draft Regulation is Confused

At points, the CTA sets its goal well below the human rights standard. This is especially troubling, since the CTA states that it is trying to align itself with Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That proposed legislation is called “an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.”

At other points, CTA merely says it aims to make transportation “more accessible”, a tepid and inadequate goal. The CTA states:

“The proposed Regulations would require these entities (collectively referred to herein as “transportation service providers”) to take steps to meet certain standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

Later the CTA acknowledges a stronger and far more appropriate goal of a barrier-free transportation system:

“The overarching objective of the proposed regulatory package is to promote the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society by creating comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation requirements that are applicable to all modes of transportation, and enabling persons with disabilities to travel with a predictable and consistent level of accessibility across a barrier-free modern national transportation system.”

Still later, but within just a few pages of those earlier contradictory statements, the CTA in one paragraph both sets a correct goal of “equal access” and shortly thereafter the incorrect diluted goal of “more accessible”:

“The ATPDR would ensure that all Canadians, including persons with disabilities, have equal access to the national transportation system. Transportation service providers subject to the proposed Regulations would be required to take steps and meet the proposed standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

We recommend that the CTA use consistent language that makes it clear that aim of the regulation is the achievement of a barrier-free and fully-accessible transportation system. We also recommend that a provision be added to the regulation that makes it clear that nothing in this regulation should be construed as reducing any duties to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed either in the Canada Human Rights Act or the Canada Transportation Act.

5. Draft Regulations Threaten to Create a New Legal Barrier that Can Impede Human Rights Duty of Transportation Providers to Accommodate

The AODA Alliance opposes the adoption of any CTA regulations that could threaten in any way to reduce the duty of transportation providers to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed under human rights laws. This includes any threat to reduce the duty of transportation providers under the Canada Transportation Act to remove and prevent undue obstacles or barriers to travel by passengers with disabilities.

For this reason, we regret that we must oppose the adoption of the draft regulation. While it includes some helpful contents, it also includes provisions that threaten existing human rights entitlements.

We have not had the time to screen the entire draft regulation to find all the threatening provisions, in order to see which parts, if any, of the draft regulation is irrelevant to that pressing concern. Before proceeding with this regulation, the Federal Government should put this draft regulation through a careful screening, with input from the disability community and the Canadian Human Rights Commission for that purpose.

Our concern arises from the fact that s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act provides that once the CTA has enacted a regulation in an area, passengers with disabilities are barred from bringing an individual claim that a barrier is an “undue obstacle” in that area, if that would require the transportation provider to do anything more than the regulation requires. In effect, the CTA regulation sets a cap or ceiling on the scope of the duty to accommodate of transportation providers. The transportation provider need do no more, even if the regulation does not ensure effective accommodation, and even if further accommodation efforts are possible without undue hardship.

Section 172 provides, referring to the Canada Transportation Agency:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

The AODA Alliance and other disability organizations have asked Parliament to repeal s. 172. That would leave the human rights duty to accommodate intact. Regulations enacted by the CTA could reinforce it, but never reduce it. The Federal Government has not done so. It has given no reason for its refusal to do so.

Instead of removing this unfair provision in the CTA legislation, Bill C-81 preserves it. The Federal Government refused our request to remove it from Bill C-81. We have asked the Senate to remove it. The Senate has not yet indicated whether it would do so.

When the CTA appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to discuss Bill C-81 on April 10, 2019, it did not identify this problem or express any opinion on the AODA Alliance’s call for s. 172 to be repealed. To our knowledge, the Senators did not ask the CTA about this specific provision at those hearings.

When federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough appeared on April 3, 2019 before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to speak to Bill C-81, she stated:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Yet Bill C-81, whose creation she led, preserves and perpetuates s. 172, which is a threat to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities.

We here identify a troubling example in the draft regulations which on their face threaten to cut back on the duty to accommodate. As a painful irony, this threat arises from provisions which on their face give the impression that they seek to assist with the accommodation in transportation of passengers with disabilities.

We specifically focus on the draft regulations’ imposing a duty on passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to transportation providers of a request for certain prescribed accommodations. This problem arises from a combination of sections 29, 32, 34 and 35 of the draft regulations, which we set out here in material part.

Section 29 of the draft regulations provides:

“Advance notice — at least 48 hours

29 (1) If a person with a disability makes a request for a service set out in this Part at least 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service.

No advance notice required

(2) Despite subsection (1), if a person makes a request for a service referred to in any of paragraphs 32(a), (b), (g) and (i) to (w) or section 34 or 35 less than 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service.

Advance notice — 96 hours

(3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person.

If no advance notice

(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

Section 32 of the draft regulations, to which s. 29 refers, provides:

“32 A carrier must ensure that personnel, on the request of a person with a disability, provide the following services to the person without delay:

(a) assisting the person with registering at the check-in counter;

(b) permitting the person, if they are unable to use an automated self-service kiosk or other automated check-in or ticketing process, to advance to the front of the line at a check-in counter or ticket counter;

(c) assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal, including by

(i) providing personnel to assist the person to proceed through the security screening process, or

(ii) collaborating with the relevant security authority or security personnel at the terminal to permit a person who is not travelling with the person with a disability to have access to the security screening checkpoint so that they may assist the person with a disability to proceed through the security screening process;

(d) assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in;

(e) before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier;

(f) assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck;

(g) assisting the person in storing and retrieving their carry-on baggage;

(h) before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat;

(i) assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space;

(j) before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat;

(k) assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device;

(l) before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration;

(m) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair;

(n) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair;

(o) on board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog;

(p) if a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille;

(q) if a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions;

(r) if the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats;

(s) assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs;

(t) assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage;

(u) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area;

(v) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator; and

(w) assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier.”

Sections 34 and 35 of the draft regulations provide:

“34 If a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile is waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, the carrier must ensure that personnel

(a) provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance to the person; and

(b) periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.

Request for assistance

35 Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, the carrier must ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.”

This draft regulation would legislate the creation of a new legalized barrier to the duty to accommodate, namely a requirement for passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to the transportation provider 48 hours before the travel, when seeking certain specified accommodations. That means that passengers with disabilities don’t have an assurance of a vital accommodation service if they have not given 48 hours advance notice to the transportation provider, where they are requesting any of the following accommodations:

Assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal (s. 32c).

Assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in (s. 32(d)).

Before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier (s. 32(e)).

Assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck (s. 32(f)).

Before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(h)).

Assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space (s. 32 (i)).

Before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(j)).

Assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device (s.32 (k)).

Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration) s. 32(l)).

On board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(m)).

On board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(n)).

On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).

If a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille (s. 32(p)).

If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).

If the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats (s. 3r)).

Assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs (s. 32(s)).

Assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage (s. 32(t)).

Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area (s. 32(u)).

Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator (s. 32(v)).

Assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier (s. 32(w)).

Providing a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile, while waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, to provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance ,and periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required as listed in that Part of the regulations. (s. 34).

Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, to ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part. (s. 35).

Advance notice is simply not justified for many if not most of these accommodations – assuming it can even be justified for any of them. These all involve a transportation provider deploying existing staff on hand. We cannot see how a transportation provider would change its plans or operations 48 hours before a trip in response to such advance notice. Even if advance notice were justified, which we dispute, a full two days is excessive.

Making this problematic situation even worse, s. 32(3) would allow a transportation provider to unilaterally require even more notice, namely 96 hours (4 days) for any of the foregoing, in circumstances that passengers with disabilities could not reliably know in advance. Section 32(3) provides:

” (3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person.”

When could an airline, for example, possibly need fully four days’ notice in order for a flight attendant, already present on the plane to do any of the following:

* Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration )s. 32(l)).

* On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).

* If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).

Section 32(4) of the draft regulations attempts to reduce the harshness of this new barrier to effective accommodation of passengers with disabilities. It provides:

“(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

By s. 32(4), a passenger’s failure to give the required notice is not automatically barred from any accommodation. However, the only effort that the transportation provider must make to provide a needed accommodation in circumstances of no advance notice is effort that is simply “reasonable.” The draft regulation provides no criteria for assessing the reasonableness of the transportation’s efforts.

Section 32(4)’s “reasonable efforts” clause is worded in terms that risks falling short of the human rights duty to accommodate. Under the human rights duty to accommodate, the transportation provider has the duty to make serious and substantial efforts, tailored to the individual’s specific needs, including investigating alternative solutions where needed, as well as the burden to show that it was impossible for the transportation provider to do more than it did to accommodate the passenger with a disability, without undue hardship. “Undue hardship” is a recognized and tough test to meet. It is not mere “reasonableness” of its effort.

These sections in the draft regulations read as if they were written for, if not by, the transportation sector. Such provisions are emblematic of why so many in the disability community oppose the CTA being assigned the proposed accessibility mandate under Bill C-81.

Many if not most or all of the accommodation services listed above that are subject to this new prior notice requirement are ones which passengers with disabilities have been able to request without prior notice up to now. As such, the draft regulations here threaten to serve as a real step backwards.

The regulations impose no duty on a transportation provider to effectively notify all passengers that it will require a 96 hour notice period for any or all of the listed accommodation services. Merely posting this on a website provides no assurance that passengers with disabilities will know to check, and will check at the right place. Must all passengers with disabilities start surfing the web or phoning their airline 96 hours in advance in case they might need one of these accommodations?

This notice requirement also presents a serious new barrier for passengers who are travelling at the last minute, e.g. for business, or to address an emergency or to attend a funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened. As such, this appears quite discriminatory.

The draft regulations do not require transportation providers to provide a reliable, quick, easily-accessed means for passengers with disabilities to give the required notice to the transportation provider. Members of the public are all too aware of the difficulties when trying, for example, to simply get a live person on the line when calling a major transportation provider. Even when a passenger tries to contact either of Toronto’s major passenger airports, Pearson International Airport or Billy Bishop Airport, to request curbside assistance in advance of arriving at the terminal, frustrating barriers have been encountered. Some have secured media attention. Had this been so important for the airlines, we anticipate that they would have already created a fast, effective and easy-to-use to give such advance notice.

6. Exceptions and Exemptions that Are Too Broad Fly in the Face of Supreme Court Human Rights Requirements

The draft regulations include exceptions and exemptions that are too broad. We have not had the time to isolate and analyze all of these. They all needed to be screen for human rights concerns before enactment of this regulation can be considered.

The CTA’s explanation of the draft regulations includes:

“The proposed ATPDR would set minimum accessibility standards that would apply to any new buildings or facilities purchased by Canadian transportation service providers after the one year following the coming into force of the proposed Regulations. In addition, any major modifications made to existing equipment or facilities would be required to comply with the proposed Regulations.”

This appears to permit a transportation to acquire a new building with accessibility barriers over a year after this regulation comes into force. The draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not allow a transportation provider or terminal to acquire a new building or part of a building during the year after the regulation comes into force, that does not meet the regulation’s accessibility requirements.

As another example, the draft regulations set requirements for accessibility features that must be included in new passenger airplanes. According to a complex series of provisions that are hard to decipher, some of these requirements do not apply to a “pre-existing” airplane. Section 62(4) defines a pre-existing airplane or like equipment as follows:

“(4) In subsections (1) to (3), a pre-existing aircraft, train, ferry or bus means an aircraft, train, ferry or bus that was

(a) purchased or leased by the carrier before the day on which this section comes into force; or

(b) purchased or leased by the carrier on or after the day on which this section comes into force, if the carrier has submitted the invitation for bids in respect of that aircraft, train, ferry or bus before that day.”

This provision does not come into force for one year after this regulation is enacted (See s. 162). As such, it appears that an airline could rush out now and buy new airplanes that do not meet the accessibility requirements for new airplanes, over the months before the regulation comes into effect. This flies in the face of the duty of each transportation provider not to create new disability barriers. It was a CTA case before the Supreme Court of Canada that established this principle in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. ViaRail ## cite. [2007] 1 SCR 650, citing with approval Lepofsky, M. David. “Federal Court of Appeal De‑Rails Equality Rights for Persons With Disabilities — Via Rail v. Canadian Transportation Agency and the Important Duty Not to Create New Barriers to Accessibility” (2005‑2006), 18 N.J.C.L. 169.

All the timelines in these draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not violate the principle that the Supreme Court of Canada enunciated in the ViaRail case.

7. Curbside Assistance Provisions Fraught with Difficulties

We offer one other illustration of a concern with the draft regulations that show the risk of their being quite weak, namely the provision regarding curbside assistance at a transportation terminal. We do not here suggest that this provision violates existing human rights. Rather, we point to this because the CTA, when appearing before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, highlighted this part of these regulations. CTA chair Scott Streiner told the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 10, 2019:

“The second example I would give relates to curbside assistance — that is, curb to gate assistance in airports. For travellers using mobility devices, particularly wheelchairs but also those who require guidance for blind travellers, or others, we all know that it can be a challenge, even if you don’t have a disability, to find your way from curbside to gate. Certainly, we require assistance in some cases for persons with disabilities.

There have been instances that have come to our attention where there’s been confusion about who provides that assistance between the airport, the airline and folks that found themselves not receiving the kind of assistance they need in a timely way. Again, these new regulations make it clear who has to do what. That’s a gap we’re trying to address through regulations.”

It is commendable that the draft regulations aim to ensure that passengers with disabilities can get curbside assistance to get into an airport or other transportation terminal, so they can check in. However, the provisions have excessive loopholes and leave far too much to the discretion of transportation provider and terminal operators. Contrary to Mr. Streiner’s presentation to the Senate and his commendable aims here, they do not make it clear to passengers with disabilities who does what.

Section 137 provides that a terminal operator must provide to passengers with disabilities “without delay” accommodation services such as”

“(c) assisting the person to proceed between the curbside zone and the check-in area or, if there is no check-in area, between the curbside zone and a representative of a carrier.”

Section 137(2) qualifies that a terminal does not have to provide that service if the transportation provider is providing that service. Section 137(2) provides:

” (2) Despite subsection (1), a terminal operator is not required to provide a person with any assistance referred to in that subsection if a carrier is already providing that person with that assistance.”

Section 136 requires the terminal operator to publish information about the availability of this curbside assistance. Section 136 provides in part:

“136 A terminal operator must publish, including by publishing on its Internet site, information about the services or facilities available at the terminal for persons with disabilities, including information about

(a) the curbside zone, including where the curbside zone is located and how to request assistance to or from the curbside zone;”

Taken together, these provisions are too confusing and slippery. Here again, they appear to serve the interest of terminal operators and transportation providers, who are given excessive discretion. Passengers with disabilities are left with uncertainty and unpredictability.

First, the regulation sets no time target that the terminal or transportation provider must meet to provide this curbside assistance. “Without delay” is entirely unpredictable and hard to enforce. A passenger with a disability could be left isolated, with no nearby staff, waiting and waiting alone in front of an airport in the middle of a freezing February day, without knowing how long they must continue to wait. They won’t know how much earlier they must arrive at the airport to be sure they get assisted to arrive inside the terminal to check in, in time to ensure that they don’t miss their flight. This does not serve the fundamental goal of predictability that the CTA emphasized in its explanation of these regulations.

By not specifying a specific maximum time requirement, this leaves each transportation provider free to set its own time lines, hoping that passengers with disabilities won’t bother taking on the burdensome chore of filing and litigating a case before the CTA over this. transportation providers know that few passengers with disabilities will wish to take on the hardship of litigating against a well-funded transportation provider over the interpretation of the vague words “without delay”.

Second, the draft regulations create confusion facing passengers with disabilities over who is responsible to provide this curbside assistance. The provision imposes the duty on the terminal. However, it leaves it open to an airline to provide the service, in which case the terminal is excused. Yet the provision imposes no specific duties on the airline that does offer the service. Does the “without delay” clause apply to the airlines too? If the airline doesn’t provide the service, has the passenger a right to demand it from the terminal operator? How can the passenger give the 48 or 96 hour notice that the terminal operator might demand?

For a passenger with a disability who just wants to get into an airport’s front door and up to the counter, this is a legal/regulatory mess dressed up as a helpful accommodation. Add to this the ordeal, while standing outside on that freezing February day, fearful of missing one’s flight, of then having to try to get someone on the phone from the airline or airport to figure out who is supposed to help, or trying to surf the web to see if there is an up-to-date posting on the airline’s or airport’s website that might point to the right phone number. Navigating such websites for assistance and trying to reach a live person on the phone with correct information on a topic like this is already a vexing challenge.

Third, there appears to be no requirement that all passengers including passengers with disabilities be notified of this service when their ticket is purchased, as part of the ticket documentation. Similarly, there is no requirement that the transportation provider or terminal have, and make public, an easily-reached phone number to call when en route to the terminal, to give advance warning that they are about to arrive. Requiring notice 48 or 96 hours in advance does little to help the terminal or transportation provider. Being able to call to seek this accommodation when a few minutes away, and to reach a live person in direct contact with the help personnel, would go much further to make a service like this become reliable.

8. Conclusion

We hope that in our rush to provide useful feedback on this complicated and at times, opaque draft regulation, we have not inadvertently made any incorrect descriptions of its provisions. If we have, we ask the CTA to notify us, so that we can correct our submission.

This draft regulation shows why it is essential for Parliament to immediately repeal s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. People with disabilities should not have to fear that the enactment of a regulation like this, despite some helpful provisions, can end up reducing their rights. They face too many barriers now in Canada’s transportation system. They should not face further hurdles, created by a regulatory authority whose mandate is to tear down such barriers and to prevent the creation of new ones.



Source link

Canada Transportation Agency Proposes New Regulations that Threatens to Reduce the Duty to Accommodate Passengers with Disabilities in Air Travel and Other Transportation that the Federal Government Can Regulate, According to a New Brief by the AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 18, 2019

SUMMARY

Today, the AODA Alliance submitted a brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the draft regulations that it is proposing to enact under the Canada Transportation Act to address the many barriers that people with disabilities face in the parts of Canada’s transportation network that the Federal Government can regulate, such as air travel. We set out our brief below.

The CTA posted these very detailed draft regulations on March 9, 2019 and gave the public 30 days to comment on them. We regret that we are submitting our brief after the CTA’s deadline for comment. We were not able to prepare this brief sooner, as we have been devoting so much time to our campaign to get Canada’s Senate to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

We regret that we did not have time to post a draft of this brief earlier, for your feedback, as we ordinarily do when we are preparing briefs like this. We had to prepare this brief in an extraordinary rush.

Our brief provides an excellent illustration of why we need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81. Parts of this draft regulation that we had time to analyze threaten to weaken the protection of the duty to accommodate people with disabilities. This is because s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act says that once a regulation like this is enacted, it serves as a cap on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, in so far as the CTA can enforce it. Our brief illustrates by example how this draft regulation would reduce protection for the duty to accommodate people with disabilities in federally-regulated transportation.

We therefore oppose the passage of this draft regulation, for the reasons we set out in this brief. We regret having to do so, because on our first review of the draft regulation, there appear to be some good things in it. As our brief explains, we nevertheless oppose its enactment because it threatens to reduce the rights of people with disabilities.

Sadly, our brief provides a good illustration of some of the problems with Bill C-81. We have called on the Senate to amend Bill C-81 to remove the damaging and harmful s. 172, so that regulations like these cannot serve to weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Our brief illustrates why that amendment to Bill C-81 is so vital to people with disabilities. We will find out on May 2, 2019 whether the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will take up our recommendations for strengthening Bill C-81, including the repeal of s. 172.

It is not too late for you to help. Please email the Senate’s Standing Committee by writing [email protected] and urge the Senators to strengthen Bill C-81. Send them this brief to give a good example of why we need them to get rid of the harmful s. 172.

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You should read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the Draft Regulations Posted for Comment on the Canada Gazette Entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”

April 18, 2019

To: Canada Transportation Agency
Via Email: [email protected]
Care of Sonia Gangopadhyay
Acting Director
Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation
Canadian Transportation Agency
15 Eddy Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0N9
Telephone: 819 953 8961

1. Introduction

In this brief, the AODA Alliance offers the Canada Transportation Agency our summary feedback on the draft regulations which the CTA posted in the Canada Gazette for public comment within 30 days on March 9, 2019, entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”. (ATPDR)

The AODA Alliance regrets that it has had to submit this brief past the CTA’s deadline for feedback. We regret that our volunteer coalition did not have the capacity to address this earlier. The CTA’s short 30-day public consultation period on these complex regulations overlapped with the pivotally important hearings on Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) by the Senate. Moreover, a proper analysis of the CTA’s highly-technical document, which runs over 100 pages, is not something a voluntary grassroots organization can readily undertake on such short notice. This is made more challenging by the draft regulations’ complexity and, at times, impenetrable text.

Due to the insufficient time, we have not been able to fully review and analyze the entirety of the draft regulations’ details. We here address a short number of key points that amply support our core conclusion.

Our position in this brief is summarized as follows:

1. We commend the CTA for embarking on developing modernized accessibility standard regulations. These are long overdue. We share the CTA’s conclusion that the current situation facing passengers with disabilities is unacceptable, and that mandatory enforceable regulations are needed.
2. We accept that there are some helpful provisions in the draft regulations. However despite this, the draft regulation should not be enacted in its current form, especially if Parliament does not remove s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act. This is because as written, the draft regulation threatens to reduce human rights of passengers with disabilities.

The Canada Transportation Agency should not infer that the short list of key concerns addressed in this brief are the only concerns that we would have raised about these draft regulations, had we had a fuller opportunity to digest and analyze them.

In general we share the concerns about this proposed regulation that the Alliance For Equality of Blind Canadians has set out in its excellent April 6, 2019 brief to the CTA which is available at:
http://www.blindcanadians.ca/sites/aebc/files/docs/brief/3208/Canada%20Gazette%20regs%20Brief%20final%2004-06-2019.docx 2. 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. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment. We have advised many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand.

Among many other activities, we have been extensively involved in providing input to the Transportation Accessibility Standard enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Our activity at the provincial level in the transportation area can be seen by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/transportation/

3. Endorsing Certain Specific CTA Findings

The CTA’s posting of draft regulation makes a number of key findings which the AODA Alliance endorses and supports.

The CTA correctly recognizes that Canada is not a leader in this area on the international stage. It acknowledged:

“Canada lags behind other countries that have comprehensive and enforceable regulations in this area.”

Later it wisely recognized:

“The CTA’s RMI revealed that its existing accessibility instruments represent a patchwork of regulations and voluntary standards, some of which are outdated and inadequate in their scope. This has resulted in inconsistent accessibility-related services and reduced access to transportation services for persons with disabilities.”

Still later the CTA recognized:

“Canada’s heavy reliance on voluntary codes of practice currently leaves it lagging behind other key jurisdictions that have comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation regulations, notably the United States and the EU.”

Later the CTA similarly recognized how out-of-date its regulatory regime in this area has been:

“The current CTA regulations, voluntary codes of practice, and some of the guidance material relevant to accessible travel are outdated and contain significant gaps. While some gaps have been partially addressed through the CTA’s adjudication of individual accessibility complaints, this approach has resulted in an uneven playing field for industry, as some transportation service providers named in complaints are required to remove undue obstacles while others are not. As a result, extensive consultations have confirmed wide support from disability rights organizations, the general public and industry for the development of a single, comprehensive set of accessible transportation regulations that apply across the national transportation system.”

Elsewhere the CTA fairly acknowledged that its regulatory regime in this area to date has been inadequate, where it states:

“However, current accessibility provisions for the national transportation system are generally voluntary (i.e. not legally binding), and have not kept pace with developments since the early 2000s.”

4. CTA’s Goal In the Draft Regulation is Confused

At points, the CTA sets its goal well below the human rights standard. This is especially troubling, since the CTA states that it is trying to align itself with Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That proposed legislation is called “an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.”

At other points, CTA merely says it aims to make transportation “more accessible”, a tepid and inadequate goal. The CTA states:

“The proposed Regulations would require these entities (collectively referred to herein as “transportation service providers”) to take steps to meet certain standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

Later the CTA acknowledges a stronger and far more appropriate goal of a barrier-free transportation system:

“The overarching objective of the proposed regulatory package is to promote the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society by creating comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation requirements that are applicable to all modes of transportation, and enabling persons with disabilities to travel with a predictable and consistent level of accessibility across a barrier-free modern national transportation system.”

Still later, but within just a few pages of those earlier contradictory statements, the CTA in one paragraph both sets a correct goal of “equal access” and shortly thereafter the incorrect diluted goal of “more accessible”:

“The ATPDR would ensure that all Canadians, including persons with disabilities, have equal access to the national transportation system. Transportation service providers subject to the proposed Regulations would be required to take steps and meet the proposed standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

We recommend that the CTA use consistent language that makes it clear that aim of the regulation is the achievement of a barrier-free and fully-accessible transportation system. We also recommend that a provision be added to the regulation that makes it clear that nothing in this regulation should be construed as reducing any duties to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed either in the Canada Human Rights Act or the Canada Transportation Act.

5. Draft Regulations Threaten to Create a New Legal Barrier that Can Impede Human Rights Duty of Transportation Providers to Accommodate

The AODA Alliance opposes the adoption of any CTA regulations that could threaten in any way to reduce the duty of transportation providers to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed under human rights laws. This includes any threat to reduce the duty of transportation providers under the Canada Transportation Act to remove and prevent undue obstacles or barriers to travel by passengers with disabilities.

For this reason, we regret that we must oppose the adoption of the draft regulation. While it includes some helpful contents, it also includes provisions that threaten existing human rights entitlements.

We have not had the time to screen the entire draft regulation to find all the threatening provisions, in order to see which parts, if any, of the draft regulation is irrelevant to that pressing concern. Before proceeding with this regulation, the Federal Government should put this draft regulation through a careful screening, with input from the disability community and the Canadian Human Rights Commission for that purpose.

Our concern arises from the fact that s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act provides that once the CTA has enacted a regulation in an area, passengers with disabilities are barred from bringing an individual claim that a barrier is an “undue obstacle” in that area, if that would require the transportation provider to do anything more than the regulation requires. In effect, the CTA regulation sets a cap or ceiling on the scope of the duty to accommodate of transportation providers. The transportation provider need do no more, even if the regulation does not ensure effective accommodation, and even if further accommodation efforts are possible without undue hardship.

Section 172 provides, referring to the Canada Transportation Agency:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

The AODA Alliance and other disability organizations have asked Parliament to repeal s. 172. That would leave the human rights duty to accommodate intact. Regulations enacted by the CTA could reinforce it, but never reduce it. The Federal Government has not done so. It has given no reason for its refusal to do so.

Instead of removing this unfair provision in the CTA legislation, Bill C-81 preserves it. The Federal Government refused our request to remove it from Bill C-81. We have asked the Senate to remove it. The Senate has not yet indicated whether it would do so.

When the CTA appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to discuss Bill C-81 on April 10, 2019, it did not identify this problem or express any opinion on the AODA Alliance’s call for s. 172 to be repealed. To our knowledge, the Senators did not ask the CTA about this specific provision at those hearings.

When federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough appeared on April 3, 2019 before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to speak to Bill C-81, she stated:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Yet Bill C-81, whose creation she led, preserves and perpetuates s. 172, which is a threat to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities.

We here identify a troubling example in the draft regulations which on their face threaten to cut back on the duty to accommodate. As a painful irony, this threat arises from provisions which on their face give the impression that they seek to assist with the accommodation in transportation of passengers with disabilities.

We specifically focus on the draft regulations’ imposing a duty on passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to transportation providers of a request for certain prescribed accommodations. This problem arises from a combination of sections 29, 32, 34 and 35 of the draft regulations, which we set out here in material part.

Section 29 of the draft regulations provides:

“Advance notice at least 48 hours
29 (1) If a person with a disability makes a request for a service set out in this Part at least 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service. No advance notice required
(2) Despite subsection (1), if a person makes a request for a service referred to in any of paragraphs 32(a), (b), (g) and (i) to (w) or section 34 or 35 less than 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service. Advance notice 96 hours
(3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person. If no advance notice
(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

Section 32 of the draft regulations, to which s. 29 refers, provides:

“32 A carrier must ensure that personnel, on the request of a person with a disability, provide the following services to the person without delay: (a) assisting the person with registering at the check-in counter;
(b) permitting the person, if they are unable to use an automated self-service kiosk or other automated check-in or ticketing process, to advance to the front of the line at a check-in counter or ticket counter;
(c) assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal, including by
(i) providing personnel to assist the person to proceed through the security screening process, or
(ii) collaborating with the relevant security authority or security personnel at the terminal to permit a person who is not travelling with the person with a disability to have access to the security screening checkpoint so that they may assist the person with a disability to proceed through the security screening process;
(d) assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in;
(e) before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier;
(f) assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck;
(g) assisting the person in storing and retrieving their carry-on baggage;
(h) before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat; (i) assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space;
(j) before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat;
(k) assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device;
(l) before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration;
(m) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair;
(n) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair;
(o) on board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog;
(p) if a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille;
(q) if a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions;
(r) if the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats; (s) assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs; (t) assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage;
(u) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area;
(v) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator; and
(w) assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier.”

Sections 34 and 35 of the draft regulations provide:

“34 If a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile is waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, the carrier must ensure that personnel
(a) provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance to the person; and
(b) periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.

Request for assistance
35 Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, the carrier must ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.”

This draft regulation would legislate the creation of a new legalized barrier to the duty to accommodate, namely a requirement for passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to the transportation provider 48 hours before the travel, when seeking certain specified accommodations. That means that passengers with disabilities don’t have an assurance of a vital accommodation service if they have not given 48 hours advance notice to the transportation provider, where they are requesting any of the following accommodations:

Assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal (s. 32c).
Assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in (s. 32(d)).
Before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier (s. 32(e)).
Assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck (s. 32(f)).
Before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(h)). Assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space (s. 32 (i)).
Before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(j)).
Assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device (s.32 (k)).
Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration) s. 32(l)).
On board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(m)).
On board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(n)).
On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).
If a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille (s. 32(p)).
If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).
If the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats (s. 3r)). Assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs (s. 32(s)). Assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage (s. 32(t)).
Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area (s. 32(u)).
Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator (s. 32(v)).
Assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier (s. 32(w)).
Providing a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile, while waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, to provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance ,and periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required as listed in that Part of the regulations. (s. 34).
Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, to ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part. (s. 35).

Advance notice is simply not justified for many if not most of these accommodations assuming it can even be justified for any of them. These all involve a transportation provider deploying existing staff on hand. We cannot see how a transportation provider would change its plans or operations 48 hours before a trip in response to such advance notice. Even if advance notice were justified, which we dispute, a full two days is excessive.

Making this problematic situation even worse, s. 32(3) would allow a transportation provider to unilaterally require even more notice, namely 96 hours (4 days) for any of the foregoing, in circumstances that passengers with disabilities could not reliably know in advance. Section 32(3) provides:

” (3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person.”

When could an airline, for example, possibly need fully four days’ notice in order for a flight attendant, already present on the plane to do any of the following:
* Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration )s. 32(l)).
* On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).
* If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).

Section 32(4) of the draft regulations attempts to reduce the harshness of this new barrier to effective accommodation of passengers with disabilities. It provides:

“(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

By s. 32(4), a passenger’s failure to give the required notice is not automatically barred from any accommodation. However, the only effort that the transportation provider must make to provide a needed accommodation in circumstances of no advance notice is effort that is simply “reasonable.” The draft regulation provides no criteria for assessing the reasonableness of the transportation’s efforts.

Section 32(4)’s “reasonable efforts” clause is worded in terms that risks falling short of the human rights duty to accommodate. Under the human rights duty to accommodate, the transportation provider has the duty to make serious and substantial efforts, tailored to the individual’s specific needs, including investigating alternative solutions where needed, as well as the burden to show that it was impossible for the transportation provider to do more than it did to accommodate the passenger with a disability, without undue hardship. “Undue hardship” is a recognized and tough test to meet. It is not mere “reasonableness” of its effort.

These sections in the draft regulations read as if they were written for, if not by, the transportation sector. Such provisions are emblematic of why so many in the disability community oppose the CTA being assigned the proposed accessibility mandate under Bill C-81.

Many if not most or all of the accommodation services listed above that are subject to this new prior notice requirement are ones which passengers with disabilities have been able to request without prior notice up to now. As such, the draft regulations here threaten to serve as a real step backwards.

The regulations impose no duty on a transportation provider to effectively notify all passengers that it will require a 96 hour notice period for any or all of the listed accommodation services. Merely posting this on a website provides no assurance that passengers with disabilities will know to check, and will check at the right place. Must all passengers with disabilities start surfing the web or phoning their airline 96 hours in advance in case they might need one of these accommodations?

This notice requirement also presents a serious new barrier for passengers who are travelling at the last minute, e.g. for business, or to address an emergency or to attend a funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened. As such, this appears quite discriminatory.

The draft regulations do not require transportation providers to provide a reliable, quick, easily-accessed means for passengers with disabilities to give the required notice to the transportation provider. Members of the public are all too aware of the difficulties when trying, for example, to simply get a live person on the line when calling a major transportation provider. Even when a passenger tries to contact either of Toronto’s major passenger airports, Pearson International Airport or Billy Bishop Airport, to request curbside assistance in advance of arriving at the terminal, frustrating barriers have been encountered. Some have secured media attention. Had this been so important for the airlines, we anticipate that they would have already created a fast, effective and easy-to-use to give such advance notice.

6. Exceptions and Exemptions that Are Too Broad Fly in the Face of Supreme Court Human Rights Requirements

The draft regulations include exceptions and exemptions that are too broad. We have not had the time to isolate and analyze all of these. They all needed to be screen for human rights concerns before enactment of this regulation can be considered.

The CTA’s explanation of the draft regulations includes:

“The proposed ATPDR would set minimum accessibility standards that would apply to any new buildings or facilities purchased by Canadian transportation service providers after the one year following the coming into force of the proposed Regulations. In addition, any major modifications made to existing equipment or facilities would be required to comply with the proposed Regulations.”

This appears to permit a transportation to acquire a new building with accessibility barriers over a year after this regulation comes into force. The draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not allow a transportation provider or terminal to acquire a new building or part of a building during the year after the regulation comes into force, that does not meet the regulation’s accessibility requirements.

As another example, the draft regulations set requirements for accessibility features that must be included in new passenger airplanes. According to a complex series of provisions that are hard to decipher, some of these requirements do not apply to a “pre-existing” airplane. Section 62(4) defines a pre-existing airplane or like equipment as follows:

“(4) In subsections (1) to (3), a pre-existing aircraft, train, ferry or bus means an aircraft, train, ferry or bus that was
(a) purchased or leased by the carrier before the day on which this section comes into force; or
(b) purchased or leased by the carrier on or after the day on which this section comes into force, if the carrier has submitted the invitation for bids in respect of that aircraft, train, ferry or bus before that day.”

This provision does not come into force for one year after this regulation is enacted (See s. 162). As such, it appears that an airline could rush out now and buy new airplanes that do not meet the accessibility requirements for new airplanes, over the months before the regulation comes into effect. This flies in the face of the duty of each transportation provider not to create new disability barriers. It was a CTA case before the Supreme Court of Canada that established this principle in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. ViaRail ## cite. [2007] 1 SCR 650, citing with approval Lepofsky, M. David. “Federal Court of Appeal DeRails Equality Rights for Persons With Disabilities Via Rail v. Canadian Transportation Agency and the Important Duty Not to Create New Barriers to Accessibility” (20052006), 18 N.J.C.L. 169.

All the timelines in these draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not violate the principle that the Supreme Court of Canada enunciated in the ViaRail case.

7. Curbside Assistance Provisions Fraught with Difficulties

We offer one other illustration of a concern with the draft regulations that show the risk of their being quite weak, namely the provision regarding curbside assistance at a transportation terminal. We do not here suggest that this provision violates existing human rights. Rather, we point to this because the CTA, when appearing before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, highlighted this part of these regulations. CTA chair Scott Streiner told the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 10, 2019:

“The second example I would give relates to curbside assistance that is, curb to gate assistance in airports. For travellers using mobility devices, particularly wheelchairs but also those who require guidance for blind travellers, or others, we all know that it can be a challenge, even if you don’t have a disability, to find your way from curbside to gate. Certainly, we require assistance in some cases for persons with disabilities.
There have been instances that have come to our attention where there’s been confusion about who provides that assistance between the airport, the airline and folks that found themselves not receiving the kind of assistance they need in a timely way. Again, these new regulations make it clear who has to do what. That’s a gap we’re trying to address through regulations.”

It is commendable that the draft regulations aim to ensure that passengers with disabilities can get curbside assistance to get into an airport or other transportation terminal, so they can check in. However, the provisions have excessive loopholes and leave far too much to the discretion of transportation provider and terminal operators. Contrary to Mr. Streiner’s presentation to the Senate and his commendable aims here, they do not make it clear to passengers with disabilities who does what.

Section 137 provides that a terminal operator must provide to passengers with disabilities “without delay” accommodation services such as”

“(c) assisting the person to proceed between the curbside zone and the check-in area or, if there is no check-in area, between the curbside zone and a representative of a carrier.”

Section 137(2) qualifies that a terminal does not have to provide that service if the transportation provider is providing that service. Section 137(2) provides:

” (2) Despite subsection (1), a terminal operator is not required to provide a person with any assistance referred to in that subsection if a carrier is already providing that person with that assistance.”

Section 136 requires the terminal operator to publish information about the availability of this curbside assistance. Section 136 provides in part:

“136 A terminal operator must publish, including by publishing on its Internet site, information about the services or facilities available at the terminal for persons with disabilities, including information about
(a) the curbside zone, including where the curbside zone is located and how to request assistance to or from the curbside zone;”

Taken together, these provisions are too confusing and slippery. Here again, they appear to serve the interest of terminal operators and transportation providers, who are given excessive discretion. Passengers with disabilities are left with uncertainty and unpredictability.

First, the regulation sets no time target that the terminal or transportation provider must meet to provide this curbside assistance. “Without delay” is entirely unpredictable and hard to enforce. A passenger with a disability could be left isolated, with no nearby staff, waiting and waiting alone in front of an airport in the middle of a freezing February day, without knowing how long they must continue to wait. They won’t know how much earlier they must arrive at the airport to be sure they get assisted to arrive inside the terminal to check in, in time to ensure that they don’t miss their flight. This does not serve the fundamental goal of predictability that the CTA emphasized in its explanation of these regulations.

By not specifying a specific maximum time requirement, this leaves each transportation provider free to set its own time lines, hoping that passengers with disabilities won’t bother taking on the burdensome chore of filing and litigating a case before the CTA over this. transportation providers know that few passengers with disabilities will wish to take on the hardship of litigating against a well-funded transportation provider over the interpretation of the vague words “without delay”.

Second, the draft regulations create confusion facing passengers with disabilities over who is responsible to provide this curbside assistance. The provision imposes the duty on the terminal. However, it leaves it open to an airline to provide the service, in which case the terminal is excused. Yet the provision imposes no specific duties on the airline that does offer the service. Does the “without delay” clause apply to the airlines too? If the airline doesn’t provide the service, has the passenger a right to demand it from the terminal operator? How can the passenger give the 48 or 96 hour notice that the terminal operator might demand?

For a passenger with a disability who just wants to get into an airport’s front door and up to the counter, this is a legal/regulatory mess dressed up as a helpful accommodation. Add to this the ordeal, while standing outside on that freezing February day, fearful of missing one’s flight, of then having to try to get someone on the phone from the airline or airport to figure out who is supposed to help, or trying to surf the web to see if there is an up-to-date posting on the airline’s or airport’s website that might point to the right phone number. Navigating such websites for assistance and trying to reach a live person on the phone with correct information on a topic like this is already a vexing challenge.

Third, there appears to be no requirement that all passengers including passengers with disabilities be notified of this service when their ticket is purchased, as part of the ticket documentation. Similarly, there is no requirement that the transportation provider or terminal have, and make public, an easily-reached phone number to call when en route to the terminal, to give advance warning that they are about to arrive. Requiring notice 48 or 96 hours in advance does little to help the terminal or transportation provider. Being able to call to seek this accommodation when a few minutes away, and to reach a live person in direct contact with the help personnel, would go much further to make a service like this become reliable.

8. Conclusion

We hope that in our rush to provide useful feedback on this complicated and at times, opaque draft regulation, we have not inadvertently made any incorrect descriptions of its provisions. If we have, we ask the CTA to notify us, so that we can correct our submission.

This draft regulation shows why it is essential for Parliament to immediately repeal s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. People with disabilities should not have to fear that the enactment of a regulation like this, despite some helpful provisions, can end up reducing their rights. They face too many barriers now in Canada’s transportation system. They should not face further hurdles, created by a regulatory authority whose mandate is to tear down such barriers and to prevent the creation of new ones.



Source link

Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak 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 http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 15, 2019

SUMMARY

Here’s a chance to read or watch exactly what AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky said in our April 11, 2019 evidence presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on the need to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. See the text below (about 14 pages).

In this text we do not include what two other organizations presented at the same time. We will later post on our website the transcript for the entire set of hearings that the Senate held on Bill C-81. That will include the presentations of all the organizations that presented on Bill C-81, including the others that presented at the same time as the AODA Alliance.

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

We encourage you to read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

It’s not too late for you to help our campaign. Send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

The Senate Standing Committee will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments it will make to Bill C-81. The minister leading this bill, Carla Qualtrough, told the Standing Committee on April 3, 2019 that she is open to amendments and wants Bill C-81 to be the best bill it can be. Senator Jim Munson, who is sponsoring this bill in the Senate, told the Standing Committee on April 10, 2019 in clear and categorical terms that there will be amendments. We are campaigning to ensure that these amendments are strong and effective.

During our presentation to the Senate Standing Committee, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky encouraged the Committee to watch the AODA Alliance’s online video about serious accessibility problems in new Toronto area subway stations. It has already been seen thousands of times and has secured good media coverage. Check it out by visiting https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

To help our campaign, on April 5, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent a letter to the leaders of all the federal political parties. We asked them to support amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate makes to strengthen it. We want these passed in the House of Commons before the federal election this fall. We also asked the party leaders to pledge that if Bill C-81 is not properly strengthened, or is not passed before the election, that they’ll bring it back before Parliament after the federal election to be strengthened and passed into law.

Stay tuned. We will keep you posted on new developments. We always welcome your feedback on this presentation and on anything else we are up to! Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Text of What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 Regarding Bill C-81

(Note: The evidence of other presenters and their responses to other Senators has been omitted here, but will be available in the full transcript for these hearings which we will post on our website when it becomes available. Also, the full transcript that we will later post will translate any French passages, set out below, into English.)

THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EVIDENCE
OTTAWA, Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met this day at 10:30 a.m. to study Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Senator Chantal Petitclerc (Chair) in the chair. We will continue with our second panel.

David Lepofsky, Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance: Good morning, senators. Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions, but palpably weak on implementation. Its called An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesnt require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.

Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

This legislation splinters its enforcement and the setting of enforceable regulations among multiple federal agencies. From the ministers defence of her practice, she conceded that if she was starting from scratch, that isnt necessarily how she would do it. But her explanation of why she did it gives triumphant ascendancy to federal bureaucracy over disability equality.

Now the question is: What do we do about it? The question is not: Are you going to pass this bill, senators? Youre going to pass this bill, so lets take that off the table. We all know it. We all understand it. Thats the starting point.

The question before this committee is: Are you going to amend it first? What we say is that you must. The reality is this bill needs a lot of amendments not to make it perfect thats a red herring but to get this bill from the status of weak to one that is closer to what people with disabilities need and deserve.

In the house, there were a couple hundred pages of amendments. Hard work over the past weekend has led us to distill it down to a series of amendments before you that we proposed and you have received e-mails from some witnesses who support them which fill a grand total of 3.5 pages and cover a few core themes. I am only going to address a couple of them, but let me be clear, there is time to do this. Youre going to vote in committee on May 2. I understand you will do third reading by May 16. We are working and approaching the federal parties to urge that, once amendments are passed if they are that the house consider them quickly, so the issue of swift passage of this bill, whether amended or not, is now, procedurally, not a bar to your being able to do what we need you to do.

So what should you do?

Well, let me just focus on a couple, but I invite questions on all of what we proposed. Lets just turn to the headlines. Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion-dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. Thats not unusual. But we need the federal government to be required, before it spends our money on a project like that, to say a ground rule of getting our federal money is you have to meet certain federal accessibility requirements.

Now, the minister came before you a week ago and said, We cant do that. We dont have constitutional authority to do that. Respectfully, the minister is wrong. Its called the federal spending power. Have you heard of the Canada Health Act? The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements. Not disability accessibility, but their financial accessibility.

If what the minister told you is right, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades since it was enacted. I would be staggered to believe that is the position of the current federal government. If they can do it there, they can at least attach strings when they give money, if they agree to, to local projects and not just federal buildings.

You might look at me and say, Oh, come on, in 2019 we wouldnt use public money to build inaccessible public transit. Senators, go to YouTube, search on AODA Alliance and public transit. You will see a video we released during last springs provincial election that has thousands of views and media coverage where we document serious accessibility problems in brand new subway stations in Toronto that just opened within the past year-and-a-half.

This isnt about perfect, folks. This is about basic equality, so we ask for an amendment that would at least require federal ministers or their ministries, if they are agreeing to give our federal money to a province, a municipality, a college or university for a project like that, to put, as a term of the agreement, an enforceable term, just like the Canada Health Act, that accessibility requirements are required. Why should the federal government ever allow federal money to be used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones?

Let me give you one other core amendment. My colleague from the CNIB said the minister last week had agreed to amend the bill to ensure that it does not curtail in any way the human rights code and the duty to accommodate. I hope the minister does that, but I dont hear her as having said that. I hear her as having said that she, as a former human rights lawyer, has ensured that this bill doesnt interfere with the duty to accommodate. But senators, it threatens to.

Section 172 of the bill perpetuates a provision in the Canada transportation legislation that would let the CTA enact a regulation, and once it does so, to set standards for accessible transit, no matter how low that standard may be and no matter how deficient from a human rights standard it may be. As a traveller with a disability or others in my coalition or anyone in Canada, we are barred from asking any more under the legislations guarantee against undue barriers.

With that provision in the act, our position is: Please dont ever enact any standards under the CTA because they threaten to take away our rights. A simple amendment would repeal that provision from the act.

Let me conclude by inviting questions on the other areas that weve raised. Im telling you that we are not just about saying whats wrong. We are about proposing constructive suggestions for whats right, and the amendments weve placed before you are designed for a Senate that has a limited time frame to act, a commitment to respect policy decisions made in the House of Commons and an eagerness to ensure that these amendments can be considered by the house quickly and easily, with a realistic chance of them being taken seriously. They are designed to be tailored both to our needs and to what the minister said to you last week. So we ask you to take them all seriously. They are all substantive, and they all bear on the needs of all people with disabilities.

I conclude by saying this: Im speaking for my coalition, but as an individual, I first came before Parliament 39 years ago as a much younger individual my wife said I had hair back then when she saw the video to appear before the standing committee considering the Charter of Rights. At that time, the Charter proposed to guarantee equality but not to people with disabilities. I and a number of other folks argued and succeeded in getting the Charter amended to include that right.

I leave you with two thoughts. First, the amendments we seek are aimed at making that right become a reality, not just as a matter of good intention but as effective implementation.

The Chair: Thank you so much, Mr. Lepofsky. We have a list of senators who are eager to ask questions.

Senator Seidman: Thank you all very much for your presentations.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will take you up on your challenge. Im searching for commonalities. I appreciate the premise you made that we are looking for clear, crisp, focused and meaningful amendments that have a hope of being passed on the other side because thats exactly whats going to have to happen in this process.

I would like to ask you specifically, you submitted three areas that need strengthening with 11 amendments. I would like to ask you very specifically about your amendment about timelines. It is true that HUMA heard testimony around timelines, but they decided not to amend the bill to include a deadline. You have proposed one. In fact, I think you proposed January 1, 2040.

I would like to hear from you why you are pushing that we have a timeline and why it would be that particular one.

Mr. Lepofsky: There are two timelines that we set. One is that the government should be required not just permitted but required to enact accessibility standards regulations within five years and also the timeline for ultimate accessibility in Canada by 2040. Yes, these were pitched to HUMA. The opposition parties, left and right, united in support of that agenda. The government did not agree.

Our hope is that, on your sober second thought, you find wisdom drawing on the experiences that bring you to this Senate, that a return of this issue to the House in June, months before an election, may lead all members of the house to see the wisdom in adopting them.

To be clear, I have an appointment to meet the minister this afternoon to bring that message. We would like to work with the Senate and the house to see if we can broker a package that covers everything.

With respect to the 2040 deadline, I had the privilege of leading the coalition that fought for a decade to win the enactment of Ontarios accessibility law, and I now lead the coalition that has fought for the past 14 years to get it effectively implemented. The minister doubted whether a deadline in the legislation would help. Our front-line grassroots experience of 14 years demonstrates unequivocally that it does. The minister feared that that might lead to a disincentive. People think, Oh, you have to wait until 2039 to start. Not only doesnt it, but weve proposed wording that you can include that will utterly accommodate the ministers worry by making that clear.

What weve learned is if you say, It will become accessible sometime in the next millennium, whatever, action wont happen. If, on the other hand, the 2040 deadline is set, senator, then Air Canada knows that deadline overarches their plans and their accessibility requirements. CASDO knows that the standards they recommend have to meet that requirement, and cabinet and all other regulation-making bodies will know that that is the measure. Without that tool, our efforts in Ontario which have been a hard slog, believe me would be considerably harder.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

Senator Munson: Thank you for being here. I think we have to acknowledge the work of former Senator David Smith, when, David, you talked about the Charter. He was the person who led the charge to make sure that dealing with disabilities was in the Charter. It had been left out, and I want to acknowledge that.

I have two quick questions, one for Mr. Belanger and one for Mr. Lepofsky.

Mr. Belanger, you support the bill, but it seems Indigenous people have been left off the table, and I cant understand why. I know there have been discussions about nation to nation, but there are more than 600. So you support it, but you have been left out. If you could address that.

Mr. Lepofsky, you have not been much of a fan of the CRTC, CTA and others. You have an amendment here, so could you explain that amendment to us and how that would work? There is supposed to be no wrong door, but there seem to be a lot of doors, so if you could talk about your amendment, to get that on the record.

Mr. Belanger: (not included here)

Senator Munson: Mr. Lepofsky?

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you. Sometimes it helps when you have someone who is blind and what you are facing is a bit of a smoke screen. The no wrong door stuff that youve been hearing about, respectfully, I think has been raised by those presenting it as a smokescreen, or as least it is serving that way.

What do I mean? Our strong preference from day one would be one-stop shopping one agency, one place to go, one body making the regulations. It is quicker, more efficient, fairer and certainly easier for us.

The current regime only serves the interests of organizations that want to use the splintering to make it harder for us. But we know that in the amendments that you are going to pass in the next two weeks that a total rewrite of the major chunks of the bill is not feasible.

So what do we do? What could fix it? No wrong door talks about where you get in. It is not the most important thing. What happens when you get there? Right now, we have four agencies with four different procedures, with four different policies and practices, and there will be four different sets of forms and four different potential sets of deadlines. It is a guarantee of chaos for us, but it will be great for the airlines because they know them, or the broadcasters because theyve been navigating them and they are lawyered up to be able to do that.

So whats our solution? A simple amendment that says that the major bodies are required to develop, within a timeline that we prescribe, a series of processes to harmonize and have, essentially, the same procedure, or as close as possible, behind the door when you get there.

We heard yesterday from the leads of those agencies that they have started working together on their processes, but there are no commitments whatsoever to ensure that it is the same process. The bill now, in sections 94 to 110, prescribes a series of expedited processes at the accessibility commissioner. We say, great, if they work expeditiously, but neither the CTA nor the CRTC have been experienced by people with disabilities as expeditious much the reverse.

My last point is you heard yesterday from these agencies that are generally serious in saying all theyve done. Thats understandable from them. But can I just take you to the front lines for a minute? I will just tell you my own personal experience. I could aggregate it across all the feedback we get.

CTAs track record historically is pretty lousy. They finally got religion three years ago and are starting to work on regulations. Theyve had the power to do this for over 30 years. Where have they been? As a blind person who travels internationally, I can tell you I dread entering Canadian airspace, not because we never get service, but it is way more unreliable here than I have seen otherwise.

The CRTC. In the U.S., it has been federal law since, I believe, 2016 that cable providers must provide an accessible PVR. In Canada, where is the CRTC? It is not required here. It should be, but it is not.

So please take the track records and understand that our jadedness is well justified. But our solution is what you can do in a short period is at least require the other agencies, if we are stuck with them, to come up with not just statements to you yesterday about how they want to be expeditious, but actually require them to come up with processes that will be expeditious. Thats what our amendment proposes.

(Passage omitted)

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you for that.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will come back to Senator Seidmans question, and that is the whole concept of the balance of getting this through I cant help but bring this up just one more time in an efficient and expedient and respectful way, and balancing what are significant concerns and amendments that, in many cases, are kind of related. Now that we have this, how do we make sure the stuff gets done?

Mr. Lepofsky: Two things. First, we are used to battling uphill. Doing disability rights advocacy is like swimming up Niagara Falls, but that doesnt deter us. We keep doing it. When the people are more jittery and We better just take what we can get and all that stuff, I get that. But weve never taken that view. Weve stared down the risks.

If we took that view, we would not have gotten a disability amendment in 1982. We probably would have settled for a weak accessibility law passed in Ontario in 2001 rather than standing our ground and getting a stronger one in 2005. And in this case, we have all three parties that voted for this law in the house, though the opposition said it is too weak. We wrote to all the party leaders and said : We want to take this risk off the table. Will you promise, if this bill doesnt come through, you will bring it back in the fall?

So we are putting even more heat on them. We are saying: We want to come back with amendments from the Senate, if the Senate agrees, and decide on this bill in time to get it properly considered. Do whatever you have to do, pass it with the amendments or not. That could be dealt with before the house rises. And theyve got the shared pressure of all the groups youve heard from that are jointly saying: Please get this thing through.

So the pressure will be on them. But we also have the good fortune that we have opposition parties we are non-partisan, and we are supporting amendments in the house. We are hoping and I will be seeing the minister this afternoon that they will see the wisdom of strengthening this.

The final thing I will say, senator, is it is a legitimate concern, but I think it is a concern that has been answered. Minister Qualtrough answered your concern last week. Senator Munson asked her: Are you open to amendments? She could have said: Look, it is too tight. We are too busy. We are not going to be able to get it through; please just approve it.

Thats not what she said. She knew as much as anyone else in this room about the legislative timelines in the house. She probably knows more because she is part of the government. She said: No they are open to amendments, and we want this to be the best bill it possibly can be.

The fact of the matter is, with our short three pages of amendments covering a few core issues that cut across what people said at HUMA and the issues they raised here, that these will help move in the direction that she said she is open to. So I suggest you take her up and hold her to what she said.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Ma question sadresse à Monsieur Lepofsky.)

(après anglais M. Belanger: … but thats what I believe.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Ma question sadresse à Monsieur Lepofsky. Jai cru comprendre que vous avez collaboré à lélaboration de la Loi sur laccessibilité pour les personnes handicapées de lOntario. Ai-je bien compris?

(anglais suit M. Lepofsky: Yes. Heres the quick CV…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .ai-je bien compris?)

Mr. Lepofsky: Yes, here’s the quick CV in 1980 .

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Je voulais juste ajouter ma. . .)

(après anglais M. Lepofsky: … in 1980 )

La sénatrice Mégie: Je voulais juste ajouter ma réelle question.

Avaient-ils un échéancier? Sils en avaient un, est-ce que vous observez un mouvement pour la mise en uvre de cet échéancier?

(anglais suit M. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .de cet échéancier?)

Mr. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation in place and I had the privilege of leading that movement. It was passed unanimously in 2005. The idea of the deadline of 2025 came from the government, not from us. The minister who brought it in came to the house committee here and said, You should do it, too, and we agreed with her. It was a great idea and we jumped on it and said it was great. It may not be as quick as wed like, but it got action going. Are they on schedule now? No.

Senator, your colleagues were asking questions about the five-year review. Weve had three of these reviews in Ontario. Their core job is to say, Are we on schedule? And all three reviews demonstrated the most recent one in the most blistering terms no, were not and we need strong action.

Now, if we didnt have that deadline, their review could be informative but it certainly wouldnt have the message that it does that we are far behind schedule. This came up in question period as recently as yesterday in the Ontario legislature. It is a critical tool.

Let me give you one more example because you are asking, Will this help? The Toronto Transit Commission runs a subway and has a whole bunch of subway stations. Approximately half of them have no elevator. But to its credit, the TTC has a plan to make them all accessible by 2025 because theyve read the Ontario legislation.

Actually, the Ontario government has not passed a regulation addressing subway stations, but the mere presence of that date in the legislation itself has lead this major subway to adopt that plan.

Let me tell you one more thing. They tried to back down from that plan a few years ago and push it back, and we went to the media and said: Not fair; the act says 2025. And that media pressure led the TTC to back down and stick to 2025.

If the ministers approach to this legislation had prevailed in Ontario, we would be further behind in getting those subway stations accessible.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Merci.)

(après anglais M. Lepofsky: … those subway stations accessible.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Merci.

Senator Dasko: I will focus specifically on your meeting with the minister this afternoon. In the interests of being efficient and especially effective, in your meeting with the minister could you focus her mind on what she would be willing to do, and could you get back to us with any insights or promises, pledges, intelligence, anything you can? That will help us move forward, given the time frame thats left, given the suggestions you have for us, which in my mind seem serious and extensive. But maybe it is all easy, but Im a new senator.

If you could learn from the minister what she would be willing to do and Im not saying that will determine what we do that will help us very much in what we do. Then we will understand what might be doable and what all of us, in the end, might hope to expect and get from the process. Can I ask you that question?

Mr. Lepofsky: As a deputant who is notorious for long, wordy answers, my answer is yes.

Senator Dasko: We look forward to getting back to you. And I know Senator Omidvar has a question.

Senator Omidvar: Thank you for being here. And Mr. Lepofsky, for the correspondence that you have been in with not just me but everyone. And I want to probe your assessment the capacity, of the CRTC and the CTA on disability accessibility. They were here yesterday. I quoted to them a section of your letter, a rather blistering assessment of their lack of progress. They, in turn, responded by talking about the great pride they have in the progress they have made. And I will quote from a brief submitted to this committee from the CRTC. They talk about the history of their progress: In the mid 1980s, they mandated TTY relay services. In 2009, it was expanded to include the provision of IP relay services, and five years later, the provision of video relay services. A 911 service is currently mandated. In 2009, the CRTC began to require broadcasters to provide described video services four hours per week. Would you still use the word lousy to describe their progress?

Mr. Lepofsky: Only in public. In private, they may be slightly more colourful.

Senator Omidvar: Tell us what you can.

Mr. Lepofsky: I say this not just to be glib, but we are not saying that they did nothing. Full disclosure: Scott Streiner, the head of the CTA, is a good guy with a strong record in human rights. If you could pass an amendment to make him immortal, we would vote for it, okay?

Senator Omidvar: Not in our power.

Mr. Lepofsky: I dont know if you have the authority. That may be provincial.

I say two things in terms of these agencies. The first is that they do not have core expertise. They are not there; they are experts in broadcasting and in transit, not in accessibility. Thats what the accessibility commissioner will be.

Look at the track record of the CTA three decades, their own draft regulation out for comment now acknowledges that they have not done enough. Why couldnt they have done some of this years ago? We didnt just invent people with disabilities using airplanes or trains. This is not new. It is not rocket science.

The final thing I would say is what the amendment focuses on. They have labyrinthian procedures that are designed for major regulatory decision-making. I get that. But it is not suited to us. Thats why we give credit to the government in its design of sections 94 to 110 to come up with something even more streamlined than the sometimes more labyrinthian process of the Human Rights Commission.

But we need those other agencies to talk about not just no wrong door, but equally fast, comparable procedures, once you get behind that door. And I didnt hear them say they were going to do that, or didnt hear them saying they were going to commit to doing that. Thats why we need this amendment.

Senator Omidvar: Fine. Thank you.



Source link

Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak 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

 

Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

 

April 15, 2019

 

          SUMMARY

 

Here’s a chance to read or watch exactly what AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky said in our April 11, 2019 evidence presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on the need to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. See the text below (about 14 pages).

 

In this text we do not include what two other organizations presented at the same time. We will later post on our website the transcript for the entire set of hearings that the Senate held on Bill C-81. That will include the presentations of all the organizations that presented on Bill C-81, including the others that presented at the same time as the AODA Alliance.

 

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

We encourage you to read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page  to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

It’s not too late for you to help our campaign. Send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at:

[email protected]

 

The Senate Standing Committee will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments it will make to Bill C-81. The minister leading this bill, Carla Qualtrough, told the Standing Committee on April 3, 2019 that she is open to amendments and wants Bill C-81 to be the best bill it can be. Senator Jim Munson, who is sponsoring this bill in the Senate, told the Standing Committee on April 10, 2019 in clear and categorical terms that there will be amendments. We are campaigning to ensure that these amendments are strong and effective.

 

During our presentation to the Senate Standing Committee, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky encouraged the Committee to watch the AODA Alliance’s online video about serious accessibility problems in new Toronto area subway stations. It has already been seen thousands of times and has secured good media coverage. Check it out by visiting https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

 

To help our campaign, on April 5, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent a letter to the leaders of all the federal political parties. We asked them to support amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate makes to strengthen it. We want these passed in the House of Commons before the federal election this fall. We also asked the party leaders to pledge that if Bill C-81 is not properly strengthened, or is not passed before the election, that they’ll bring it back before Parliament after the federal election to be strengthened and passed into law.

 

Stay tuned. We will keep you posted on new developments. We always welcome your feedback on this presentation and on anything else we are up to! Email us at [email protected]

 

          MORE DETAILS

 

Text of What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 Regarding Bill C-81

 

(Note: The evidence of other presenters and their responses to other Senators has been omitted here, but will be available in the full transcript for these hearings which we will post on our website when it becomes available. Also, the full transcript that we will later post will translate any French passages, set out below, into English.)

 

THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

EVIDENCE

OTTAWA, Thursday, April 11, 2019

 

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met this day at 10:30 a.m. to study Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

 

Senator Chantal Petitclerc (Chair) in the chair. We will continue with our second panel.

 

David Lepofsky, Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance:  Good morning, senators. Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions, but palpably weak on implementation. It’s called An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesn’t require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.

Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

This legislation splinters its enforcement and the setting of enforceable regulations among multiple federal agencies. From the minister’s defence of her practice, she conceded that if she was starting from scratch, that isn’t necessarily how she would do it. But her explanation of why she did it gives triumphant ascendancy to federal bureaucracy over disability equality.

Now the question is: What do we do about it? The question is not: Are you going to pass this bill, senators? You’re going to pass this bill, so let’s take that off the table. We all know it. We all understand it. That’s the starting point.

The question before this committee is: Are you going to amend it first? What we say is that you must. The reality is this bill needs a lot of amendments not to make it perfect — that’s a red herring — but to get this bill from the status of weak to one that is closer to what people with disabilities need and deserve.

In the house, there were a couple hundred pages of amendments. Hard work over the past weekend has led us to distill it down to a series of amendments before you that we proposed — and you have received e-mails from some witnesses who support them — which fill a grand total of 3.5 pages and cover a few core themes. I am only going to address a couple of them, but let me be clear, there is time to do this. You’re going to vote in committee on May 2. I understand you will do third reading by May 16. We are working and approaching the federal parties to urge that, once amendments are passed — if they are — that the house consider them quickly, so the issue of swift passage of this bill, whether amended or not, is now, procedurally, not a bar to your being able to do what we need you to do.

So what should you do?

Well, let me just focus on a couple, but I invite questions on all of what we proposed. Let’s just turn to the headlines. Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion-dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. That’s not unusual. But we need the federal government to be required, before it spends our money on a project like that, to say a ground rule of getting our federal money is you have to meet certain federal accessibility requirements.

Now, the minister came before you a week ago and said, “We can’t do that. We don’t have constitutional authority to do that.” Respectfully, the minister is wrong. It’s called the federal spending power. Have you heard of the Canada Health Act? The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements. Not disability accessibility, but their financial accessibility.

If what the minister told you is right, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades since it was enacted. I would be staggered to believe that is the position of the current federal government. If they can do it there, they can at least attach strings when they give money, if they agree to, to local projects and not just federal buildings.

You might look at me and say, “Oh, come on, in 2019 we wouldn’t use public money to build inaccessible public transit.” Senators, go to YouTube, search on AODA Alliance and public transit. You will see a video we released during last spring’s provincial election that has thousands of views and media coverage where we document serious accessibility problems in brand new subway stations in Toronto that just opened within the past year-and-a-half.

This isn’t about perfect, folks. This is about basic equality, so we ask for an amendment that would at least require federal ministers or their ministries, if they are agreeing to give our federal money to a province, a municipality, a college or university for a project like that, to put, as a term of the agreement, an enforceable term, just like the Canada Health Act, that accessibility requirements are required. Why should the federal government ever allow federal money to be used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones?

Let me give you one other core amendment. My colleague from the CNIB said the minister last week had agreed to amend the bill to ensure that it does not curtail in any way the human rights code and the duty to accommodate. I hope the minister does that, but I don’t hear her as having said that. I hear her as having said that she, as a former human rights lawyer, has ensured that this bill doesn’t interfere with the duty to accommodate. But senators, it threatens to.

Section 172 of the bill perpetuates a provision in the Canada transportation legislation that would let the CTA enact a regulation, and once it does so, to set standards for accessible transit, no matter how low that standard may be and no matter how deficient from a human rights standard it may be. As a traveller with a disability or others in my coalition or anyone in Canada, we are barred from asking any more under the legislation’s guarantee against undue barriers.

With that provision in the act, our position is: Please don’t ever enact any standards under the CTA because they threaten to take away our rights. A simple amendment would repeal that provision from the act.

Let me conclude by inviting questions on the other areas that we’ve raised. I’m telling you that we are not just about saying what’s wrong. We are about proposing constructive suggestions for what’s right, and the amendments we’ve placed before you are designed for a Senate that has a limited time frame to act, a commitment to respect policy decisions made in the House of Commons and an eagerness to ensure that these amendments can be considered by the house quickly and easily, with a realistic chance of them being taken seriously. They are designed to be tailored both to our needs and to what the minister said to you last week. So we ask you to take them all seriously. They are all substantive, and they all bear on the needs of all people with disabilities.

I conclude by saying this: I’m speaking for my coalition, but as an individual, I first came before Parliament 39 years ago as a much younger individual — my wife said I had hair back then when she saw the video — to appear before the standing committee considering the Charter of Rights. At that time, the Charter proposed to guarantee equality but not to people with disabilities. I and a number of other folks argued and succeeded in getting the Charter amended to include that right.

I leave you with two thoughts. First, the amendments we seek are aimed at making that right become a reality, not just as a matter of good intention but as effective implementation.

The Chair: Thank you so much, Mr. Lepofsky. We have a list of senators who are eager to ask questions.

Senator Seidman: Thank you all very much for your presentations.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will take you up on your challenge. I’m searching for commonalities. I appreciate the premise you made that we are looking for clear, crisp, focused and meaningful amendments that have a hope of being passed on the other side because that’s exactly what’s going to have to happen in this process.

I would like to ask you specifically, you submitted three areas that need strengthening with 11 amendments. I would like to ask you very specifically about your amendment about timelines. It is true that HUMA heard testimony around timelines, but they decided not to amend the bill to include a deadline. You have proposed one. In fact, I think you proposed January 1, 2040.

I would like to hear from you why you are pushing that we have a timeline and why it would be that particular one.

Mr. Lepofsky: There are two timelines that we set. One is that the government should be required — not just permitted but required — to enact accessibility standards regulations within five years and also the timeline for ultimate accessibility in Canada by 2040. Yes, these were pitched to HUMA. The opposition parties, left and right, united in support of that agenda. The government did not agree.

Our hope is that, on your sober second thought, you find wisdom drawing on the experiences that bring you to this Senate, that a return of this issue to the House in June, months before an election, may lead all members of the house to see the wisdom in adopting them.

To be clear, I have an appointment to meet the minister this afternoon to bring that message. We would like to work with the Senate and the house to see if we can broker a package that covers everything.

With respect to the 2040 deadline, I had the privilege of leading the coalition that fought for a decade to win the enactment of Ontario’s accessibility law, and I now lead the coalition that has fought for the past 14 years to get it effectively implemented. The minister doubted whether a deadline in the legislation would help. Our front-line grassroots experience of 14 years demonstrates unequivocally that it does. The minister feared that that might lead to a disincentive. People think, “Oh, you have to wait until 2039 to start.” Not only doesn’t it, but we’ve proposed wording that you can include that will utterly accommodate the minister’s worry by making that clear.

What we’ve learned is if you say, “It will become accessible sometime in the next millennium, whatever,” action won’t happen. If, on the other hand, the 2040 deadline is set, senator, then Air Canada knows that deadline overarches their plans and their accessibility requirements. CASDO knows that the standards they recommend have to meet that requirement, and cabinet and all other regulation-making bodies will know that that is the measure. Without that tool, our efforts in Ontario — which have been a hard slog, believe me — would be considerably harder.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

Senator Munson: Thank you for being here. I think we have to acknowledge the work of former Senator David Smith, when, David, you talked about the Charter. He was the person who led the charge to make sure that dealing with disabilities was in the Charter. It had been left out, and I want to acknowledge that.

I have two quick questions, one for Mr. Belanger and one for Mr. Lepofsky.

Mr. Belanger, you support the bill, but it seems Indigenous people have been left off the table, and I can’t understand why. I know there have been discussions about nation to nation, but there are more than 600. So you support it, but you have been left out. If you could address that.

Mr. Lepofsky, you have not been much of a fan of the CRTC, CTA and others. You have an amendment here, so could you explain that amendment to us and how that would work? There is supposed to be no wrong door, but there seem to be a lot of doors, so if you could talk about your amendment, to get that on the record.

Mr. Belanger: (not included here)

 

 

Senator Munson: Mr. Lepofsky?

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you. Sometimes it helps when you have someone who is blind and what you are facing is a bit of a smoke screen. The “no wrong door stuff” that you’ve been hearing about, respectfully, I think has been raised by those presenting it as a smokescreen, or as least it is serving that way.

What do I mean? Our strong preference from day one would be one-stop shopping — one agency, one place to go, one body making the regulations. It is quicker, more efficient, fairer and certainly easier for us.

The current regime only serves the interests of organizations that want to use the splintering to make it harder for us. But we know that in the amendments that you are going to pass in the next two weeks that a total rewrite of the major chunks of the bill is not feasible.

So what do we do? What could fix it? “No wrong door” talks about where you get in. It is not the most important thing. What happens when you get there? Right now, we have four agencies with four different procedures, with four different policies and practices, and there will be four different sets of forms and four different potential sets of deadlines. It is a guarantee of chaos for us, but it will be great for the airlines because they know them, or the broadcasters because they’ve been navigating them and they are lawyered up to be able to do that.

So what’s our solution? A simple amendment that says that the major bodies are required to develop, within a timeline that we prescribe, a series of processes to harmonize and have, essentially, the same procedure, or as close as possible, behind the door when you get there.

We heard yesterday from the leads of those agencies that they have started working together on their processes, but there are no commitments whatsoever to ensure that it is the same process. The bill now, in sections 94 to 110, prescribes a series of expedited processes at the accessibility commissioner. We say, great, if they work expeditiously, but neither the CTA nor the CRTC have been experienced by people with disabilities as expeditious — much the reverse.

My last point is you heard yesterday from these agencies that are generally serious in saying all they’ve done. That’s understandable from them. But can I just take you to the front lines for a minute? I will just tell you my own personal experience. I could aggregate it across all the feedback we get.

CTA’s track record historically is pretty lousy. They finally got religion three years ago and are starting to work on regulations. They’ve had the power to do this for over 30 years. Where have they been? As a blind person who travels internationally, I can tell you I dread entering Canadian airspace, not because we never get service, but it is way more unreliable here than I have seen otherwise.

The CRTC. In the U.S., it has been federal law since, I believe, 2016 that cable providers must provide an accessible PVR. In Canada, where is the CRTC? It is not required here. It should be, but it is not.

So please take the track records and understand that our jadedness is well justified. But our solution is what you can do in a short period is at least require the other agencies, if we are stuck with them, to come up with not just statements to you yesterday about how they want to be expeditious, but actually require them to come up with processes that will be expeditious. That’s what our amendment proposes….

(Passage omitted)

 

 

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you for that.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will come back to Senator Seidman’s question, and that is the whole concept of the balance of getting this through — I can’t help but bring this up just one more time — in an efficient and expedient and respectful way, and balancing what are significant concerns and amendments that, in many cases, are kind of related. Now that we have this, how do we make sure the stuff gets done?

Mr. Lepofsky: Two things. First, we are used to battling uphill. Doing disability rights advocacy is like swimming up Niagara Falls, but that doesn’t deter us. We keep doing it. When the people are more jittery and “We better just take what we can get” and all that stuff, I get that. But we’ve never taken that view. We’ve stared down the risks.

If we took that view, we would not have gotten a disability amendment in 1982. We probably would have settled for a weak accessibility law passed in Ontario in 2001 rather than standing our ground and getting a stronger one in 2005. And in this case, we have all three parties that voted for this law in the house, though the opposition said it is too weak. We wrote to all the party leaders and said : We want to take this risk off the table. Will you promise, if this bill doesn’t come through, you will bring it back in the fall?

So we are putting even more heat on them. We are saying: We want to come back with amendments from the Senate, if the Senate agrees, and decide on this bill in time to get it properly considered. Do whatever you have to do, pass it with the amendments or not. That could be dealt with before the house rises. And they’ve got the shared pressure of all the groups you’ve heard from that are jointly saying: Please get this thing through.

So the pressure will be on them. But we also have the good fortune that we have opposition parties — we are non-partisan, and we are supporting amendments in the house. We are hoping — and I will be seeing the minister this afternoon — that they will see the wisdom of strengthening this.

The final thing I will say, senator, is it is a legitimate concern, but I think it is a concern that has been answered. Minister Qualtrough answered your concern last week. Senator Munson asked her: Are you open to amendments? She could have said: Look, it is too tight. We are too busy. We are not going to be able to get it through; please just approve it.

That’s not what she said. She knew as much as anyone else in this room about the legislative timelines in the house. She probably knows more because she is part of the government. She said: No they are open to amendments, and we want this to be the best bill it possibly can be.

The fact of the matter is, with our short three pages of amendments covering a few core issues that cut across what people said at HUMA and the issues they raised here, that these will help move in the direction that she said she is open to. So I suggest you take her up and hold her to what she said.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Ma question s’adresse à Monsieur Lepofsky.)

(après anglais — M. Belanger: … but that’s what I believe.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Ma question s’adresse à Monsieur Lepofsky. J’ai cru comprendre que vous avez collaboré à l’élaboration de la Loi sur l’accessibilité pour les personnes handicapées de l’Ontario. Ai-je bien compris?

(anglais suit — M. Lepofsky: Yes. Here’s the quick CV…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .ai-je bien compris?)

Mr. Lepofsky: Yes, here’s the quick CV — in 1980 .

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Je voulais juste ajouter ma. . .)

(après anglais — M. Lepofsky: … in 1980 —)

La sénatrice Mégie: Je voulais juste ajouter ma réelle question.

Avaient-ils un échéancier? S’ils en avaient un, est-ce que vous observez un mouvement pour la mise en œuvre de cet échéancier?

(anglais suit — M. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .de cet échéancier?)

Mr. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation in place and I had the privilege of leading that movement. It was passed unanimously in 2005. The idea of the deadline of 2025 came from the government, not from us. The minister who brought it in came to the house committee here and said, “You should do it, too,” and we agreed with her. It was a great idea and we jumped on it and said it was great. It may not be as quick as we’d like, but it got action going. Are they on schedule now? No.

Senator, your colleagues were asking questions about the five-year review. We’ve had three of these reviews in Ontario. Their core job is to say, “Are we on schedule?” And all three reviews demonstrated — the most recent one in the most blistering terms — no, we’re not and we need strong action.

Now, if we didn’t have that deadline, their review could be informative but it certainly wouldn’t have the message that it does that we are far behind schedule. This came up in question period as recently as yesterday in the Ontario legislature. It is a critical tool.

Let me give you one more example because you are asking, “Will this help?” The Toronto Transit Commission runs a subway and has a whole bunch of subway stations. Approximately half of them have no elevator. But to its credit, the TTC has a plan to make them all accessible by 2025 because they’ve read the Ontario legislation.

Actually, the Ontario government has not passed a regulation addressing subway stations, but the mere presence of that date in the legislation itself has lead this major subway to adopt that plan.

Let me tell you one more thing. They tried to back down from that plan a few years ago and push it back, and we went to the media and said: “Not fair; the act says 2025.” And that media pressure led the TTC to back down and stick to 2025.

If the minister’s approach to this legislation had prevailed in Ontario, we would be further behind in getting those subway stations accessible.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Merci.)

(après anglais — M. Lepofsky: … those subway stations accessible.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Merci.

Senator Dasko: I will focus specifically on your meeting with the minister this afternoon. In the interests of being efficient and especially effective, in your meeting with the minister could you focus her mind on what she would be willing to do, and could you get back to us with any insights or promises, pledges, intelligence, anything you can? That will help us move forward, given the time frame that’s left, given the suggestions you have for us, which in my mind seem serious and extensive. But maybe it is all easy, but I’m a new senator.

If you could learn from the minister what she would be willing to do — and I’m not saying that will determine what we do — that will help us very much in what we do. Then we will understand what might be doable and what all of us, in the end, might hope to expect and get from the process. Can I ask you that question?

Mr. Lepofsky: As a deputant who is notorious for long, wordy answers, my answer is yes.

Senator Dasko: We look forward to getting back to you. And I know Senator Omidvar has a question.

Senator Omidvar: Thank you for being here. And Mr. Lepofsky, for the correspondence that you have been in with not just me but everyone. And I want to probe your assessment the capacity, of the CRTC and the CTA on disability accessibility. They were here yesterday. I quoted to them a section of your letter, a rather blistering assessment of their lack of progress. They, in turn, responded by talking about the great pride they have in the progress they have made. And I will quote from a brief submitted to this committee from the CRTC. They talk about the history of their progress: In the mid 1980s, they —mandated TTY relay services. In 2009, it was expanded to include the provision of IP relay services, and five years later, the provision of video relay services. A 911 service is currently mandated. In 2009, the CRTC began to require broadcasters to provide described video services four hours per week. Would you still use the word “lousy” to describe their progress?

Mr. Lepofsky: Only in public. In private, they may be slightly more colourful.

Senator Omidvar: Tell us what you can.

Mr. Lepofsky: I say this not just to be glib, but we are not saying that they did nothing. Full disclosure: Scott Streiner, the head of the CTA, is a good guy with a strong record in human rights. If you could pass an amendment to make him immortal, we would vote for it, okay?

Senator Omidvar: Not in our power.

Mr. Lepofsky: I don’t know if you have the authority. That may be provincial.

I say two things in terms of these agencies. The first is that they do not have core expertise. They are not there; they are experts in broadcasting and in transit, not in accessibility. That’s what the accessibility commissioner will be.

Look at the track record of the CTA — three decades, their own draft regulation out for comment now acknowledges that they have not done enough. Why couldn’t they have done some of this years ago? We didn’t just invent people with disabilities using airplanes or trains. This is not new. It is not rocket science.

The final thing I would say is what the amendment focuses on. They have labyrinthian procedures that are designed for major regulatory decision-making. I get that. But it is not suited to us. That’s why we give credit to the government in its design of sections 94 to 110 to come up with something even more streamlined than the sometimes more labyrinthian process of the Human Rights Commission.

But we need those other agencies to talk about not just no wrong door, but equally fast, comparable procedures, once you get behind that door. And I didn’t hear them say they were going to do that, or didn’t hear them saying they were going to commit to doing that. That’s why we need this amendment.

Senator Omidvar: Fine. Thank you.



Source link

AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 8, 2019

SUMMARY

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is holding sped-up public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The AODA Alliance has been invited to make a presentation to the Standing Committee at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. You can come to watch the hearing live at this address:

Room W110, 1 Wellington St. Ottawa Ontario.

You can also watch the hearing live online at http://senparlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en

The online video will be archived for future viewing, for those who watch it live. In the hearing room will be ASL and LSQ. The sign language will not be available on line for a few days.

We are working hard to get ready for these hearings on such short notice. However, we are not complaining. This is because these tight time lines will give the Senate enough time to amend Bill C-81 to strengthen it, if it is willing, and for the bill to return to the House of Commons for a debate and final vote on those amendments.

This strengthens the hand of the many, including the AODA Alliance, who are campaigning to get this weak bill strengthened. There is no need to avoid seeking amendments because the bill can’t get through Parliament before the fall election.

The public hearings are only taking place on April 10 and 11, and then on May 1. The Standing Committee will only have one meeting, on May 2, to undertake its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. It is at that May 2 meeting when amendments would be considered.

That means the Senate’s Standing Committee will have very little time to debate amendments. Our list of proposed amendments must be very very short. We have thus worked through the weekend to produce the following 4-page document, which we are now submitting to the Senate. It sets out the wording of the absolutely top-priority amendments we are requesting. We know that this list does not include many of the amendments we need. However, given the tight time lines, a longer list of amendments, coming from us, would actually work against our hope for success.

You will also see that this document sets out a series of recommended “observations.” The Senate can attach statements like these to a bill, calling for further action, whether or not it makes amendments to the bill.

We need your help more than ever. Please email the Senate Standing Committee to urge the senators to amend Bill C-81, as we are proposing. We appreciate the efforts of all of you who have already done so. For those who believe people with disabilities deserve a strong national accessibility law, this is the best way you can help us now. Write the Standing Committee at: [email protected]

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

If your organization is going to present to the Standing Committee or submit a brief, we invite you to support these amendments and any others that you consider important. As the following document notes, during the April 3, 2019 meeting of this Senate Standing Committee, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough made an important commitment. We plan to hold her and the Federal Government to it. Senator Munson, who is the sponsor of Bill C-81 in the Senate pointed out to her that there are calls from the disability community for this bill to be amended because it does not go far enough. He asked her if she was open to the bill being amended. Minister Qualtrough agreed that she was open to the bill being amended in the Senate. She said she wants this law to be the best it can be. We here take her up on that offer.

We are sorry that we are not now providing more detailed explanations for the following information. We are rushing to get this to you, to Senators, and others whom we need to reach.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Proposed Amendments to Bill C-81 Submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs April 8, 2019
Speaking to the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee on April 3, 2019, Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said she would be open to amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, and that she wants to make this bill “the best it can possibly be.”

We offer this short list of vital amendments, given the Senate’s tight time lines. Had there been more time, a number of other important amendments would have been proposed.

A. Setting a Deadline to Achieve Accessibility

Amendment 1
Section 5 of the Act should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it will provide:

“5?The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, ”

Amendment 2
The following section should be added to the bill:

“Clarification
5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Amendment 3
Section 11 should be amended to add the words on or before January 1, 2040, so that it would provide:

“11?(1)?The Ministers mandate is the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040”.

Amendment 4
Section 18 should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it would provide in material part:

“18?The Standards Organizations mandate is to contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, through, among other things,”

B. Setting Mandatory Duties

Amendment 5
The bill should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

(1.2)?The Governor in Council must make all the regulations under paragraphs 1(c) and (d) necessary to achieving the purposes of this Act, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, must make at least one regulation under paragraphs (1c) and (d) in each of the areas referred to in section 5 within the period of five years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force.

Amendment 6
Section 2 definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:

“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. (obstacle)”

C. Ensuring the Bill Does Not Reduce Rights of People with Disabilities

Amendment 7
Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 8
Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Amendment 9
The following provision should be added to the bill:

“123?
Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, 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 194 to 110 of the Act.”

Amendment 10
The bill should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes 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.

(3) Within the period of two years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, the minister must establish and make public policies and procedures to implement, monitor compliance with, and report to the public on compliance with subsections 1 and 2.

(4) The power to make regulations under clauses 117 (1) (c) and (d) includes the power to make regulations to implement this section.

Amendment 11
Section 72(1) should be amended to add the words “except any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada)”, so that the provision will read in material part:

“72?(1)?The Minister may, by order, exempt any regulated entity or class of regulated entities except the any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada) from the application of all or any part of sections 69 to 71, on any terms that the Minister considers necessary. The order ceases to have effect on the earlier of the end of the period of three years that begins on the day on which the order is made and the end of any shorter period specified in the order.”

Observations We Ask the Senate to Attach to Bill C-81

1. Since the bill is entitled “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities but does not require any barriers to be removed, the Committee recommends that the bill be strengthened.
2. Because the bill depends on the Federal Government and various agencies to use their new powers, but does not require most of those powers to be used, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report back to the Senate in one year on what duties and time lines for action could be added to the bill.

3. Because of concerns from the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government 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.

4. 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 bill should be strengthened to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.



Source link

AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill


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 to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill

April 8, 2019

          SUMMARY

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is holding sped-up public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The AODA Alliance has been invited to make a presentation to the Standing Committee at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. You can come to watch the hearing live at this address:

Room W110, 1 Wellington St. Ottawa Ontario.

You can also watch the hearing live online at http://senparlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en

The online video will be archived for future viewing, for those who watch it live. In the hearing room will be ASL and LSQ. The sign language will not be available on line for a few days.

We are working hard to get ready for these hearings on such short notice. However, we are not complaining. This is because these tight time lines will give the Senate enough time to amend Bill C-81 to strengthen it, if it is willing, and for the bill to return to the House of Commons for a debate and final vote on those amendments.

This strengthens the hand of the many, including the AODA Alliance, who are campaigning to get this weak bill strengthened. There is no need to avoid seeking amendments because the bill can’t get through Parliament before the fall election.

The public hearings are only taking place on April 10 and 11, and then on May 1. The Standing Committee will only have one meeting, on May 2, to undertake its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. It is at that May 2 meeting when amendments would be considered.

That means the Senate’s Standing Committee will have very little time to debate amendments. Our list of proposed amendments must be very very short. We have thus worked through the weekend to produce the following 4-page document, which we are now submitting to the Senate. It sets out the wording of the absolutely top-priority amendments we are requesting. We know that this list does not include many of the amendments we need. However, given the tight time lines, a longer list of amendments, coming from us, would actually work against our hope for success.

You will also see that this document sets out a series of recommended “observations.” The Senate can attach statements like these to a bill, calling for further action, whether or not it makes amendments to the bill.

We need your help more than ever. Please email the Senate Standing Committee to urge the senators to amend Bill C-81, as we are proposing. We appreciate the efforts of all of you who have already done so. For those who believe people with disabilities deserve a strong national accessibility law, this is the best way you can help us now. Write the Standing Committee at: [email protected]

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

If your organization is going to present to the Standing Committee or submit a brief, we invite you to support these amendments and any others that you consider important. As the following document notes, during the April 3, 2019 meeting of this Senate Standing Committee, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough made an important commitment. We plan to hold her and the Federal Government to it. Senator Munson, who is the sponsor of Bill C-81 in the Senate pointed out to her that there are calls from the disability community for this bill to be amended because it does not go far enough. He asked her if she was open to the bill being amended. Minister Qualtrough agreed that she was open to the bill being amended in the Senate. She said she wants this law to be the best it can be. We here take her up on that offer.

We are sorry that we are not now providing more detailed explanations for the following information. We are rushing to get this to you, to Senators, and others whom we need to reach.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Proposed Amendments to Bill C-81 Submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs

April 8, 2019

Speaking to the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee on April 3, 2019, Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said she would be open to amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, and that she wants to make this bill “the best it can possibly be.”

We offer this short list of vital amendments, given the Senate’s tight time lines. Had there been more time, a number of other important amendments would have been proposed.

A. Setting a Deadline to Achieve Accessibility

Amendment 1

Section 5 of the Act should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it will provide:

“5 The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, …”

Amendment 2

The following section should be added to the bill:

“Clarification

5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Amendment 3

Section 11 should be amended to add the words on or before January 1, 2040, so that it would provide:

“11 (1) The Minister’s mandate is the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040”.

Amendment 4

Section 18 should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it would provide in material part:

“18 The Standards Organization’s mandate is to contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, through, among other things,…”

 B. Setting Mandatory Duties

Amendment 5

The bill should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

(1.2) The Governor in Council must make all the regulations under paragraphs 1(c) and (d) necessary to achieving the purposes of this Act, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, must make at least one regulation under paragraphs (1c) and (d) in each of the areas referred to in section 5 within the period of five years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force.

Amendment 6

Section 2 definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:

“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. (obstacle)”

C. Ensuring the Bill Does Not Reduce Rights of People with Disabilities

Amendment 7

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 8

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Amendment 9

The following provision should be added to the bill:

“123

Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, 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 194 to 110 of the Act.”

Amendment 10

The bill should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes 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.

(3) Within the period of two years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, the minister must establish and make public policies and procedures to implement, monitor compliance with, and report to the public on compliance with subsections 1 and 2.

(4) The power to make regulations under clauses 117 (1) (c) and (d) includes the power to make regulations to implement this section.

Amendment 11

Section 72(1) should be amended to add the words “except any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada)”, so that the provision will read in material part:

“72 (1) The Minister may, by order, exempt any regulated entity or class of regulated entities except the any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada) from the application of all or any part of sections 69 to 71, on any terms that the Minister considers necessary. The order ceases to have effect on the earlier of the end of the per­iod of three years that begins on the day on which the order is made and the end of any shorter period specified in the order.”

Observations We Ask the Senate to Attach to Bill C-81

  1. Since the bill is entitled “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities but does not require any barriers to be removed, the Committee recommends that the bill be strengthened.
  2. Because the bill depends on the Federal Government and various agencies to use their new powers, but does not require most of those powers to be used, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report back to the Senate in one year on what duties and time lines for action could be added to the bill.
  1. Because of concerns from the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government 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.
  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 bill should be strengthened to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.



Source link

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

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-QuAppelle
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?

2. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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



Source link