A Disability Perspective on the Enduring Legacy of the Late Premier Bill Davis – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

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A Disability Perspective on the Enduring Legacy of the Late Premier Bill Davis

August 9, 2021

Ontario collectively mourns the death yesterday of former Ontario Premier William Davis. The politicians and pundits properly recite his many accomplishments over his many years in public life. Among those lasting achievements, it is important to list what he did for Ontarians with disabilities.

Four decades ago, it was entirely lawful to discriminate against people with disabilities in Ontario. It was also constitutional for Canada’s Parliament or a provincial legislature to pass a law or operate a program or policy that discriminated against people with disabilities. The pivotal year when that all changed was 1982, forty years ago next spring.

In 1982, the Ontario Legislature amended the Ontario Human Rights Code to make it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in access to jobs, goods, services, facilities or a place to live. The Ontario Human Rights Commission, a public law enforcement agency, was given both the power and the duty to investigate, mediate and where appropriate, prosecute disability discrimination complaints.

As well, in the spring of 1982, Canada’s Constitution was amended to add the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to it. As a result of disability advocates’ efforts, the Charter of Rights includes a constitutional guarantee of equality to people with disabilities in section 15.

It was Premier Davis’ Government that agreed to add disability protection to the Ontario Human Rights Code. It did so despite a strong backlash along the way from some media outlets and writers, who condemned the entire package of amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, of which disability protection was but one part.

Since the Davis Government’s 1982 amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, disability claims have been the largest group of any category of human rights claims in Ontario. We went from being totally excluded to being the most numerous of claimants.

The 1982 patriation of the Canadian Constitution replete with a new Charter of Rights was spearheaded by the Federal Government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Critical to that being adopted was the support from the outset from Premier Bill Davis. While many other provincial premiers opposed Trudeau, Davis crossed partisan political barriers to support him on this issue. Without Premier Davis’s support, there very likely would have been no patriated Canadian Constitution with a Charter of Rights.

The guarantees of equality to people with disabilities in the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code are the firm bedrock underpinning the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the grassroots movement that campaigned for its enactment. They also underpin our campaign to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Did Bill Davis know about his decisive role in laying the foundation for disability accessibility rights in the 21st century in Ontario? We doubt that most of the politicians and pundits that today eulogize Premier Davis know of it. We don’t know if Mr. Davis was himself fully aware of it.

The day-to-day work to get disability added to the Ontario Human Rights Code was undertaken by Davis’s Labour Minister, the late Dr. Robert Elgie. However, Dr. Elgie, whose accomplishments for people with disabilities are honoured in the April 7, 2013 AODA Alliance Update, could not have succeeded without Premier Davis and then-Attorney General Roy McMurtry tirelessly backing him.

Similarly, the battle to get disability into the Charter of Rights, detailed in a captioned online lecture by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, was waged in Ottawa at the federal level, not in Toronto at Queen’s Park. It was then-MP and later Senator David Smith who was pressing in the federal back rooms to get the Pierre Trudeau Government to eventually agree to pass the disability amendment to the Charter of Rights. The March 3, 2020 Toronto Star guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky commemorates David Smith’s contribution to disability rights. His important contribution to our rights, like Dr. Elgie’s, would not have been realized had it not been for Premier Davis, supporting the patriation of Canada’s Constitution with its new Charter of Rights.

Time and again, those who have achieved so much for people with disabilities may not themselves be fully aware of what they have accomplished. As well, the public too often knows far less about this than should be the case.

It is our hope that the picture of Premier Davis’ lasting legacy for Ontarians will be a complete one – one that shows that our ongoing battle for full inclusion in society would be an even harder one had it not been for the leadership that Bill Davis provided. May he rest in peace.



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A Disability Perspective on the Enduring Legacy of the Late Premier Bill Davis


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

August 9, 2021

Ontario collectively mourns the death yesterday of former Ontario Premier William Davis. The politicians and pundits properly recite his many accomplishments over his many years in public life. Among those lasting achievements, it is important to list what he did for Ontarians with disabilities.

Four decades ago, it was entirely lawful to discriminate against people with disabilities in Ontario. It was also constitutional for Canada’s Parliament or a provincial legislature to pass a law or operate a program or policy that discriminated against people with disabilities. The pivotal year when that all changed was 1982, forty years ago next spring.

In 1982, the Ontario Legislature amended the Ontario Human Rights Code to make it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in access to jobs, goods, services, facilities or a place to live. The Ontario Human Rights Commission, a public law enforcement agency, was given both the power and the duty to investigate, mediate and where appropriate, prosecute disability discrimination complaints.

As well, in the spring of 1982, Canada’s Constitution was amended to add the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to it. As a result of disability advocates’ efforts, the Charter of Rights includes a constitutional guarantee of equality to people with disabilities in section 15.

It was Premier Davis’ Government that agreed to add disability protection to the Ontario Human Rights Code. It did so despite a strong backlash along the way from some media outlets and writers, who condemned the entire package of amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, of which disability protection was but one part.

Since the Davis Government’s 1982 amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, disability claims have been the largest group of any category of human rights claims in Ontario. We went from being totally excluded to being the most numerous of claimants.

The 1982 patriation of the Canadian Constitution replete with a new Charter of Rights was spearheaded by the Federal Government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Critical to that being adopted was the support from the outset from Premier Bill Davis. While many other provincial premiers opposed Trudeau, Davis crossed partisan political barriers to support him on this issue. Without Premier Davis’s support, there very likely would have been no patriated Canadian Constitution with a Charter of Rights.

The guarantees of equality to people with disabilities in the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code are the firm bedrock underpinning the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the grassroots movement that campaigned for its enactment. They also underpin our campaign to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Did Bill Davis know about his decisive role in laying the foundation for disability accessibility rights in the 21st century in Ontario? We doubt that most of the politicians and pundits that today eulogize Premier Davis know of it. We don’t know if Mr. Davis was himself fully aware of it.

The day-to-day work to get disability added to the Ontario Human Rights Code was undertaken by Davis’s Labour Minister, the late Dr. Robert Elgie. However, Dr. Elgie, whose accomplishments for people with disabilities are honoured in the April 7, 2013 AODA Alliance Update, could not have succeeded without Premier Davis and then-Attorney General Roy McMurtry tirelessly backing him.

Similarly, the battle to get disability into the Charter of Rights, detailed in a captioned online lecture by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, was waged in Ottawa at the federal level, not in Toronto at Queen’s Park. It was then-MP and later Senator David Smith who was pressing in the federal back rooms to get the Pierre Trudeau Government to eventually agree to pass the disability amendment to the Charter of Rights. The March 3, 2020 Toronto Star guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky commemorates David Smith’s contribution to disability rights. His important contribution to our rights, like Dr. Elgie’s, would not have been realized had it not been for Premier Davis, supporting the patriation of Canada’s Constitution with its new Charter of Rights.

Time and again, those who have achieved so much for people with disabilities may not themselves be fully aware of what they have accomplished. As well, the public too often knows far less about this than should be the case.

It is our hope that the picture of Premier Davis’ lasting legacy for Ontarians will be a complete one one that shows that our ongoing battle for full inclusion in society would be an even harder one had it not been for the leadership that Bill Davis provided. May he rest in peace.




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London, Ont., MPP introduces bill to cover devices that help with mental health treatment


With the number of people struggling with mental health on the rise, a local MPP is proposing a new bill that would cover devices used to support mental health treatment.

NDP London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan says if approved, the bill would extend Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program to cover technological devices used to support mental health care treatments and the data costs associated with them.

“This would include coverage of devices which allow patients to virtually access medical and counselling appointments, relay heart rate, physical activity, and sleep data to health-care providers and automatically dispense medications,” said Kernaghan.

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Kernaghan says this is especially important with the ongoing issue of hallway health care.

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“We have to ensure Ontarians experiencing mental health crisis are not left stranded in hospital hallways or beds because our health-care system simply does not have space for them,” Kernaghan said.

“By providing mental health supports right at home with assistive devices, this bill can help people lead fuller more independent and safer lives and help people end the cycle of crisis and hospitalization.”

Research by the London Health Science Centre researchers showed Ontarians with mental health needs showed positive health outcomes once they had access to devices that support their treatment plan.

Read more:
Looking after your kids’ mental health during COVID-19 — Be present, be aware

A study by researcher Cheryl Forchuk of Lawson Health Research Institute found that Ontarians who use assistive devices for their mental health felt more empowered, less isolated and more integrated in their communities.

According to the study, nearly 80 per cent of participants found assistive devices for mental health improved their overall health and resulted in fewer visits to a social service provider or a hospital emergency department.

“The pandemic has reaffirmed that there can be no health without mental health. In the 21st century, we know new technologies are available to support mental as well as physical health,” Forchuk said.

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“We need legislation that does not discriminate based on the type of disability.”

Kernaghan’s private member’s bill, Bill 277, will be debated in the legislature and voted on Thursday.




© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Saskatoon medically-assisted dying facility on hold pending Bill C-7 – Saskatoon


Jae Blakley is working to improve access to medical assistance in dying — or MAID — in Saskatoon after years of experience working in palliative care.

“I’ve seen a lot of death… and not all of it has been good death,” he said.

Last February he started fundraising for a new home-like facility for MAID called the Saskatoon Cider House. A few thousand dollars have trickled in since.

Read more:
Saskatchewan team working to raise $1M for medical assistance in dying facility

Based on support that’s been put forward for the palliative care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital and Hospice at Glengarda, there certainly is an appetite for expanding the continuum of palliative and end of life care and we certainly fit into that,” Blakley said. 

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Blakley said his plans for the Cider House hinge on Bill C-7 which is still before parliament.

The proposed changes in Bill-C7 would expand access to MAID to people who are suffering unbearable pain but are not dying.

That could include those with an incurable illness or disability.

Advocates worry that this means people with disabilities may seek MAID due to inadequate access to supports including housing, adequate financial aid and health care.

Read more:
Feds gets another month to expand access to assisted dying as bill stalls in the Commons

“For everybody else who suffers disproportionately in Canadian society, we have suicide intervention [and] prevention and we essentially say to people ‘we believe your lives are worth saving, and we want to help you,’” said Inclusion Canada executive vice-president Krista Carr.

“But for people with a disability, in effect we’re saying, ‘Well, for you, there must be nothing worse than living with a disability, and having a disability must be a fate worse than death.’” 

Dying with Dignity Canada says this could actually put MAID further out of reach for Canadians due to some of the proposed changes that would extend the process to apply and receive MAID services.

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“I do think there will be a dropout of assessors and providers who will not want to provide under the more rigid conditions of Bill C-7,” Dying with Dignity Canada board member Chantal Perrot said Thursday.

Provincial health statistics show 154 people received medical assistance in dying last year in Saskatchewan — up from 97 in 2019 and 85 in 2018.

Read more:
Saskatchewan MAID adviser gives stamp of approval to new assisted death legislation

Saskatchewan’s health ministry said in a statement to Global News it is not considering additional options for MAID provision like the Cider House, saying, in part:

“The provincial program is meeting current demand for services, and we will continue to monitor the volumes of patients receiving medical assistance in dying, any barriers to access, and make adjustments, as appropriate.”

Blakley is waiting to receive charitable status for Saskatoon Cider House in preparation of Bill C-7’s outcome.

“I want to get us to a place in society where we can have better deaths than I think we’re dealing with right now,” Blakley said.


Click to play video 'Saskatoon one step closer to brick-and-mortar MAID facility'







Saskatoon one step closer to brick-and-mortar MAID facility


Saskatoon one step closer to brick-and-mortar MAID facility – Feb 17, 2020




© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Canadian senators to vote on assisted dying bill Feb. 17 as deadline looms – National


Senators have agreed to put a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying to a final vote by Feb. 17, but they’ve signalled their intention to propose substantial amendments.

The agreed date for the vote will leave just over a week for the House of Commons to deal with any amendments approved by the Senate before a thrice-extended, court-imposed deadline of Feb. 26.

It’s a tight timetable that could yet make it impossible to meet the court deadline.

Read more:
Canadian Senate committee accepts assisted dying bill but amendments still to come

Senators, who began final debate Monday, will begin dealing with the amendments to Bill C-7 on Tuesday.

An amended version of the bill would have to go back to the House of Commons for MPs to decide whether to accept or reject the amendments before shipping it back to the Senate, where senators would have to decide whether to approve the bill even if some or all of their amendments were rejected.

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In theory, the bill could bounce repeatedly back and forth between chambers.

The bill is intended to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision allowing assisted dying only for those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

It scraps that provision but retains the foreseeable death concept to set up two sets of rules for eligibility: more relaxed rules for those who are near death and more stringent rules for those who are not.

It would also expressly prohibit assisted dying for individuals who are suffering solely from mental illnesses.

Sen. Marc Gold, the government’s representative in the Senate, acknowledged that some senators think the bill goes too far, while others think it doesn’t go far enough. But he said, to his mind, that divergence of opinion demonstrates that the bill has struck the right balance.


Click to play video 'Health Matters: end-of-life planning in light of COVID-19'







Health Matters: end-of-life planning in light of COVID-19


Health Matters: end-of-life planning in light of COVID-19 – Jun 18, 2020

“The bottom line is that it is a reasonable, prudent proposal that achieves a complex balancing of rights … Bill C-7 is neither too hot, nor too cold, but just the right temperature,” Gold said during Monday’s debate.

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Gold further suggested that unelected senators should be cautious about tinkering with the bill, noting it was supported by two-thirds of elected MPs from all parties in the House of Commons, giving it “a strong democratic stamp of approval.”

But Sen. Pierre Dalphond, a former judge who sits in the Progressive Senate Group, argued that the exclusion of those suffering solely from mental illnesses is unconstitutional, violating their right to equal treatment under the law regardless of physical or mental disability.

Dalphond said he believes it’s reasonable to propose a sunset clause to put a time limit on that exclusion, giving the government time to come up with guidelines for providing assisted dying to people with mental illnesses.

And he said he’ll introduce another amendment to specify that the ill-defined concept of mental illness does not include neuro-congnitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Read more:
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There is support among senators for referring the bill to the Supreme Court for advice on its constitutionality, both from those who think it’s too restrictive and those who think it’s too permissive.

Sen. Don Plett, leader of the Conservatives in the Senate, questioned why senators are rushing to expand access to what he termed “physician-induced death,” based on “a lower court decision made by one judge in one province” that the government chose not to appeal.

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He implored his colleagues to listen to disability rights advocates who have denounced the bill for sending the “harmful and tragic message” that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living.

Plett argued that extending access before improving palliative care and support services for people with disabilities will make it “easier to die than to live” and doesn’t give vulnerable people a real choice.


Click to play video 'Bill aims to ease rules in Canada’s medically-assisted dying laws'







Bill aims to ease rules in Canada’s medically-assisted dying laws


Bill aims to ease rules in Canada’s medically-assisted dying laws – Feb 25, 2020

Conservative Sen. Denise Batters said it’s “disgraceful” that the government is pushing a bill to expand access to assisted dying in the midst of a pandemic, when vulnerable people are even more “alone, isolated and economically disadvantaged” and with even less access to support services.

She argued that Black, racialized, Indigenous and poor Canadians with disabilities, “people who have been routinely pushed to the margins of our society,” are “crying out to us for help but they don’t want help to die, they want help to live.”

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However, Sen. Chantal Petitclerc, a former Paralympian who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, noted that the court ruling to which the bill is responding was triggered by Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, two Quebecers with severe disabilities.

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Petitclerc, a member of the Independent Senators Group, said senators can’t ignore the inequalities that exist in society or the lack of support services that can exacerbate suffering.

But she said she believes the government has correctly chosen to permit assisted dying “in order to respect the autonomy of those who choose it freely as a release from intolerable suffering,” rather than prohibit it for all people with disabilities “until all support and all resources are available.”




© 2021 The Canadian Press





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Constitutional challenges to assisted dying bill inevitable: Government Senate rep – National


The government’s representative in the Senate concedes it’s possible that a bill to expand access to medically assisted dying may be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.

But while parliamentarians must be guided by court rulings, Sen. Marc Gold argued Tuesday they also have a duty to try to balance competing rights and interests.

In Bill C-7, he contended, the government has struck a “reasonable and responsible balance” between the autonomy of intolerably suffering Canadians who are not near death and the need to protect the most vulnerable individuals.

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Gold, a former constitutional law professor, gave a lengthy speech in the Senate devoted almost entirely to the constitutionality of the bill. He noted that some senators believe the bill is unconstitutional because it is too permissive, others because it’s too restrictive.

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“I understand very well that there are very good arguments on both sides of many of these issues,” he told the Senate.

Gold said court challenges to the constitutional validity of Bill C-7 are “inescapable” but it’s impossible to predict how the courts might rule on it.

“For better and for worse, the courts will continue to be seized with this issue as individuals and groups seek to vindicate their constitutional rights, however they conceive them,” he said.

“But this cannot be a reason for government and for Parliament to abdicate their responsibilities to legislate in good faith and in the best interests of Canadians.”

Bill C-7 is intended to bring the law into compliance with a September 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling, which struck down the provision that allows MAID only for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.


Click to play video 'Health Matters: end-of-life planning in light of COVID-19'







Health Matters: end-of-life planning in light of COVID-19


Health Matters: end-of-life planning in light of COVID-19 – Jun 18, 2020

The bill would scrap the near-death requirement but would retain the concept to create two eligibility tracks for MAID: somewhat relaxed rules for people who are close to death and more stringent rules for those who aren’t.

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The bill specifically prohibits MAID for people suffering solely from mental illnesses, an exclusion some senators believe is a violation of equality rights. Some also believe the more stringent eligibility rules for people not near the end of life are also unconstitutional.

On the other side of the equation, some senators echo the concerns of disability rights groups in contending that the bill is unconstitutional because it singles out people with disabilities as the only ones eligible for MAID when they are not approaching the end of life.

“As any student of the charter (of rights and freedoms) will know, arguments about rights _ and especially equality rights _ are inherently controversial and predicting how a court might rule is a very risky business,” Gold said.

He laid out the government’s justification for excluding people suffering solely from mental illness, arguing that the trajectory of their conditions is uncertain and that a desire to die can be a symptom of the illness.

He argued that the exclusion can be justified as a reasonable limit on rights, as allowed under the charter, because it is “neither arbitrary, over-broad or grossly disproportionate.”

Still, he acknowledged the possibility that it could be struck down as a violation of equality rights or the right to life, liberty and security of the person, notwithstanding the government’s view.

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“The government is aware that there are strong constitutional opinions to the contrary and that the arguments against this aspect of C-7 are worthy of serious consideration and debate,” Gold said.

“I certainly have wrestled with them, as should we all.”

He promised that amendments to improve the bill would be seriously considered by the government.

Sen. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatrist who is a member of the Independent Senators Group, told the Senate that the exclusion of people suffering solely from mental illness is unacceptable and “dehumanizing.”

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“It perpetuates centuries-long stigmatization of those living with mental disorders as incompetent and incapable beings,” he said.

The reasons the government gives for the exclusion apply to people with physical illnesses as well, Kutcher argued, noting that “the presence of a severe and chronic illness is, by itself, an elevated risk factor for suicide.”

He promoted the idea of adding a sunset clause, giving time for adequate guidelines to be developed for allowing MAID to people suffering solely from mental illness.

But that was “vehemently opposed” by Conservative Sen. Denise Batters, whose husband, former MP Dave Batters, took his own life after battling depression and anxiety.

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“I have seen up close the failures of our mental health system,” she said, citing costs, stigma and a lack of resources.

“The answer those barriers is to fix that system, not to confirm a mentally ill patient’s feelings of hopelessness and offer them the lethal means to suicide.”

Batters also argued that the bill makes people with disabilities “second-class citizens.”

Gold acknowledged the concerns of some senators that people with disabilities can’t make a real choice about ending their lives because they’re not given adequate access to palliative care or support services.

But while it’s important to improve such services, he said that issue falls under provincial jurisdiction and can’t be addressed through the Criminal Code.




© 2020 The Canadian Press





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Lametti questions Conservatives’ motives as debate over assisted dying bill drags on – National


Justice Minister David Lametti is questioning the sincerity of Conservatives who contend they’re holding up a bill on assisted dying because it doesn’t do enough to protect vulnerable people with disabilities.

Despite a looming, court-imposed deadline of Dec. 18, the Conservatives have been talking out the clock on Bill C-7, which would expand access to medically assisted death to people who are suffering intolerably but not near death.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has argued that protecting people with disabilities from being coerced or pressured by a lack of supports into an assisted death is more important than meeting the deadline.

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O’Toole says Tories are prepared to debate assisted dying bill around the clock

But if they prevent the bill from being passed in time, Lametti argued Wednesday it will create a legal void in Quebec, where people who are not near death will be able to receive medical help to end their lives without any safeguards at all.

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“I want to say that given their expressed concerns around safeguards, I do not understand the frankly irresponsible actions the Conservatives are taking in delaying this legislation, knowing full well the risks that could result in Quebec from a legal void,” Lametti told the House of Commons.

“If we reach the court deadline and nothing has changed, there will be no adequate safeguards in Quebec for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable … I am unsure how the Conservatives can accept that as a possible outcome if their main concern is safeguards.”


Click to play video 'Bill aims to ease rules in Canada’s medically-assisted dying laws'







Bill aims to ease rules in Canada’s medically-assisted dying laws


Bill aims to ease rules in Canada’s medically-assisted dying laws – Feb 25, 2020

Lametti disputed O’Toole’s claim that Conservatives simply want to improve the bill.

“Unfortunately, the Conservatives have made it clear that they are not interested in improving the bill. They want to stop it from moving forward, all this while people continue to suffer across the country,” he said.

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The bill is intended to bring the law into compliance with a Quebec Superior Court ruling last fall which struck down a provision allowing medical assistance in dying (MAID) only for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.

It would drop the foreseeable death requirement but would set out more stringent conditions for those who are not near death, while relaxing the rules somewhat for those who are.

At the current pace, it is unlikely that the bill will be adopted by both houses of Parliament by Dec. 18.

Read more:
Tory MPs still debating Canada’s assisted dying bill as deadline looms

The Commons is to take an extended break for the holidays, starting Friday. If the government should manage to get it to a vote in the Commons before then, it would still need to be dealt with by the Senate, which could yet amend the bill and send it back to the Commons.

The minority Liberal government could try to cut off debate on the bill in the Commons but would need the support of one of the major opposition parties to do so. While both the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the bill, their respective leaders said Wednesday that they would not support imposing closure on the debate.

That leaves Lametti with only one option: to request another extension of the deadline from the court, which has extended it twice already.

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However, he stressed Wednesday: “There is absolutely no assurance that a Quebec court will further grant extensions to the current suspension of invalidity.”


Click to play video 'Changes coming to medical assistance in dying legislation'







Changes coming to medical assistance in dying legislation


Changes coming to medical assistance in dying legislation – Jan 19, 2020

Conservatives have pointed out that every national disability rights organization in the country is vehemently opposed to the bill, believing that it sends a message that life is not worth living with a disability.

Lametti said he listened to those groups before the bill was drafted. But he said he also listened to individuals with disabilities “who believe that limiting medical access in dying to those who are dying is a violation of their rights and self-determination.”

That includes people like Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, the two Quebecers who successfully challenged the foreseeable death restriction. And, he said, it includes Julia Lamb, the British Columbian who initiated her own challenge to the law and made it clear that “she spoke for herself and that the leadership of the disability community did not speak for her.”

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Lametti called the bill an “important and prudent step forward in ensuring greater respect for autonomy of a broader category of Canadians who are suffering intolerably” and maintained it “carefully balances competing interests and values.”

Read more:
Canadian Senators mull how far to go to protect charter rights in assisted dying bill

He contends that the Conservatives’ “obstructionism” will mean people who are near death and approved for MAID but fear losing the mental capacity to consent a second time immediately before receiving the procedure — as currently required in the law — will continue having to make the “awful choice” to end their lives prematurely.

“Still others who are experiencing intolerable suffering and who have received all the necessary medical diagnoses will remain ineligible as a direct result of the Conservatives’ delay tactics,” he said.

At one point, Lametti suggested the delaying tactics are a result of O’Toole being unable to control the “religious right” in his caucus.

That prompted Conservative MP Garnett Genuis to accuse him of “bigotry” towards people of faith. Lametti countered that he is himself a person of faith.




© 2020 The Canadian Press





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AODA Alliance Asks Federal Party Leaders For a New Bill to Strengthen the 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

November 18, 2019

SUMMARY

We today kick off the next phase in our campaign for accessibility at the federal level in Canada.

The AODA Alliance today wrote the leaders of the federal parties in Canadas newly-elected Parliament. We have asked them to pass a proposed new bill that we have outlined to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act that Parliament passed last June. We set out that letter below. It includes our framework for the new short but punchy bill that we are proposing and explains why we need it. In summary, we want this bill to:

a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;

b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;

c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;

d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;

e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;

f) simplify the Accessible Canada Acts unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;

g) eliminate the Federal Governments power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and

h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

As our letter to the party leaders explains, it is good that Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. However, it needs to be strengthened to ensure that it fulfils its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. While the Acts commendable goal is a barrier-free Canada, it does not require any disability accessibility barriers to ever be removed or prevented.

The recent federal election has opened the door to a tremendous new opportunity for us to advocate for this proposed new bill. Canada now has a minority government. All parties supported the goal of a barrier-free Canada and recognized the need for strong legislation to achieve this. The opposition Conservatives, NDP and Greens have all supported amendments to strengthen this bill. However, because our last government was a majority government, the opposition parties did not have the ability to make this happen.

The new minority government situation changes all that, and creates a new window of opportunity for us. However, minority governments typically only last for two or, at most, three years. We must move quickly. We are eager to work with any and all parties on this issue, in our well-known tradition of non-partisanship.

As our framework for this bill shows, our proposals for this bill are intentionally short and limited. They are the most high-impact changes with the best chance of getting them through Parliament. They reflect concerns that disability organizations repeatedly pressed for over the past year during public hearings in the House of Commons and the Senate on Bill C-81. Our experience with provincial disability accessibility legislation amply shows that these are top priorities.

Some might think it will be an uphill battle to get Parliament to amend the Accessible Canada Act now, so soon after it was enacted. We are used to uphill battles, including very daunting ones! For example, just one year ago, many thought it would be impossible to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81, especially so close to an election, and then to get the House of Commons to ratify any Senate amendments. Yet we and many others from the disability community tenaciously persisted. As a result, the Senate passed some amendments to strengthen Bill C-81 last spring. After that, the House of Commons approved all the Senates amendments.

We have nothing to lose in presenting this new proposal, and a lot to gain! Please urge your Member of Parliament to support this proposal for a new bill. Help us get all parties to make this a priority in the forthcoming session of Canadas new Parliament.

Stay tuned for more on this issue. For more background on the non-partisan campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/Canada

We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS — AODA Alliance Letter to Federal Party Leaders on a New ACA Bill

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

November 18, 2019

To:
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Via email: [email protected]
Office of the Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and of the Conservative Party Via email: [email protected]
Leader of the Conservative Party
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois Via email: [email protected]
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
3750 boul. Crémazie Est, bureau 402
Montréal Quebec H2A 1B6
Twitter: @yfblanchet

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP
Via email: [email protected]
300 279 Laurier West
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9
Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Jo-Ann Roberts, Interim Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands Via email: [email protected]
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Twitter: @JoAnnRobertsHFX

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Strengthening the Accessible Canada Act to Achieve a Barrier-Free Canada for Over Six Million People with Disabilities

As the new Parliament prepares to meet, we ask your parties to ensure that its agenda includes a new short, but vital bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. This is important for over six million people with disabilities who face too many accessibility barriers every day. It is also important for everyone else in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they grow older.

At the end of this letter we set out a framework detailing what this new bill should include. In summary, this new bill should:

a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;

b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;

c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;

d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;

e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;

f) simplify the Accessible Canada Acts unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;

g) eliminate the Federal Governments power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and

h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

Founded in 2005, the AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario and Canada. We presented to the House of Commons and Senate to ask for amendments to strengthen Bill C-81. During debates in Parliament, MPs and Senators quoted and relied on our submissions.

In June, before rising for the election, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. We appreciate and commend its unanimous passage. Many people with disabilities were encouraged by Parliaments unanimity in recognizing that Canada has too many barriers impeding people with disabilities, and that the needed legislative solution to this problem must be based on the principle of Nothing about us without us!

It is good that the Accessible Canada Act sets the goal of Canada becoming barrier-free by 2040, and that it gives the Federal Government a range of important powers to achieve that goal. However, there was also commendable recognition from many in Parliament that the bill needs to include more to achieve its goal. Even though the Accessible Canada Act has the goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free by 2040, it does not require that a single disability barrier ever be removed.

In the House of Commons Standing Committee hearings, many disability advocates identified ways Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. During clause-by-clause debate in the House last fall, the Conservatives and NDP presented a substantial number of proposed amendments at the request of disability organizations. The Federal Government presented a shorter package of amendments. The Federal Governments amendments were passed.

After that, the bill came to the Senate last spring. A Senate Standing Committee held a second round of public hearings. The Senate heard that there was ample support for the need for this legislation, but that the bill still needed strengthening.

Commendably, the Senate passed a short package of improvements to the bill, before returning it to the House of Commons. Senators saw that the bill needed improvements. They were reluctant to pass more than a bare number of amendments, because they did not want to risk the bill dying on the order paper when the imminent election was called.

The Senate did what little it could to strengthen the bill within these substantial constraints. However, it did not fix all the key deficiencies with Bill C-81. When the bill was returned to the House of Commons last spring, it was commendable that the House unanimously passed the Senates improvements.

The job of coming up with an Accessible Canada Act that meets the needs of over six million people with disabilities in Canada is therefore still unfinished. We urge Parliament to now finish this important work, by strengthening the Accessible Canada Act. We propose amendments. Set out below, these amendments echo key requests from the disability community to the House of Commons and later to the Senate before the election. For Parliament to now act on them is true to the parties commitment to the principle Nothing about us without us.

To past a modest bill now to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act is consistent with the calls last year by the Conservative, NDP and Green Parties for Bill C-81 to be strengthened. During Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 in the House of Commons, the Conservatives promised, if elected, to make the strengthening of this bill a priority. The NDP promised specific amendments to this bill during the 2019 federal election. The Liberals promised that this new law would be historic and would ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Liberals also promised during the recent election to apply a disability lens to all government decisions. When a disability lens is applied to the Accessible Canada Act itself, it brings into sharp focus the fact that the amendments we seek are needed now.

These amendments would not delay the Federal Governments current activity on implementing the Accessible Canada Act. Parliamentary debate over this short amendments package need not hold up other pressing Parliamentary business.

We anticipate that some within the Federal Public Service may push back that this should all await an Independent Review of the Accessible Canada Acts operations. Yet people with disabilities cannot wait the seven or more years for that review to begin. The need for these amendments is clear and present now. Any delay in making them will only slow Canadas progress towards the goal of full accessibility.

In the new minority Parliament that voters elected, your parties have committed to work together. Our proposed bill is an excellent opportunity for this. It reflects what your parties have said about accessibility for people with disabilities and to what many disability advocates told Parliament.

We would welcome the opportunity to speak to any of your parties officials about this. Please let us know with whom we should speak within your party.

We urge you to support the bill we seek, and to make this a priority on Parliaments agenda. We are eager to work together with you on this positive proposal in the spirit of non-partisanship that is the hallmark of our many years of grassroots disability advocacy.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 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

Framework of a Proposed Federal Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act

November 18, 2019

Introduction

We call on Canadas Parliament to pass a new bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act is federal legislation that has the purpose of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. This framework explains the amendments to the Accessible Canada Act that we seek via a new bill.

A. Enforceable Accessibility Standard Regulations Should Be Enacted Within Five Years

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

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the Act covers within five years. We therefore propose:

1. The Accessible Canada Act 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.

B. The Accessible Canada Act Should Never Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

The Accessible Canada Act includes insufficient protections to ensure that nothing under the Act reduces the rights of people with disabilities and that if there is a conflict between two laws regarding accessibility, the stronger one will prevail.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to provide that if a provision of that Act or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the Accessible Canada Act or in any regulations enacted under it or actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law. We therefore propose:

2. Section 6 of the Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it that govern the Act:

“(2) (a) If a provision of this Act or of any regulation under this Act conflicts with or guarantees a different level ofaccessibility for people with disabilities than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

(b) Nothing in or under this Act or regulations enacted under it may be construed or applied to reduce the rights of people with disabilities enjoyed at law.

C. An Unfair and Discriminatory Provision of the Accessible Canada Act Should Be Removed So that Passengers with Disabilities Who Are the Victims of Accessibility Barriers in Federally-Regulated Travel (Like Air Travel) are Always Able to Seek Monetary Compensation When They Deserve It

An unfair and discriminatory provision, section 172, was included in the Accessible Canada Act. It is helpful that the Senate somewhat softened it, after tenacious pressure from disability advocates. However, it should be repealed altogether.

Specifically, section 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act unfairly takes away important rights from people with disabilities in a discriminatory way. It bars the CTA from awarding justly-deserved monetary compensation to a passenger with a disability, even if the CTA finds that an airline or other federally-regulated transportation-provider imposed an undue barrier against them, so long as a federal transportation accessibility regulation says that the airline did not have to provide the passenger with that accommodation.

This unfairly protects huge, well-funded airlines and railways from having to pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up. Our proposed bill would repeal the offending portion of section 172(3). We therefore propose:

3. To ensure that the Canadian Transportation Agency can decide whether there is an undue barrier that makes federal transportation inaccessible for persons with disabilities and can always order the full range of remedies to remove and prevent such barriers, and to ensure that s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act does not reduce rights of persons with disabilities, subsection 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act and the corresponding s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act should be amended to remove the words but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.

Section 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act currently reads: Compliance with regulations
(3)If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.

With this amendment, section 172(3) would read:
Compliance with regulations
(3)If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter.

D. No Federal Laws Should Create or Permit Disability Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not ensure that federal laws never impose or permit the creation of barriers against people with disabilities.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Acts definition of “barrier” to include laws that create or permit disability barriers. We therefore propose:

4. Section 2 of the Accessible Canada Acts 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)”

E. Federal Public Money Should Never Be Used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the Act 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 are left free to use federal public money to design and build new infrastructure that is not fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the Act doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

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

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

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

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require that no one may use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g., payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity. We therefore propose:

5. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada or any agency thereof by loan, grant, or other like payment 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.

F. The Confusing and Complicated Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act Should be Simplified

The lengthy Accessible Canada Act is very complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities to navigate it. It splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, and the CRTC.

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

Our proposed bill would require that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to those that the Accessible Canada Act sets out for the Accessibility Commissioner. We therefore propose:

6. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

“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 94 to 110 of the Act.”

G. The Accessible Canada Acts Power to Exempt the Federal Government from Some of the Acts Requirements Should be Eliminated

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

Our proposed bill would eliminate the Federal Governments power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act. We therefore propose:

7. Section 72(1) of the Accessible Canada Act 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.”

H. The Federal Government Should Be Required to Apply a Disability Lens to All Its Decisions

In the 2019 election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada promised that it would apply a disability lens to all Federal Government decisions. Proposed opposition amendments to Bill C-81 last year would have made this a permanent legal requirement, not a voluntary practice that future governments could ignore.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to entrench in law a disability lens, that must be applied to all Government policies and decisions and would make it binding on both the current Government and future governments. We therefore propose:

8. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

In order to systemically entrench the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all opportunities available in Canada, the government shall implement a disability lens whereby:

(a) Within two years the government shall have reviewed all existing policies to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(b) within 3 months of completing this review, the Minister shall submit a report to Parliament on the findings of the review and corrective measures taken.

(c) the government shall review all new policies and decisions to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(d) Before the Government of Canada adopts any new policies or makes any new decisions, the Minister shall certify that the policy has been reviewed to ensure that it does not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities, and shall annually report to Parliament on the reviews conducted and corrective measures taken




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AODA Alliance Asks Federal Party Leaders For a New Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act – 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

AODA Alliance Asks Federal Party Leaders For a New Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act

November 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

We today kick off the next phase in our campaign for accessibility at the federal level in Canada.

The AODA Alliance today wrote the leaders of the federal parties in Canada’s newly-elected Parliament. We have asked them to pass a proposed new bill that we have outlined to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act that Parliament passed last June. We set out that letter below. It includes our framework for the new short but punchy bill that we are proposing and explains why we need it. In summary, we want this bill to:

  1. a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;
  1. b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;
  1. c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;
  1. d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;
  1. e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;
  1. f) simplify the Accessible Canada Act‘s unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;
  1. g) eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and
  1. h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

As our letter to the party leaders explains, it is good that Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. However, it needs to be strengthened to ensure that it fulfils its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. While the Act’s commendable goal is a barrier-free Canada, it does not require any disability accessibility barriers to ever be removed or prevented.

The recent federal election has opened the door to a tremendous new opportunity for us to advocate for this proposed new bill. Canada now has a minority government. All parties supported the goal of a barrier-free Canada and recognized the need for strong legislation to achieve this. The opposition Conservatives, NDP and Greens have all supported amendments to strengthen this bill. However, because our last government was a majority government, the opposition parties did not have the ability to make this happen.

The new minority government situation changes all that, and creates a new window of opportunity for us. However, minority governments typically only last for two or, at most, three years. We must move quickly. We are eager to work with any and all parties on this issue, in our well-known tradition of non-partisanship.

As our framework for this bill shows, our proposals for this bill are intentionally short and limited. They are the most high-impact changes with the best chance of getting them through Parliament. They reflect concerns that disability organizations repeatedly pressed for over the past year during public hearings in the House of Commons and the Senate on Bill C-81. Our experience with provincial disability accessibility legislation amply shows that these are top priorities.

Some might think it will be an uphill battle to get Parliament to amend the Accessible Canada Act now, so soon after it was enacted. We are used to uphill battles, including very daunting ones! For example, just one year ago, many thought it would be impossible to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81, especially so close to an election, and then to get the House of Commons to ratify any Senate amendments. Yet we and many others from the disability community tenaciously persisted. As a result, the Senate passed some amendments to strengthen Bill C-81 last spring. After that, the House of Commons approved all the Senate’s amendments.

We have nothing to lose in presenting this new proposal, and a lot to gain! Please urge your Member of Parliament to support this proposal for a new bill. Help us get all parties to make this a priority in the forthcoming session of Canada’s new Parliament.

Stay tuned for more on this issue. For more background on the non-partisan campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/Canada

We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS — AODA Alliance Letter to Federal Party Leaders on a New ACA Bill

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

November 18, 2019

To:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: [email protected]

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

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

Via email: [email protected]

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

3750 boul. Crémazie Est, bureau 402

Montréal Quebec H2A 1B6

Twitter: @yfblanchet

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP

Via email: [email protected]

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Jo-Ann Roberts, Interim Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Twitter: @JoAnnRobertsHFX

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Strengthening the Accessible Canada Act to Achieve a Barrier-Free Canada for Over Six Million People with Disabilities

As the new Parliament prepares to meet, we ask your parties to ensure that its agenda includes a new short, but vital bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. This is important for over six million people with disabilities who face too many accessibility barriers every day. It is also important for everyone else in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they grow older.

At the end of this letter we set out a framework detailing what this new bill should include. In summary, this new bill should:

  1. a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;
  1. b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;
  1. c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;
  1. d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;
  1. e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;
  1. f) simplify the Accessible Canada Act‘s unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;
  1. g) eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and
  1. h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

Founded in 2005, the AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario and Canada. We presented to the House of Commons and Senate to ask for amendments to strengthen Bill C-81. During debates in Parliament, MPs and Senators quoted and relied on our submissions.

In June, before rising for the election, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. We appreciate and commend its unanimous passage. Many people with disabilities were encouraged by Parliament’s unanimity in recognizing that Canada has too many barriers impeding people with disabilities, and that the needed legislative solution to this problem must be based on the principle of “Nothing about us without us!”

It is good that the Accessible Canada Act sets the goal of Canada becoming barrier-free by 2040, and that it gives the Federal Government a range of important powers to achieve that goal. However, there was also commendable recognition from many in Parliament that the bill needs to include more to achieve its goal. Even though the Accessible Canada Act has the goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free by 2040, it does not require that a single disability barrier ever be removed.

In the House of Commons Standing Committee hearings, many disability advocates identified ways Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. During clause-by-clause debate in the House last fall, the Conservatives and NDP presented a substantial number of proposed amendments at the request of disability organizations. The Federal Government presented a shorter package of amendments. The Federal Government’s amendments were passed.

After that, the bill came to the Senate last spring. A Senate Standing Committee held a second round of public hearings. The Senate heard that there was ample support for the need for this legislation, but that the bill still needed strengthening.

Commendably, the Senate passed a short package of improvements to the bill, before returning it to the House of Commons. Senators saw that the bill needed improvements. They were reluctant to pass more than a bare number of amendments, because they did not want to risk the bill dying on the order paper when the imminent election was called.

The Senate did what little it could to strengthen the bill within these substantial constraints. However, it did not fix all the key deficiencies with Bill C-81. When the bill was returned to the House of Commons last spring, it was commendable that the House unanimously passed the Senate’s improvements.

The job of coming up with an Accessible Canada Act that meets the needs of over six million people with disabilities in Canada is therefore still unfinished. We urge Parliament to now finish this important work, by strengthening the Accessible Canada Act. We propose amendments. Set out below, these amendments echo key requests from the disability community to the House of Commons and later to the Senate before the election. For Parliament to now act on them is true to the parties’ commitment to the principle “Nothing about us without us.”

To past a modest bill now to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act is consistent with the calls last year by the Conservative, NDP and Green Parties for Bill C-81 to be strengthened. During Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 in the House of Commons, the Conservatives promised, if elected, to make the strengthening of this bill a priority. The NDP promised specific amendments to this bill during the 2019 federal election. The Liberals promised that this new law would be historic and would ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Liberals also promised during the recent election to apply a disability lens to all government decisions. When a disability lens is applied to the Accessible Canada Act itself, it brings into sharp focus the fact that the amendments we seek are needed now.

These amendments would not delay the Federal Government’s current activity on implementing the Accessible Canada Act. Parliamentary debate over this short amendments package need not hold up other pressing Parliamentary business.

We anticipate that some within the Federal Public Service may push back that this should all await an Independent Review of the Accessible Canada Act’s operations. Yet people with disabilities cannot wait the seven or more years for that review to begin. The need for these amendments is clear and present now. Any delay in making them will only slow Canada’s progress towards the goal of full accessibility.

In the new minority Parliament that voters elected, your parties have committed to work together. Our proposed bill is an excellent opportunity for this. It reflects what your parties have said about accessibility for people with disabilities and to what many disability advocates told Parliament.

We would welcome the opportunity to speak to any of your parties’ officials about this. Please let us know with whom we should speak within your party.

We urge you to support the bill we seek, and to make this a priority on Parliament’s agenda. We are eager to work together with you on this positive proposal in the spirit of non-partisanship that is the hallmark of our many years of grassroots disability advocacy.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 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

Framework of a Proposed Federal Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act

November 18, 2019

Introduction

We call on Canada’s Parliament to pass a new bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act is federal legislation that has the purpose of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. This framework explains the amendments to the Accessible Canada Act that we seek via a new bill.

A. Enforceable Accessibility Standard Regulations Should Be Enacted Within Five Years

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

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the Act covers within five years. We therefore propose:

  1. The Accessible Canada Act 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.”

B. The Accessible Canada Act Should Never Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

The Accessible Canada Act includes insufficient protections to ensure that nothing under the Act reduces the rights of people with disabilities and that if there is a conflict between two laws regarding accessibility, the stronger one will prevail.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to provide that if a provision of that Act or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the Accessible Canada Act or in any regulations enacted under it or actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 6 of the Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it that govern the Act:

“(2) (a) If a provision of this Act or of any regulation under this Act conflicts with or guarantees a different level of accessibility for people with disabilities than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

(b) Nothing in or under this Act or regulations enacted under it may be construed or applied to reduce the rights of people with disabilities enjoyed at law.”

C. An Unfair and Discriminatory Provision of the Accessible Canada Act Should Be Removed So that Passengers with Disabilities Who Are the Victims of Accessibility Barriers in Federally-Regulated Travel (Like Air Travel) are Always Able to Seek Monetary Compensation When They Deserve It

An unfair and discriminatory provision, section 172, was included in the Accessible Canada Act. It is helpful that the Senate somewhat softened it, after tenacious pressure from disability advocates. However, it should be repealed altogether.

Specifically, section 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act unfairly takes away important rights from people with disabilities in a discriminatory way. It bars the CTA from awarding justly-deserved monetary compensation to a passenger with a disability, even if the CTA finds that an airline or other federally-regulated transportation-provider imposed an undue barrier against them, so long as a federal transportation accessibility regulation says that the airline did not have to provide the passenger with that accommodation.

This unfairly protects huge, well-funded airlines and railways from having to pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up. Our proposed bill would repeal the offending portion of section 172(3). We therefore propose:

  1. To ensure that the Canadian Transportation Agency can decide whether there is an undue barrier that makes federal transportation inaccessible for persons with disabilities and can always order the full range of remedies to remove and prevent such barriers, and to ensure that s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act does not reduce rights of persons with disabilities, subsection 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act and the corresponding s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act should be amended to remove the words “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”

Section 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act currently reads:

“Compliance with regulations

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

With this amendment, section 172(3) would read:

“Compliance with regulations

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter.”

D. No Federal Laws Should Create or Permit Disability Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not ensure that federal laws never impose or permit the creation of barriers against people with disabilities.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act’s definition of “barrier” to include laws that create or permit disability barriers. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 2 of the Accessible Canada Act’s 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)”

E. Federal Public Money Should Never Be Used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the Act 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 are left free to use federal public money to design and build new infrastructure that is not fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the Act doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

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

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

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

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require that no one may use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g., payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity. We therefore propose:

  1. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada or any agency thereof by loan, grant, or other like payment 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.

F. The Confusing and Complicated Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act Should be Simplified

The lengthy Accessible Canada Act is very complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities to navigate it. It splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, and the CRTC.

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

Our proposed bill would require that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to those that the Accessible Canada Act sets out for the Accessibility Commissioner. We therefore propose:

  1. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

“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 94 to 110 of the Act.”

G. The Accessible Canada Act’s Power to Exempt the Federal Government from Some of the Act’s Requirements Should be Eliminated

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

Our proposed bill would eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 72(1) of the Accessible Canada Act 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.”

H. The Federal Government Should Be Required to Apply a Disability Lens to All Its Decisions

 

In the 2019 election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada promised that it would apply a disability lens to all Federal Government decisions. Proposed opposition amendments to Bill C-81 last year would have made this a permanent legal requirement, not a voluntary practice that future governments could ignore.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to entrench in law a disability lens, that must be applied to all Government policies and decisions and would make it binding on both the current Government and future governments. We therefore propose:

 

  1. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

In order to systemically entrench the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all opportunities available in Canada, the government shall implement a disability lens whereby:

(a) Within two years the government shall have reviewed all existing policies to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(b) within 3 months of completing this review, the Minister shall submit a report to Parliament on the findings of the review and corrective measures taken.

(c) the government shall review all new policies and decisions to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(d) Before the Government of Canada adopts any new policies or makes any new decisions, the Minister shall certify that the policy has been reviewed to ensure that it does not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities, and shall annually report to Parliament on the reviews conducted and corrective measures taken



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Download the final text of the Accessible Canada Act, as passed by Canada’s Parliament, previously called Bill C-81, in English or French, and in an accessible MS Word or a pdf format



Click here to download the English version of the Accessible Canada Act in MS Word format. Click here to down load the English version of the Accessible Canada Act in pdf format. Click here to download the French version of the Accessible Canada Act in an accessible MS Word format. Click here to download the … Continue reading Download the final text of the Accessible Canada Act, as passed by Canada’s Parliament, previously called Bill C-81, in English or French, and in an accessible MS Word or a pdf format



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