Transcript of the October 23, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 6 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Transcript of the October 23, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 6 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Notice of meeting Amended

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 117

Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

8:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

Witnesses Amended

Canadian Bankers Association

  • Marina Mandal, Assistant General Counsel
  • Tasmin Waley, Senior Legal Counsel

Canadian Disability Policy Alliance

  • Mary Ann McColl, Professor, Queen’s University

Amended Section

Royal Bank of Canada

  • Teri Monti, Vice-President, Employee Relations

9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Witnesses

Accessible Media Inc.

  • David Errington, President and Chief Executive Officer

ARCH Disability Law Centre

  • Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
  • Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

  • Scott Shortliffe, Chief Consumer Officer and Executive Director
  • Mary-Louise Hayward, Manager, Social and Consumer Policy
  • Adam Balkovec, Legal Counsel

Clerk of the Committee

Stephanie Feldman (613-996-1542)

2018-10-22 11:22 a.m.

Minutes of Proceedings

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 117

Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 8:46 a.m. to 10:46 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Presiding

Bryan May, Chair (Liberal)

Expand AllCollapse All

Members of the Committee present

Liberal

Conservative

Acting Members present

In attendance

Library of Parliament

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Witnesses

Canadian Bankers Association

  • Marina Mandal, Assistant General Counsel
  • Tasmin Waley, Senior Legal Counsel

Canadian Disability Policy Alliance

  • Mary Ann McColl, Professor, Queen’s University

Royal Bank of Canada

  • Teri Monti, Vice-President, Employee Relations

Accessible Media Inc.

  • David Errington, President and Chief Executive Officer

ARCH Disability Law Centre

  • Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
  • Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

  • Scott Shortliffe, Chief Consumer Officer and Executive Director
  • Mary-Louise Hayward, Manager, Social and Consumer Policy
  • Adam Balkovec, Legal Counsel

Pursuant to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the Committee resumed consideration of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Marina Mandal, Mary Ann McColl and Teri Monti made statements and, with Tasmin Waley, answered questions.

At 9:46 a.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 9:50 a.m., the sitting resumed.

David Errington, Robert Lattanzio and Scott Shortliffe made statements and, with Kerri Joffe, answered questions.

At 10:44, by unanimous consent and pursuant to Standing Order 115(5), it was agreed that the Committee continue to sit.

At 10:46 a.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.

Stephanie Feldman

Clerk of the Co

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(0845)

[English]

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The Chair (Mr. Bryan May (Cambridge, Lib.)):

I call the meeting to order.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today’s meeting on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The objective of today’s meeting is to continue the committee’s thorough review of the bill.

Bear with me. I have a bit of a preamble here. I’m sure my colleagues are getting used to this.

I will take a moment to remind those participating in the proceedings, as well as those observing the proceedings of the committee in person and on video, that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for the full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study.

As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways. This includes providing sign language interpretation and near-real-time closed-captioning in the room. Please note that both American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language are being offered to those in our audience. The first two rows of benches have been reserved for those who wish to avail themselves of these interpretation services. Screens displaying the near-real-time closed captioning have also been set up. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being videorecorded for the eventual broadcast of the meeting on ParlVu via the committee’s website.

If a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of the staff or the committee clerk.

So that you can keep your comments at a steady pace for the interpreters, I will not be very heavy-handed with the stopwatch. If you go over a little, it’s not the end of the world.

On our first panel this morning, from the Canadian Bankers Association, we have Marina Mandal, assistant general counsel, and Tasmin Waley, senior legal counsel; from the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, Mary Ann McColl, a professor at Queen’s University; and from the Royal Bank of Canada, Teri Monti, vice-president of employee relations. Welcome to all of you. Thank you for being with us this morning.

We’re going to get started with opening remarks from the Canadian Bankers Association. Marina Mandal and Tasmin Waley, the next five minutes are all yours.

(0850)

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Ms. Marina Mandal (Assistant General Counsel, Canadian Bankers Association):

Good morning, and thank you to the committee for inviting the Canadian Bankers Association to provide our comments on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

The CBA is the voice of more than 60 domestic and foreign banks, and their 280,000 employees, that help drive Canada’s economic growth and prosperity.

Canada’s banking industry is pleased to support Bill C-81. The CBA was actively involved in the consultation process that led to this legislation, and we look forward to continuing to work with the government on the development of the regulations that will set the standards for accessibility in Canada.

During debate in the House of Commons, Minister Qualtrough stated that this legislation “is good for business and business knows that this is good for business.” We agree. Canada’s banks are leaders in providing accessible environments for their employees and customers. Banks are committed to treating all people in a way that allows them to maintain their dignity and independence. Banks believe in providing equitable opportunities through diverse and inclusive environments and are committed to meeting the needs of people with disabilities by preventing and removing barriers to accessibility.

Banks have considerable experience with accessibility as it pertains to the workplace and employees. They offer individual solutions to employees with accommodation needs and have specialized departments to ensure that they continue to foster an accessible work environment. Banks have moved accessibility mandates forward through various approaches, including accessibility committees, policies and strategies, all with a goal to work continuously towards amplifying the voice of employees with disabilities.

Banks are also committed to ensuring accessible customer service. Most banks have groups with a dedicated accessibility mandate within their human resources and IT functions. Putting the needs of their clients first, banks continue to make enhancements so they can offer barrier-free facilities and services in their branches, offices, and bank machines, as well as online and through mobile channels.

Some examples of accessibility options provided by banks include teletype technology for telephone banking; video relay service; sign language interpreters upon request; Braille, large print and audio for various customer materials; enhancements at branches, such as door operators, ramps and washroom upgrades; and accessibility features on computers and mobile devices, such as colour contrast and the ability to increase text size.

We believe any federal accessibility framework should strike the right balance between being principles-based and prescriptive. The framework should also recognize that accessibility and accommodation are often person-specific. In areas where there’s frequent technological evolution, such as information technology, overly prescriptive standards could be problematic. In general, we support widely accepted standards that provide flexibility to institutions, customers and employees in order to achieve the intended outcomes, and that provide adequate certainty as to what constitutes compliance. Further, because standards may change frequently, particularly as technology evolves, the framework should provide organizations with the option to comply with the standard mandated in the legislation or an equivalent or higher standard.

Banks recognize that although significant progress has been made in making Canada more inclusive, people with disabilities still encounter barriers. The banks view accessibility as a journey and continually work to improve the inclusive design of their products and services.

We’re happy to answer and questions you might have.

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The Chair:

Thank you very much.

From the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, we have with us Mary Ann McColl, a professor at Queen’s University. Welcome.

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Professor Mary Ann McColl (Professor, Queen’s University, Canadian Disability Policy Alliance):

Good morning, and thank you for this opportunity to appear before this esteemed committee and to share part of the research of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance that I hope may be of use to you in your deliberations towards the passage of Bill C-81.

I will begin by commending the government on fulfilling its promise to Canadians with disabilities on the timely pursuit of this legislation and on the broad consultation undertaken.

My name is Mary Ann McColl. I’m a professor in the school of rehabilitation science and associate director of the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at Queen’s University.

However, I’m here today in my role as the academic lead of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance. The alliance is a national collaboration of disability scholars, advocates and policy-makers who are committed to understanding and enhancing disability policy in Canada. The CDPA is also a member of the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, led by Spinal Cord Injury Canada from whom I believe you’re hearing tomorrow.

I understand that one of the objectives associated with the passage of Bill C-81 is the adoption of a disability lens, or a process that is reasonable, effective and efficient, for use by everyone in the public service to ensure that all government activities, including legislation, regulation, programs and reports, are considered in light of their implications for people with disabilities.

Such a lens would need to meet a number of criteria. It would need to be easily understood and presume no prior knowledge of disability. It would need to be written in plain language, be brief and efficient to use, comprehensive in terms of all types of disability and all types of policy, compatible with contemporary views and scholarship on disability, and evidence-based. I hope I’m not missing anything in those criteria. It sounds like a tall order, but I’m here today to represent a tool that was developed with exactly those criteria in mind: the CDPA’s disability policy lens.

The lens was first developed in 2006, based on an exhaustive review of the literature on disability policy analysis in preparation for a book, Disability and Social Policy in Canada, by myself and Lyn Jongbloed. Since 2006, it has been used by many disability scholars and graduate students in Canada and internationally, and has been cited in numerous publications. In 2017, it was refined and pilot-tested in collaboration with staff from the Office For Disability Issues and the minister’s office.

I believe you have the lens in front of you.

The lens takes the reader through a series of seven questions that go to the heart of contemporary disability policy analysis. However, it does not favour any particular ideology or stance. It merely asks the user to be explicit, to state their assumptions and to examine them.

Let’s take a closer look at the questions.

The first question asks whether the situation of people with disabilities is explicitly mentioned in the policy. Have their interests and implications been overtly considered, or is it assumed that the implications for people with disabilities are the same as for anyone else, and is that a legitimate assumption?

Second, if disability is mentioned explicitly, how is it defined? Currently, a number of definitions are in force in the federal policy infrastructure—for example, definitions associated with the Canada pension plan, the Canada student loan program, and the disability tax credit. Does the current definition conform with any of those, and does the policy focus on the right group of people? Who was left out, and who determines who is eligible to be considered?

The third question asks what the policy tries to do for people with disability. According to Bickenbach, there are typically three aims of disability policy: access—ensuring the ability to participate; support—providing the necessary goods and services; and equity—ensuring freedom from discrimination. Although admittedly interrelated, there’s usually a dominant goal that the policy addresses. If it’s equity, what kind of equity is sought: horizontal, vertical or outcome equity?

(0855)

The fourth question of the disability policy lens looks at the contemporary view of disability.

We no longer look at disability as something that is wrong with a person. That would have been the biomedical definition. Instead, we consider someone with a disability as someone who is prevented from having the life that they seek because of barriers encountered in a society not designed with them in mind.

Question 4 addresses the view of disability espoused by a policy. Are people with disabilities considered a minority group, with special interests or special needs, or are they simply considered citizens entitled to the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as other citizens?

Although it may sound like the answer should always be the latter, in many situations disabled people need to be singled out for special consideration, accommodations, benefits or programs.

The fifth question asks how this policy relates to other policies, first within this jurisdiction and then in other jurisdictions. Is something being given with one hand and taken away with the other? Is the policy objective either duplicated or undermined by policy elsewhere?

Sixth, who are the other stakeholders whose interests need to be considered alongside those of people with disabilities? I don’t need to tell you about this. Balancing the competing needs and desires of multiple stakeholders is what you do every day, but I have listed a few examples of other groups whose needs need to be considered, such as other minority groups or businesses in the private sector.

Finally, who are the advocates or proponents of the policy and who are its detractors or opponents? Where might we expect to encounter support or opposition? What might be the fallout of that opposition and how can it be countered?

I hope you will agree that these seven questions that make up the CDPA’s disability policy lens represent a process that meets the criteria set out at the outset: brief, evidence-based, versatile, easy to understand and administer, and compatible with contemporary disability studies.

Thank you for your attention and interest in our work. I’ll be happy to take questions.

(0900)

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The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Finally, from the Royal Bank of Canada, we have Teri Monti, vice president, employee relations. You have five minutes, please.

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Ms. Teri Monti (Vice-President, Employee Relations, Royal Bank of Canada):

Thank you very much, and good morning.

My name is Teri Monti. I’m the vice-president of employee relations at RBC. I have global responsibility for workplace policies and programs, leading a team of expert advisers who help employees and managers deal with workplace issues.

We’re a global financial institution with a purpose-driven and principles-led approach to delivering leading performance. Our success comes from our 81,000-plus employees who bring our vision, our values and our strategy to life so we can help our clients thrive and our communities prosper.

In 2017, we had 45,600 employees working in RBC’s federally regulated businesses. Of those employees, 7.4% identify as having a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning disability. Only 4% consider themselves disadvantaged in employment because of their disability.

Our approach to accessibility has evolved over many years, and our vision has grown beyond the initial steps taken a few years ago. Today, accessibility is embedded in our diversity and inclusion blueprint for 2020, which sets out our vision to be among the most inclusive and successful companies, putting diversity into action to help employees, clients and communities thrive.

At RBC, employee and client accessibility practices are governed by our enterprise accessibility guidelines, which are consistent with the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity, and outline our expectations with respect to accessibility practices globally. The guidelines also require employees to comply with the accessibility laws and requirements applicable in the specific jurisdictions where they operate.

Some lines of business and functional groups have also implemented local accessibility policies and best practices. One example would be our technology and operations business, which has its own IT accessibility guidelines. These guidelines are based on international standards for web accessibility and provide guidance in deploying technology solutions that are more accessible to those with blindness, low vision, colour blindness, mobility disabilities, deafness and hearing loss.

We know we have work to do, but we also have some great initiatives to profile, and I’d like to give some examples.

Within the built environment, every new RBC branch we open is wheelchair accessible and built in accordance with applicable building codes. Our physical locations are audited periodically by internal groups and external regulatory agencies to identify and remove barriers. In fact, we were excited to learn that the Rick Hansen Foundation, which we had begun working with to review the accessibility of our premises, will be an assessor working directly with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility.

Within employment, through the “Pursue your Potential” recruitment program, candidates get dedicated support during the job application process, which includes resumé writing and interview coaching, and they are proactively profiled to recruiters and hiring managers.

We’re really excited about our partnership with Specialisterne Canada to hire employees with autism, a non-visible disability. Specialisterne remains engaged throughout the entire process, including selection, hiring, onboarding and training.

Within information and communications technologies, today our telephone representatives can assist with a variety of financial solutions, or clients can do their own transactions via interactive voice response, teletypewriter or video relay services.

Our network of over 4,600 banking machines is the largest in Canada. We were the first bank worldwide to provide talking ATMs, now adopted by standards organizations around the world. Today, all RBC branch banking machines are voice guidance-enabled.

Within the procurement of goods and services, we are proud to be the first founding member of the Inclusive Workplace and Supply Council of Canada, which works to ensure that procurement opportunities go to businesses that are owned and operated by veterans or persons with disabilities.

Within delivery of programs and services, in conjunction with the CNIB, we’re excited to roll out BlindSquare, the leading navigation app for blind and partially sighted people, which acts as a verbal GPS when navigating the city. We will soon be able to provide verbal wayfinding inside our branches.

In 2017, we received acknowledgements of our work, including being ranked as one of Canada’s best diversity employers by Mediacorp and receiving the Spinal Cord Injury Ontario employer of the year award and the employment equity achievement award from the federal government.

We know there are still barriers for people with disabilities that can detract from our collective ability to create truly diverse and inclusive workplaces in communities.

(0905)

This is very much a journey, and we continue to work hard every day to improve. We support legislation that seeks to make Canada more inclusive and we are committed to respecting the legislation and regulations once adopted.

Thank you very much. I’m pleased to answer any questions.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much, all of you.

We’re going to get started on the first round with MP Barlow, please, for six minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC):

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to our witnesses for taking some time out of your busy schedules to be with us today. It’s certainly much appreciated to get your perspective on where this legislation is going.

In listening to you, Ms. Monti, about some of the work that RBC is already doing in your branches, which is great news, it certainly sounds like a lot of work has already been done. One of the concerns we have with the legislation is that it doesn’t include any standards or timelines to achieve some of those standards. To me, it sounds like there are probably some very good practical examples already in the private sector, as you were outlining.

Maybe you can give me some examples. Is this a concern or something that we should be worried about? Should the legislation have some definitive timelines for when there should be compliance from your members or from RBC, just in terms of some clarity on what your path forward should be?

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

As I think you’ve alluded to—and I hope the remarks that Ms. Monti and I made illustrate it—banks have been doing a lot of this already in the absence of legislation with the introduction of the AODA in Ontario and with Manitoba and Nova Scotia having their own legislation. That has spurred more activity. We’re ready to act quickly. From our perspective, this is something that the banking industry was doing prior to Bill C-81, and it will continue to evolve and progress.

Concerns have been expressed about timelines. We’re not opposed to timelines, but we recognize that the minister went through a very robust consultation involving so many stakeholders, which we were actively involved in, and we support the notion of a framework legislation that allows standards to evolve over time as best practices evolve and technology evolves.

The other aspect of that, of course, is that CASDO will have persons with disabilities on its board who can inform the process, and a lot of stakeholders have now been engaged in the process who can communicate their lived experience in a way that informs the standards. We support the framework legislation. We look forward to consulting with the government on standards. We really do think that the end product will be much closer to achieving the intended outcomes of the legislation.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Ms. Monti, do you want to add anything?

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

I would agree with what Ms. Mandal has said. This is very big work and it’s important to do it right. It’s important to consult, and it’s important to listen to all of the stakeholders that are involved.

Looking at the policy lens that Ms. McColl referred to, I think you really do need to engage those stakeholders and spend the time to develop something that will work going forward.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

One of the other issues with the legislation is that there seems to be a two-tiered system, as I read through it. There is a very large number of exemptions for government departments, but federally regulated private sector organizations do not have access to those exemptions. There are fines in place for federally regulated businesses that don’t meet the standards—when they are outlined—but there are no fines against government departments.

I would assume that if we want to do this right, as you’re saying, Ms. Monti, everybody should be treated the same. The government departments should have to achieve these standards just as a federally regulated private sector group should. I think that if we want to send the right message to Canadians with disabilities, which is that everyone is treated equally, there shouldn’t be exemptions and relief for government departments that federally regulated private sector businesses do not have.

I would ask all three groups if you could give me your opinion on that. Should we be looking at that? Should there be an even playing field across all government departments and federally regulated groups?

(0910)

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

You’re looking at me, so I’ll speak.

Voices: Oh, oh!

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

No pressure.

[Expand]

Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

Obviously, yes, you would expect the same standard to be applied across the board. The mechanism for ensuring that standard is met may be different within government from what it is outside of government. I think the principle you’re stating, which is that you would expect the standard to be met across the board, is certainly sensible.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

I’m happy to add on to that; we’re pretty much aligned.

I think it’s really about focusing on the intended outcome, and the Government of Canada has displayed a lot of commitment to that outcome in introducing this legislation. I think the distinction between the mechanisms and the path versus the outcome that Ms. McColl pointed out is what makes sense to me, so yes, I would say a level playing field, from my outcomes-based perspective, but there might be different ways of getting there.

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

I don’t have anything to add. I agree with both.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

I appreciate that.

I would agree with your comments, but in my opinion, it would be difficult to reach the same outcome if one group has some legislation that forces them to get to that outcome and another group doesn’t. One of them can apply for an exemption and wouldn’t have to reach that outcome at all. Your members would have legislation that ensures you meet those standards, whereas government departments would not. There’s also an appeal process for government departments that isn’t there for federally regulated associations. I think that is something we need to address in this legislation. That’s something I wanted to bring to your attention.

I have one quick question.

Mary Ann, you were talking about something with your disability lens. One of the officials from the government said that anybody who self-identifies as someone with a disability would be considered. I want your clarification. What would that entail—someone who self-identifies as someone with a disability? I hadn’t heard that term before.

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

By definition, someone who self-identifies is basically someone who responds affirmatively to the question “Do you have a disability?” Defining disability is a thorny issue. The government has addressed it in a number of places throughout the federal policy infrastructure.

It would be tempting to think there is one definition that we could apply across the board. In fact, given that different pieces of policy have different intentions and are intended to address different sectors of the population, it’s something that needs to be looked at very carefully.

Self-identification is a good start, but there needs to be a bit more thought than someone just coming forward and saying, “I have a disability and so I want to be considered for a particular program or a particular entitlement.”

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Next up is MP Long, for six minutes.

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Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses this morning. I continue to get an education every time somebody presents.

A lady in a wheelchair a couple of weeks ago said to me, “You’re opening up my world with Bill C-81.” I stopped, and we had a great conversation. I walked away from that, and she’s right. Bill C-81 is opening up the world for people with disabilities.

It hits home for me. In my riding of Saint John—Rothesay, Key Industries is an organization that deals with a lot of people with disabilities. We recently announced some funding there, EAF funding, so that they could have more accessible washrooms—just small, simple things like that.

Whether it’s getting on a plane in Saint John, catching a train, or mailing something, there are absolutely challenges and barriers for people with disabilities. I view transforming our businesses as an investment, not a cost. Sometimes I worry. Not only my Conservative colleagues but also other businesses I talk to say, “I would do that, but there’s such a cost.” I look at it more as an investment.

I’ll start with you, Professor McColl. Can you speak to that? In your opinion, is taking action to invest in enhancing accessibility more of an investment than a non-recoupable cost? Can you talk to that?

(0915)

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

Yes, and I’ll begin my remarks by saying that most people who have actually made the amendments necessary to make their premises accessible or their processes accessible are surprised by how small the costs are. The costs often sit in people’s minds as a huge impediment to moving forward with accessibility measures. In fact, our research has shown over and over again that people are surprised by how little the costs are.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I’ll just jump in.

Somebody—and I apologize, because I forget which witness it was—mentioned that it was $500 per person, or something like that. It really wasn’t that significant.

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

I have not heard a number like that, but that’s very interesting. I’d love to know more about that.

The bottom line is that if we plan these things from the outset, if we design processes and structures to accommodate everyone from the outset, the costs are minimal. If we have to retrofit, they are more significant.

What that says to me is that legislation that makes it an expectation and a part of our culture to think about people with disabilities and to ensure their needs are considered in everything we do is the way to go, and it’s the way to be cost-efficient with it as well.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

For sure, and somebody like Mark Wafer at Tim Hortons led the way by showing that it was an investment. He came back with higher productivity, lower absenteeism and all of those things.

Thank you.

Ms. Monti, do you have anything to say on investment versus cost?

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Ms. Teri Monti:

We would absolutely agree that it’s an investment. It’s an investment in our people, our clients and the communities we support. It is good for the people and good for the communities, and it is good for business as well.

In terms of the actual cost, I would agree with Professor McColl. On average, it is surprisingly not as expensive as many people would think to accommodate people. That’s because a lot of accommodation costs nothing in terms of hard costs. It’s a schedule adjustment. It’s putting somebody’s workstation near a window rather than in the middle of the room. It can be a variety of things that are easily achieved without much cost.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Can you touch on a couple of investments that Royal Bank has made across the country for people with disabilities?

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Ms. Teri Monti:

First of all, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, there are the voice-guided ATMs that are in all of our branches.

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Mr. Wayne Long:

Is that across the country?

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

They’re right across the country in every branch.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Okay.

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

All of our ATMs are voice-enabled.

We have at least one wheelchair-accessible ATM in each branch as well. Over the next three years, we plan to have all of our branch ATMs wheelchair accessible and audio-enabled.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

What would happen in the event that a branch simply couldn’t adhere to that requirement for wheelchair-accessible ATMs?

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

We don’t anticipate that being an issue. It’s part of our plan going forward in terms of ongoing branch renovations and new branch construction.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

I think the only thing I’ll add on behalf of the association and its 64 member banks is that there’s a lot of competition for talent and for customers. I think we all know this. The banking industry is competing, and this is absolutely a 100% investment, an investment in employees. When you want to attract people, you want to have them stay. You want to promote them through the ranks. You want to accommodate them. It’s an investment in our talent pool.

Also, customer service is at the core of what banks do. Why would we not want to accommodate to ensure that more customers can access products and services?

(0920)

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Mr. Wayne Long:

Have you come up against any resistance at all? What changes have you seen over the last five years?

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

In the sense of resistance to the legislation itself?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

We haven’t had any resistance to the legislation.

I think the language around accessibility—Ms. Monti referred to this in her opening remarks—is part of the broader discussion and conversation about diversity and inclusion. There isn’t resistance to the intended outcomes.

There are always things we think about. As I indicated in my opening remarks, we’re thinking about the balance between principles and description. We think about flexibility. Especially for our large cross-border members, we think about how other jurisdictions in the world evolve, particularly on information communication technology, let’s say, and how we can create standards that do not compel the Canadian bank to be completely at odds with what RBC’s U.K. subsidiary is required to do.

Those are the kinds of things we think about, but there there has been no resistance to the desired outcomes.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Go ahead, MP Hardcastle, please, for six minutes.

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Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning. I’m hoping that we can get some more feedback from you with regard to how we can make Bill C-81 effective in using that disability lens. Other jurisdictions, other countries, have done this. This bill should be our first attempt at complying with the UN convention.

There are a lot of definitions out there. There are best practices being used, and it is evolving all the time.

A lot of the work that has been done focuses on seeing disability as one of the variables of the population, so that this act is ensuring more coverage, more access. We’re just broadening that cookie cutter, if you will, in saying that this is a part of the population who we have to start fitting in.

One of my colleagues mentioned in his question a fact that was provided to us about the Public Service Alliance of Canada. They’ve done a lot of groundwork because of the Employment Equity Act. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with that in your roles right now, having to roll out the Employment Equity Act, but there’s a lot of synergy. There is a lot of opportunity here for us to leverage that. I would like to hear you expand on that if you could.

My time is brief. With that preamble, I’ll let you share your thoughts on how we can be leveraging existing legislation such as the Employment Equity Act.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

I’m happy to start.

There is obviously a certain element of duplication there on the employment front. From a first principles perspective, the accessibility Bill C-81 is much more foundational legislation that covers a lot more. The Employment Equity Act, as you know, focuses just on the employment side.

That said, I think a lot of what has been done by federal employers under the EEA can be leveraged—and I’ll look to Ms. Monti to expand on that—to meet some of the requirements that we will see in the employment standards under Bill C-81.

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Ms. Teri Monti:

To add to that a bit, inclusion is the real goal. Inclusion is one of our core values, and that’s the goal we’re working towards.

The Employment Equity Act processes and reporting procedures help us get to that goal. This accessibility legislation will help us as well. They’re both channels, ways forward, that help us take that really holistic view of accessibility within RBC. It has multiple dimensions and takes that holistic view and helps us go forward with this work.

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

I think one of the strengths of this legislation is that it is structural in its approach rather than individualistic.

I referred before to the three objectives of policy, equity, access and support. Whereas the Employment Equity Act is about equity, about ensuring freedom from discrimination, this one is more about ensuring access and looking at the responsibilities of individuals and organizations toward people with disabilities. It’s ensuring an equitable and inclusive environment rather than affording people with disabilities redress against discrimination.

It’s a different way of approaching the same issue. Of course, the two ideas of equity and access are related, but I was delighted to see that this legislation was taking an access approach rather than simply adding another layer of anti-discrimination protections, which we’re well furnished with in Canada.

(0925)

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Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, do I have another minute?

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The Chair:

You have 30 seconds.

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Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay.

What do you think of us having this new standards organization, especially as we’ve discussed here? What do you think of having that comprised with a majority, which sometimes could be one more than half? We were hearing testimony to the effect that 70% of the board should be people living with different abilities.

I would like to hear about your experience and how you gather your input, if you have some ideas for us about where you think that approach should go.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

We’re aware that other witnesses have talked about specific numbers. I would say a couple of things. I think having this unique entity that has, just at the beginning, the requirement of 50% plus has been really great. We don’t have a specific number in mind. The provision, as you know, also requires the CASDO board to reflect the diversity of Canada overall. I’m optimistic that once it’s put into place and we see how the dynamic works between individuals on the board, it might evolve to a higher number.

I would say that it’s a very positive development in the first instance to have the CASDO board, unlike other boards that have a role in this, such as CHRC, be informed by persons with disabilities.

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The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Ruimy, you have six minutes.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.):

Thank you very much, everybody, for being here today. As my colleague Mr. Long said, every day is a new day of education. We keep learning more and more.

I want to stick with timelines. We’re hearing a lot about timelines. When I think of timelines, I think of “by this date, this has to be done”, but I keep hearing, in all the testimony, about evolution. We haven’t told you to do things, but the banks and the airplane transportation agency are all saying the same thing: It’s an evolution to get to where we need to go, because there are so many different pieces.

When I look at the disability policy lens, I can see that; I can see why. There’s not one thing that says, “We’re there now. We’ve done it. Yay! We’ve done our job.” It doesn’t work that way.

At the end of this, we have to come up with potential recommendations for amendments and so on and so forth. I know that this one will play prominently, so I’d like to get more feedback on your thoughts around why we should or should not, as we’re proposing, have hard-core timelines on there, and why.

Let’s start with you, Ms. Mandal.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

I touched on this earlier, but I’ll go into it in a bit more depth.

For us, it really is a very complex piece already in terms of what the framework legislation sets out. You have the infrastructure. You have to create CASDO, appoint the commissioner, appoint the officer. You have the standards development, which we heard about from many other witnesses, including us today. You heard that it needs to be finely tuned. It needs to be informed by experiences in other jurisdictions. It needs to be informed by stakeholders.

On the stakeholder point, the minister, I believe Minister Qualtrough, said that just in the last two years she has received feedback from 6,000 individuals and organizations. As we get into the details of the standards, we would expect to see more of that and other views being at the table. One of the points that we and other stakeholders have made to the government is about the desire to see harmonization within Canada—that is, with the provinces that already have legislation. As I indicated earlier, for our cross-border banks there is a desire to see at least ICT harmonization.

All of that takes a lot of time. There’s no end point where Canada is 100% barrier-free—that’s a dream—but as best practices and technology evolve, I think it will keep moving in that direction.

Ms. Waley, do want to add something on the progressive realization piece?

(0930)

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Ms. Tasmin Waley (Senior Legal Counsel, Canadian Bankers Association):

Sure.

One thing that’s mentioned throughout the act is this idea of “progressive realization”, the idea that accessibility is dynamic and constantly evolving. There will never be a date by which we’re finished with accessibility. That’s the view our banks take. This is an evolving process. We always want to be aware of best practices and always be innovating in terms of providing accessible options.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Does anybody else want to add to that?

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Ms. Teri Monti:

I would echo Ms. Mandal’s comments about the need for harmonization. Making sure that the Canadian public, our employees and our clients have a consistent experience no matter which RBC door they come through, whether it’s a provincially regulated subsidiary or the federally regulated bank, is very important to us. It’s important to take the time as we go through this to make sure that the experience remains consistent.

This is very much a journey, as both Ms. Waley and Ms. Mandal have mentioned. The world evolves and things change. The goal you’re working toward today might shift a little bit with some new, innovative technology that makes more things possible. It’s important to have the flexibility to move forward in a way that takes that harmonized approach and also takes advantage of innovation as it happens.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Do you want to add something?

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

I’d like to roll into my response a response to the questions about both the composition of the standards development body and the timelines.

A lot of stakeholders are involved here. There’s an opportunity to do this quickly or to do this well or something in the middle. We’re obviously balancing those two things. It’s complicated by the number of different stakeholders.

I refer you back to question number 6 on the policy lens. It says to be sure to give everybody who needs to have a voice a voice if they are going to play a part in implementation. As we know, if people don’t have their say at the outset, they dig their heels in and create opposition.

I know the number is important to some disability groups, but to me the issue is more about letting the right people have a voice so they don’t end up just being opponents to whatever happens. They have to buy into the process at some point.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you. I have just about 30 seconds left.

Would you say that actually putting in timelines, legislating timelines, would be a downfall? Would it limit people to thinking “Oh, we only have to do this, so we’re not going to do anymore, because that’s what the law says”? Would you agree that would actually be detrimental to this process?

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

I think it could be, absolutely, conceptually.

There is low-hanging fruit, and perhaps more so for the industry I represent and some of the other industries you’ve heard from. I’m cognizant, you know, that the minister did talk about the mom-and-pop trucking companies.

I think the answer is that it depends on the timeline. I think there could be a negative impact insofar as people saying they have x amount of time to do this and then they are done.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Hogg, go ahead for six minutes, please.

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Mr. Gordie Hogg (South Surrey—White Rock, Lib.):

Thank you.

I think this is our fourth session. We’ve heard from maybe 12 or 15 witnesses, and not surprisingly, everybody who comes before us sees this is as a positive venture. The bill has a lot of positive notions to it, so they respect the values and the principles inherent in it. There are misgivings just about some of the details, but obviously the people who are coming are those people who are in favour of it.

I’m an adherent of John Stuart Mill’s notion of being able to understand the other side in order to make an informed decision. The other side has not come before us, yet people keep making references to it.

I wonder if each of you could take a couple of minutes and tell me what the other side would say, the people who are saying this is wrong, because no doubt we’re going to have to face some of those. Some of them are out there.

Professor McColl, what are the questions or the other side of this or the edges of this that we would hear from those people who are not in favour?

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

I think that one of the other sides may be people with disabilities who think that it’s not enough, who want the legislation to go further and faster and be more far-reaching. I think that’s perhaps one of the most delicate sources of opposition to be addressed. I suspect you’ve already heard from some of them.

(0935)

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Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Are there others?

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Ms. Teri Monti:

I think one thing you might hear from opponents is about the cost. I think we’ve talked a little bit about that versus making an investment. That might be a concern for smaller organizations that aren’t quite as far down the path as we are. You might hear a little bit about that.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

I don’t think I have anything to add. Those would have been the two I would have pinpointed.

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Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Certainly we’ve heard from a lot of large organizations, national organizations, large businesses. Some references have been made. In fact a witness yesterday from YVR, the Vancouver airport, was saying he had concerns about some of the smaller organizations and their ability to finance some of the changes that were associated with it. That’s certainly been an issue, as have the timing and the standards, which MP Ruimy just made reference to.

I think contextually those are some of the things we have to look at, manage and deal with. There’s been a lot of discussion as well in terms of the policy development and ensuring that we have people with their own disabilities to inform the development of the policy. My experience in terms of policy is that that’s obviously a positive thing to do, but sometimes it seems to me that after the policy or legislation is developed and then goes to a bureaucracy, a government, to implement, that some things get lost between the policy development and the implementation stages.

Could you talk a little bit about how we might be able to ensure that is contained within the implementation process so that we have access to those people who have informed the policy to ensure that there’s not a disconnect between the policy and its actual implementation? I’ve seen that happen a number of times.

Are there some safeguards, some experiences you have, that would be helpful in terms of informing that?

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

I think the standards development organization is a good safeguard against the intention getting lost and also a very direct way of implementing the policy. Of course, what happens in the public service is opaque to many of us. Probably you’re more familiar with it than we are. I must admit that I felt that the standards development organization was a good assurance that the intent of the legislation would be upheld.

[Expand]

Ms. Marina Mandal:

I would add that for the accessibility plans, the feedback and the progress report, as you know, Bill C-81 sets out the duty to consult with persons with disabilities. I think it’s another safeguard that ensures the people most impacted by the legislation stay involved on an ongoing basis as it’s implemented by the private sector.

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Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Can you talk about other jurisdictions that we might learn more from? How does Canada, where it sits today, compare with other jurisdictions? Where are the very best practices? What are the pieces that we might learn from in terms of those jurisdictions that are doing this perhaps more effectively than we are in certain areas?

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Prof. Mary Ann McColl:

Our natural comparators are the U.K., the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and those kinds of countries, and they’ve all gone the anti-discrimination route, of course, with their federal legislation. I’m very pleased that Canada didn’t go that route, but rather took an access-and-inclusion route. Ontario is the one jurisdiction that stands out as having tackled the problem of society-wide standards. I think there are lessons to be learned from Ontario’s experience.

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

Ms. Waley and I are not all that familiar with experiences outside of Canada, although I take the point that Ms. McColl has just made. I would say that in Ontario, one of the things that has been great and has been translated into the Bill C-81 context is that notion of framework legislation with standards to follow, with separate consultations on each standard. I think Ontario is a good role model to look at.

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Ms. Teri Monti:

I would also agree that Canada has been a leader in this area. I manage a global team. I have a team in the U.S. that does accommodations and a team in Canada that does accommodations. There’s a huge difference between the legal requirements and what is actually done. From that perspective, the individual perspective, I think we have gone considerably further than our colleagues in other parts of the world. I would say again that the AODA is probably a good example of existing legislation and process.

(0940)

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Are you saying—

[Expand]

The Chair:

I’m sorry, Gordie. I have to cut you off there. We have to get one more question in from MP Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte (Edmonton Griesbach, CPC):

To the banking representatives, thanks for outlining some of the good stuff you’ve done. It looks like there’s been significant progress.

I’m lucky enough to be an able-bodied person, yet I frequently have accessibility problems when trying to get through to a local branch or to a live person and in trying to navigate overly complicated websites to find features. How much more difficult is that for people with disabilities?

[Expand]

Ms. Marina Mandal:

I’ll start.

As we said in our opening remarks, we do see this as a journey, right? Also, I think that other stakeholders, not just the banking community or the private sector, see it as a journey.

There is a huge amount of innovation in the banking space, as there is in many other industries. It can often mean that we’re not communicating, that the communication out to customers and clients might not always come perfectly in sync with the evolution of the products and services, but going back to my point a little earlier, I can tell you that customer service is the core of our business. The banks don’t exist without customers, period. To the extent that persons with disabilities or persons who are able-bodied are challenged in finding information at a branch or on a website, I’d say that banks are there to help.

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

We do train people in customer service. We do try to make our websites and all of our information as accessible as possible to everybody. We are on a journey. We have said that. This is very much a journey.

We are looking for opportunities to improve, absolutely, and this legislation will give us a more harmonized view and the opportunity to get feedback to help us get there as we go through this process.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

One of the things that helped me recently with a problem with Shaw, I think it was, was the feature of live chat. You get frustrated. You can’t reach anybody. You’re on hold. Are banks going that route? Do they have that now? Is it accessible for people with disabilities as well?

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

We do. We have a number of channels that people can use to reach out to us, including live chat on our websites. These are accessible through multiple formats.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Do any of you have any ideas regarding amendments that could be used for this bill?

[Expand]

Ms. Marina Mandal:

We don’t have amendments in mind for Bill C-81. Some of the considerations that we put forward to the government as we engaged over the last two years actually would end up relating more, I think, to the standards, whether it’s a balance between a principles-based approach and a prescriptive approach, or harmonization with the provincial jurisdictions that have accessibility legislation. Our concerns or considerations have been more in that direction, but not with regard to the text of the bill itself.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

I think both banking representatives talked about how a lot of progress has been made, but how there are still barriers for people with disabilities. Can either of you give me some examples of the barriers that still exist?

[Expand]

Ms. Marina Mandal:

I think one we can point out—and again, it’s a point about how innovation happens and how there might be a bit of a gap or a lag time—is touch screens. A lot of people are banking on mobile now, and those touch screens might not be accessible to everybody, although there’s a lot that the banks and our vendor partners have done to bring the technology forward and make it more accessible. That’s an example I would use.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Ms. Monti, do you have any examples?

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

There are individual situations, because each individual, obviously, presents different capabilities and different disabilities. We do find, occasionally, individual issues with the location, parking and things like this that can act as barriers.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

I’ll stay on that note. Obviously banks are going to a model of taking away the neighbourhood locations and going to farther satellite locations, merging three or four branches into one. How does that impact somebody with a disability?

(0945)

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Ms. Marina Mandal:

With regard to branch closures, they’re always happening in consultation with the community. It’s definitely not an easy decision. Part of that consultation in determining whether to have a physical location involves consultation with all of the impacted customers. There are alternative ways to deliver products and services, whether it’s online, mobile, or having mobile financial planners or mortgage advisers who can be made available to customers.

Again, I keep going back to the first principle: that banks don’t want to lose customers. They’re waging a war for customers, so these decisions are made with a lot of thought and consideration. Obviously part of that is how to retain customers and ensure that they continue to be serviced, regardless of the manner in which they’re serviced.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Do you think that you’ll be going more and more to a model of bankers coming to us, to able-bodied and disabled people? I know that in larger business deals and so forth, they’ll do that. Is that something that’s on the horizon?

[Expand]

The Chair:

Give a very quick response, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Teri Monti:

We are certainly looking to expand our network of mobile advisers.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Excellent.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

That takes us to the end of this panel.

I want to thank all of you for joining us and contributing to our study on Bill C-81.

We’re now going to suspend very briefly to bring in the next panel.

(0945)

(0950)

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The Chair:

I’d like us to come to order. Please take your seats. Thank you.

Welcome back, everybody. Welcome to our second panel for today. I’m not going to go through the whole preamble from earlier with regard to the accommodations being made. I will just remind everybody that both French and English sign language is going on. As a result, and as a request from them, please keep your comments at a metered pace. If you are going too fast, I will interrupt you, so I apologize in advance. We just want to make sure that everyone is heard appropriately through the different accessible means.

Joining us here on our second panel from Accessible Media Incorporated is David Errington, president and chief executive officer.

From ARCH Disability Law Centre, we have Robert Lattanzio, executive director; and Kerri Joffe, staff lawyer.

From the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, we have Scott Shortliffe, chief consumer officer and executive director. Joining him we have Marie-Louise Hayward, manager, social and consumer policy; and Adam Balkovec, legal counsel. Welcome, everyone.

We’ll start this morning with opening remarks. Please keep the remarks to about five minutes. Again, keep a steady pace and don’t worry too much about going a little over your time.

First, from Accessible Media Incorporated, we have David Errington, president and chief executive officer.

The next five minutes are all yours, sir.

[Expand]

Mr. David Errington (President and Chief Executive Officer, Accessible Media Inc.):

Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. My name is David Errington, and I’m the president and CEO of Accessible Media Inc., or AMI. Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today.

AMI commends the government on tabling Canada’s first federal legislation aimed at improving accessibility for people with disabilities. The objective of the proposed accessible Canada act, namely to enhance the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society, is very much in keeping with AMI’s mandate.

AMI is a media company that entertains, informs and empowers Canadians who are blind and partially sighted. AMI’s mandate is to establish and support a voice for Canadians with disabilities, representing their interests, concerns and values through accessible media, reflection and portrayal.

AMI is currently licensed by the CRTC to operate three television services: AMI-audio, AMI-tv and AMI-télé. All three services have been deemed by the CRTC to be of exceptional importance to obtaining the objective in paragraph 3(1)(p) of the Broadcasting Act, which provides the following:

programming accessible by disabled persons should be provided within the Canadian broadcasting system as resources become available for the purpose;

As a result, all three services have been granted mandatory carriage status as part of the basic television service by the CRTC.

AMI-audio is Canada’s only English-language television audio reading service. It offers a variety of compelling stories and engaging original content to Canadians who are blind, partially sighted or otherwise print-restricted. AMI-audio’s mandate is to deliver a steady and timely flow of information that is essential to the decision-making needs of our audience.

AMI-tv and its French language counterpart, AMI-télé, are television services that provide blind, partially sighted, deaf and hard-of-hearing Canadians with access to open-format described video and closed-captioned versions of popular programming, as well as original first-run content, in a manner that is inclusive for all.

For those unfamiliar with the term “described video”, or DV, it’s a narrated description of a program’s main visual elements, such as settings, costumes and body language. Descriptions are added during pauses in dialogue, and enable blind and partially sighted individuals to form a mental picture of what’s happening in the program. While DV typically uses a separate audio track, AMI has pioneered the use of integrated described video, or IDV, whereby the identification of the key individual elements is incorporated into the pre-production, production and post-production phases of the original programs.

In addition, all the programming on AMI-tv and AMI-télé is provided in open-format described video with closed captioning. No special equipment or extra steps are required to access any of our television services, making them truly accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

All three of our television services are the first of their kind in the world. These three services, along with our companion websites, mobile app, online media player, YouTube channel, and social media presence, provide blind, partially sighted, deaf and hard-of-hearing Canadians with access to entertainment, news and information programming that they would not otherwise be able to enjoy on platforms of their choice.

However, AMI is more than just a broadcaster. In order to address the evolving needs and expectations of blind and partially sighted Canadians and the changes within the audiovisual environment, AMI is involved in a multi-faceted company that creates, advocates, collaborates and innovates in order to enable accessibility to all media.

With regarding to creating, our television services focus on creating commissioned, original first-run Canadian programs that directly address issues of importance to blind, partially sighted and disabled communities. Without AMI’s provision of this type of programming, these stories would not otherwise be told. These programs all provide positive on-air portrayal of blind and partially sighted individuals as hosts or subjects of the programs, and feature themes and material of particular relevance to blind and partially sighted individuals.

As a result, AMI has become a springboard for talent in the blind and partially sighted community, with approximately 78% of our on-air personalities being persons with a disability.

Regarding advocacy, AMI has become a leader in advocating on behalf of the blind and partially sighted community to domestic and foreign regulatory bodies, such as the CRTC and the disability advisory committee of the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.

In addition, we provide opportunities for blind, partially sighted and disabled individuals to participate more fully in social, political and cultural life. For example, we hosted an accessible federal election town hall for the 2015 federal election, which encouraged blind and partially sighted individuals to cast their ballots and participate in a key aspect of our democracy.

On collaboration, we collaborate with numerous organizations, including the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission and, most recently, the World Wide Web Consortium to ensure that Canada’s accessibility agenda is advanced both domestically and internationally.

We partner with other broadcasters in local colleges to teach integrated described video techniques, in the hopes that future generations of producers will regard accessibility as a fundamental component of production rather than a post-production afterthought.

(0955)

We innovate. Through our innovation, we try to ensure that scientific and technological advances in accessibility are extended to blind and partially sighted communities. Our innovative and pioneering use of integrated described video has resulted in multiple awards. Together with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and other organizations, we have created an award-winning online described video TV guide. We launched our first successful online media player for broadcasts in North America, and starting with our breakthrough live description of Toronto Blue Jays baseball games, we have described live events that were previously thought to be unsuitable for described video, opening a whole new world of possibility and enjoyment for our viewers.

We’re also actively involved in developing and approving DV awareness and standards both within the Canadian broadcasting system and on the international scale. Together with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and other organizations, we have created best-practice guides for DV and IDV production in both official languages.

In 2017 we were awarded the FCC Chairman’s Award for advancement in accessibility for the integrated described video best practice guide. AMI was one of only four winners of this award, two others of which were Facebook and Amazon.

These innovations enable AMI and other broadcasters to improve the quality of their described video productions and to make them readily available to blind and partially sighted viewers. As evidenced from these examples, AMI’s mandate is not just about accessibility but also about representation, reflection and positive portrayal of blind and partially sighted Canadians.

However, there is still more work to be done. The needs and expectations of the blind and partially sighted community with respect to media accessibility are undergoing the same profound shift as experienced in broader Canadian broadcasting systems. Like everyone else, these viewers are in search of high-quality content that speaks directly to their needs and interests and that is readily available on a variety of platforms.

According to the CNIB, approximately half a million Canadians are estimated to be living with significant vision loss that impacts their quality of life, and every year more than 50,000 Canadians will lose their sight. Moreover, CNIB predicts that the prevalence of vision loss in Canada is expected to increase nearly 30% in the next decade. This is due to the demographic shift caused by the aging population, with the population of Canadians aged 65 and older expected to double in the next 25 years.

In addition, there is a growing incidence of key underlying causes of vision loss, such as obesity and diabetes. The CNIB warns that without action, the number of people with sight problems in Canada is likely to increase dramatically.

(1000)

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The Chair:

Excuse me, Mr. Errington; you’re running at about seven and a half minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. David Errington:

Okay.

[Expand]

The Chair:

I’m wondering if you can just conclude quickly, and then maybe we can deal with some things in questions. Thank you.

[Expand]

Mr. David Errington:

Sure. No problem. I’ll just do the final part.

We are pleased that the CRTC has prioritized certain of these accessibility measures in their recent policy decisions. The CRTC has implemented a tiered approach to ramp up the amount of DV programming being provided by television broadcasters based on the size and resources of broadcasters. The CRTC has required certain television distributors to include in their annual returns certain information relating to the availability of set-top boxes, the penetration of set-top boxes, and the number of accessibility-related queries they receive. These measures are consistent with and perhaps even overlap some of the reporting requirements contained in Bill C-81.

Given the limited financial means of many blind and partially sighted individuals and the lifeline that television and media provide to these individuals, we believe the Government of Canada should ensure that accessible set-top boxes and remote controls are available for free or at a substantially discounted rate to blind and partially sighted individuals. Until accessible set-top boxes and remote controls become ubiquitous, there will continue to be a barrier to television programs for blind and partially sighted Canadians.

I appreciate the opportunity to present AMI’s views on this important matter, and I will be pleased to respond to any questions you may have. Sorry for being long.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

Up next, from ARCH Disability Law Centre, we have Robert Lattanzio, executive director; and Kerri Joffe, a staff lawyer.

Welcome to both of you. Go ahead for five minutes, please.

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Mr. Robert Lattanzio (Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to this committee for this opportunity to speak with you this morning.

ARCH Disability Law Centre is a specialty legal clinic focused solely on disability rights. We work on the ground with communities of persons with disabilities, with disability organizations, and within all levels of courts and tribunals in test case litigation. We commend the government and the minister for introducing Bill C-81, an important and positive step towards advancing full inclusion for persons with disabilities. We believe that amendments are needed for this bill to achieve its stated purpose.

Today we highlight four recommendations.

First, we would like to address exemptions. This committee has heard from government that exemptions are needed to ensure innovation and flexibility for small organizations and those who exceed accessibility standards. We do not agree that the broad exemption powers currently in the bill are necessary to achieve these policy objectives. The bill must send a strong message that accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. Therefore, as a general matter, regulated entities must not be exempt from complying with accessibility requirements. If exemption provisions do remain in the bill, we recommend safeguards, including these next three: one, exemptions should be granted only in the narrowest of circumstances; two, reasons for the exemption should be made public and the public should be afforded opportunities to provide feedback; three, any exemptions should be subject to periodic review and should be removed if and when they are no longer necessary.

The second recommendation today, as the committee is aware, relates to the fact that the bill lacks timelines. ARCH shares the concerns of disability communities. Timelines are essential for ensuring that the bill will advance accessibility in Canada and for measuring progress towards this goal. We support recommendations that clause 5 include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers. We support recommendations that the bill include timelines by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law.

With regard to timelines, progressive realization is an important international law concept that can provide a framework for ongoing implementation and monitoring of accessibility requirements. ARCH recommends that the minister and regulated entities establish benchmarks for progressively realizing a Canada without barriers in all the designated areas, establish specific and progressive timelines for meeting these benchmarks, and monitor progress towards meeting these benchmarks.

We also recommend that independent reviews of the act be held to coincide with Canada’s reporting obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We recommend that the first independent review of the act be held in 2025, to coincide with Canada’s third report to the UN CRPD committee, and every four years thereafter.

Third, we need amendments to ensure that accessibility requirements do not diminish existing legal rights of persons with disabilities. The Canadian Human Rights Act and the charter provide vitally important protections from discrimination for people with disabilities. Disability communities fought hard for these protections. We are concerned that regulated entities may believe that compliance with accessibility requirements is the same as fulfilling their obligation to accommodate and not discriminate. This would be a troubling, unintended consequence of Bill C-81. The bill must work together with the Canadian Human Rights Act and the charter. Therefore, we recommend that the preamble and the purpose clause of Bill C-81 clarify that nothing in the act lessens existing human rights obligations of federally regulated entities under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and that where a conflict arises between the proposed accessible Canada act and another law, the law that provides the greatest accessibility for persons with disabilities will apply.

Fourth, Bill C-81 does not designate one central agency to oversee compliance of accessibility requirements and to adjudicate complaints. Rather, it creates an overly complex system of multiple agencies. This will create confusion and additional unnecessary barriers to access to justice for persons with disabilities. We heard this concern consistently throughout the consultations that we conducted. Multiple bodies adjudicating accessibility complaints will likely result in uneven or unfair enforcement, delay and inefficiency.

(1005)

Following a legal analysis of CTA decisions, and from our experience, we are concerned that the CTA may be more likely to treat human rights and accessibility as secondary to technical concerns, resulting in weak enforcement of accessibility requirements in transportation. We heard similar concerns from the community about the CRTC.

To avoid these problems, the accessibility commissioner should receive all complaints about violations of accessibility standards. The no-wrong-door policy is inadequate to address our concerns.

Our materials include recommendations in relation to the rights of indigenous persons with disabilities, intersectionality and recognition of sign languages, among other important issues.

Thank you. We would be happy to take any questions.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Up next, from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is Scott Shortliffe, chief consumer officer and executive director, as well as Marie-Louise Hayward, manager, social and consumer policy, and Adam Balkovec, legal counsel.

Thank you to all three of you. You have five minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Shortliffe (Chief Consumer Officer and Executive Director, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission):

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to participate in the committee’s review of Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

I’d like to begin today by saying two things. First, I’d like to acknowledge that we meet today on traditional Algonquin territory. Second, if you’ll permit me:

[Witness speaks in sign language]

[Translation]

The CRTC’s approach to accessibility is based upon the fundamental belief that a person’s ability to access broadcast and telecommunications services dictates their ability to participate meaningfully in society. Our accessibility policy is grounded in the principle that equality is a core Canadian value and is central to public interest.

(1010)

[English]

During the last three decades, the CRTC has adopted a series of regulatory policies to enhance the ability of Canadians with disabilities to access communications networks. We have updated these policies as new technologies and resources have become available.

[Translation]

The CRTC has continually championed accessibility and has required service providers to deploy appropriate technologies to improve access for all Canadians, regardless of their level of ability.

[English]

In the mid-1980s, for example, the CRTC began to mandate teletypewriter, or TTY, relay services for Canadians who have a hearing or speech disability. In 2009, the requirement was expanded to include the provision of IP relay services, and, five years later, the provision of video relay service.

Accessibility requirements for broadcasters have followed a similar evolution. Initially, broadcasters were required to closed-caption only a percentage of programming. Today, all pre-recorded English and French programming must be closed-captioned.

In 2009, the CRTC began to require that broadcasters provide described video services four hours per week. Beginning next year, all large integrated broadcasters must provide the services throughout prime time.

[Translation]

The CRTC’s work in the domain of accessibility also includes regulatory measures designed to facilitate access to the devices Canadians use to access communications services, whether it is accessible set-top boxes, remote controls or wireless mobile handsets.

The CRTC also recognizes the importance of facilitating interactions with service providers. This is why we established mandatory industry codes of conduct: the Wireless Code and the Television Service Provider Code. These codes ensure that persons with disabilities can receive contracts and bills in accessible formats, and can access extended trial periods to ensure that equipment and services will meet their individual needs.

To develop regulatory policies, the CRTC consults with Canadians—including those with disabilities—along with service providers and other stakeholders by holding open, public proceedings. The input of Canadians with disabilities is crucial to developing effective and impactful accessibility policies. It’s also why the CRTC website presents key content, such as a guide to our Rules of Procedure, in ASL—American Sign Language—and LSQ—Quebec’s Langue des signes québécoises.

[English]

To achieve the larger goal of barrier-free access, the CRTC recognizes that it must engage with other administrative tribunals. To this end, the CRTC participates in working groups alongside the Canadian Human Rights Commission and other administrative tribunals in order to leverage accessibility expertise and increase efficiency.

As a federal regulatory tribunal, the CRTC must pursue the policy goals set by the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act and also act fairly, abiding by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This requires the CRTC to balance competing objectives in rendering decisions that ultimately serve the public interest.

As communications technologies evolve, Canada’s regulatory framework must be flexible and rigorous enough to make the most of new opportunities and to eliminate and prevent systemic barriers related to accessibility. Advances in communications technologies have opened the door to an unprecedented wealth of content and interactivity. The CRTC’s position is that it is the right of all Canadians to be able to access this wealth regardless of their ability, and it is committed to working to ensure that all Canadians can benefit from it.

[Translation]

As I mentioned, the CRTC’s approach is informed by Canadian human rights principles, and these principles will continue to guide our regulatory work.

[English]

I’d like to remind this committee that the CRTC is an independent regulator. I note that this panel includes a party regulated by the CRTC. As such, and to preserve the commission’s independence as a regulator, I may be unable to comment on certain issues raised or to fully answer certain questions. That said, I will do my best to answer any questions this committee may have.

Thank you very much.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you, sir.

Up first is MP Falk for six minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC):

I’d like to thank you all for taking time out of your day to be here today. The committee really appreciates it, because we are hearing different things.

Earlier today, colleagues across the way mentioned that they’ll be pushing for no timelines, or they alluded to that. On that, I have a question for ARCH, for Mr. Lattanzio and Ms. Joffe.

You mentioned in your opening remarks the importance of timelines and benchmarks. Do you have suggestions of what those timelines or benchmarks should be?

(1015)

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

We have some examples, but I would just like to start, if I may, by talking a little bit more about what flowed from the earlier session in terms of “progressive realization”. We understand it to be much more rigorous than what was discussed at that previous session. When we think about examples of timelines, we’re really thinking about how we break down the various pieces. As complex as this piece of legislation is, we’re really thinking about creating a structure whereby we can start parcelling off and achieving certain benchmarks.

Some examples would be just around the standards development process—having some timelines, some measurements, and some benchmarks for regulated entities to develop and implement their accessibility plans. Those are just a few examples, but we can really break that down and identify various other things.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Even with regard to having the accessibility commissioner and CASDO established, and the timelines with that, with the way the legislation sits right now, once this receives royal assent, what happens?

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe (Staff Lawyer, ARCH Disability Law Centre):

As my colleague stated, we certainly support the calls from the other disability organizations that have appeared before the committee that of course there should be timelines attached to part 5 of the bill for bringing in the regulations and standards, for CASDO being set up, and for the standards development process.

I think what we’ve been trying to emphasize as well, in addition to those standards, which are crucial for ensuring that we can monitor progress towards meeting accessibility requirements, is that we also need to insert benchmarks and some kind of timeline process within the development of the standards process in order to ensure that we do reach markers for progressive realization of the standards and the ongoing work toward improving meeting the standards.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Do you think that having some type of timelines or benchmarks while doing this piece by piece, step by step, would achieve the balance? The trend I’m seeing or hearing from people within the disability community is that they expect timelines to be in this. A lot of the organizations I’ve met with said that this should have been dealt with yesterday, not today, just as a whole.

I understand that we’re moving forward. Things are evolving. Things change over time. I understand that. I’m just concerned that if this legislation has no timelines, no benchmarks, what type of message would that send to people in the disability community?

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

I would be concerned about that message. I think overall the concern, as you mentioned, is that as of day one, when this bill receives royal assent, there isn’t anything else required.

In addressing the concern about the progression of technology, for example, or how we understand disability and how it evolves, our response would be that standards would have to be updated as we go, and that these updates would fit within whatever timeline is set out. There are ways of dealing with that kind of progression and change.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Perfect. Thank you.

I have one other question regarding complaints. We know—and I believe you touched on this—that we have four administrative bodies that would be responsible for dealing with accessibility-related complaints. These would include the accessibility commissioner, the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board. I’m wondering what would happen, theoretically and hypothetically, if an individual were to bring a complaint to the wrong administrative body. What would happen if, for example, somebody brought a complaint to the accessibility commissioner when it should have instead been filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency?

(1020)

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

That’s an excellent question. I don’t think that we know right now what would happen in the absence of regulations and without sufficient experience in how the process would roll out within the various agencies.

What I will say is that in doing our analysis of the bill and in coming up with recommendations, we consulted with our members, with disability communities and with a number of the other groupings of disability organizations that have appeared before the committee and will appear before the committee later this week. We heard consistently across all those consultations that there is great concern within the community about having these various agencies deal with complaints and about the additional access-to-justice barriers that this would create, especially when disabled people already experience a number of barriers to accessing justice and accessing extremely complicated service delivery systems and programming systems. People are very concerned about that.

From a legal point of view, we are concerned about the ability of the other bodies charged with addressing these complaints to apply a robust human rights analysis in conjunction with a full understanding of disability accessibility and human rights. We’ve made a number of recommendations in our other materials for ensuring that either complaints all go to the accessibility commissioner, a body that we would anticipate would have a deep understanding of human rights and can do justice to those kinds of complaints, or, if the complaints are going to continue across multiple agencies, that those agencies have obligations in the legislation to apply a much more robust human rights analysis than they currently do.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Morrissey is next, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey (Egmont, Lib.):

Thank you, Chair.

My question is to ARCH. An earlier witness made the statement that at no time will Canada be barrier-free, which then leads to a question we’ve heard from a number of stakeholders, namely, that there is no deadline to make Canada fully accessible. Should the goal be to always strive to achieve a more accessible Canada, or should the goal be to achieve a static standard of accessibility? I’d be interested in your observation.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

I don’t think that having timelines means we are taking the position that we are accepting a static accessibility goal. We think about timelines just as a way to move us forward into whatever evolution.

I think we also need to remember that this bill is not going to do it all. This isn’t the one law that will make inclusion real for people with disabilities. This isn’t the law that will make full citizenship real. This is one important piece—one piece—and we need to understand that we have a lot of different layers. We have an incredibly aspirational convention that we’ve ratified. We have the charter, of course, and we have the Canadian Human Rights Act. I think this committee has heard a lot about how the Canadian Human Rights Act, like those types of laws, is a piece of legislation that is reactive, and that this bill is proactive.

I want to challenge that a bit, because I think that in order to really understand where this bill fits into the larger landscape, we need to acknowledge that the human rights legislation is actually not just reactive. There are a lot of things from a rights perspective that really strive to encourage government and the private sector to push for accessibility through a non-discrimination lens. When you think about that with the charter, and then you add this piece, you start to really understand the importance of some of the recommendations we’re making around ensuring that one piece of law doesn’t impact the other, but rather complements the other.

I hope that answers your question.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

It spoke to the global issue, but it didn’t get back to what the target should be: to achieve a more accessible Canada or to achieve a static accessibility goal.

I have another question for ARCH. This legislation, as was referenced a number of times, takes on an access approach versus an anti-discriminatory route. Could you comment?

(1025)

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

Sure. I guess this—

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Other jurisdictions have used an anti-discriminatory route rather than the focus on access.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

Again, if we think about how these different laws operate, we see that we have a more individually driven system through an anti-discrimination approach, whereby you have a complainant identifying an issue of discrimination and bringing it forward through a process. It’s somewhat piecemeal. It’s embedded within the facts of that scenario, within the facts of that complaint. The attempt here is that we are thinking about it more globally. We are thinking about a level of minimum standards.

Again, I don’t want to treat them as different. I think they need to really work together for this to really work. Think about how we work through human rights complaints. Obviously we deal with the facts before us, but we think about the systemic implementation of some of the remedies. We think about the impact. Sometimes we deal with issues that this act may very well deal with. There are a lot of those commonalities.

Again, I fear to draw clear distinctions between the two. There is overlap, and there is a real need to make sure they work together.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Did your group participate in the consultation process?

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

Yes, we did.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

In that consultation process, did you comment on or question the situation that I just posed to you?

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

We did. During the consultation process, we made comments and provided information around trying to think about this legislation as not only focused on accessibility but really focused on rights for persons with disabilities, in terms of thinking about persons with disabilities as rights holders and about the CRPD implementation kind of legislation.

We wrote a couple of papers in the pre-bill consultation period that tried to think about and put forth some recommendations around how this legislation could implement a number of rights that are in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and implement those much more fully into Canadian domestic law. We can provide those to you if that would be of interest after today.

Yes, when Bill C-81 was getting going, I think we definitely were thinking of this legislation much more as rights-conferring legislation, rather than focusing only on accessibility.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Hardcastle is next, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for the testimony and for pointing out the importance of progressive realization of timelines.

I think ARCH will probably have the first comments to make on this. With regard to Bill C-81, the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation is the federal government. I want to ask about independence from the government. Under the bill right now, there could be some perceived weakness in independence. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

Thank you for the question.

Certainly we would agree that independence is crucial for key components of this bill. It is crucial, especially for CASDO, to ensure that the proposed accessibility standards are as robust and progressive as they can possibly be, and really address the needs of a cross-section of persons with disabilities without being encumbered by the government of the day or the particular politics of the day. That’s an area where we have made recommendations for enhancing independence.

We’ve also made recommendations around independence in relation to other key accessibility components in the bill, and we’re happy to provide those to the committee. Those are contained in our written submission to the committee.

(1030)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Does anybody else want to talk about independence, and where these agencies should report?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Shortliffe:

From the CRTC’s perspective, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. We will of course implement whatever legislation is passed; we’re not going to take a view on whether it should be with us or not. The CRTC has always zealously guarded its independence. Numerous governments of the day could testify that they haven’t always been delighted with CRTC decisions.

We are working with the other agencies to say that we’ve seen the thrust of the bill and we will implement what it has passed, but, for example, we’re forming working groups to make sure there’s a “one front door” approach. If a complaint came into the CRTC that belonged to the transportation agency, we wouldn’t simply send them on their way. We’ll process it the moment it comes in.

I think, as independent tribunals, we can maintain our independence from the government, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also work together efficiently and effectively to make sure that the intent of this bill is always respected. I believe that we have shown in the past that we can be independent. I also believe that means we can work together for the benefit of persons with disabilities.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you.

Let’s go back to the concern we heard from Mr. Shortliffe about exemptions. A big concern is that there are exemptions without any reason having to be given. We talk about this bill moving us into an era of culture change, of human rights for persons living with disabilities, but there’s no appeal process. Let’s talk about if, worst-case scenario, the exemptions stay for these federal jurisdictions. Can we flesh out the idea of reporting, an appeal mechanism, a rationale for it?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Shortliffe:

It’s important to remember that from the perspective of the CRTC, we already have established procedures. There’s nothing that goes to the CRTC that isn’t based on a public record or a public hearing comment, which includes comment by disability groups. Once we make decisions, they can be appealed. They can be appealed to cabinet in the case of a telecom for a review on variance.

On the broadcasting side, they can be appealed to the Federal Court. In the issues that have been raised, the CRTC operates on the public record and on the basis of public testimony. We do not issue exemptions issued by a star chamber with no public record and without—

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Absolutely, and that’s all good. The track record of the CRTC is all public knowledge.

We’ll give the last little bit, then, to ARCH.

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

We addressed this in our opening remarks, but I think our recommendation has been to have no exemptions. The policy reason for that is, as Mr. Lattanzio said, that accessibility is everyone’s responsibility, and no one should be exempt from moving towards a more inclusive and accessible Canada.

You asked about keeping the exemptions, and we’ve made some recommendations for tailoring those exemptions much more specifically to the particular requirements of the organization that is asking for an exemption. We would say that those exemptions should be granted only in the very narrowest of circumstances. They should be time-limited. There should be a review process in place so that as the organization works towards meeting its accessibility requirements, if and when that exemption can be lifted, it is lifted, and before the decision is made to grant that exemption, there should be a process in which persons with disabilities can engage to provide their input and perspective about whether that exemption is actually required and what the impact of that will be on the community.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Sangha, go ahead, please.

(1035)

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.):

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thanks, everyone, for coming today and making your presentations. They’re really very educational.

I’m from Brampton Centre. There are people whom I generally sit with and talk to and do some consultations with regarding the things I’m coming to committee with and asking questions about.

I had a chance to talk to Ms. Bains. She has an accessibility professional certification. She is an expert in digital accessibility and she advises teams and management about creating inclusive accessible online services.

Being an expert in this, she says she has no grudges. She has good facilities that are being provided through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Things are favourable, but sometimes she says there are disappointments.

She says there is a complaint process that disabled people sometimes have to go through. They have to hire their own lawyer. The other side’s organizations have their firms and big lawyers, and the disabled person’s side has very big problems getting suitable results from the tribunals. Being a lawyer, I also have that concern.

Ms. Joffe, my question is to you. Being a house lawyer, what do you think of this proposition? What is your reply to how to tackle these complaints?

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

How do I address the issue about people with…?

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

I mean the complaints about accessibility for these people.

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

We experience every day in our clinic that people with disabilities are very disempowered. There are many complaint processes because, as you said, the respondents or the organizations that are being complained about usually have a lot more resources, and they have lawyers and in-house counsel, and they can bring a lot of resources to bear in defending themselves.

When we’re looking at the bill and how this bill sets up a complaint mechanism to the accessibility commissioner and to other bodies, but specifically to the accessibility commissioner, it appears to us that the process is intended to be relatively quick and non-legalistic, and to provide a remedy or a result in a manner that doesn’t create these power imbalances in which the other side has a lot of lawyers and the person with the disability is really at a disadvantage.

I think if we can work to get a complaint process that does create a bit more of a power balance and that can really support people with disabilities meaningfully participating in that process, and if that process can be really accessible, then hopefully there will be a chance to avoid some of those concerns you have raised.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Taking into comparison the Canadian Human Rights Commission Tribunal and the new set-up that will now be under Bill C-81, do you think that the process under Bill C-81 will be more favourable to complainants or will it be more tedious?

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

Yes. It’s very—

[Expand]

The Chair:

Give a quick response, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

It’s very difficult to say, because we don’t know what that process looks like right now, so I’m not really able to answer as to whether it’s going to be more favourable to people or not. What will determine whether it’s going to be more favourable is how accessible the process is, how much it allows people with disabilities to meaningfully understand and participate in the process, what kinds of results or remedies we get, how well trained the decision-makers are, and how deeply they understand human rights and accessibility issues.

(1040)

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Is the dispute resolution process the same as this one? Is there already a dispute resolution process in existence?

[Expand]

The Chair:

Answer very quickly, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

Is there a dispute…?

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Is there a dispute resolution process already in existence to resolve complaints?

[Expand]

Ms. Kerri Joffe:

I think some of the issues that people with disabilities will complain about to the accessibility commissioner may also be able to be brought to the Canadian Human Rights Commission under their legislation, the Canadian Human Rights Act.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Long is next, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

This is for ARCH and Mr. Lattanzio. I want to talk about the “no wrong door” part of the legislation. Obviously if you go to a department, you don’t just get bumped to another department; there’s onus on the department. Would you not agree that’s a step in the right direction?

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

It’s certainly better than…. If that’s going to be the system, then we want to make sure that the complaint lands where it needs to land. I think the real issue is that when you have an overly complex system, it’s best to remedy that system, as opposed to creating band-aid solutions.

As we discussed earlier, we already have various incredibly complex tribunal processes that persons with disabilities really struggle through. There is a lack of legal representation and a lack of legal aid that covers a lot of these areas like human rights, for example. It’s really difficult for us to say that this is a solution.

We also might think about, from an accessibility perspective and an access to justice perspective, what it means if someone can make a complaint to a body, and it’s up to that body, up to a bureaucratic decision, where that complaint goes. I think we would have some very serious concerns around the lack of control and the disempowerment that this mechanism plays on the complainant.

Again,if we had a system in which we had assurances of legal support, for example, I think my answer might be a little bit different—probably not—but there are no supports in place here.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you for that.

I also want to get your opinion on the CASDO board, diversity on the board, and subclause 23(2). Is there a way to amend that, potentially, that allows for more diversity on the board in the disability community?

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Lattanzio:

Certainly we would suggest, as do our colleagues in disability communities, that we would want as much representation as possible given the diversity, intersectionality and multiple disabilities.

I want to make a point that I haven’t heard yet. We talk a lot about the makeup of the CASDO board, but we haven’t really talked about the makeup of the committees that are doing a lot of that work in standards development. I think we have a concern that there hasn’t really been a lot of attention to ensuring representation on those committees.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have about a minute left.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Well, if we have a minute, does anyone else want to comment on the makeup of the CASDO board? Should each disability community be represented as best possible? Should it be 50% plus 1 or 70%? There are those who say 100%.

Mr. Shortliffe, would you comment?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Shortliffe:

As a regulatory body, we try to avoid commenting on the government’s decisions on the compositions of boards and other regulatory bodies. Certainly we believe there should be strong representation, but we don’t have a specific formula that we would advise.

In our case, when we’re doing consultations, we consult regularly with groups. Whether they’re national like CNIB and the Neil Squire Society or the alliance for deaf Canadians in Alberta, we see that having different points of view represented is key, because as with any Canadians, disabled Canadians have a variety of different views. It’s not a monolith. The greater diversity you have, the more informed your decisions will be.

Having said that, we have no specific formula to propose.

(1045)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

I’m afraid that’s going to have to be the last word.

Not only are we coming up to our time but we can see that the bells are ringing for votes.

I want to remind committee members that some unique times are associated with the next few meetings.

We are going to be meeting tomorrow evening, October 24, from 6:45 to 8:45. Then on the 25th we will be here very early, at 8 a.m., so it will be a late night and an early morning.

I want to thank the witnesses for being here today to contribute to our study on Bill C-81.

As well, thank you to my colleagues and all the people who made today possible.

The meeting is adjourned.



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Transcript of the October 22, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 5 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Transcript of the October 22, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 5 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Notice of meeting

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 116

Monday, October 22, 2018, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Witnesses

Canadian Transportation Agency

  • Scott Streiner, Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Vancouver Airport Authority

  • Craig Richmond, President and Chief Executive Officer (by videoconference: Vancouver, British Columbia)

VIA Rail Canada Inc.

  • Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and Chief Executive Officer
  • John-Nicolas Morello, Senior Legal Counsel, Legal and Corporative Affairs

7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Witnesses

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association

  • Robert W.J. Ghiz, President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Ursula Grom, Senior Director, Industry Affairs

Communication Disabilities Access Canada

  • Barbara Collier, Executive Director

Council of Canadians with Disabilities

  • Jewelles Smith, Chairperson (by videoconference: Surrey, British Columbia)
  • Steven Estey, Government and Community Relations Officer

Clerk of the Committee

Stephanie Feldman (613-996-1542)

2018-10-19 2:35 p.m.

Minutes of Proceedings

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 116

Monday, October 22, 2018, 6:00 p.m. to 8:03 p.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Presiding

Bryan May, Chair (Liberal)

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Members of the Committee present

Liberal

Conservative

Acting Members present

In attendance

Library of Parliament

  • Mayra Perez-Leclerc, Analyst

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Witnesses

Canadian Transportation Agency

  • Scott Streiner, Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Vancouver Airport Authority

  • Craig Richmond, President and Chief Executive Officer

VIA Rail Canada Inc.

  • Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and Chief Executive Officer
  • John-Nicolas Morello, Senior Legal Counsel, Legal and Corporative Affairs

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association

  • Robert W.J. Ghiz, President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Ursula Grom, Senior Director, Industry Affairs

Communication Disabilities Access Canada

  • Barbara Collier, Executive Director

Council of Canadians with Disabilities

  • Jewelles Smith, Chairperson
  • Steven Estey, Government and Community Relations Officer

Pursuant to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the Committee resumed consideration of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Craig Richmond, by videoconference from Vancouver, British Columbia, Scott Streiner and Yves Desjardins-Siciliano made statements and answered questions.

At 7:01 p.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 7:08 p.m., the sitting resumed.

Jewelles Smith, by videoconference from Surrey, British Columbia, Steven Estey, Robert W.J. Ghiz and Barbara Collier made statements and answered questions.

At 8:03 p.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.

Stephanie Feldman

Clerk of the Committee

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

EVIDENCE

Monday, October 22, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(1800)

[English]

[Expand]

The Chair (Mr. Bryan May (Cambridge, Lib.)):

I call the meeting to order.

Good evening, everyone.

First of all, I want to thank everybody for joining us this evening. We are going to continue with the study of Bill C-81. I have a bit of a preamble here, so please bear with me.

Welcome to today’s meeting on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The objective of today’s meeting is to continue the committee’s thorough review of the bill.

I would like to take a moment to remind both those participating in the proceedings and those observing the proceedings in person and on video that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for the full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study. As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways.

This includes providing sign language interpretation and near-real-time closed captioning in the room. Please note that both American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language are being offered to those in our audience. Those who would like to watch the American Sign Language interpretation should please sit on the benches to my left. Those who would like to watch the Quebec Sign Language interpretation should please sit on the benches to my right. In addition, please note that the first few rows of benches have been reserved for those who wish to avail themselves of these interpretation services.

Screens displaying the near-real-time closed captioning have also been set up. The English text is to my left, and the French text is to my right. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being videorecorded for the eventual broadcast of the meeting on ParlVu via the committees website.

In light of these arrangements, the committee would ask that if you need to leave the room during the meeting, please do not walk in front of the sign language interpreters. Instead, please use the extremities of the room. In addition, we would ask that those in the room remain seated as much as possible during the meeting so that everyone in attendance can clearly see the sign language interpretations.

Finally, if a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of the staff or the committee clerk.

I will also ask the witnesses present today or appearing via video conference and all of my colleagues to keep your speech at a slow pace to allow the interpreters to do their job and be able to keep up. If at any time I see that anybody may be going a little bit too fast, I will interrupt, so I apologize in advance. We want to make sure that your words are captured by the interpreters throughout the meeting.

I’m very pleased to welcome our first panel here this evening. From the Vancouver Airport Authority, we have Mr. Craig Richmond, President and Chief Executive Officer, joining us via video conference from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Can you hear me okay, sir?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond (President and Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Airport Authority):

Yes, sir.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Excellent.

We also have in attendance here today, from the Canadian Transportation Agency, Mr. Scott Streiner, Chair and Chief Executive Officer. From VIA Rail Canada, we have Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and Chief Executive Officer, and John-Nicolas Morello, Senior Legal Counsel, Legal and Corporate Affairs.

Welcome to all of you.

We’re going to start this first round with five-minute statements, and then we’ll go to rounds of questions.

Mr. Richmond, the first five-minute statement is all yours.

(1805)

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the committee for inviting me to speak today.

I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to talk about accessibility. I’d like to provide you with a broad perspective on behalf of the airport community, because it’s an important topic that will impact us all.

First I’d like to quickly give some context. As you may know, most Canadian airports are managed by local, not-for-profit organizations. Under this unique model, we do not receive any money from the government. Instead, we operate as private companies, having to compete and innovate to stay ahead of the competition. However, we are not beholden to shareholders. We reinvest all profits back into our airports, which allows for constant improvements. Underpinning this is a commitment to provide an exceptional experience for everyone.

YVR has become a model of accessibility and inclusion because we believe that everyone who wants to fly should be able to fly, and everyone who wants to work at the airport should have that opportunity. We have spent the last 25 years making our airport barrier-free.

For instance, we have universal food and service counters that welcome people using wheeled mobility devices. We use low-resistance carpeting on our floors for easier movement and greater stability. We work with a range of partners to ensure that YVR meets high standards through terminal audits. We host experiential tours to test our facilities. This includes a tour for families living with autism and a tour for those living with spinal cord injuries.

We also address non-visible disabilities. For instance, we just introduced our Fly Calm initiative with the Canadian Mental Health Association. This program helps travellers de-stress prior to air travel.

In addition to making our airport barrier-free, we also strive for employment equity. We’ve been named one of Canada’s best diversity employers, and just recently the federal government has recognized our achievement with the Sector Distinction award and the Employment Equity Champion award.

We got to this point because we set equity targets, closely monitor them, and take action. Currently women make up 42% of our workforce; visible minorities make up 33%; aboriginal peoples make up almost 2%; and persons with disabilities make up 3%. In fact, persons with disabilities made up 4.8% of our hires this year. Yes, we have work to do, but we’re heading in the right direction.

We also have a large range of programs to promote a diverse workplace, and we have overhauled our procurement process, looking at how we can reward companies that value diversity. We’re doing a lot, and of course there’s always a lot more to do. That brings me to Bill C-81.

Overall, we’re very happy to see a bill of this nature, and we believe it’s about time. The preceding was to let you know that we are not afraid of the bill. We’re ready.

However, I’m worried that the bill is a bit heavy-handed. It also presents possibly significant administrative burdens, and I believe we’ll run into some major issues in applying standards.

Additional feedback and reporting requirements in the bill would add a considerable burden, which is even more challenging when we consider the differences among airports. There are a lot of small airports that don’t have the resources that we do. These airports would be much better off spending funds to install accessibility ramps than producing reports. For them, it’s often one or the other.

This brings me to the proposed Canadian accessibility standards development organization. Do we really need this to do what’s needed? My concern is duplication and redundancy with what other organizations are already doing in the built environment.

How can we leverage what already exists, rather than creating another body that will bring more costs and bureaucracy? An alternative would be to bring in organizations that are already doing accreditation. It could start with a general visit and not a compliance audit. For instance, we just got certified at YVR, the Vancouver airport, by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

I also agree that it’s important to set standards and hold everyone accountable. Ultimately, of course, the way to ensure that is through fines. However, fines should be the last resort.

I’m co-chair of the Presidents Group, a network of business leaders in Vancouver committed to improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities in B.C. One reason the group was formed was to find less punitive ways to get organizations to comply. My question is, how much of a hard stance will we take on fines? Is there a grace period to implement the measures needed? If so, how long is it?

The reality is that there will always be areas in which we will be underperforming. We are never fully compliant. Nobody is. We’re always evolving our buildings, so grandfathering is very much an issue. We’re committed to getting it right, but the solutions are often expensive and time-consuming.

In conclusion, overall we support the bill and think it will go a long way to removing barriers and improving accessibility across Canada. I look forward to working with you to further improve our accessibility, and thank you for providing me with the opportunity to voice YVR’s perspective today.

(1810)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much, sir.

Before we go on, I remind you to keep your pace a little bit slow. That would be great. I have not been very heavy-handed this session with the timing, so if you go over a little bit, it’s not the end of the world. Just keep that in mind.

Next, from the Canadian Transportation Agency is Mr. Scott Streiner, Chair and Chief Executive Officer.

The next five minutes are all yours, sir.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner (Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Transportation Agency):

Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the committee for inviting me here today.

[Translation]

It’s a pleasure to be here today to provide an overview of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) accessibility-related responsibilities and activities as part of the committee’s hearings into Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

[English]

The Canadian Transportation Agency, CTA, has been around since 1904. We are Canada’s longest-standing independent expert tribunal and regulator. In 1988 our enabling legislation was amended to add accessible transportation as one of our core mandates. As the Supreme Court of Canada said in a 2007 ruling upholding one of our decisions, “Parliament charged the Agency with the public responsibility for assessing barriers [because the] Agency uniquely has the specialized expertise to balance the requirements of those with disabilities with the practical realities…of a federal transportation system.”

Ensuring that Canadians with disabilities are able to travel independently and with dignity is in the CTA’s DNA. We all know that transportation services are integral to modern life whether we’re going to visit family, see new places or conduct business. As the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states, transportation services to which persons with disabilities have equal access “enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life”.

The CTA’s vision is to make Canada’s national transportation system the most accessible in the world. We know that this is an ambitious vision, but we believe that in a country whose fundamental values include equality and inclusion we should aspire to nothing less.

[Translation]

We’re taking major steps to translate that vision into reality. Let me briefly highlight four examples.

First, in 2016, we established the CTA’s centre of expertise for accessible transportation, which serves as the hub of activity within and beyond the CTA for all matters related to the removal of barriers to persons with disabilities in the national transportation system.

[English]

Our second action relates to regulation.

Following two years of intensive consultations with disability rights organizations and industry, we’re drafting new accessible transportation regulations that will integrate two existing regulations and six voluntary codes into a single robust, binding and enforceable instrument. The consultative process included multiple discussions with our accessibility advisory committee, which brings together 19 disability rights groups plus representatives from the air, passenger rail, and interprovincial bus and ferry sectors. We hope to have the new accessible transportation regulations ready for publication in the Canada Gazette in early 2019.

Third, we’ve organized multi-stakeholder discussions, including a working group focused on the significant and growing challenges associated with the transportation and storage of wheelchairs and other mobility aids on aircraft. That working group’s recommendations are expected to be ready by the spring.

Finally, together with our partners in Global Affairs Canada and Transport Canada, we’re spearheading efforts to give accessible air travel more profile within the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO. One of our goals is make sure that accessible air travel figures prominently on ICAO’s agenda during its triennial general conference next September in Montreal.

(1815)

[Translation]

We’re also getting ready to implement Bill C-81, should it be passed.

We’re putting the pieces in place for the launch of a proactive education and compliance monitoring and enforcement program within 60 days of royal assent.

[English]

We’re revising the standard wording that we apply to accessibility adjudications to reflect the language of Bill C-81 and we’ve held discussions with the other implementation bodies named in the bill to begin working toward coherent, well-aligned approaches to the delivery of our respective accessibility mandates.

Accessible transportation is a fundamental human right. The CTA is committed to ensuring that this right be realized in practice through clarity of purpose and concrete action.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to answering your questions.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much, sir.

Now from VIA Rail Canada, we have Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and Chief Executive Officer, and John-Nicolas Morello, Senior Legal Counsel, Legal and Corporative Affairs.

You have five minutes, sir.

[Translation]

[Expand]

Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano (President and Chief Executive Officer, VIA Rail Canada Inc.):

Good evening, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

Thank you for inviting VIA Rail—my colleague John-Nicolas Morello and me—to present our position on this ambitious bill and, if necessary, on accessibility.

VIA Rail did not wait for this bill to be introduced to serve more than 4.4 million passengers, many of whom have some kind of disability affecting their mobility, vision, hearing, and so forth. We offer the required services for inter-city transport in Canada that is accessible to everyone, from sea to sea. When one in seven Canadians has a disability, if we are to achieve a society without barriers, it is essential to provide access to efficient and safe transportation between cities, for those travelling on business, for family reasons, tourism or simply to enjoy Canada’s bucolic landscapes.

[English]

Furthermore, not only are we confident we can meet the requirements of the proposed legislation, but we have been acting with the intention of doing what that act purports to do.

[Translation]

Indeed, inclusive and sustainable mobility is central to VIA Rail’s mandate, which is to better serve Canadians.

[English]

We’ve taken action by anticipating the mobility needs of people with disabilities and increasing the space available to them over the past few years. More than 1,450 accessible spaces have been added on board our trains since 2014. At present our capacity to accommodate Canadians with disabilities is already six times greater than it was just a few years ago.

To ensure that our services go beyond what is already in place, thanks to the Government of Canada VIA Rail has invested more than $162 million since 2010 in the following areas: on our trains we just recently awarded a contract for $54 million to make 17 cars fully accessible on the oldest generation of VIA Rail trains, which cover the country from one ocean to the other all the way to Churchill, Manitoba; we’ve consulted groups in devising the new functionality that makes those cars accessible; and as well, again, thanks to budget 2018, we are in the midst of procuring a totally new fleet to serve the business corridor between Quebec City and Windsor, where we currently serve over 4.5 million Canadians. That fleet will be totally accessible.

I want to salute in this room today Bob Brown, a member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. He and his colleagues from the council and other organizations representing people with disabilities have met with VIA to set out the specifications required to adapt to their disabilities, and as well have been part of the visits we’ve made to manufacturers to ensure the product that is being designed meets those requirements.

Here in Ottawa over the last two years we’ve spent $20 million to retrofit the Ottawa station, which we want to see as a model of universal access not only here in VIA Rail’s network but around the world. We are currently working with the Union Internationale des Chemins de fer to devise a way for people with blindness or other sight disabilities to find their way from their front door all the way to their train seat without the aid of other individuals, providing them not only with mobility but freedom.

The introduction of a continuous improvement process at VIA to ensure greater accessibility is part of our DNA, to use Scott Streiner’s expression. We’ve already become, in our view, a world leader in accessibility. As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, as I said, we’re just about to procure a new fleet that will be 21st century in terms of accessibility.

We’ve also proposed to build a dedicated infrastructure for VIA Rail services between Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. That high-frequency rail network would also provide universal accessibility not only on its cars but at all of its stations.

(1820)

Because it will be fully accessible and fully available to VIA Rail services, it will provide three times the number of frequencies that we have today on freight networks, making greater accessibility in a broader sense available to all Canadians.

[Translation]

Lastly, as an employer, VIA Rail understands the importance of integrating people with disabilities into our workforce. That is why, as president and CEO of Via Rail, my objectives include recruiting a certain number of persons with disabilities among our new hires. Right now, 3% of our employees have a disability. This year, we want to maintain that percentage.

In fact, among my performance objectives for 2018, I was aiming for more than 32% of employees from diversity communities, including persons with disabilities, and we are already at 42%!

[English]

I like to under-promise and over-deliver.

[Translation]

In other words, this year alone, VIA Rail has hired 12 new employees who have a disability.

In short, at VIA Rail, we recognize that we are an important pillar of inclusion and sustainable mobility, and that all Canadians cannot be truly equal unless they can fully enjoy their freedom as Canadians, not only in their thoughts, but also in their mobility.

That is why we are committed not just to meeting the objectives of this very important bill you are discussing today, but in fact to exceeding them.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

[English]

Up first for questions, we have MP Finley for six minutes, please.

[Expand]

Hon. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Over the last few years, I spent about two of those years travelling across the country with the aid of at least a cane and often a walker or a wheelchair. One thing I noticed in particular was the dramatic difference in accessibility in different airports.

For example, here in Ottawa, if anyone tries to drop you off at the airport by car and then go in to get a wheelchair for you, the parking police come along to give you a ticket. If you go to Toronto, the wheelchairs are at the very back of the terminal, and it’s the same deal. You’re not allowed to stop and wait while somebody goes and gets your wheelchair.

In other places, the airlines say that the delivery of the service is up to them, and they’ll come right to the curb and pick you up.

There’s no consistency. Would this bill change that situation? If so, how?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

Mr. Chair, perhaps I can provide an initial response.

The issue of wheelchair services is one that we at the Canadian Transportation Agency have seen crop up again and again. Of all the different issues around which we receive accessibility-related complaints, it’s the most common topic.

Also, as I noted in my opening remarks, we recognize that the transportation of wheelchairs and other mobility devices on aircraft is becoming a more challenging issue. That’s because there’s a positive development, in that wheelchairs are becoming larger, more technologically complex, more customized and better at meeting the needs of the individual traveller, but that means it can sometimes be more challenging to transport them and to store them on aircraft. That’s the reason we set up a multi-stakeholder working group to deal with this challenge.

The member asked about whether positive change is coming. What I can say is that the CTA has been working for several years now on its new accessible transportation regulations, which will include a section on the obligations of airports and airlines in respect of the provision of wheelchair services. Those provisions should help to ensure more consistent service delivery and a better quality of service delivery. I think we’re confident, after two years of consultations and development, that these new regulations will help to make a positive difference in the area that you’ve identified as one of concern.

(1825)

[Expand]

Hon. Diane Finley:

It’s totally inconsistent right now. You just never know what to expect.

Mr. Richmond, I don’t know if you have any comments on that; I know that you’ve worked in many different airports around the world. If so, I welcome them.

Also, I’m wondering, because you did refer to smaller airports, what you anticipate would be the impact on these airports of the unfunded mandate that would be inherent in the passage of Bill C-81.

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

Thank you very much.

As Mr. Streiner said, it’s a growing issue, especially as we have an aging population all over the world. It’s not uncommon for us now to have requests for 50, 75, or 100 wheelchairs to meet airplanes from certain areas of the world. We have seen as many as 150 requests from one aircraft, which is more than all the wheelchairs we have in the airport.

We are working at the airport to try to grapple with this problem as well. In Vancouver, there are places where you can drop off or be picked up that are very accessible, with wheelchairs nearby.

I wanted to highlight my colleagues who are in smaller airports, but not because I don’t think that they do a good job; in fact, I think in a lot of the smaller ones, it’s much easier to do a good job. Over the past two decades, as I look at airports from coast to coast, they are much more accessible than they were in the past. Everybody has incorporated accessibility into their standards.

You’re right, though: it is not as consistent as it might be across the country.

[Expand]

Hon. Diane Finley:

What do you see as the financial impact of this unfunded mandate, particularly on smaller airports?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

That’s a good question, and that’s why I raised it.

For the most part, I think that anybody who has built a new terminal—and most airports in Canada are new—have conformed to CSA-B651, which is a very good built environment code.

I don’t know what will happen if airports are mandated to be standing at the curb with wheelchairs. That, to me, could be quite a serious cost for smaller airports, and large airports as well.

Also, I think that whatever we can do to make the reporting requirements under this bill as reasonable as possible would go a long way…. Many of the small airports in Canada run with a staff of 20 people. They do all kinds of jobs, and having to add more reports adds more cost and more difficulties for small airports.

I’m not worried so much at the large airport, but obviously we wouldn’t want it to be onerous.

[Expand]

Hon. Diane Finley:

Thank you very much.

Mr. Streiner, you said that you want Canada to be the best in the world, which suggests that we’re not right now. I’d ask who is the best, and what do they do that’s so terrific and to which we should aspire?

[Expand]

The Chair:

Give a very brief answer, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

My very brief answer is that different countries are very successful in different areas. I didn’t mean to suggest, Mr. Chair, that Canada isn’t a leader in some respects in the area of accessibility, but there certainly are other countries that we can learn from.

We can learn from both the successes and the failures, for example, of a piece of legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act. That legislation contributed to significant improvement in accessibility in some areas, but there were also some challenges with its implementation.

We try to learn from the lessons of every jurisdiction that has attempted to advance this issue.

(1830)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now we go over to MP Hogg for six minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg (South Surrey—White Rock, Lib.):

Thank you to all of the witnesses.

You all seem to have a positive outlook in terms of the directions you’re taking and are feeling quite comfortable with that.

I’m following up on MP Finley’s comment or question with respect to referencing. I was wondering how you were going to tell. She stole the question right out of my mouth when she asked about your statement that you wanted to be the best in the world, which clearly we’d like to be.

You’ve referenced some areas that we are worse in and some that we’re better in. What are the areas we need to look at, and what impact would this bill have in terms of being able to turn those around?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

In respect to transportation, we have a number of areas in Canada where we are clearly ahead of the curve. For example, we were one of the first countries to implement mandatory training requirements in the personnel training regulations that we currently have at the Canadian Transportation Agency. While those regulations aren’t perfect, they drew the attention of service providers to the need to ensure not only that the built environment is accessible and not only that there’s the right equipment, but that personnel are trained in order to interact appropriately with and provide services to people with disabilities.

In other areas we face some significant challenges. What I would say is that there are a few ingredients, I think, to advancing this agenda. One of them is to have a set of modern regulations that draw upon Canada’s experience over the last 25 years since the CTA first got its accessibility mandate and, as I said in response to the member’s question, on best practices in other countries. Our work on those regulations is well advanced.

Bill C-81 will reinforce our regulation-making power, but we already have that power, and it’s pursuant to the current power that we’ve been working on these regulations.

Regulations by themselves are a start, but they’re not enough. There are other ingredients required. We need a strong, proactive compliance assurance program. At the CTA, we’ve been working on creating a program that is risk-based so that we will target our efforts in those areas where the risk of non-compliance or the impact of non-compliance is highest. Bill C-81 adds to the CTA’s compliance tool kit. It gives our compliance enforcement officers additional tools to get out there and to ensure that people are complying.

I think that the third leg, very briefly, is information. It’s making sure that both persons with disabilities and service providers know what their rights and responsibilities are. In addition to a compliance program, the CTA is planning to undertake, should the bill be passed, a very proactive information program for those communities.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

I’m assuming that there is some type of concurrence around the world with respect to what best practices are so that we know what we’re implementing.

If I can quickly go to Craig Richmond, I want to get it on the record to say hi to your dad, who was the Speaker of the House when I was in the legislature, and to your sister, who was my ministerial assistant for a number of years. Please pass along my best wishes to them.

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

Yes, sir.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

I haven’t been able to find Valerie’s number recently.

You made reference to thinking that going to legislation was maybe a bit premature, that there were a lot of processes by which we might look at changing and shifting accessibility inclusion, and I assume that you’re talking about how we change the culture and how the culture starts to change.

Can you talk about the changes that have been made at YVR with respect to the culture, particularly in response to what happens with staff?

I know that in some areas I’ve talked to, the staff have been reluctant to respond to some of those initiatives. What is the process of the culture changing so that there’s not a disparity between the culture, values and principles and how those are reflected in the legislation?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

I’m not opposed to the legislation. As Mr. Streiner said, there’s a lot of information out there. Compliance audits are very heavy-handed from the very beginning, and I just hope that it doesn’t come across as heavy-handed, especially at airports that may be a little bit behind.

I think we also have to think about the fact that our building, for example, is the largest building in B.C., and it’s constantly growing. We’re going to need some grandfathering, because we can’t constantly keep it up to the latest standards. We have that in many other aspects of the building, but not in terms of accessibility, because there hasn’t been a standard before.

I think the culture is a good point. Something we’re very proud of in Vancouver is the culture, and it all begins with empathy. We do a lot of training. Our employees are very encouraged, and about 80% of them have spent half of a day in a wheelchair. They also spend time with vision-blocking devices to see what that’s like. I know that the airlines have the same kind of training. I think there is a tremendous amount of empathy for the passenger who is travelling with a disability.

Our culture goes back to the formation of the airport authority back in 1992. When I went there as a young person, I was always very impressed with the attention and care that everybody, from the airport to the airline, is trying to take for persons with disabilities.

(1835)

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Thank you.

To Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano, you made reference to the retrofit that you’re making in the Ottawa station and that you want to see as being the most accessible in the world. Can you describe what that would look like in terms of how different it would be from what it is now?

I assume that in order to make that statement, you’ve looked at some of the other stations around the world. What are the changes that you’ll make to make that accessible and then—?

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have about 30 seconds, I’m afraid.

[Expand]

Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano:

The changes that have been made include a level boarding platform—so they’re eliminating steps or elevators to get into the train itself—and the construction of elevators to allow movement between the floors of the train station.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Do they not exist anywhere else in the world?

[Expand]

Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano:

No, they don’t exist in the Ottawa station. My point is that the combination of all of these—plus the element that I mentioned in terms of people with sight impairments—is new and does not exist anywhere in the world today.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

MP Hardcastle is next, please, for six minutes.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Right now, gentlemen, as I’m sure you’re aware if you’ve read Bill C-81, there are no requirements, there are no timelines. Your jurisdiction in particular, in transportation, is exempt. You do not have to offer a rationalization for a decision. There’s no appeal process for a person in the disability community. Do you think that needs to change before we actually pass Bill C-81?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

I want to be sure, Mr. Chair, that I understand the question. Perhaps I can give an initial answer, and then if the member feels I haven’t responded—

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I can repeat it.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

Certainly.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Right now there is an exemption. You can be exempt—

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

It’s exemption power, right. Okay.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

—without giving a reason, without giving a rationale. If there is a civil activist, if there is someone in the disability community who wants to understand your decision—if any civil society member wants to understand the decision—you don’t have to give that rationalization. Do you believe that any aspect of that should change before Bill C-81 is actually brought to fruition as our first national accessibility act?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

I want to thank the member for her question. Let me just preface my answer by saying that as the chair of an independent tribunal, I don’t presume to pronounce on policy choices made by the government when it advances legislation or on decisions that Parliament will make on the legislation. I’ll talk a bit about what we do now and how we use our powers. As to your question, “Should the bill change?”, I’ll defer to parliamentarians and to ministers on that.

The—

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Forgive me; I’m extremely limited in my time. I’m the only member of the NDP caucus who sits on this committee and I’m very, very limited to the perspective I want to bring forward.

Having said that, I don’t need to understand where you’re at now. With the bill, you did mention that you are looking towards binding and enforceable regulations. Maybe you can expand on that, and perhaps we can get some of those perspectives on how we can move forward with improvements to binding and enforceable regulation.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

Absolutely. The only thing I’ll say about exemptions is we actually currently have an exemption power in the law that we have never used.

In terms of the regulations, the regulations that we’re working on will, as I said, integrate two existing regulations and six voluntary codes into a single binding regulation that builds upon the lessons we’ve learned and the feedback we’ve received from disability rights organizations and transportation service providers. Those regulations will cover everything from service delivery to facilities, to equipment, to training, to communications and to reporting. These are comprehensive, across-the-board regulations that are fully enforceable through administrative monetary penalties.

The work on those regulations is well advanced. On October 1, we had a special ad hoc meeting of our accessibility advisory committee and we received some final rounds of feedback from its members. We are looking forward to finalizing those regulations and to rolling them out in 2019.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Gentlemen, does anybody else want to talk about enforcement or binding regulation? How should we be proceeding with that under Bill C-81?

Mr. Richmond, you were concerned about how heavy-handed Bill C-81 is right now. Maybe you can elaborate on areas you think we need to look at in order to proceed successfully.

(1840)

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

Well, as I said, I really liked it when Mr. Streiner talked about information packages. I’m speaking for airports now. If an airport is falling short on some important aspect of accessibility—I think we would have heard by now, but you never know—give the airport a lot of information and a lot of opportunity to voluntarily fix what is wrong.

As I said, sometimes that may take some time. Sometimes it’s about grandfathering: For example, going back and fixing a terminal that might be full of asbestos could be a real problem, so you’re just going to say, “Look, I’m going to wait until I demolish that part of the terminal.”

I think that having some flexibility is a good idea, but I’m not saying that to get out of doing the right thing. In fact, without any legislation, I would always make available our rationale for making decisions in the built environment. I would already do that voluntarily.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

What about timelines? Right now this bill doesn’t have any timelines to move forward. You probably have some insight.

Mr. Richmond, you mentioned grandfathering, I think. A few of you have mentioned having a grace period on implementation.

Can anybody elaborate on your thoughts on how you think we can be moving forward to make amendments that improve this bill so it is successful when we implement it?

[Expand]

The Chair:

May we have a very quick answer, please?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

If it’s helpful to the member, the regulations we’re currently working on do have coming-into-force timelines, timelines by which regulated entities will have to comply with all the regulatory requirements. Those are already in the regulations we have drafted.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Is there a grace period in grandfathering?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

There is a transition period for certain requirements when something new is coming in, but long-standing requirements would simply roll over into the new regulations.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Ruimy, you have six minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.):

Thank you very much, everybody, for coming today.

Mr. Richmond, I’m from B.C. I love our airport. It’s a fantastic airport, probably the best airport in Canada, but I’m biased.

It is quite impressive to see the amount of progress that’s been made. When we look at what we want to accomplish, the question is whether we legislate it and regulate it, but some of the top organizations are already doing things.

I remember coming back from a trip overseas a couple of months ago, and I saw a whole bunch of your employees in wheelchairs going through their training. I asked what was going on. It was amazing to see that you’re putting people through the process of learning what it’s like to be in that wheelchair, what it’s like for people who are paralyzed. What challenges are they facing?

What made you get to that point? Nobody came down with a hammer and said you had to do it.

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

I appreciate the kind words. It has just been in our DNA from the very beginning. That term has been used, the idea that our people should understand what it’s like. In everything we do, we try to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

For example, when working with the Rick Hansen Foundation, we realized that once people with assistance dogs go through all the various steps to go to the United States, if their dog has to go to the washroom, what do they do? As a result, we put in a doggy washroom in the transborder area.

To me it’s just customer service. Persons with disabilities are a big part of our customer base. We’re just trying to look after them.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I think this is fantastic. Those are some of the best practices we see across the country.

A lot has been mentioned about timelines today as well as in previous testimony. When will we get this done? We’ve chosen an approach of creating the framework that we could work within.

What are your thoughts on that? Do you think we need to be saying you have to have such-and-such done by this time? I know you mentioned the cost, that you might not be in a position to do things. What would you say to those timelines?

(1845)

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

I would have to see the regulations. I’m sure we will have all kinds of time to talk to the CTA about it.

I know from my work in other areas with persons with disabilities that generally businesses want to do the right thing. I don’t disagree that ultimately you have to have that hammer of the fines, but we should just make sure that what we’re looking for in the first case is information and dialogue and that we’re not jumping right to compliance and fines.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

You would like to see flexibility rather than a hard cap on the timeline, rather than a requirement for it to be done by 2020 or 2025 or whatever that might be?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

Certainly, and again, as I said in my remarks, I’m not afraid of this legislation. We’ve been accessible for a long time. I think if there are any areas for us to improve, we will embrace them.

I think a lot of smaller entities out there could be faced with pretty stiff unfunded obligations, as the other MP, Ms. Finley, said. I worry about all those smaller airports inside B.C. that feed Vancouver.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Speaking of unfunded, I keep hearing “What’s the cost going to be?”

With where you are already with your airport—and I know where you’re at—does that bring you a competitive advantage? If so, where?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

We certainly hope so. I think we’re getting known around the world as a very accessible airport, regardless of your handicap and abilities. I think it does give us a competitive advantage. I think airlines know that we’ll look after their passengers.

We don’t look at it as a cost; we look at it as a cost of doing business.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Are you seeing an uptake on accessibility tourism through your airport?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

I think we are. It can be a bit difficult to measure, but when I talk to various groups, they know, through their communities and Internet forums around the world, the places you want to avoid, and we’re certainly not in that category. People feel comfortable transiting through our airport.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I just want to keep sticking to this advantage, because while obviously there’s always going to be a cost to things, we have to start thinking about the advantage to doing the right thing. We know, and you said it, that people are no longer confined to their homes, we hope. You had a plane that asked for 150 wheelchairs. .

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

Right.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

When we look at tourism throughout the country and the world, there are a lot of people who are now wanting, whether or not they’re in a wheelchair, to be able to experience life. To have that advantage, I think, can help pay for it itself if we as a country have these standards that allow freedom of mobility. That’s our competitive advantage for tourism as well. Would you agree?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

I absolutely agree. I just worry about imposing a solution. For example, if we have to build a new transborder terminal and we’re told, “Do this on the old terminal”, that’s just going to be money that gets thrown away if in four years from now we have another part of the terminal that’s opening up. A little flexibility would go a long way.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

That flexibility that you’re referring to is needed. Thank you very much.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

We have MP Diotte for six minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte (Edmonton Griesbach, CPC):

This is for Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano.

You’ve talked about VIA striving to be or being a world leader in accessibility. You should be lauded for that. You said that you use standards from the Canadian council for disabilities to get there, and these standards were deemed acceptable to you.

Would you please comment on the provision in this bill for multiple more years of further consultation to determine standards?

[Expand]

Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano:

Thank you.

I was referring to the fact that at VIA we try to consult with clients before we make major changes to our business practices. Therefore, this client group was consulted in the design of the refit that we’re doing on the old equipment to make it more accessible, as well as the design points for the new equipment that we’re procuring for the corridor.

I must recognize the work of the Canadian Transportation Agency under the leadership of Mr. Streiner, who really are part of that process. They monitor and sometimes they mediate the process in terms of making sure we have all the right parties around the table. They provide an objective environment where we can have these consultations. It has evolved from that regulatory, if you will, environment to one of collaboration between a provider of a service and a customer base.

One point that’s not to be lost here is that by 2030, over 25% of Canadians will be over 65. As I’m getting to that point myself, the reality is that mobility becomes a challenge, not just from a physical aspect but also with eyesight or hearing impairments and other impairments. Therefore, we have to address these issues, because our business depends on it. This is a huge customer segment that you can’t just leave at home.

The fact that we’re a public body and by definition are meant to provide services that private enterprises may be more hesitant to provide does not take away from the commercial opportunity of being a better provider for that audience and target.

The consultation process, I think, exists today within the realm of the CTA, or within the realm of the actual business providers.

(1850)

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

It’s rather redundant, then.

You also talked about VIA Rail being door-to-door accessible, but we do know that not every train station is accessible. I can see one in Trenton, Ontario, that doesn’t have an elevator or any ramps. I’m not certain this would be necessarily unique.

Will this legislation address issues such as this?

[Expand]

Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano:

In situations of an elevator not being available to board a wheelchair on a train, VIA provides ground transportation from the train station nearest the traveller to the train station equipped to lift the chair onto the train, at no cost to that person. That’s the way it is handled today.

Whether this legislation will change that for an existing environment is to be seen. It is our objective to make all of our stations accessible, starting with the fact that the new trains will have on-board elevators, eliminating the need for an off-board elevator that somebody needs to bring to the train to lift a chair. The elevator will be in the train. When the door opens, the elevator will come out of the train, go down to the platform and raise the chair onto the train, eliminating the current constraints. That, by the way, is world leading.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

I have a quick question for Craig Richmond.

In your opening remarks you talked about building accessibility, not bureaucracy and more red tape. Obviously, more reporting is going to really bog everything down. I get your argument that we should be spending money instead on making smaller airports accessible, and so forth. Can you go into a bit more depth on that point?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

I’m speaking for my colleagues from the small airports caucus of the Canadian Airports Council. Every time a regulatory burden falls on them, it’s a lot harder. They don’t have the kind of staff that we do at the top eight airports in Canada. If we’re going to have reporting requirements, we should make them as reasonable and as templated as possible so that small airports aren’t spending an inordinate amount of money and time reporting on what they’re doing; rather, they are just doing it.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Do you find that there’s a lot of red tape and so forth already?

[Expand]

Mr. Craig Richmond:

I live in a very bureaucratic environment. For example, my ground lease says that every five years I have to do a full report on how we’re doing. It costs a lot of money. In fact, we hire two consultants to come in and do it for us, because we’re too busy. Again, I’m not moaning too badly about that, but I worry about my colleagues at the smaller airports.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Right. It’s money better spent on actually doing accessibility.

How am I doing on time?

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have about 10 seconds.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

I have a really quick question for Scott Streiner.

You were talking about countries that have best practices. Can you spell out precisely a few of these countries that might be better than we are in certain areas, and specify?

[Expand]

The Chair:

Answer very quickly, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

This question has actually arisen several times. I think it might be better, Mr. Chair, to actually send a letter with a couple of examples of that, because the committee has asked.

I’ll simply note one example. There are a number of airports both in Europe and in Asia where the guiding services and the services for persons with disabilities to get through the airport—the wayfinding services—are first class.

If it’s helpful to the committee, we’ll send a letter with a few additional examples.

(1855)

[Expand]

The Chair:

That is an excellent suggestion. Thank you.

MP Morrissey is next, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey (Egmont, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The language I heard from the witness today—and you represent major organizations in the country—is that you’re confident you can meet the objectives. You’re not afraid of the bill. It’s ambitious.

Are there challenges in your day-to-day activities that the bill does not address?

I will first ask Mr. Streiner, with CTA.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

Of course we’re in a different position from that of my colleagues today, because we’re the regulator and the tribunal.

I would say that the bill is offering us a number of new tools. Since 1988, we’ve had the responsibility of making the national transportation system more accessible. I think we’ve made terrific progress, but there is still a significant distance to be covered. The bill provides us with some additional tools to advance those objectives.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

How do you see this legislation complementing the pending regulatory changes that you referenced quite a bit that you’re currently undergoing? Within this framework, from my perspective, it should give you a clearer understanding of where you should be.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

Cognizant of time, I’ll give a couple of quick examples.

First of all, we’re going take the lens that the bill presents, particularly the definitions of “disability” and “barrier”, and integrate those into everything we do that’s related to accessibility. The bill does provide a bit of an overarching framework—a way of thinking about accessibility—that the CTA agrees with and will integrate into its work.

More concretely, the additional powers that our enforcement officers will have to go and inspect and impose administrative monetary penalties, if necessary, and to negotiate compliance plans with regulated entities will help our folks in the field working with service providers—like the two represented here today, and hundreds of others—to actually advance accessibility on a day-to-day basis and in a very concrete way. Our folks who are out there every day working with service providers will have new tools to make sure the goals of the legislation and our regulations move forward.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Given that environment and your mandate, will it be easier to achieve that with Bill C-81?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

Certainly the additional tools that Bill C-81 will give us to advance the mandate will be helpful.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Okay.

Could you tell us how the CTA currently handles accessibility-related complaints, and how this will change under Bill C-81?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

I’ll briefly explain for the member and other members that we really do, at the CTA, have two roles: We’re the regulator and we set the rules, but we also hear complaints from individual Canadians or from advocacy organizations about concerns they might have, including those around accessibility.

When somebody comes forward to us with a complaint, the first thing that we try to do is see if we can arrive at a resolution between the complainant and the service provider in an informal way through a mediation or a facilitation process. In many respects, it’s better for all concerned if we don’t have to go all the way to adjudication, which is more court-like. If we’re not able to achieve a resolution through an informal process or if the two parties aren’t interested in engaging in those discussions, then we convene like a court of law. We have all the powers of a superior court. We hear evidence and arguments and we issue binding decisions.

I will tell you that the trend line on accessibility complaints is upward. We received about 25 accessibility complaints in 2014-2015; I think that’s the right year. That number doubled the next year, tripled the next year, and last year, there were about 100 accessibility-related complaints.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

What’s driving that?

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

I think there are a number of drivers. As an organization we’ve made efforts to ensure that persons with disabilities are aware that they can turn to us for assistance if they have an issue.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

It’s awareness.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

We’ve undertaken public information efforts, but I think generally—and this committee’s work is is an example of this—there is more attention paid today than there was several years ago to accessibility issues and to the fundamental right of people with disabilities to equal access to transportation services.

We’ve contributed as an organization, but I think it’s part of a broader societal trend.

(1900)

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

You didn’t get to the part about what will change under Bill C-81.

[Expand]

Mr. Scott Streiner:

A number of things will change under Bill C-81. As I already mentioned, our compliance officers will have more authority. Regarding administrative monetary penalties, AMPs, the maximum AMP they can impose will go from $25,000 to $250,000. Of course, they’re not going to jump to that AMP in the first instance of non-compliance, but the option is there to go to a much more significant administrative monetary penalty.

The bill would see us administering a participant funding program, which is a way of allowing persons with disabilities to access funding so that they can pursue applications before the CTA that might otherwise be too expensive for them.

Finally, the bill will allow the CTA to undertake inquiries at its own initiative, with the agreement of the Minister of Transport, into systemic accessibility issues. Currently we don’t have that power. We can undertake inquiries if we receive a complaint, but we can’t undertake inquiries on our own initiative that are systemic in nature. If the bill is passed in its current form, we’ll have that authority.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

We will have to stop there. On behalf of the committee, I’d like to thank everybody for being here today and coming to the committee via video conference.

We are going to suspend for just a few moments so that we can switch panels. We will be right back.

(1900)

(1905)

[Expand]

The Chair:

The meeting will come to order. We’re going to get started.

Welcome back, everybody. This is our second panel this evening, and for those who are joining us, I’m not going through the preamble again. I will just remind you that we do have both French and English sign language, and there are no photos at this time.

In opening and closing remarks and in answering any questions, please keep your speech to a fairly even pace. We want to make sure everything is captured appropriately.

Joining us via video conference from Surrey, B.C., is Jewelles Smith, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, and Steven Estey, Government and Community Relations Officer.

We have, in person, from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, Robert Ghiz, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Ursula Grant, Senior Director, Industry Affairs.

Finally, from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, we have Barbara Collier, Executive Director.

Welcome to all of you.

We will start with Jewelles Smith and Steven Estey, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. The next five minutes are all yours.

(1910)

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith (Chairperson, Council of Canadians with Disabilities):

I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak with everyone.

We have a number of items that we’ve come to agreement upon through consultations across the country, and I know you’ll hear from many of my colleagues over the next few days.

We are very much hoping that the bill will address the timelines of implementation. We would very much like to see challenging timelines established, such as five years. Canada is not the first country to put accessibility legislation in place, and there are many examples to draw from. We’ve been consulted extensively, and I believe the government could easily meet a five-year timeline for establishing a barrier-free Canada.

We would also like the act to better address effective management in complaints. We think that the fractured current status of the act would make it very difficult for individuals with disabilities to be able to make complaints, and to also have their needs met and their accessibility addressed.

We would also very much like to see ASL and LSQ acknowledged as official languages for deaf individuals. About 45 countries have acknowledged deaf languages to date, and we think that Canada is falling behind in not doing so. This is different from an official status language; this is acknowledging that for deaf people, ASL, LSQ and indigenous signed languages are critical for their ability to have an accessible experience with services and their rights.

We would also like to see the CASDO board composed of a minimum of two-thirds of persons with disabilities. We have seen many examples in the past of boards consisting of 50% plus one, and in those cases, too often our true needs were not met. We would ultimately love to see 100%, but realizing that this may not be possible, we’re asking for two-thirds.

We would also like to see the federal accessibility agencies that are set up to be at arm’s length from government. This would allow them to go about doing their business and better serve the needs of persons with disabilities.

Finally, it’s very important that indigenous people with disabilities be consulted, as currently they are not mentioned in the act. Although indigenous nation-to-nation work is being done, the particular needs of indigenous individuals with disabilities need to be addressed for a fully accessible Canada.

Thank you, and I’ll pass it on to Steve Estey.

[Expand]

Mr. Steven Estey (Government and Community Relations Officer, Council of Canadians with Disabilities):

Thanks very much. I wasn’t actually aware we were splitting our five minutes, so I’ll try and make good use of my two and a half.

We heard over the course of the last few weeks the discussion about the idea of introducing a “no wrong door policy with regard to a complaints mechanism and so on. I just wanted to share with you that within our community, there have been some concerns raised about that. Particularly in the mental health community in Canada, this approach has been used for a number of years, and it’s led to some concerns and problems.

We talked to people with the organization, and they said there were better ways of doing things. The concern with the no wrong door approach is that decisions are made on the inside. There’s no transparency, so there’s a real concern about it. We just wanted to flag that.

The second thing, a little bit more positive, is that we are excited to realize that the act will recognize the Canadian Human Rights Commission as a domestic monitoring mechanism for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. That’s a tremendously important provision. I’m really pleased to see it.

Clause 149 of the bill talks about this specifically, and we wanted to make a suggestion that along with the recognition of the Canadian Human Rights Commission—which is a very important thing—and in tune with the convention itself, consideration be given to language to also flag the participation of individuals with disabilities and our organizations specifically, so that it would be made explicit in a sentence at the end of clause 149 to talk not just about the Human Rights Commission but about organizations of people with disabilities in the same way that the convention makes a distinction between national institutions and organizations of people with disabilities. We felt it was really important to get that in the bill itself so that we can revisit that when the time comes.

Thanks very much.

(1915)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you both.

From the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, we have Mr. Ghiz and Ms. Grant. The next five minutes are yours.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Ghiz (President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association):

Great. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

It’s a pleasure to be here this evening representing the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which I’ll refer to as the CWTA.

I’m joined this evening by Ursula Grom Grant, our Senior Director of Industry Affairs, who is our lead on accessibility and will most likely be taking the majority of your questions.

CWTA is the authority on wireless issues, developments and trends in Canada. We represent service providers as well as companies that develop products and services for the wireless industry. We are pleased to be here today to share the views of our members regarding Bill C-81.

I would like to begin by confirming that our members strongly support the intent behind this legislation. An accessible Canada is a vision we all support.

Equality, inclusion, full participation—these are the goals of the members of the CWTA that we’re fully behind. If Bill C-81 can bring Canada closer to these goals, then we want to be part of that.

We commend the government for working towards these goals. Indeed, for years, members of the CWTA have been working in concert to ensure the services we provide are accessible to all Canadians. Today our wireless networks offer fast and reliable mobile connectivity with the current generation of wireless technology known as LTE or 4G being available to approximately 98.5% of all Canadians and offering the fastest average download speeds in the G7, twice as fast as the United States.

To make sure as many Canadians as possible can access the benefits of these networks, our members have worked hard in recent years to improve accessibility in relation to telecommunication services. Examples relevant to wireless telecommunications in particular include accessible websites and online content, wireless rate plans to accommodate unique needs, wireless devices that offer accessibility features and functionalities, services like text with 911 and IP relay, special web pages with information on accessible products and services, and accessible formats for bills and other documents and information.

Our members will continue to work hard to address accessibility issues and work collaboratively with stakeholders across Canada to keep improving in this area. In this spirit, we very much welcome the broad thrust of Bill C-81. In particular, the current draft of the legislation addresses several key concerns we shared through the consultation process that preceded the development of the bill.

We are pleased to see the CRTC will continue in its current role with regard to regulation of accessibility. This provides continuity, understanding and clarity to our members. It also ensures Canadians will continue to benefit from public processes that are accessible to Canadians, with binding determinations all stakeholders can understand and follow.

Even as we are pleased to see the CRTC’s continued role, we do have some concerns regarding the details and clarity around next steps. Much of the bill remains aspirational. While the goals are ones we all share and should work toward, it has been difficult to provide feedback without a better and more detailed sense of the regulations that will follow in its wake.

To give one example, while the CRTC will retain jurisdiction over the telecom products and service aspects of a Canadian carrier, another new regulatory body will provide oversight on other parts of the business. In addition, some provincial jurisdictions also have accessibility legislation, and we will need to understand where that fits in. This could work well or it could create unnecessary overlap, duplication and uncertainty, ultimately harming the interests of the very Canadians the legislation is seeking to assist.

The details matter, and the regulations that will be created further to this legislation could have a significant impact, and a potentially negative one, as well. A number of jurisdictions in Canada have similar legislation in place, with applicable standards and goals similar to those in this bill. If we don’t work closely together, competing and possibly contradictory standards could arise, harming the efforts of all concerned.

Therefore, we urge this committee to recognize the importance of continued consultation once Bill C-81 is passed and proclaimed. Moving forward will be an education process for everyone, and our members want to see this happen in the most efficient and effective way possible.

(1920)

[Translation]

The next steps will be a learning opportunity for all the parties involved, and our members hope that it all unfolds smoothly and effectively.

[English]

Thank you for the opportunity, and we will look forward to your questions.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much, sir.

Finally, from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, we have Barbara Collier, Executive Director, for five minutes.

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier (Executive Director, Communication Disabilities Access Canada):

Good evening, committee members. I’m delighted to be here this evening and honoured to represent Communication Disabilities Access Canada. This is a national non-profit organization that promotes accessibility for people who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by hearing loss.

I need to take a minute to tell you a bit about who we’re talking about, and then to tell you a bit about what access means for them. I’m going to focus on the needs of half a million Canadians who have a wide range of disabilities that affect how they communicate. We’re talking about people who have cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disability, ALS, traumatic brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, Parkinson’s…. I could go on to list about 60 disabilities that affect how people communicate with you in their speech or understand what you’re saying to them.

This is not a small, marginalized population; this is a huge population. It’s a population that has received very little attention. They are off the radar when it comes to looking at accessibility needs of this group. I’m going to tell you how we think Bill C-81 can be strengthened to include the needs of people with speech and language disabilities.

At this time, the bill talks about priority areas. I think there are five or six of them. I’m going to have to reference them—employment, built environment, procurement of goods and services, program and service delivery, transportation, and information and communication technologies.

We propose that communication should be addressed in a much broader context than information and communication technologies. We have analyzed accessibility guidelines standards all across the country, and I can tell you that usually it’s about respect and attitudes, it’s about plain language, it’s about accessible websites, and it’s about alternate formats and sign language. These are incredibly important, but they are not addressing the needs of people who have speech and language disabilities.

I want to say that people who have speech and language disabilities may have difficulty. They may have little or no speech. They may use pictures, letter boards, or speech-generating devices to communicate, or they may have difficulty comprehending what you’re saying.

Communication traditionally is looked at as giving information, getting information into people’s heads. We’re saying it’s about being two-way. It’s about expression and about comprehension, and it occurs in all jurisdictions that interact with the public—in face-to-face interactions, telephone and telecommunications, reading and writing, public forums, and meetings like this. These are the contexts that are important and that people need access to. If we look just at information and communication, we’re going to miss it. We are absolutely going to miss it.

We’re asking the government to amend the bill to include communication as a generic building block that needs to be in place for all jurisdictions—and I’ll explain what I mean by that—but we’re also asking that there’s another building block we need to put in place, and that building block should have everything to do with discrimination, attitudes, accessibility rights, diversity and equity. That’s one building block.

The other block is communication. What we want is that all jurisdictions have training in how to interact with people whose speech may be unclear; who use a communication device; or who have, or need to have, a communication assistant. That’s the sort of thing that will make meaningful changes.

We are then asking that once you have the two domains, the building blocks, in place across the board, you adapt them.

Let’s have our federal courts take the general communication training and then look at their own context. We want communication intermediaries to be available to victims, witnesses and accused who need to communicate in that context.

(1925)

We need Service Canada to be able to communicate with people on the telephone or offer the appropriate text-based communication alternatives.

We need Elections Canada to offer online voting so that people can use their own assistive devices and not suddenly have to learn how to use a sip-and-puff switch or a scanner that they’ve never seen before when they go in to vote.

We have the solutions. The solutions are there. We just need to put them in place, and they are all very achievable.

I’ll say one more thing. I can see you smiling at me, Mr. Chairman, but I don’t get a chance to speak very often.

Most of the barriers and the frustrations for people with speech and language disabilities are there because they have no access to communication devices and the supports they need to access the services. They would like the federal government to expand its role, not just to negotiate accessibility standards across the country but to work together with us to ensure that people have what they need to communicate with their services.

Are the lights dimming at this point? I think they are. The music is coming on.

[Expand]

The Chair:

The band is about to play, yes.

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

Thank you very much.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

First up with six minutes of questions is MP Falk. Go ahead, please.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC):

Thank you all for being here today.

I have a question for Ms. Smith.

You mentioned deaf languages and having those officially recognized. Could you explain to me what you mean by that and how that would be achieved?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

Sure.

Having deaf languages recognized federally would ensure that when a deaf person goes in to get their passport or goes through the court system or accesses any other services, their language will be recognized as the way they communicate. That is one example.

Another example would be ensuring that all important documents that the federal government produces have a video of ASL and LSQ available for deaf individuals to watch so that they will understand the document better. The syntax and structure of deaf languages are quite different from those for written English and French, and many times deaf individuals struggle when trying to access languages. Much as we’re encouraging plain language with the accessibility act, we would also like to see added the recognition of ASL and LSQ, and, as conversation progresses with indigenous communities, of any of the indigenous signed languages.

(1930)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

Even in our last meeting we talked about plain language. Ms. Collier, I’m wondering if you could touch on this for me. How are stakeholders or the disability community looking to have that implemented into Bill C-81? I understand what plain language means, but how would that be put into legislation?

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

Well, if you take what I’ve said about communication as an umbrella and you prioritize that as the domain that needs to be addressed, then plain language falls into reading and writing within that. It’s part of that. You know what plain language is. I see it as fitting very much into the communication domain, but it won’t fit if you’re just going to use information and communication technologies. There’s no place to plug it into that. There needs to be a bigger picture of it.

I don’t know if I’ve answered your question. I’m not sure.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Do you mean as in referencing plain language?

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

What do you mean?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I understand how it could be used day to day, but how do we put that into legislation or even the regulations? Is there a better fit for that to be—either legislation or regulation?

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

I’m not a policy-maker on that, but I can certainly see how it would fit into a standard that says written material has to be accessible and follow the principles of easy-to-read or plain language.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Does anybody else have anything to add?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

I think this also can fall under the conversation about adding communication as a specific barrier. We currently have under the act six identified barriers that would be focused on. We strongly think that communication is the seventh. In the regulation and development, it would become addressed.

I know there is a lot of push to have plain language and ASL and LSQ used and to also look at communication in general, much as my colleague Barbara talked about, but we strongly feel that it falls under that area that wasn’t identified specifically.

Thanks.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

I have another question. I want to understand timelines and what different stakeholders or different people within the disability community find acceptable as a timeline. I’ve heard a lot, even from individual meetings that I’ve had in my offices, but nobody has been able or willing to give me a timeline that would be sufficient. I’m wondering if I could hear from everybody in order to know what would be proposed as a timeline to be added to the legislation.

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

I know that I brought it up. CCD is part of a larger group of disability organizations, and we worked really hard over a period of several days to work this out. I’m going to read for you the language that we’ve established:

For substantive and progressive change:
A deadline date must be set within a five-year period following Royal Assent for [approval of] ALL standards and regulations in each specific area required.
A deadline for full implementation of each standard and regulation, following their approval, must be set within [an] 18-month period.
It must be understood that there will always be continual progression towards a barrier-free society. [It’s] not realistic to think that a deadline date will mark full compliance or completion…[but] a review must occur every three years and a public report of progress must be developed….

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Long is next, please.

(1935)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses this evening. I really appreciate your testimony. It’s very enlightening.

I certainly know this: At the last meeting I talked about where I live in Saint John—Rothesay and coming upon a lady in a wheelchair who literally was waiting to get from the car park into the mall. My question was, “Why are you waiting here?” There was no way for her to get in unless somebody opened that door and let her in. This is a public spot in my city, so…. Bill C-81 is going to break down barriers. It’s going to open up the world for people with disabilities.

This is for Ms. Smith and Mr. Estey. I want to thank you, Ms. Smith, for taking the time to come to my office. We met here I think a couple of weeks ago. I really appreciated the conversation. I want to follow up on something we talked about: the composition of the CASDO board.

I know that we talked about it in the office in terms of 50% plus one, and I know you don’t think that’s good enough. I certainly respect that. I know that you want to see 70%.

From my past experience as a businessperson involved in different boards, I’ll say that the composition of boards is critical, whether it’s a bank, a hockey team, CASDO or what have you. We continue to hear from Ms. Smith in particular and from other witnesses, too, about their concern about the composition of the board.

Do you want to elaborate on that? You talked about how you would like to see 70%. There are those who suggest that the language in subclause 23(2) be amended to ensure that members of the CASDO board with lived experience with disabilities represent, as much as is practically possible, the diversity of disability communities in Canada. Can the language of subclause 23(2) be amended? Can you share with us again the importance of the composition of the CASDO board?

Thank you.

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

Thank you. It’s great to see you again.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

It’s good to see you, too.

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

We would like to see the largest possible percentage. I would love to see 100%. People with disabilities exist everywhere, and there is no reason that people with particular expertise couldn’t use their situation of employment to sit on the CASDO as well, but we are willing to go as low as two-thirds.

As I mentioned before, on 50% plus one, we’ve seen many boards like that, and often what happens is that the “plus one” gets convinced not to attend the meetings, so they don’t vote in favour of things that would be progressive for us, and that sort of thing. I also think Minister Qualtrough clearly stated we need to move beyond the slogan “nothing about us without us” to just “nothing without us”. We need to always be there. We always need to be at the table.

I’m a Ph.D. candidate myself. I have plenty of colleagues who are experts in their fields. There is no reason this composition can’t be diverse and fully realize us at the table.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

You came up with 70%. You mentioned 70% in our meeting. Why not 100%?

Is it necessary to allocate seats to members of each disability community on the board?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

I personally was advocating for 100%. With FALA, which was the group we were meeting, we agreed as a group to say 70% or two-thirds.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

You’d like to see 100%.

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

I would like to see 100%, and I think that diversity can be represented. It’s not a checklist. It’s looking at the composition of a group and understanding that our population is quite diverse. It’s not just having people represented, checking off that we have one deaf person, one person using a wheelchair and one person with vision impairment. Looking at diversity and looking at access and knowledge would be really critical.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you very much.

Mr. Estey, do you have anything you want to contribute to that?

Wait…okay, sorry.

[Expand]

Mr. Steven Estey:

Thanks.

I communicate with captioning. I’m deaf, and it takes a second or two for it to come up on the screen. It’s not that I’m not paying attention.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

My apologies.

[Expand]

Mr. Steven Estey:

Jewelles has made the point quite clearly, I think. She has talked about diversity in the disability community and the discussion we’ve had since the bill was tabled around the representation—the number of people and the percentages on these boards, and so on.

We started off looking at it by saying that 50% plus one would probably be okay, but there’s been a real push by some members of the community to have a higher level of representation, and it goes particularly to the diversity of the disability experience and the concern that if you only have 50% of the people, then you may not have a wide enough perspective on a particular issue. We want to ensure that’s the case here. As I understand it, that’s the rationale.

(1940)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

Ms. Collier, would you comment?

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

I would agree with two-thirds, and the reason is that when we talk about communication access, we’re talking about a very diverse population. People who have been born with a disability that makes it very difficult for them to learn language and literacy are very different from people who have had a stroke and have had language. You can’t have one or two people represent the whole diverse population of communication disabilities.

We would support absolutely that you need representation on the standards committee of people with lived experience, but you also need representatives of the disability organization that can speak to the larger scope of things, because people with communication disabilities are not necessarily speech language pathologists with masters and Ph.D.s in communication disabilities. You need both.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Hardcastle is next, please, for six minutes.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you very much.

I’d like to go back to Mr. Estey and Ms. Smith. Can you talk a little more about the real operational independence of the new agencies? There was concern about that independence in reporting to government, and perhaps they should be reporting directly to Parliament.

Would you talk about the independence of organizations like CASDO, the accessibility commissioner, and the chief accessibility officer?

[Expand]

Mr. Steven Estey:

I think our preference would be for a mechanism to be put in place for direct reporting to Parliament because of the whole independence issue. We certainly would support that approach and a revision to that effect.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Ms. Smith, on the independence of the new offices, would you like to see reporting to Parliament?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

We would very much like to see that.

We feel, to some extent, that the way Bill C-81 is currently set up, with a number of fractured reporting systems, might be problematic. We’ve dealt with a couple of those organizations as the disability community, and we’ve had multiple barriers. It’s important to have that arm’s-length reporting in order to address some of those barriers and challenges, and also to set up a fresh mechanism that wouldn’t necessarily operate under the mandate of the current government, but rather under the mandate of the disability community.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you.

Ms. Collier, can you elaborate a bit on your concern with regard to entities, organizations or jurisdictions that would be exempted right now under the proposed bill? Do you have any concerns that perhaps we should look at amendments, or at least allow for an appeal process, or that decisions have to be provided when exemptions are made?

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

I’m hoping I understand your question. Are you asking about the CRTC exemptions?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes. The CRTC—

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

I would apply the generic communication training and information to all jurisdictions, especially the CRTC and transportation. They would be included in this on how to communicate with people and what their barriers are.

I can speak a little about some of the concerns for the CRTC.

First, I need to say that we have never surveyed people with speech and language disabilities. We have no data to research that population and the barriers they face, so what I’m telling you is anecdotal.

They say that there are message relay services available to people with hearing loss. They say that they are available for people who are speech impaired. People who have dysarthria—slurred speech due to cerebral palsy or a stroke—are saying that the operators have no training in how to facilitate speech-to-speech for them, so they don’t use it.

It’s also not known; it’s not marketed to them. We could see an enormous opportunity to expand that service for people with speech and language…. Smart phones are being used more and more by people with disabilities. We have people in long-term care facilities who need phones in order to leave the hospital and live in the community safely. The problem is with the cost of the phone and with the switch access to the phone, because they can’t operate it with their fingers, and there’s no funding for this.

Also, I’m hearing it’s the data plan and the plans for telephone use that may be there for Internet. I’m not an expert on this, but I’m hearing there are major concerns in keeping up with the technology, specifically for people with communication disabilities who are not deaf or hard of hearing.

It’s also transportation, across the board.

(1945)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Ms. Smith, can you give us some of your comments with regard to concerns about exemptions?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

We’re concerned that the exemptions will result in continued barriers for individuals with disabilities. We have dealt with the CRTC and other groups that would fall under some of these exemptions for decades. Whenever there’s an opportunity for them to have an exemption, they choose not to move forward with the mandate of accessibility. We feel very strongly that this act should clear a path to remove those barriers and to address the issues that are not that difficult.

As my colleague has just mentioned, there are opportunities with smart phones. There is training available, and a wealth of research showing that these exemptions should not be there and that a barrier-free Canada is possible. We just have to decide to do it as a nation.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Sangha, you have six minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, everyone, for coming here and giving this input.

My question is to Ms. Smith. You’re talking about the Canadian accessibility standards organization. I know this is going to be a very exclusive type of organization that is going to make better standards and bring changes into the regulations.

You talked about the difficulty of complaints, and you wanted some sort of reforms. What type of reforms are you looking for to have a better complaint process?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

In the current way that the bill is written, the complaints can come forward in many different ways. I know that the government has so far been pushing for a “no wrong door” approach, but we’re concerned that individuals will have a complaint and not know who they should go to, or go through the wrong door, and possibly it could take two or three years to resolve an issue.

What we would like to see is that CASDO be responsible for developing the regulations and that the reporting of any complaints go through one organization. Whether that organization has individuals underneath—for example, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and then potentially several individuals underneath who would manage complaints—people would know where they go when they have a complaint about federal accessibility. It wouldn’t be that you might go to the CRTC for this complaint, and you might have to call Service Canada for that complaint, or you might have to call a specific airline for another complaint: there would be one place for people to call and have their complaints directed, one organization to develop the regulations and to provide a disability lens in the writing of those regulations. I don’t mean any disability lens; I mean a human rights disability lens.

I would also like to see work on the intersectionality that I know government has attempted to do through the gender-based analysis plus, which has not been very successful for the disability community, which is why we strongly feel that having one organization responsible for the complaints and for the management of regulations is critical: it’s so that across the board we have equal access and a clear understanding of barriers and what accessibility looks like.

Thank you.

(1950)

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Second, when we are looking for a barrier-free Canada, and we want it now and we want things to follow as soon as possible, why are you looking for a five-year timeline?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

Canada has done a lot of work in several of our provinces on accessibility and disability legislation. We also have the example of numerous countries around that world that have done this work already. We’re not reinventing the wheel. We have great examples. We also know of some of the challenges and issues that have occurred during the consultation process over the last two and a bit years. The government has gathered much information on accessibility that works in other countries and in our own. We feel that setting up extremely long timelines will just result in our perhaps not living to see a barrier-free Canada.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Do you think a five-year timeline will provide better resolutions than immediately taking action now?

[Expand]

Ms. Jewelles Smith:

Where we can, immediate action is critical. There are things that are easily done right away. We’re saying five years for the regulations and such to be fully set up within the new organizations that are being developed.

We know there is some work in setting up a new department. We understand there is some work in setting up and reviewing regulations and making sure provincial and federal don’t misalign and that there won’t be problems in that sense. We also want to hurry along the process. We don’t think it needs to take 20 years. Whatever is possible, we would love to see it done within a year. We’re also recognizing that government has an election coming up too.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Ruimy is next.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you very much.

Thank you everybody for being here.

I will say up front that I will be sharing my time with Parliamentary Secretary Young.

This thing with timelines has been going around my head. When I was listening to your testimony, Ms. Collier, it actually just clicked to me as to why we shouldn’t be putting timelines in the legislation. It’s because the things you’re mentioning are enormous. There are so many different things that are out there that if we start to try to legislate every single piece, we won’t get to where we need to go. I see this as an evolution of this whole process, because technology is changing and people are changing, and when you try to legislate that change it actually stops you from moving forward.

I don’t have any question, I just needed to share that with you.

I’m going to let PS Young take over.

[Expand]

Ms. Kate Young (London West, Lib.):

Thank you very much.

I think you did want to mention something or say something to Dan’s comment.

[Expand]

Ms. Barbara Collier:

I just want to say that I was stressing the scope of the issue of communication access, but I think it’s very doable. Ninety per cent of what I am talking about is education, and I think we have the education resources that could be put in place. What we need is a standard stating that everyone needs training about how to communicate with people who communicate in different ways. It’s very doable.

The other part is that developing the intermediaries for the federal courts and the communication assistance to assist people at public forums is going to take longer. That’s a support service that needs to be developed, in the same way that sign language services have been developed. However, I think it’s very doable, and it’s not a huge cost to educate people.

Thank you for your question and for bringing that up.

[Expand]

Ms. Kate Young:

Thank you very much for your input.

I want to read a quote that our Minister of Accessibility Qualtrough said when she was appearing before the committee. It was about timelines, and I think it’s important for us to hear what the minister was saying and why she is thinking that timelines are not necessary. She said:

We also want people to get moving on this now. We don’t want to say that we are going to have an accessible Canada by 2025 or 2030, and then people sit back and say, “Okay, I have time.” We need to do this now. It’s like giving people a reason to wait instead of requiring people to do something now.

Given that we want to spur immediate action, do you believe that timelines will help speed up the action to get us where we need to get to?

Mr. Estey, would you like to take that on?

(1955)

[Expand]

Mr. Steven Estey:

Sure. I’ll give it a shot.

I come from Nova Scotia, and we’ve just gone through the process of developing accessibility legislation in our province. When the first reading happened in Nova Scotia, there were no timelines in the legislation at all, so the disability community got up in arms about that and were concerned about the lack of any kind of timeline. The concern was that if you don’t have a wall against which to backstop things, then how do you measure your progress and how do you compel people to do something without a fixed date?

We were able to get the Government of Nova Scotia to put a fixed date in the legislation. We’ve had some discussion about that experience federally since June 21, when the legislation was tabled without a fixed date.

What I have heard, as I think Jewelles mentioned, is the idea of not having one particular date globally, but to look at it in segments of different areas or different pieces of the legislation. It’s a very complicated thing, Bill C-81, and to say that one date fits all is going to create difficulties, I think.

However, at the same time, without some kind of a firm wall-like backstop against which to measure, as a disability community, we have a concern that it’s never going to come—don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow never comes.

[Expand]

Ms. Kate Young:

Isn’t flexibility important? I’m not sure if—

[Expand]

Mr. Steven Estey:

I’m having technological problems here.

[Expand]

Ms. Kate Young:

Okay.

I just wanted to insert the word “flexibility” into what you’re saying is necessary, and not a direct timeline.

[Expand]

Mr. Steven Estey:

Sure. I think that there can be flexibility, but I do think that there needs to be some way for us to measure things, so some kinds of timelines and deadlines need to be negotiated at some point. I’m not sure exactly what that point is.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

[Expand]

Ms. Kate Young:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

We have just shy of two minutes left.

MP Finley, would you like to close this out?

[Expand]

Hon. Diane Finley:

Before I submit a question, I do have a comment.

There is so much flexibility in this bill as it’s written that it never has to come into force. The standard provision in any bill is a coming-into-force date. That does not exist. Even if the bill passes and gets royal assent, there is absolutely no requirement for the government to bring it into effect. That means that all the good talk here, all the good intentions, will go nowhere. I have a real problem with that.

My question is for Mr. Ghiz. Given your unique background as a legislator and also as one who is in many cases representing the private sector now, what are your reactions to the differences in requirements for government departments and federally regulated industries and interests—exemptions that apply to government departments that choose not to participate versus the private sector, or things like penalties for non-compliance?

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Ghiz:

Good question.

I do want to touch a bit on timelines. I realize what the minister said, but I’ll back up what Ms. Young said about flexibility. When you used to bring in legislation, if you put a specific timeline on something and you missed that timeline, you were going to be criticized and you were going to have a lot of difficulty. I think flexibility with regard to any legislation is extremely important.

Also, I want to go back and talk about making sure that the consultations and everyone involved at the table is there. I go with Mr. Estey, too, and I call it a bit of a catch-22. If you don’t have a timeline, then you could say “Let’s get it done right away” because otherwise it may not compel people to deal with things right away. There is a catch-22 there, but I think that if you work with the word “flexibility”, you’ll find a way to get there and keep everyone at the table.

With regard to different provisions, you have to realize that uniqueness exists and that there have to be some special provisions while ensuring that everyone realizes why they’re in place. I think people talked about education. It’s going to be a key to that understanding.

The CRTC is responsible for certain areas. We heard from the airport folks. I think we are unique. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. I do agree with Ms. Smith, who mentioned that there is a plethora of information out there, and different provinces are doing things, as well as other countries. We don’t need to copy what everyone else does, but we can pick and choose what best fits Canadian society.

(2000)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

I have to cut it there, unfortunately.

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of you for helping us with the study of this bill and for being here today and joining us via video conference. Thank you to my colleagues, and of course, as always, to everybody who makes today possible. There are more of you on this study than normal. Thank you all very, very much.

We are adjourned.



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Transcript of the October 18, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 4 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Transcript of the October 18, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 4 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Notice of meeting

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 115

Thursday, October 18, 2018, 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

8:45 a.m. to 10:40 a.m.

Televised

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Witnesses

As individuals

  • Michael Prince, Professor of Social Policy, Faculty of Human and Social Development, University of Victoria
  • Jutta Treviranus, Professor and Director, Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University (by videoconference: Nantes, France)

Barrier-Free Canada

  • Donna Jodhan, Founder and Chair (by videoconference: Toronto, Ontario)

People First of Canada

  • Kory Earle, President
  • Shelley Fletcher, Executive Director

Public Service Alliance of Canada

  • Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies Region
  • Seema Lamba, Human Rights Program Officer, Negotiations and Programs Branch

10:40 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

(In Camera)

Committee Business

Clerk of the Committee

Stephanie Feldman (613-996-1542)

2018-10-17 9:58 a.m.

Minutes of Proceedings

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 115

Thursday, October 18, 2018, 8:49 a.m. to 10:40 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Presiding

Bryan May, Chair (Liberal)

Expand AllCollapse All

Members of the Committee present

Liberal

Conservative

Acting Members present

In attendance

Library of Parliament

  • Elizabeth Cahill, Analyst
  • Mayra Perez-Leclerc, Analyst

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Witnesses

As individuals

  • Michael Prince, Professor of Social Policy, Faculty of Human and Social Development, University of Victoria
  • Jutta Treviranus, Professor and Director, Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University

Barrier-Free Canada

  • Donna Jodhan, Founder and Chair

People First of Canada

  • Kory Earle, President
  • Shelley Fletcher, Executive Director

Public Service Alliance of Canada

  • Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies Region
  • Seema Lamba, Human Rights Program Officer, Negotiations and Programs Branch

Pursuant to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the Committee resumed consideration of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Jutta Treviranus, by videconference from Nantes, France, Donna Jodhan, by videoconference from Toronto, Ontario, Michael Prince, Kory Earle, Shelley Fletcher and Marianne Hladun made statements and, with Seema Lamba, answered questions.

At 10:33 a.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 10:36 a.m., the sitting resumed in camera.

Committee Business

The Committee proceeded to the consideration of matters related to Committee business.

It was agreed, — That, in relation to the study of supporting families after the loss of a child, the deadline to submit a brief of no more than 2,000 words be 11:59 p.m. on Friday, November 23, 2018.

It was agreed, — That any brief received containing personal information in relation to the Committee’s study of supporting families after the loss of a child be treated as confidential and be neither published nor quoted in any form.

At 10:40 a.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.

Stephanie Feldman

Clerk of the Committee

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

EVIDENCE

Thursday, October 18, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(0850)

[English]

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The Chair (Mr. Bryan May (Cambridge, Lib.)):

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today’s meeting on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The objective of today’s meeting is to continue the committee’s thorough review of the bill.

I have a fairly substantive preamble here, so please bear with me.

I would like to take a moment to remind both those participating in the proceedings, as well as those observing the proceedings of the committee in person and on video, that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study. As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways. This includes providing sign language interpretation and near real-time closed captioning in the room.

Please note that both American sign language and Quebec sign language are being offered to those in our audience. Those who would like to watch the American sign language interpretation should please sit on the benches to my left. If you would like to watch the Quebec sign language interpretation, please sit on the benches to my right. In addition, please note that the first two rows of benches have been reserved for those who wish to avail themselves of these interpretation services.

Screens displaying the near real-time closed captioning have also been set up, with the English text again to my left and the French text to my right. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being video recorded for the eventual broadcast of the meeting on ParlVu via the committee’s website.

In light of these arrangements, the committee asks that if you need to leave the room during the meeting, please do not walk in front of the sign language interpreters. Instead, please use the extremities of the room. In addition, we ask that those in the room remain seated as much as possible during the meeting, so that everyone in the audience can clearly see the sign language interpretation.

Finally, if a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of staff or the committee clerk.

I want to just check with the interpreters if my speed and cadence are appropriate. If so, please could they give me a thumbs-up? Fantastic.

I ask that because in the previous meetings we have gone a little fast, whether it’s with opening statements or with questions and answers. I’m going to apologize in advance. I will, if given an indication by the interpreters, slow you down. Don’t worry about time. We’re very conscious that everyone wants to get the message out and that we are limited in time, but I have been a little liberal—no pun intended—on the timing, and have given people a couple more moments to finish their statements and stay at a slower pace.

If I believe we need to slow down, I will indicate it this way.

I want to introduce those who are here with us today, both in person and via video conference.

Appearing as an individual, we have Jutta Treviranus, Professor and Director at the Inclusive Design Research Centre from OCAD University, by video conference, coming to us from France. Welcome.

Also joining us here by video conference, from Barrier-Free Canada, we have Donna Jodhan, Founder and Chair. Welcome.

Appearing here with us today, we have Michael Prince, Professor of Social Policy from the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria. Welcome.

From People First of Canada, we have Kory Earle, President, and Shelley Fletcher, Executive Director. Welcome.

From the Public Service Alliance of Canada, we have Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-president from the Prairies region, and Seema Lamba, Human Rights Program Officer from the Negotiations and Programs Branch. I thoroughly apologize if I butchered your names.

Each group will receive seven minutes for opening statements. We’re going to start with Jutta Treviranus, coming to us from France.

The next seven minutes are all yours.

(0855)

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Ms. Jutta Treviranus (Professor and Director, Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University, As an Individual):

Thank you.

I am the director of something called the Inclusive Design Research Centre, which has the mission of proactively ensuring that emerging technologies are designed inclusively. We focus on inclusive design for our digitally transformed and complexly connected society. We turned 25 this year and are engaged in many collaborative and international projects.

In my statement, I want to focus on the area where we have the most unique expertise, and this is the impact of the domain of digitally transformed, complexly connected societies on people experiencing disabilities. I also take a systems view of the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities in order to address not just the symptoms of exclusion but the underlying systemic causes.

First I should tell you how we define disability within the design domain and within the data domain. From the design perspective, we see disability as a mismatch between the needs of the individual and the environment, product or service offered, not a defining personal trait. From a data perspective, disability is the outlying edge of the starburst that is the normal distribution, sufficiently far from the central cluster for whom most things are designed so that things are not designed for you and you have difficulty with or can’t use the current designs.

People with disabilities are the outliers. The primary defining characteristic of disability is difference, difference from the norm, and thinking of that starburst, people experiencing disabilities are more different from each other than people who are clustered around the average. As you move from the centre, the dots are further apart.

This means that people experiencing disabilities are served by systems and processes that are designed for variability and complexity. Any evidence related to persons experiencing disabilities will be dispersed and diffuse. There are no large numbers of homogenous representatives, and therefore, there is no statistical significance. Also of note, “majority rules” does not serve people with disabilities.

How is a digitally connected domain different from other domains that you may hear about in terms of accessibility?

Interoperability is the most difficult and pernicious issue in the digital domain. Once adoption begins, barriers propagate and morph extremely quickly and are almost impossible to contain. Inaccessible conventions lock in and are impossible to reverse—try to get rid of the QWERTY keyboard. Therefore, retrofit, which is possible but expensive in other domains, is almost impossible in the digital domain. Timing is also extremely critical and does not follow a predetermined schedule. There’s no benefit in scheduling a five-year review.

People experiencing disabilities are the most vulnerable to threats caused by the digital transformation, but also provide the most compelling benefits for emerging technologies. Technical systems can be designed to provide one-size-fits-one; they can present a different entry point or user experience to each individual.

What are the failures and weaknesses of current legislative frameworks? Technical regulations cannot keep up. They become outdated and then accessibility is seen as an impediment to innovation and progress. Most regulations treat the symptoms and not the cause. We have regulations regarding inaccessible documents rather than the authoring tools that produce them. We focus on the products, not the process.

Accessibility is usually also in a gatekeeping role, which leads to resentment, and not as part of the design from the start, where we should be thinking about accessibility and the digital domain. We focus on accessibility as an obligation, not as a benefit. We should see it as an impetus for innovation, long-term cost reduction and longevity of design. We need to provide the economic modelling to highlight the significant return on investment. We have amassed evidence to this effect.

Also, any available supports, tools, training and expertise provided with respect to supporting the regulations are often fragmented, contradictory, confusing and redundantly produced. The all-too-common checklist approach requires reductionism and increases the barriers for anyone not included or served by the checklist.

(0900)

We have promoted also, with respect to accessibility and computer access, an integrated not a segregated computer access strategy. Promoting an assistive technology industry as a separate non-integrated technology is not viable. It increases the cost and reduces the interoperability. This has become a barrier to digital equity when it was seen originally as a solution.

The emerging threats and opportunities that we need to pay attention to include our emphasis on evidence-based governance. The form of evidence requires large homogeneous groups. People with disabilities are not homogeneous and will not pass any thresholds with respect to evidence.

Artificial intelligence and decisions based on population data, for example, automated vehicles and outliers, do not take into account people who are outliers, and people with disabilities are outliers. Data-guided decisions perpetuate past exclusion, as they use data of the past. If you’ve never held an employment position, there’s no evidence of your ability to perform within that position and so you will never get chosen for the job.

With respect to privacy, de-identification of people with disabilities does not work. People with disabilities are the easiest to re-identify and the most vulnerable to data abuse and misuse. Block chains and other disintermediated systems create the challenge of who you regulate. There is no service provider that you can ask to create accessible systems. Current project planning, monitoring and evaluation processes impose assumptions in unpredictable variable domains that people with disabilities experience.

There are some silver linings. Open platforms offer an opportunity. They can be a means of aggregating and sharing resources, tools and knowledge, matching unmet personal needs and connecting demands at the edge with producers at the edge. They can diversify demand and supply to reach the edges where people with disabilities are.

I have five recommendations.

The first is that we should support inclusive research and innovation. There’s currently a systemic bias against research in this area because there is a lack of statistical significance and there are not enough peers to review the research. We should integrate accessibility into all research support throughout the process, the call for proposal and determining the success criteria, and in the peer review.

Second, we should emphasize systemic processes for long-term change and encourage diversification, not competition, for one winning alternative, participation of informed diverse perspectives in our decision-making processes, and the integration of exclusive design training for all relevant roles.

My third recommendation is that our interventions should be timely and proactive. We should designate and empower a role for vigilant monitoring, and for power to intervene in emerging technology processes or in a watchdog role for emerging technologies and practices. Within this domain, that is the only way we will stop catching up and be able to equitably participate.

Fourth, we need to produce and provide authoring and development tools that produce accessible content programs and services through procurement. You’ll save innumerable hours and effort in remediating inaccessible content if you design it accessibly from the start and this is supported in the authoring and development tools.

Finally, I recommend that we establish a community portal that pools resources, tools, research and constructive feedback from the public and from other individuals who are innovating in this domain, thereby reducing fragmentation.

This doesn’t need to mean that the government is supporting any one solution, but that it is pooling the resources such that the public and people with expertise, especially individuals experiencing disabilities, can review and support the systems.

(0905)

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The Chair:

Now, for seven minutes, from Barrier-Free Canada, coming to us by video conference from Toronto, Ontario, we have Donna Jodhan, Founder and Chair.

The next seven minutes are all yours.

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Ms. Donna Jodhan (Founder and Chair, Barrier-Free Canada):

Good morning. My name is Donna Jodhan, and I’m the President and Chair of Barrier-Free Canada. We are a grassroots, non-partisan organization. We were founded in late 2014, and we were instrumental in kick-starting the campaign for the Canadian government to pass legislation to impact the Canadians with disabilities act for a barrier-free Canada.

At the present time, we are supported by over 25 national organizations across Canada, and we have been endorsed by the cities of Toronto and Halifax. Individual support continues to grow steadily with the present base of about 2000 persons across the country.

Our founding organizations include the CNIB, the MS Society, March of Dimes, Accessible Media Inc. and the Canadian Hearing Society. We continue to advocate for legislation to make Canada a barrier-free country. As part of our initiative, we have developed 14 principles which we believe can help form the foundation of said legislation.

You can find out about our principles by going to www.barrierfreecanada.org. In our appendix A, which we have submitted, we have included the list of the 14 principles, along with a comparison of what we believe has not been included in this proposed legislation. For brevity, I will propose what the legislation does not include in each of our principles.

Barrier-free Canada is grateful for having been given this opportunity to have our voice heard. We believe that when this act is passed, it will go down in history as one of the most important pieces of legislation as it pertains to the rights of Canadians with disabilities, their friends and their families. We look forward to continued collaboration with the Canadian government on this very important piece of legislation.

I will now talk about the comparisons as they pertain to each of the Barrier-Free Canada principles.

On principle one, this principle, in our respectful view, has not been endorsed. There are no meaningful deadlines or time horizons specified by the legislation. Even if a deadline were established in a regulation, there is nothing in the legislation that prescribes a penalty for failing to meet such a deadline.

For principle two, this principle has been partly endorsed. The legislation does appear to cover all persons with disabilities, to address the range of barriers anticipated in this principle, and to apply to the federal government and regulated entities and organizations. However, the legislation does not appear to extend requirements to organizations that receive federal grants, subsidies, loans or other funds. The legislation does not appear to extend requirements to organizations which provide goods and services to the federal government.

For principle three, in principle the legislation is drafted and is not intended to override or displace any existing protections or mechanisms for enforcement that are available to people with disabilities. Given that the regulations have not yet been developed, it is not possible to assess at this time whether the act is stronger or weaker than existing provisions.

(0910)

For principle four, the act does not really aim for full accessibility or inclusion. It strives to achieve “through the progressive realization…of a Canada without barriers”. Progressive realization does not imply any particular deadline or metre stick against which progress is to be measured.

For the fifth principle, to the extent that regulated entities provide goods and services in this manner, the legislation does require that implementation plans be made to identify and remove barriers. It is not clear that the legislation could drive product development and accessibility requirements, e.g., Shared Services information technology services.

For principle six, there are presently no prescribed timelines, but this is otherwise included in the act.

For principle seven, the legislation does not clearly demonstrate how Canada will take a lead role in implementation. Taking that lead role could begin today. Canada should not wait for the legislation or regulations to be finalized before taking proactive steps towards implementation within its own departments. Canada should be seen as leading the charge.

For principle eight, the act does provide for another complaint resolution process outside of the traditional court venues; however, the act does not appear to include any mandatory enforcement provisions. The accessibility commissioner has broad enforcement powers, but those powers “may” be used, not “shall” be used.

For the ninth principle, the act does provide some sector-by-sector separations, at least in respect of a few designated sectors. It is not clear how input from affected groups and organizations will be gathered or consolidated. There is a suggestion in the act, but not a hard rule, that a majority of the board of directors of the standards-setting body will be people with disabilities, but absolutely no requirement that persons with disabilities will dominate on the technical and advisory committees.

For principle 10, these issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.

For principle 11, these issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all. Certainly, there is no mention in the legislation of applying a disability lens to policy and legislative development.

For principle 12, these issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.

For principle 13, this may be happening at a policy level, but there is no direct reflection of it in the federal legislation.

Finally, for principle 14, the degree to which the act is permissive but not mandatory undermines its potential to have real force, effect and teeth.

Thank you very much.

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The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now, appearing as an individual, we have Michael Prince, professor of social policy at the faculty of human and social development, University of Victoria.

Welcome, sir. The next seven minutes are all yours.

(0915)

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Professor Michael Prince (Professor of Social Policy, Faculty of Human and Social Development, University of Victoria, As an Individual):

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Let me just read some opening remarks.

Members of this standing committee will hear from a variety of witnesses on a wide range of issues regarding this bill and the vision of a barrier-free Canada. There is much to applaud in this historic bill, which seeks to advance the principles of full and equal participation of Canadians with disabilities in all areas of society, whatever a person’s abilities and disabilities.

There are also areas of concern with this bill. As Donna has just laid out, these include the absence of measurable targets with specific deadlines; the permissive language in the bill in many sections; the extent of exemptions; the lack of a disability lens; the absence of duties on the Government of Canada for promoting accessibility on the 600-plus first nation communities across the country; the status of ASL and LSQ and rights to communication; the complex model of federal bodies involved in enforcement and adjudication; and, the status of the proposed chief accessibility officer as a Governor in Council appointee rather than an officer of Parliament.

I’m happy to talk about any of those later in discussion. My focus this morning is on what Donna has identified as principle number two in the list of principles by Barrier-Free Canada. I wish to focus on the topic of the scope of application of the proposed act, that is, the entities to which the act will be relevant and seek to influence and support in advancing the inclusion and participation for Canadians with disabilities.

The application of the act is set out in clause 7 of the bill. It outlines various types of entities related to the federal public service, the Canadian Forces and other related parts of the federal public administration.

The question I wish to pose to the committee for your consideration is this: Is this the full scope of application that we should have and that we need to have in order to achieve the fundamental purpose of this act?

Canadians, I believe, have higher expectations and larger ambitions in ensuring a barrier-free society. This certainly is apparent from the extensive cross-country consultations on the planned legislation that took place from July 2016 to February 2017.

I wish to recommend that the scope of the bill and its intended barrier-free objectives be extended to non-federally regulated employers and other organizations: to federal contractors, those organizations, whether federally or provincially regulated, that wish to do business with the Government of Canada, whether that’s in producing and providing goods and services on behalf of Parliament and the Government of Canada, and those organizations receiving significant grants, loans and subsidies.

I propose that subclause 7(1) be amended by adding a new item, which would state, “Any entity, business or organization with 100 or more employees and in receipt of goods and services contracts valued at $200,000 with the Government of Canada”.

This recommendation recognizes the substantial and strategic role of the Government of Canada as a funder and as a contractor. It is a role well within the constitutional authority of Parliament and a long-standing practice in federal public policy and financial arrangements. It refers to what some might call the federal spending power.

The idea for this proposed amendment is informed not only by the work of Barrier-Free Canada but in practice by the federal contractors program, first established in 1986 to advance the implementation of the Employment Equity Act. As an established platform, the federal contractors program has real potential to encourage positive changes in human resources policies and in raising awareness and shifting attitudes, thus empowering persons with disabilities.

The federal contractors program could be updated to add, alongside its long-standing goal of promoting the diversity of workforces, the goal of ensuring the accessibility of workplaces, both as built environments and as places of human relations and attitudes, as well as advancing the accessibility of services and program delivery in those places.

This recommendation is also compatible, I think, with the application of certain powers for the proposed Canadian accessibility standards development organization. Under paragraph 19(a) of the bill, that organization can “enter into contracts, agreements or other arrangements with any person or entity, including any government,” as stated.

(0920)

Under clause 20, the Canadian accessibility standards development organization would be authorized to develop accessibility standards for any person or entity, including any government in Canada or elsewhere.

To support this recommendation, a new series of clauses would need to be added in part 4 of the bill, largely following the format and content of the clauses already contained therein for regulated entities in broadcasting, telecommunications and transportation. I assume that some of those clauses may well be the subject of amendments too.

Part 4 could be amended by adding new clauses, provisionally clauses 73 to 79, that would outline the requirements for entities that I’ve suggested be added to subclause 7(1). These entities would be required to have in place accessibility plans and actions.

This new part in part 4 could be called “regulated entities in receipt of federal contracts or loans or subsidies for goods and services and others”. These new sections would therefore address the requirements for organizations that receive federal funding or contracts to have in place an initial accessibility plan, the establishment of process, etc.

In conclusion, in my submission I identify two recommended amendments to the bill. I’m happy to talk more about the application or many other aspects of this historic piece of legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now, from People First of Canada, we are joined by Kory Earle, President, and Shelley Fletcher, Executive Director.

Thank you both for being here. The next seven minutes are yours.

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Mr. Kory Earle (President, People First of Canada):

Good morning, Chair and members of the committee.

For those of you who do not know who we are, People First of Canada is the national voice for people labelled with intellectual disabilities. We want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today and for allowing us the chance to have our voices heard.

We would first like to say that we’re very pleased that Canada is moving forward with a federal accessibility act that will help remove and prevent barriers to inclusion that people with disabilities experience every day in this country.

Since the beginning of this act, People First of Canada has been part of the work and consultations held across this country. We have worked with the national disability community and the federal government to get as many people with disabilities as possible to give their input on this act as it was being built. We also went to great efforts to ensure that the voice of people with intellectual disabilities was represented in the consultations right across this country.

Having a disability is not cheap. Many people with disabilities cannot afford all the supports they need to fully participate in society. By and large, people with disabilities live in poverty more than most other groups in society. Within the disability community, people with intellectual disabilities live in poverty more than other people with disabilities.

In the principles section of the act, 6(b), (c), and (d), it states, “all persons must have the same opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have”, and “all persons must have barrier-free access to full and equal participation in society,” and “all persons must have meaningful options and be free to make their own choices, with support if they desire, regardless of their abilities or disabilities”. However, without disability supports, many people with intellectual disabilities will not have these opportunities, access or meaningful options, because they do not have the disability supports to take part. Disability supports are an important part of having full and equal participation in society and should be addressed in this act.

Plain language has been a long-standing concern for people with intellectual disabilities. This is an accommodation right: to receive information in a format that is accessible to our members.

Since the beginning of the work on the act, People First of Canada has been pushing for documents and information in plain language, but rarely have we been accommodated. In fact, most documents about the act that are in plain language were either requested by or produced by People First of Canada.

We have seen some regulations that mention plain language, but they are not written in plain language. We are concerned that further documents around the act will not be accessible to people with intellectual disabilities. We are asking that the government produce plain-language documents about the act. This will accommodate people with intellectual disabilities, and it will also make the information more accessible to many others, like people with low literacy and print disabilities, as well as seniors and new Canadians.

(0925)

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Ms. Shelley Fletcher (Executive Director, People First of Canada):

We feel that the act needs to have timelines and deadlines listed for the changes required, as well as for reporting on these changes. Without deadlines, organizations may not do what they need to in order to increase accessibility and remove barriers.

As well, there need to be timelines for putting regulations in place. Without timelines and deadlines in the act, how can we check to see that the act is working? We ask that the bill be changed to include timelines and deadlines for changes and reporting.

People First of Canada strongly believes that all complaints about the act not being followed need to go to the accessibility commissioner. Right now, the act has different ways to make complaints, which are based on what organization is being complained about. It is confusing and will make it harder for people with intellectual disabilities to make complaints when an organization is not following the act.

We also strongly believe that the act needs to be enforced by the accessibility commissioner and not by individual organizations or agencies. We believe that the act must be the same in all areas and that certain organizations should not get to make their own rules. We ask that the bill be changed so that there is one complaint process and that the process be done through the accessibility commissioner.

We’re concerned about standards in the new Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO. This new standards organization will develop the standards that will become regulations to be followed.

We feel that this organization must include people with intellectual disabilities on their board and in their work. This organization needs representation from people with lived experience in order to do its job of identifying, removing and preventing barriers through creating accessibility standards. We also believe that people with intellectual disabilities need to be included in the monitoring of the act to make sure government is making changes based on what the United Nations says it must do for people with disabilities.

We think there is too much time before the act is reviewed to see if it’s working. We think it should be reviewed much sooner than is stated in the bill, which is five years after the first regulation under the act is made.

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Mr. Kory Earle:

Intellectual disability is complex when it comes to accommodation. In the past, we have not done a good job of including and supporting people with intellectual disabilities in our society. Historically, our group has been devalued in some of the worst ways: through institutionalization, forced sterilization, abuses and murder.

We were probably the last group to the tables where decisions about us were being made. To this day within the larger disability community, people with intellectual disabilities are still referred to as “the left behind of the left behind”.

For us, this act is a positive step forward towards ensuring an inclusive and accessible Canada that values everyone. With the necessary changes to the bill, we believe this is a chance for us to have a more accessible country where we are truly valued, present and included.

Thank you.

(0930)

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The Chair:

Thanks very much to both of you.

Finally, from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, we have Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies Region, and Seema Lamba, Human Rights Program Officer, negotiations and programs branch.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. You have seven minutes.

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Ms. Marianne Hladun (Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies Region, Public Service Alliance of Canada):

Thank you.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada strongly believes that persons with disabilities should be able to fully and equitably participate in all aspects of Canadian society.

Our union represents thousands of federal public sector workers, so I’ll be focusing on accessibility in employment and the impact on employees with disabilities in the federal sector.

Both Bill C-81 and the 20-year-old federal Employment Equity Act require federal employers to create plans to eliminate barriers in employment for persons with disabilities. While the Employment Equity Act is imperfect, it does provide an established framework that employers and unions have been working under for many years.

We recommend improving the Employment Equity Act and referring the employment aspects of Bill C-81 to the Employment Equity Act provisions for several reasons.

Bill C-81 only mentions the Employment Equity Act twice and makes no reference to how the two pieces of legislation will work together. This overlap and lack of clarity will create confusion for employers, employees with disabilities and unions.

In order to comply with both pieces of legislation, employers will have to create two plans which at least in part do the same thing. What if the two plans conflict? Will one plan override the other?

The Employment Equity Act requires employers to consult and collaborate with bargaining agents in preparing, implementing and revising their employment equity plans. Bill C-81 only requires employers to consult with persons with disabilities when creating accessibility plans.

Bill C-81 is vague about what should be included in those accessibility plans, while the Employment Equity Act is very specific about what must be included in employment equity plans.

We strongly recommend amending paragraph 5(a) of Bill C-81 to clarify that accessibility in employment must be dealt with under the provisions of the Employment Equity Act and that all regulated entities are responsible for implementing employment equity for persons with disabilities. All other references to employment in the bill should then be amended to reflect this change.

Bill C-81 does not address hiring and supporting employees with disabilities, nor does it mention the role of the Treasury Board as the employer for the federal public service, or the role of the Public Service Commission, which oversees federal public service staffing. The Employment Equity Act does include these responsibilities.

The duty to accommodate in the workplace is also an important aspect of accessibility in employment. Even with the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act, public service workers continue to be routinely denied accommodation at work.

The Treasury Board directive on leave and special working arrangements effectively discriminates against many employees with disabilities who are on long-term sick leave by effectively forcing them to retire from the public service after two years. Accommodation-related grievances and human rights complaints often take years before they’re resolved.

The Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in the Public Service recommended that a centralized, systematic approach be developed for accessibility and accommodations, including centralized funding for accommodations.

Right now, the responsibilities are devolved to departments, resulting in a patchwork of approaches and applications of the employer’s duty to accommodate. To fix this, Bill C-81 should be amended to require Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission to make annual public progress reports to the accessibility commissioner; to require departments and agencies in the core public service to provide progress reports to Treasury Board; to require Treasury Board to set up a central accommodation fund for the public service; and to require that all federal government policies be reviewed to examine and eliminate any barriers to persons with disabilities.

We also recommend making consequential amendments to the Financial Administration Act and the Public Service Employment Act to centralize disability-related issues and accessibility in the public service, and to ensure that Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission are responsible for those issues and cannot delegate that responsibility.

Bill C-81 provides that individuals can file complaints regarding a contravention of the regulations, but there is no way to file a complaint about a violation of the act. This unfairly limits the substance of complaints. For example, an individual can’t file a complaint if an organization doesn’t even have an accessibility plan.

(0935)

The complaints provisions are also unevenly applied to unionized employees in the federal sector. Bill C-81 allows for workers covered under all the federal public service labour laws to take their complaints through the grievance process. However, it does not do the same for federal public and private sector workers covered under the Canada Labour Code. All workers who have recourse through a collective agreement should be allowed to have their complaints heard through the grievance process, and the arbitrator should have the power to interpret and apply the proposed accessible Canada act.

The grievance process has embedded within it a right to appeal and review decisions. It allows workers to file a grievance that addresses multiple workplace issues, including accessibility, without making them pursue multiple parallel complaint processes.

We recommend amending subclause 94(1) to allow a complaint to be filed in relation to a contravention by a regulated entity of any provision of this act, or any regulations made under subclause 117(1). We also recommend including an additional exception, similar to those in subclauses 94(2), 94(3) and 94(4), that applies to all unionized workers under the Canada Labour Code, and that will ensure these workers can access the grievance and arbitration process.

Finally, we recommend that adequate funds be allocated to the proposed accessibility commissioner, the Canadian accessibility standards development organization and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to ensure that these organizations can fulfill their mandates under the new act.

Thank you.

Ms. Lamba and I are pleased to answer any questions.

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The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Thank you to all of you.

We’re going to start questions with MP Barlow, please.

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Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC):

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, witnesses, for your excellent input. It is certainly beneficial when you come to the table with suggestions and potential solutions. That helps us a great deal as we weave our way through this.

Several of you brought up concerns that we have also raised regarding the lack of timelines and meaningful deadlines to establish standards, in terms of exactly what this bill is intended to achieve.

I’ll start with Ms. Jodhan. You were the first to bring up that there are no meaningful timelines or deadlines in this legislation. In your opinion, or in Barrier-Free Canada’s opinion, if you’ve done some work on this, what would you like to see as part of this bill regarding deadlines and a timeline to have standards in place? What would Barrier-Free Canada like to see as part of this legislation?

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Ms. Donna Jodhan:

As far as Barrier-Free Canada is concerned, it is very important that timelines and deadlines be firmly in place. In our humble opinion, maybe there could be a timeline or deadline of two years after this legislation is passed whereby we can judge what has gone on, what needs to be put in place or what needs to be worked on.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Thank you.

Mr. Prince, you also brought up this issue. Would you share that opinion about a two-year timeline at least? I think she’s right in terms of there being no metrics in this bill to understand what we’re trying to achieve and what the goal is.

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

Right.

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Mr. John Barlow:

What would be your recommendation when it comes to a timeline?

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

The concept of progressive realization, which is identified earlier on as one of the guiding principles of this bill, certainly reflects international practice at the UN, and thinking in other jurisdictions. I think what we need to do is flesh out what that actually means.

I’m of the school of thought that, as we have seen in some provincial laws on accessibility—whether that’s Ontario, Manitoba, or Nova Scotia now—there be an aspirational statement. For example, in 2005, the Ontario act put out a 20-year time horizon for a barrier-free Ontario. That’s working towards 2025, with five-year updates and reviews.

Another feature in some of the laws is what might be called “put your own house in order first”. That’s the idea of the Government of Canada, the Parliament of Canada and the larger federal public service being a model employer and model organization, so that the obligations may be phased in first on timelines and deadlines that would pertain to federal public administration.

Some of the sectors I’m suggesting be included further out, such as some of the non-profits, foundations, even my own university. Perhaps that’s the second phase. On private sector conversations, there would be a staggered wave of deadlines and timelines for different sectors that would cascade out. That would be another approach. You see that across a lot of countries and other jurisdictions.

Certainly the reviews then would be more timely than waiting until the first regulations and then five years after that. That probably suggests that we wouldn’t have our first review until about 2025 or 2026. That’s very troubling in terms of an age of accountability and transparency.

I hope that helps.

(0940)

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Mr. John Barlow:

Yes. That’s excellent.

You touched on my next question briefly in your answer as well.

In our opinion, I think all of us here would agree that this is a very important step forward. It is something that is needed and certainly welcomed, but we also want to ensure it’s done correctly. There’s not a lot of point in rushing something like this through so we can put a sticker on it or check a box off, without really having any meat to this legislation.

One of the other issues that concerns me with this bill in the way it is written now is that there is a lot of “do as I say, not as I do”. With the number of exemptions in this legislation, almost every federal government department can apply for an exemption. However, federally regulated private-sector industries cannot.

That’s my opinion, and I’d like your opinion. Should this be treated equally among all these different organizations?

To me, it sends a very poor message that we want the federally regulated industries to do this, but the government departments are probably not going to do this. What is your opinion on that?

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

I used to teach at Carleton in the school of public administration. I lived here for many years. Both of my daughters were born here. I now live on the west coast, in Victoria.

This bill, to me, with respect, reflects that it was written in the bubble of Ottawa. This is written from the point of view of traditional management focus, organizational focus. This is not people-centred. This is about departments making sure that in the negotiations and drafting of this bill, exemptions and deals were cut.

I understand that every legislation is a bunch of compromises. This one is all over it in terms of broadcasting, transportation and others, and sectors that should be in this bill are missing. Let’s do this right, and let’s do it thoughtfully.

The fact that in almost page after page in parts 4 and 5 there are exemptions and exceptions is a terrible message in talking about fundamental human rights. I don’t know if we do this with other groups, but we’ve signed the UN convention, so I find it disturbing. I think there should be a level playing field.

This is basically a machinery-of-government bill. There’s not much social policy or public policy in this bill. This should be about people front and centre. I get that we have to have administrative enforcement and compliance, and on that note I’d like to see a lot more about incentives and education.

The minister has talked quite eloquently over the last year, and when she was the minister before—a few years back—about education. If we’re going to roll out this as an effective implementation, we have to have education happening at the same time. We have to prepare Canadians to accept addressing some systemic attitudinal barriers, and what Jutta talked about, some of the systemic practices in the digital domain and others.

That’s going to take education. I’d like to see more carrots in this, and not a bunch of real or implied sticks.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Thank you very much.

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

I believe in enforcement. We need a strong law, but we also need to send message of support and education and persuasion as well.

(0945)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

We have MP Long, please.

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Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.):

Thank you, Chair.

Good morning to our witnesses. Thank you for your presentations.

In my riding of Saint John—Rothesay, Bill C-81 certainly has been met with a lot of excitement, anticipation and hope. I work directly with organizations like CCRW, and key industries and other organizations that finally see, maybe things aren’t perfect, but the light at the end of that tunnel where as a government we are moving forward and changing the culture. This isn’t only an opportunity for people with disabilities, but an opportunity for all Canadians.

I have so many questions to ask. I’m going to start with how the CASDO board is comprised. I know part 2 of the bill proposes 50 plus one of CASDO board seats be allocated to people with disabilities. We certainly heard some concerns around the table about the composition of that board.

My first question is for Ms. Jodhan. How do you believe this clause could be rewritten in order to address your concerns regarding the degree to which these appointments are considered?

[Expand]

Ms. Donna Jodhan:

These appointments are to be ones that would be of value to this act. I believe that these appointments should be made so that persons with disabilities have a voice at the table and that the appointees will not be influenced by any outside or internal forces. It is very important for persons who are living with a disability—and I am vision impaired—to really feel that they are being heard and understood, because, as Professor Prince mentioned a little while back, there are so many barriers for us to face, not just artificial barriers, but attitudinal barriers, tangible and intangible barriers. Coming back to your question, sir, I think the appointments should be closely examined and take into consideration a lot of things that would determine that these appointments are legitimate and not just window dressing.

Thank you.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you for that.

Kory and Shelley, would you like to see seats explicitly allocated to individuals from each disability community?

[Expand]

Mr. Kory Earle:

Yes, absolutely, we would like to have a seat up there and have the voices heard.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Okay.

Do you have any thoughts, Shelley?

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

To have specific seats representing specific disabilities, is that your question?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes.

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Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

Yes, we would. We think it’s important that each disability have representation as the experts on issues that arise around that specific disability.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Okay.

Does the public service have any input on the composition of the board?

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Ms. Marianne Hladun:

As we deal with anything, it does need to be from members of the disabilities community because—

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Exclusively?

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Ms. Marianne Hladun:

Well, as much as possible…. The way the legislation is worded, it says “a majority of”, but you need to go above that mark. Just because it says “a majority of”, that doesn’t mean 50.1% as much as possible. Persons with disabilities are very diverse, so that should be considered.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Okay.

Michael, do you have anything with respect to it? Yes or no?

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Prof. Michael Prince:

In a few countries…. I think it’s Peru where they actually in the legislation enumerate by disability or types of impairment. They have broad categories, but they do that.

Another thing you might want to consider specifying in the bill is that the vice-chair or the chair be designated, or that they rotate. The Americans do that. Some other countries do that. So you name in positions. You build in not just a floor number, like a minimum of 50% plus one, but you identify certain key roles.

(0950)

[Expand]

Ms. Jutta Treviranus:

I do work in quite a number of countries with respect to regulation. Where there is representation of the high-incidence groups of individuals with disabilities and specific groups that have well-organized advocacy groups, what tends to happen is that there are always individuals with disabilities who are left out.

I agree completely that we require representation of people experiencing disabilities, but we also need to continually ask who we are missing and who has not had a voice at this table. Quite frequently, for example, individuals who are non-speaking and low-incidence individuals and are part of very small minorities do not get to speak.

Also, the usual groups frequently go from one consultation to another, resulting in consultation fatigue, and there is repetition of specific opinions. I think we need to be inclusive in how we include individuals with disabilities.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

MP Hardcastle, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for your presentations, all of you. This has been a really thought-provoking discussion, and I’m glad we’re having it.

I’m going to try to use plain language as much as I can, Mr. Earle. Thank you for that.

I want to go back to timelines and deadlines, because I feel that we started talking about it and then moved away from the real point.

On the day this bill is passed, nothing has to happen. Let’s go back to that. That is the problem, isn’t it?

What are some of the practical ways…? They’re not the big-picture ways, maybe, but there are some practical ways for us to address that right now, aren’t there? Maybe all of you can talk about what you would envision. Right now, on the day this passes, what should we be giving notice of? I’m not trying to hint around at an amendment, but I’ll give you an example of what it could be.

We’ll get to those amendments and that question afterwards, Marianne.

It could be that from the day this passes, everybody who is involved has 18 months to come up with a plan, or they have six months to formulate the advisory committee…. What kinds of deadlines do you think are most practical for our role here in the limited amount of time that we have to study this? What do you think we should be really concentrating on?

Who wants to go first? It looks like we have a few people thinking.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Go ahead, Donna.

[Expand]

Ms. Donna Jodhan:

I think it is important for us to lay down a timeline as to when this advisory committee will be in place. I think it’s very important.

The other thing that I think is important is that we lay down a timeline/deadline for people to file their plans. If we don’t, it will be an open-ended process and people will just keep putting it off. Government departments will be told that they have one year to do this, and they’ll wait until the eleventh hour to do it. Any entity would, if they’re not given a timeline. I do believe in timelines/deadlines.

I think that those two things, the advisory committee and the time limit for filing plans, are important. If those are not put in place, and if, for example people are not told that they have 18 months, let’s say, to file a plan, they’ll keep postponing it, and finally it will just get put on the back burner.

Thank you.

(0955)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I don’t know if any of you have something to add, but maybe we can move on.

Ms. Lamba and Ms. Hladun, I was very intrigued by your presentation.

Right now, what we have is a disconnect and potential conflict. It’s not just a disconnect, but a potential conflict.

I’d like to hear a bit more about how you think we should be approaching that. You discussed some of the sections with the Employment Equity Act. How can we make sure that we’re including those provisions throughout…or do you have a specific approach that we should be taking, like the Treasury Board? Is there an example of something we should be following?

[Expand]

Ms. Seema Lamba (Human Rights Program Officer, Negotiations and Programs Branch, Public Service Alliance of Canada):

I’ll start, and then Marianne can add to it.

There have been references to Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba. They don’t have employment equity acts, so the accessibility plan kind of makes sense. It doesn’t make sense in the federal realm, because we have the Employment Equity Act, which has timelines and requirements that are very concrete about what should be in an employment equity plan.

To be clear, employment equity is about representation, promotions and retention. It is about getting people in, but it’s also about removing barriers in the workplace. Sometimes people confuse that. They think it’s about numbers, but it’s not. It is about a cultural shift.

Our thought is to strengthen and make amendments to the Employment Equity Act. It hasn’t been amended since 2002, so we have recommendations on how to make it better around accountability. Enforcement is a really big issue, and I think it is for this new legislation as well.

It just needs to be strengthened in the Employment Equity Act when it comes to employment. I’d point out that under the Employment Equity Act, the federal contractors program is also there. It covers that broader group as well, contracts that are coming in related to services and goods for the federal public service.

With regard to the conflict, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is also required to do audits on employment equity. You have this group already monitoring employment equity plans and things like that, and then you have this…. There is that sort of conflict, even though there’s the accessibility commissioner and all these other things.

Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission are central agencies and in an ideal world they would be responsible, as employers, for the federal public service for the employment equity. They do annual reports to Parliament on employment equity. There needs to be more strengthened mechanisms.

I want to point out that the task force on diversity and inclusion, which I sat on, points out that employment equity is still very important. It’s still a priority.

Our fear with this legislation is that the thought might be that we don’t have to worry about employment equity anymore and we just have to do this. It’s going to cause some tensions.

As we suggested in the beginning, the amendment is to take the employment piece, strengthen it into the Employment Equity Act, do the Employment Equity Act review, and strengthen areas around there.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Next is MP Hogg, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg (South Surrey—White Rock, Lib.):

Thank you very much.

Ms. Treviranus, I think you had some comments that you wanted to make, and I’m happy to give you a few minutes to provide those comments.

[Expand]

Ms. Jutta Treviranus:

It was just a very quick comment regarding the issue of an aspirational deadline.

I think that gives an inaccurate impression, because it implies that there is some point where accessibility or inclusion is complete, that we can know and will know everything that needs to happen to make Canada accessible. This is a moving target—not to imply that this means it’s difficult—but I think what we need to focus on more are the deadlines for the specific process steps and then additional deadlines as we move along, as we become aware of things that need to be done.

We are in the process of reviewing the AODA, and certainly if you were to ask us what is everything we need to do by 2025 to make Ontario accessible, you would get very, very different opinions. Also, there’s no way to anticipate all of the barriers that will arise between now and 2025.

(1000)

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Thank you. I’ll be sharing a little of my time with Ms. Sidhu.

Contextually, we’ve talked a lot about culture. When the minister introduced this and came before us, her issue was that we have to get moving now and do something as a country and move this legislation forward. She commented about the need to have something legislated and in place. We’re hearing a number of issues and concerns, which I think are all valid and important within that context. These are issues about the effective change of culture and how we effect a cultural change, which is crucial to ensuring that the personality of the legislation and our country is accurately reflected.

I’m interested contextually in terms of where we sit today with other OECD countries and others that are looking at accessibility. Where would Canada sit within that framework? Are there other jurisdictions that have pieces of legislation that might be informative, if not directive, in terms of being able to assist us?

If anyone or everyone would like to respond to that, I’d be delighted to hear it.

After that, I’d like to move on to some of the accountability issues.

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

The remarks about the employment equity plan are a really important reminder of what we already have within Canada at the national level, and similarly with the court challenges program, connected with the Charter of Rights. When the charter was brought in, there was a debate. There was the famous “Obstacles” report of 1980-81, looking at disability. The debate then was whether we should bring in something like the Americans with Disabilities Act, which didn’t follow until later. There was rehabilitation legislation in the United States and people thought that since we had the charter and the Canadian Human Rights Act, we didn’t need it. We also have the Employment Equity Act.

Here we are a generation later and we’re bringing in a bill to address this, which tells us something about the need.

Canada will be catching up, to put it politely, to Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland and several European countries that have various forms of disability rights or accessibility laws. The United States has perhaps invested the most heavily, but again, different federations have different social and political contexts, and we need to make sure this works for our context and our experiences.

We do need to hit the road running. I sense that desire by the minister herself, but you’re right; without presuming how Parliament may eventually land on what this bill looks like, I would hope there are plans afoot for implementation, such as advisory committees, the creation of a design organization or variations thereof.

The chief accessibility officer…. I actually think the names are backwards. The person who I think should be responsible for the administration, enforcement and compliance should be called the officer. The person who should be about the culture change should be the commissioner. The titles are a bit confusing.

What the disability community has called on for a long time is a commissioner who would be like the Auditor General; an officer of Parliament who would play that cultural role and engage from day one on education, information and raising public awareness in plain language and in a variety of alternative formats. That could be something to start from day one. You could announce the person who represents a new beginning, and with that person there’s an array of other organizations and legislation that already exists. You could say that this is a journey we’re about to start on and here are the timelines.

I said it was aspirational and I still believe that. I get what you just said, but we need incremental and phased ones too at year three, five, seven, 10, 12, or whichever, for accountability.

What’s currently called the chief accessibility officer, I would respectfully say rename it. Change the titles to what should be the commissioner, and that should be an officer of Parliament. There’s a real potential as the promoter and educator of the change in the dialogue in the country.

(1005)

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

How much more time do I have?

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have literally nine seconds.

Ramesh, you’re up next. I’m going to suggest that if you have time to share, maybe you could share it with Sonia.

Sonia, you don’t have time for a question, I’m afraid.

MP Sangha, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, everyone, for coming today and giving this great input to the committee.

In Brampton Centre, I have consulted many people on these accessibility studies they were doing. Harvinder Bajwa is in a wheelchair, runs an NGO and is doing a great job.

Jeevan Bains doesn’t have eyesight. She’s my niece. I talked to her at length just to have first-hand knowledge. She gave me great points. She said she was happy to be part of the consultation process. She’s proud of that. She is proud that her uncle is going to be part of this study with the HUMA committee. I too am really proud to be part of this committee. Her main concern was that this barrier-free Canada should be for each and every one.

Mr. Prince, you raised the issue of the amendment to clause 7 on the applicability of the act and said that it should not be limited to certain ones, that it should be for each and every part of the organizations and institutions in Canada. I was really impressed that you are giving us that information and that you want the committee to move a little more forward with that.

Please indicate to the committee how much the amendment you are seeking would help.

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

The way I would answer is to say that my own university has an employment equity plan. It probably wouldn’t without the federal legislation. We briefly had employment equity laws in B.C., as did Ontario, briefly. Both had governments that removed those laws.

In my opinion, we only have employment equity in my university because of the federal contractors program. We have to bid on federal dollars. We want funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and other councils.

Through the federal spending power, there’s a whole host of organizations in Canada that introduced or went well beyond the constitutional limits or the formal division of powers under the Constitution and have employment equity and are committed. We’ve embedded it now for 30-odd years.

I think the expectation in the disability community is to see a similar approach so that we reach out, that we have these practices. The expectation is that this will build on and complement equity. Accessibility is the next part of that story of diversity, equity and inclusion.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Do you think that in the long run there may be a charter issue constitutionally? If certain people are getting the right and others are not getting the right, do you think there will be a charter issue?

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

There’s always a potential for charter issues.

In B.C. many years ago—Mr. Hogg will remember this—we had a court case around the right to have interpreters in hospitals. That became a charter case. That perhaps has not been as well implemented as it ought to have been, but different groups have tended it…. This has been part of the problem. Different groups, by impairments and different conditions, are going to court and litigating the rights for their particular group with their particular condition. That’s very a fragmented, piecemeal, slow, tough journey to advance the rights of all Canadians who have some limitations and face barriers.

The potential of this bill, if it’s designed right, is to make this a much more generic and universal approach, so that groups, families, parents and disability groups such as People First don’t have to invest the very limited dollars they have on very expensive court cases to advance the rights across groups. That’s what I see as troubling right now. It’s the fragmentation around disability groups. There’s a very understandable frustration by a lot of parents, whether it’s around autism or diabetes; everyone wants a national strategy for their group and their condition. With respect, that’s not the way to go.

(1010)

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Thank you very much.

Chair, I can share the rest of my time with Ms. Sidhu.

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have 40 seconds. Go ahead.

[Expand]

Ms. Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South, Lib.):

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to all the panellists for being here.

I’m pleased to see a sign language interpreter present at committee today. I met with hearing-impaired Canadians who told me that the United States has sign language interpretation for emergency alert broadcasts for things that happen, like natural disasters, but the same service is not offered in Canada. That is a concern.

Is that an issue raised by those with a disability?

[Expand]

The Chair:

A very brief answer, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

I don’t represent the hearing-impaired community. However, we do sit on a committee with the folks from the hearing-impaired community. Absolutely, that is identified as an issue here in Canada.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

We will come back to Sonia in the next round.

Next is MP Diotte for six minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte (Edmonton Griesbach, CPC):

Dr. Prince, welcome. I know you had some pretty strong words about the bill as it is now. You talked about it seeming to be a machinery-of-government bill. It should be about people. It’s disturbing. Thanks for your honesty.

Can you give us some specific examples of how this bill fails people with disabilities?

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

There’s only so much you can push for in legislation. I think what I’m hearing from my colleagues, particularly from People First, is…and I know the minister has talked about this briefly before. Again, on day one if this is passed and gets royal assent, what I think Canadians with disabilities are looking for in the larger context is an agenda of accessibility and inclusion that would be around programming and services and investments. Those get into budgetary items, of course, and programming, which are not necessarily in Bill C-81.

There are limits to what you can do in the bill, but there are the ideas of investments in disability supports and services, whether it’s for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or hearing impaired…. There are other kinds of investments in services and in labour market agreements that have been recently retooled for employment opportunities.

To really give this bill its best chance of success is in the larger context of investments in other policies and programs, many of which are provincial not federal, in fact. But where does the federal government have a role, whether it’s through the enabling accessibility fund, which would be a very important way of…?

In my call for amending clause 7 and bringing in other entities, and when I talk about incentives…either some grants or contributions, or looking creatively at tax credits or tax measures that would provide incentives for employers on accessibility in a way that we haven’t. We toy around with that with home modifications for seniors and people with disabilities. We’ve dipped into it that way, but why can’t we do similar things around other incentives?

With the enabling accessibility fund and the opportunities fund, the disability tax credit, the RDSP, the registered disability savings plan, which is a fantastic public program in this country, and we’re the first country in the world to bring in something like that, there’s that larger context.

I might be criticizing parts of this bill. It has a lot of room for improvement. But I would also make a plea to the committee to make this a people’s bill and a social policy-oriented piece of legislation, some of which could maybe be in here, but a lot of it’s going to be things that parallel and complement this. This is the right committee to be doing that.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

To help people who don’t have disabilities, what are some things in the workplace that have to change?

This question is for Dr. Prince or anybody else who might have some knowledge on that.

What has to change? We all see the accessible washrooms and wheelchair ramps, but what are other things that most able-bodied people would not even think about?

(1015)

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

I would quickly comment on something Michael just said. The RDSP program, for example, is fantastic. Canada is very fortunate to have that.

In our world, the number of people with intellectual disabilities who have taken advantage of the RDSP program is minimal because they can’t get to it. They don’t understand it. Somebody with an intellectual disability walks into a bank and says, “I would like to access the RDSP.” There are a ton of issues with banks. None of that is written in a language that people with intellectual disabilities understand. Here we have a great opportunity. We can’t access it.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Is there anyone else?

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

Your question was around employment specifically.

Do you want me to stop?

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

I just want to give Dr. Treviranus some time to comment.

[Expand]

Ms. Jutta Treviranus:

One of the things I want to comment on is that we’ve been involved in quite a few discussions on the future of work. There is the discussion about how work will be changing, how automation and many of the new innovations that are coming about are going to be quite disruptive in work for everyone. What I would suggest is that we insert or infuse those with thoughts of accessibility and greater equity for people with disabilities.

Some of the changes that need to happen to our employment are things that will benefit everyone, but will definitely benefit individuals with disabilities. In fact, if we have the impetus of making them more accessible…. For example, our HR practices assume replaceable workers with a particular job description, as opposed to a team of workers. We try to fit the person to the job, rather than the job to the person. There are all sorts of benefits to thinking more inclusively about jobs that will improve Canada’s performance with respect to the future of work and the transformation of work that will also benefit people with disabilities.

In every area where we are talking about new policies, change of policies, new innovations or changes within our practices, we should be infusing the interests of individuals with disabilities.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now we are going to MP Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

This is for everybody on the panel.

Sometimes my Conservative friends across the aisle talk just about the concerns of the cost of Bill C-81. You know, “How much is it going to cost? Can we bear that cost?”

Should there be a cost to creating an accessible Canada?

Mr. Prince.

[Expand]

Prof. Michael Prince:

Well, there are costs to everything. There are the opportunity costs of all that talent and energy that’s been lost over the years of the people who haven’t been able to participate.

We need to recognize that part of the reason for the perpetuation of systemic barriers and obstacles is that there are real concerns…. Legal liability is one of the reluctances around employment barriers at times. Part of it are the fixed costs of retrofitting or making facilities and services more accessible.

That’s what I mean by these broader policy tools around tax measures, or the grants or contributions, for investments. We need to have a frank, honest conversation that there are costs around accommodation. There are huge benefits and opportunities, but we need to look at both and have a balanced conversation on that.

Again, that’s not to hold up or delay fundamental human rights on the altar of a cost-benefit analysis that will mean a further delay and a further perpetuation of barriers to Canadians who have been left out for far too long.

(1020)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Jutta, go ahead.

[Expand]

Ms. Jutta Treviranus:

I want to mention a number of economic studies that have been done on accessibility, and the costs of accessibility.

It’s a myth that it will cost more in the long term; it actually costs less in the long term.

In comparing services that were designed for everyone, versus services where you have the service designed for the average group and then a separate segregated…or afterthought with respect to disability, what you find is that if you include people with disabilities right at the beginning in developing a service, it may cost a little more and take a bit more time initially, but over a five-year period, it will cost less. That’s because a service that isn’t designed for people with disabilities in mind will continuously have additional issues or features that need to be added, and it will become unstable, and there will be an end of life much more quickly. The long-term costs of that are far more.

There is also this notion of full social costing. I would refer you to a study that was done by the Martin Prosperity Institute called “Releasing Constraints”, which shows that in fact there are many GDP gains to be made, and other economic gains.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I would agree.

Again, I’m somewhat new to HUMA and this thought process. I’ll give you the example of a community centre in my riding where I parked in the parking garage, came upon a door to go into the community centre and a lady in a wheelchair was sitting outside the door. There was no way for her to come in unless somebody was coming in or out of that door and saw her. I asked her how long this had been going on and she said, “Forever.”

To your point, people in wheelchairs stopped going there, stopped shopping there, and stopped eating there, so there is an economic cost to not doing this.

Shelley and Kory, do you want to add to this?

[Expand]

Mr. Kory Earle:

Thanks for the question.

First of all, having a cost should not be the barrier aspect…. It’s one thing to have costs, but in the long run, we’re talking about fundamental rights of people with disabilities. Put the cost aside and look at the economics of people having full participation.

Each and every day as we fight to be included, we don’t wake up and think about how much this is going to cost. We think about how we are going to be included in today’s society. Let’s not focus on the cost. Let’s focus on people being part of every day.

We’ve talked about having supports. In terms of this act, if I go and complain, what if I don’t have supports that are available for me for that? That needs to be really seriously addressed.

Thank you.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

Could I quickly add one thing?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Sure.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

Economically speaking, in the intellectually disabled world, there is a gentlemen by the name of Mark Wafer, who owns a bunch of Tim Hortons—

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We interviewed him.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

Pardon?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We interviewed him in a previous study on Tim Hortons.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

You’ve met Mark? Who tells a greater story from a business aspect on the benefits of hiring somebody with a disability? You want to look at numbers, right?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes. Randy Lewis from Walgreens is another example of a total leader.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

There you go.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Ms. Seema Lamba: May I add to that?

[Expand]

The Chair:

Very briefly, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Seema Lamba:

I was just going to say that in the employment realm, costs are often not really valid, because it generally costs $500 or less for accommodating people with disabilities. There is actually an attitudinal barrier where people say, “Oh no, it’s going to cost a lot.” If you look into it, things can happen that are very cost-effective.

It’s a myth, basically. That’s what I’m trying to say.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you very much.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Next is MP Falk, please, for five minutes.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First of all, I want to thank all of the witnesses for sharing their stories today.

There’s one thing that I do want to mention. I know that our colleague across the way is making it seem that all we are concerned with is the cost. This is a piece of legislation that hasn’t had any costing done on it yet, so there is the act of being prudent, just to know what the cost analysis is on this and not write a blank cheque at the end of the day, right? We need to go in, again, by just using some prudence on costing.

That said, I don’t recall who said this, but I think it was Mr. Earle who asked who has not had a voice at this table. I really like that, because I think it can be used in more than just legislation. I think it can be used every day, right?

I think we’ve seen this, too, with the current government in their last budget. One could argue that they definitely used a gender lens on their budget, but using a disability lens and having that opportunity to have a disability lens on legislation to begin with…. When legislation is being drafted, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s about having that ability to actually use a disability lens.

I really appreciated those words and the thoughts that they provoked. Thank you.

I believe, Ms. Jodhan, that you mentioned lead roles that Canada or the government could take on now. As Ms. Hardcastle mentioned, the way the legislation is written now, on the day that it receives royal assent, nothing would happen, technically. We wouldn’t have a tangible change that would come into effect. I’m wondering if I could get some examples from you of how government departments could take lead roles and achieve this now, before legislation is implemented.

(1025)

[Expand]

Ms. Donna Jodhan:

Thank you very much.

One of the roles that government could take is that although a lot of the external websites, the governmental websites, have been improved in the last few years, a lot of the internal websites have not followed suit. One of the things that I think this government can do is to walk the walk and have internal websites follow suit. From what I’ve been told, and I don’t work for the government, quite a few colleagues have said that, as of now, a lot of these departmental websites are not accessible, not usable, not terribly navigable.

I’m wondering if this is one of the things that can be worked on. And let’s just forget about cost. Everything costs something.

I want to make a quick comment, and I’ll end it here. I find that when it comes to persons’ disabilities, it is always about cost. Why is it like that? Why is it that we are always being told let’s see how much it costs when it comes to doing things for persons with disabilities?

When it comes to doing things for other types of persons, sighted persons or others, the cost matter is not brought up as frequently and regularly.

Thank you.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay, thank you.

My next question I believe would again be directed to Mr. Earle and Ms. Fletcher.

You mentioned disability supports. I am wondering in what context you were referring to them, and if you could give me some examples of disability supports.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Make it a brief answer, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

An example of disability support is me being here with Kory.

In the intellectually disabled world, the accommodation rights, as he said, are complex. It’s the ability to have somebody—I’ll use our language—a non-labelled person, somebody without an intellectual disability, beside a person with a disability to translate into plain language when needed.

That’s an example.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

It could mean different things within different parts of the disability community.

[Expand]

Ms. Shelley Fletcher:

Absolutely, and there is a cost to that. We’re two people, so every cost to bring Kory somewhere is times two.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Next is MP Hardcastle, for three minutes, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Three minutes.

Quickly, Donna, if you can hear me, when the question was asked about what’s it like in the workplace environment, I think only my screen shows when you put your hand up. I want to give you a chance to talk about that a little bit.

If you can keep it short, then, I have one more minute…. I don’t get a lot of time on this committee.

Thank you.

(1030)

[Expand]

Ms. Donna Jodhan:

Thank you very much.

I am someone who is vision impaired. The attitudinal barriers, the artificial barriers, need to be worked on. This has to do with creating more awareness and more education.

When many employers take a look at someone like me, they don’t look at what I bring to the table. They look at what I do not bring to the table. They look at me as someone who cannot contribute economically.

That is one of the barriers in the workplace. Thank you.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you.

Ladies, going back to the Employment Equity Act and areas in which it is specific where Bill C-81 is vague, very quickly, do you see any low-hanging fruit that you can discuss with us?

[Expand]

Ms. Marianne Hladun:

I’m not exactly sure—

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

On duty to accommodate—

[Expand]

Ms. Marianne Hladun:

There are two things that I think we hear as a union representing federal public sector workers. Employers are not fulfilling their requirements under duty to accommodate. The number of grievances and complaints that we’re required to do…and this is when we have legislation in place where employers have a responsibility and a duty to accommodate in the federal public service, and it’s not happening.

If you look at the diversity task force report that Ms. Lamba referenced earlier, you see the other issue we have is staffing. I will tell you as a union representative that I have had members come to me who say they are in a staffing pool. They’ve identified as a person with a disability or an equity-seeking member. They were the last one left in the pool, and guess what, they closed the pool because there wasn’t enough in there. This is the reality of what’s happening to equity-seeking members in the federal public sector. This is the reality of what’s happening with persons with disabilities because of the perception that it’s going to cost thousands to accommodate someone when it could be as simple as providing software to enable them to do voice to text.

I want to say one quick thing. We were talking about representation on the board. Yes, we need representation from persons with disabilities. We need representation from people like Professor Prince who have that academic background. As bargaining agents in the federal public service, we spend a lot of time representing our members, and we have the expertise. I also believe that we should have a seat at that table just as we do under the Employment Equity Act, where the employer is not just required to consult with us, but to collaborate with us, which is a whole different level from consultation.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much. I’m afraid that brings us to the end of this meeting.

We will need to suspend so that we can go in camera to conduct some committee business.

Before we do that, I would like to thank all of you here in person and also via video conference for joining us this morning and contributing to what I think is going to be a good piece of legislation. Hopefully we can make it better through this process.

Thank you very much, everybody.

We’re going to suspend briefly.

[Proceedings continue in camera]



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Transcript of the October 8, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 3 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Notice of meeting Amended

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 124

Thursday, November 8, 2018, 8:00 a.m.Amended

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

CLAUSE-BY-CLAUSE CONSIDERATION

Witnesses

Department of Employment and Social Development

  • James Van Raalte, Director General, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Benoît Gendron, Director, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Erik Lapalme, Senior Policy Analyst, Accessibility Secretariat

Clerk of the Committee

Stephanie Feldman (613-996-1542)

2018-11-06 11:07 a.m.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

EVIDENCE

Thursday, November 8, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(0800)

[English]

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC)):

It’s good to see everyone again. I missed all of you. It’s been at least a minute since we saw each other.

Once again, I will go through the introductions for those who are new guests to our committee.

Today’s meeting is on C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The objective of today’s meeting is to resume the committee’s clause-by-clause consideration of this bill.

I would like to take a moment to remind those participating in the proceedings as well as those observing the proceedings in person or on video that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for the full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study. As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways. This includes providing sign language interpretation and near real-time closed captioning in this room.

Please note that both American sign language and Quebec sign language are being offered to our audience. For those who would like to watch the American sign language interpretation, please sit on the benches to my left. For those who would like to watch the Quebec sign language interpretation, please sit on the benches to my right.

In addition, please note that the first two rows of benches have been reserved for those who wish to avail themselves of these interpretation services. Screens displaying a near real-time closed captioning have also been set up, with the English text to my left and the French text to my right. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being video recorded for the eventual broadcast of this meeting on ParlVu through the committee’s website.

In light of these arrangements, the committee would like to ask, if you need to leave the room during the meeting, please do not walk in front of the sign language interpreters. Instead, please use the extremities of the room. In addition, we would ask that those in the room remain seated as much as possible during the meeting to ensure that everyone in the audience can clearly see the sign language interpretation. Finally, if a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of the staff or the committee clerk.

Once again, I would like to welcome our officials from the Department of Employment and Social Development, James Van Raalte, director general, accessibility secretariat; Benoît Gendron, director, accessibility secretariat; and Erik Lapalme, senior policy analyst, accessibility secretariat.

We will now continue with the clause-by-clause consideration.

I want to let everyone on the committee know that we’re going to try to get done by one or two o’clock, before question period. According to the clerk, our sign language interpreters will only be here until 6 p.m. today. That gives us a deadline there as well. I know we are going to try to finish earlier than that.

With that in mind, if you don’t feel you have to read out some clauses in the amendments, if it’s pretty straightforward, we’ll try to move through those as quickly as possible.

We will now pick up where we left off.

(On clause 21)

The Chair: We were on clause 21, PV-6.

(0805)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.):

Chair, just for confirmation, with the motion we passed that one o’clock was the deadline and after one o’clock we would just read and go through, is there a plan to stay until six o’clock?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

According to the motion, today is open. We have that motion on file.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Maybe I’m misunderstanding.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

If we can be done by one…but we’ve only gone through 20 clauses.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The debate on the amendments will go until one o’clock.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Right, but the votes could take until past two, depending on how far we get.

It’s not going to be open for debate or anything like that; it’s just that the voting could take us past two.

Moving on to amendment PV-6 on clause 21, is there any discussion?

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte (Edmonton Griesbach, CPC):

I was voting.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The legal counsel was just telling me that CPC-20 is pretty much identical to the previous amendment. Because we would be voting on Green Party amendment PV-6, CPC-20 would not be tabled. If you wanted to comment on CPC-20, I would do it now.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Mr. Chair, it’s important for us to have as much independence as possible for the organizations that are going to be established under Bill C-81. Some independence from the minister is important, and that’s reflected in both of these amendments.

I just want to say, in regard to PV-6, that I know Ms. May would be here to speak to these motions herself, but she did have to get home for the Kristallnacht commemorations that are taking place.

It does reflect how important it is to all of the members here that we have some independence in the agencies that are going to be established for the work that they’re going to do.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Ms. Hardcastle.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 21 agreed to)

(On clause 22)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We now move to Green Party amendment PV-7.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again we see the importance of having timelines reflected and our expectations for the mandate of Bill C-81 being carried out in a reasonable fashion with this amendment.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 22 agreed to)

(On clause 23)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have CPC-21.

Ms. Falk.

(0810)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC):

Basically, clause 23 would be amended by:

(1.1) The Chair is to be appointed on a full-time basis and the other directors are to be appointed on a part-time basis.

This is just to make sure that this is a full-time position, and it should be a full-time position with the substantial work that is involved.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, yours is identical.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes. I believe it is important for us to articulate in this bill that it is a full-time position due to the importance of that place.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We move to Green Party amendment PV-8.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Is this going to cancel out other ones?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, it will, amendment CPC-22.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay, based on that, may I speak to it, then?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Absolutely.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically, this would provide fixed-term appointments for CASDO directors, with removal based on behaviour or competence standard.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On CPC-22.1, Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically the amendment is as follows:

The directors are to be appointed no later than six months after the day on which this subsection comes into force.

Again, as we reiterated last night, our stakeholders who have flown from all over the country to come as witnesses expressed their concern and the importance for timelines. This would just be respecting the testimony that we heard.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any other discussion?

Seeing none, I’ll call the vote.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to CPC-23. If CPC-23 is moved, CPC-24 cannot be moved due to consistency.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I know from testimony we have heard there was a varying degree of recommendations from witnesses. Some organizations wanted to have full representation; others were okay with the 50.1. We are suggesting an amendment that two-thirds of all the directors of CASDO be persons with disabilities.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Are there any further comments on CPC-23?

Ms. Falk again.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Sorry, it’s really early. My nap was short.

Also, with regard to testimony that we heard, the fact that 40% of indigenous people have or will have a disability within their lifetime, it is also, we believe, important there be at least one indigenous person on the board representing indigenous people with disabilities.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Seeing no further comments, I’ll call the vote.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We’d like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings ])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll move to CPC-24.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The amendment states:

that at all times, as far as possible, one of the directors is an Indigenous person; and

Again, it’s that we have at a minimum one person on the CASDO board who is an indigenous person who has a disability.

(0815)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on CPC-24?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I think that this is so important. We heard in testimony that indigenous people weren’t even referenced in this bill. With all the consultation that was done and the nation-to-nation relationship this government has, I would think it’s imperative that there be support for this amendment.

Thank you.

We would like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-12.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning to everybody.

During our witnesses’ presenting, I asked a lot about having a diversity of disabilities represented on the board. We would like to add:

(c) the importance of having directors that are representative of the diversity of disabilities faced by Canadians.

It’s a separate lens, so we’d like it just as a paragraph (c), not added to paragraph (b).

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, this is more innocuous language added to innocuous language. We just defeated amendments that would have been more specific about the two-thirds and actually added indigenous peoples. The language that we actually need to enforce your intent here has been defeated and this is more innocuous language.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 23 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is everybody okay with applying the vote on clauses 24 and 25?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 24 and 25 agreed to)

(On clause 26)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have amendment PV-9.

Are there any comments on PV-9? I’m seeing none.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): No amendments were made to clause 26, so could I get unanimous consent for clauses 26, 27, 28 and 29 to be done together?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 26 to 29 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 30)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): That gets us to PV-10.

Are there any comments on PV-10?

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Did we do PV-9?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We just did it. It was defeated.

We’ll call the vote on PV-10.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’re on CPC-25.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically, CPC-25 amends this clause for a term of up to eight years. This would provide that the CASDO chief executive officer’s term, subject to renewal, is for up to eight years instead of five. To secure talented candidates, these candidates should be able to have an assurance of a longer term in office. Moreover, especially in the early years, the new CEO could acquire expertise that Canada won’t want to lose.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 30 agreed to)

(On clause 31)

(0820)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on CPC-26.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Is it clause 31 that we’re looking at?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That’s the clause.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Right. Basically, we feel that the bill should be amended to require the minister to designate an acting replacement for the CEO within 90 days of the CEO’s absence or incapacity, unless the CEO is known to be returning to the office within 90 days. We would ask for a wording change there. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 31 agreed to)

(On clause 32)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to CPC-27.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

The amendment proposes subclause 32(1.1).

We feel the bill should be amended to require the CASDO CEO to consult with the CASDO board when selecting membership of an advisory committee to assist CASDO with developing accessibility standards. Again, it’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 32 agreed to)

(On clause 33)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to CPC-28.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The amendment states:

Officers and employees must be provided with appropriate training in matters related to accessibility.

I think this is a recurring theme. Even when this committee studied Bill C-65, we saw the importance of training. It’s part of that education component. We should amend this clause so that all officers and employees receive training on accessibility. Even though it seems redundant, and a cliché, even, it’s important to make sure we don’t make any presumptions or assumptions that people have all the education they need. It’s about being able to provide that extra top-up.

(Amendment negatived)

(Clause 33 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now have amendment CPC-29.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We’re asking that Bill C-81 be amended by adding before line 18 on page 12 the following new clause:

33.1(1) In carrying out its mandate, the Standards Organization must, on a continuing basis,
(a) hold public consultations on the accessibility standard it should next develop and on any proposed accessibility standard; and
(b) make available to the public progress reports respecting the development of accessibility standards.
(2) The Standards Organization must make available to the public the minutes of meetings of the board of directors and of advisory or other committees.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the minutes of meetings must include the text of all proposed accessibility standards considered at the meeting.

This is basically adding a level of transparency and accountability to the CASDO board.

(0825)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, yours is very similar. Do you want to speak to this now?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes, Mr. Chair.

In order to increase or ensure the transparency, it’s not unreasonable to expect the standards organization to have public meetings, to make public their minutes, to make public their progress reports and to include the text of any standards that are being deliberated on at meetings. That’s very reasonable to expect. Unfortunately, unless it’s articulated, it may not happen and that transparency may not be achieved.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will now ask for unanimous consent for the vote to be applied for clauses 34 and 35 as is. Is everybody okay with that?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Agreed.

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk: Clause 34 was not amended?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It was not amended.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We’re running these two together?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, clauses 34 and 35 together.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

You want to do them separately?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Yes.

(Clause 34 agreed to)

(Clause 35 agreed to)

(On clause 36)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That brings us to clause 36 and NDP-7.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Here again, this amendment is a way for us to ensure transparency:

The Minister must publish the report on the departmental website within 10 days after the day on which the report is received by

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have clauses 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 that are as is. I’m going to ask for unanimous consent to apply the vote to all of those.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 36 to 41 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Look at what we can get done. There’s not as much fight in everybody in the morning.

(On clause 42)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will go to LIB-13.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey (Egmont, Lib.):

Mr. Chair, these are consequential as a result of the amendments made and approved in LIB-5 and LIB-6.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have CPC-30.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

This clause would be amended to say:

The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

Basically, it’s adding a provision requiring accessibility plans to relate to the purpose of the act and to be prepared and implemented in accordance with the principles of the act. Plans should address how they will contribute to achieving a Canada without barriers by the date specified in the act. These changes would strengthen the effectiveness of the accessibility plans and help to ensure that barrier identification, prevention and removal address issues of intersectionality and poverty.

(Amendment negatived)

(0830)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-8.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, this amendment is just underscoring the need for the effectiveness of Bill C-81 moving forward, and the accessibility commissioner is the rightful office that should be notified, not the CRTC.

Basically the CRTC is enforcing and notifying itself where they need to be answerable to the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Ms. Hardcastle.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, you get two in a row. We have NDP-9.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

There are several of these.

I do want to underscore that the way it’s articulated here, because it is federal jurisdictions, these will be people who work in the public sector and have a collective agreement so we need to be able to work that in just for the logistics of being able to carry out these specifics. For people who have collective agreements, these agreements also need to be included in the process.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on NDP-9?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 1 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-14.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, when we had witnesses before the committee, there was a concern expressed that regulated entities are not required to develop an effective accessibility plan. Even before regulations are in place, this amendment which I will read in a second will help ensure that accessibility plans developed under the act are effective and consistent with the principles that define our approach to accessibility.

I move that Bill C-81, in clause 42, be amended by adding after line 3 on page 17 the following:

(9) The regulated entity must take into account the principles set out in section 6 when it prepares an accessibility plan or an updated version of its accessibility plan.

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 42 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, we’re moving quite quickly. Is it okay if we have a three-minute suspension just so we can catch up?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sure. Is everybody okay with that?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll suspend for three minutes.

(0830)

(0840)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re back.

I’m sure everybody is refreshed after a few minutes’ break. Another handful of bacon will get everyone’s energy up for sure.

(On clause 43)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We now move to clause 43, on which we have NDP-10.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, any regulated entity that is expected to comply with this accessibility act and seeks an exemption or is going to fall short of the mark doesn’t report to the CRTC in this case but reports to the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg (South Surrey—White Rock, Lib.):

I’m in agreement with a number of the principles that have come forward, but the procedure or the placement of them becomes questionable, whether it’s legislation, regulation, or as we heard yesterday, with respect to accreditation and the other areas and responsibilities that they fall in.

As a principle, a number of things that have been said are positive. I just don’t believe they should be placed in the legislation. I believe they should be followed through another place. I just need to clarify that for my own sense of well-being—which, of course, goes with the bacon.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 43 agreed to)

(On clause 44)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-11.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, I do appreciate that we’re going to have nuanced and finessed regulations that are going to be constantly evolving. This is the foundation. This is historic legislation that needs to create the strong foundation of how this is going to take place.

Once again, it is extremely important that the accessibility commissioner be the one who is notified. That has to be in the legislation. That is foundational; that is not regulation.

(0845)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion?

Do you want to wait until they have more bacon and then we’ll see?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Good one.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

If not, I’ll call the vote.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Ms. Hardcastle, on NDP-12.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I saw that this was not recognized throughout. As we heard from testimony and specifically from PSAC, sometimes what’s happening with the public sector employees is that there are already collective agreements in place with a process. We need to include that in the legislation. It has to be recognized that there is a framework in place under collective agreements for most of these employees that creates a synergy.

When you include them, it does create that synergy. If you don’t include them, it becomes conflict and confusion, and we don’t need that when we have a new piece of legislation and new offices. It’s better to be clear and articulate that collective agreements are part of the process; they’re not separate.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 44 agreed to)

(On clause 45)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have LIB-15.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this change is for clarity. The amendment ensures the bill is consistent and clear in the language it uses, particularly in granting regulation-making authority, regarding publication of feedback processes to the different regulators under this act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

They shouldn’t be making any regulation. It should be the accessibility commissioner who does that. That’s why this has to be articulated in legislation.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-16.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Currently, there is no regulation-making authority set out in Bill C-81 regarding requirements for feedback processes. This amendment will ensure regulators are granted the authority to make regulations in relation to feedback processes.(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move to LIB-16.1.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is about timelines. This amendment will address stakeholder concerns about the delayed regulations, by creating an obligation for all bodies with regulation-making authority under this act to have their first regulations under the act within two years of the act coming into force.

We think the amendment makes the bill stronger and gives—

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The CRTC—

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

—there’s going to be one for each.

We think this gives the bill a little more teeth for timely implementation.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 45 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 46)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will start with LIB-17.

(0850)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Excuse me, Mr. Chair.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I believe that clause 46 must be omitted from the bill. My understanding in the procedure is that I could not put that in the form of an amendment, so I have to make that statement now. I hope I’m correct in this process now.

Clause 46 must be omitted from the bill. This clause permits the minister, the CRTC, or the CTA to exempt organizations from complying with requirements to prepare and publish accessibility plans, create feedback processes and develop progress reports.

For all of the stakeholders who have testified and given us their input and from consultation across the country, that speaks for itself.

I’d like that exempt please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, you’ll have your opportunity to make that vote when we vote on that clause.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Now, if LIB-17 is adopted, it will make CPC-31 unable to be moved because of consistency.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We want to put a three-year limit on exemptions.

This amendment recognizes that accessibility solutions evolve over time. It also prevents entities from slipping through the cracks, thereby ensuring that everyone does their part to achieve an accessible Canada. Exemptions can’t be unlimited, so that’s why we want to move this one forward.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

From what I understand, if LIB-17 is passed it will cancel out—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

CPC-31.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay.

If the bill allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements and if exemptions are to be granted, the reasons should be made public and they should be time-limited.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes, we agree.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

LIB-17 and CPC-31 are quite similar. There’s a difference in the timelines. The difference between the two is that the exemption is either five years or three years.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I’d also like to clarify, Mr. Chair, there is nothing that says that the reasoning be made public.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That is correct.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Through you, Mr. Chair, to the member who made mention of stronger…. I was wondering if he could explain why their amendment is stronger.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’re saying that you can’t have unlimited exemptions and that there’s an automatic trigger after three years. I think yours said five.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

There’s no mention of making anything public.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

We’ll address that in the next one.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

For Ms. Falk’s benefit, if one of the next two—LIB-17 or LIB-18—are adopted, CPC-31 will be inadmissible. If you want to try to make an amendment to LIB-17 or LIB-18, you would have to do that before.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’re on LIB-17.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, but she can do it to LIB-18 as well. LIB-18 will be the same issue.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll move to LIB-18. If it is adopted, CPC-31 is inadmissible due to consistency.

(0855)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, as we were just discussing, there’s always a need for additional transparency. This seeks to require and make public why the exemptions are there. This ensures transparency. We heard that if there were going to be exemptions, they need to know why they’re there and the rationale behind them. The two together actually make it stronger. It speaks directly to it.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, we will be voting down clause 46 in Bill C-81. The bill allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements. There is no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted. Any exemptions will weaken the overall purpose of the act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

We don’t believe in exemptions in this. This section needs to be eliminated entirely.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion before I call the vote on clause 46?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’d like a recorded vote.

(Clause 46 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 47)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The first amendment is LIB-19.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, this is just a continuation of ensuring consistency with previous amendments.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on CPC-32.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, we feel the bill in clause 47 should be amended by adding after line 21 on page 19 the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to LIB-20.

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.):

Mr. Chair, we prefer to withdraw this motion.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much.

Is there any further discussion on LIB-20?

Oh, you want to withdraw it. Sorry, I thought you said you want to move on with the motion.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

That’s fine.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, we’ll move to NDP-13.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Can we suspend for just a minute?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, we’ll suspend for a minute.

(0855)

(0900)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, we’ll reconvene.

Just so we’re clear, LIB-20 has been withdrawn.

We’re still on clause 47, but we move to NDP-13.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Has LIB-20 been withdrawn?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

LIB-20 has been withdrawn, yes.

On NDP-13, Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, the government claims to place importance on its relationship with labour. This is an example of having public service employees, from PSAC in particular, talk to us about this issue. In most cases, the people living with disabilities who are coming forward will be doing so through a bargaining agent, because they are part of a collective agreement. They are part of, for instance, the PSAC. Therefore, we need to acknowledge that collective agreements are a part of this.

The interface that will take place because of this legislation will include collective agreements, and it must be articulated.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is LIB-21.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential to the amendments we made in LIB-14. I can read it, but it’s basically the same.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No. I appreciate that.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Chair, before we vote on clause 47, could I have consent to go back just to clarify on LIB-19, it was a subamendment? I’m not sure it that was clear when it was voted on. I can read in the exact text.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

There was a subamendment to LIB-19?

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

It was referenced as a subamendment.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We meant to do a subamendment, but we didn’t. So we’re looking for consent to—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

So you need unanimous consent to go back.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Yes.

An hon. member: No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, you don’t have it. Sorry.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Can we enter that as a separate amendment? No? Do we just leave it?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We leave it if it is too similar.

(0905)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’ll withdraw it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Good decision.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

You’re welcome.

Now we’ll have the vote to carry clause 47 as amended.

(Clause 47 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 48 agreed to)

(On clause 49)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have NDP-14.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, as I discussed earlier, we have an example where we have the opportunity for synergy without potential conflict. A regulated body in preparation of its progress report should be enlisting the collective agreement, should be enlisting the bargaining agent to prepare this report.

Otherwise, you’re going against a current. If we’re trying to move this legislation forward and have it be impactful and ensure that we are evolving, then we have to include a very important component of the employer-employee synergy, which is the bargaining agent, the collective agreement.

Under federal jurisdiction, the majority of the people we’re talking to in this legislation have such relationships. These employer-employee relationships include public sector employees who have collective agreements.

I urge you once again to please look at this and let common sense reign and include the collective agreements in these stipulations.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 49 agreed to)

(On clause 50)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have LIB-22.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to LIB-17. It’s the same thing for three-year time limits.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is LIB-23.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Chair, this is the publication of rationales on exemptions, a consequential amendment to LIB-18.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 50 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 51)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is amendment LIB-24.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Again, this is consequential to the amendments made earlier.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is amendment CPC-33.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like clause 51 amended by adding after line 2 on page 23, the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

(Amendment negatived)

(0910)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-15.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, what we’re trying to do is make the accessibility commissioner the one who is responsible for this. Right now it’s splintered. We have these different entities who have responsibility. It’s very problematic for a variety of reasons that I don’t need to go into because we heard a lot of testimony about it.

We have an opportunity here to make sure that we’re moving the position of the accessibility commissioner into the position it should be in, in overseeing all of these different entities—not different entities in charge of themselves. The CRTC or the CTA shouldn’t be notifying itself or enforcing itself, or entities within its jurisdiction. If it’s carrying out direction from the accessibility commissioner, that’s an entirely different matter. That is more in keeping with this legislation.

Right now, as it’s splintered, it is extremely problematic.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I will follow up on those comments.

I think it’s important, too, that within the accessibility commissioner there’s that level of accountability and transparency. I think that sends a statement to the people in the disability community that we’re taking this seriously.

We heard from witnesses, too, on the importance of having the one body being the accessibility commissioner. It was referenced over and over again.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-16.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Here’s another example of where we need to be embracing our relationship within the labour community which has very clearly told us that they do see opportunity for synergy. Right now they can be included. The collective agreement, the bargaining agents of employees, can certainly be included in a very meaningful way in the preparation of an accessibility plan.

That just makes for smooth sailing for everybody, so include them. You have to prepare an accessibility plan. Why wouldn’t you want your bargaining agent for your employees involved? It makes no sense to me to not include this.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The final amendment for clause 51 is LIB-25.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential to amendments LIB-14 and LIB-21.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 51 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 52)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-17.

Ms. Hardcastle.

(0915)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again we have an issue where it is the accessibility commissioner who should be in charge here, not the CRTC. The issue of splintering the regulatory oversight is a misguided approach and we can correct course with an amendment like this and the others that were already defeated.

I sound like I’m taking a defeatist attitude. But it is important that the accessibility commissioner is the entity that is in charge—truly in charge.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 52 agreed to)

(On clause 53)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-18.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, this amendment reflects the importance of the accessibility commissioner and that we are not splintering enforcement and regulatory oversight.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to NDP-19.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, it’s important that this bill not undermine workers’ rights and that we do include collective agreements in partnership with realizing our barrier-free Canada.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 53 agreed to)

(On clause 54)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to amendment LIB-26.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to amendment LIB-15. We want consistency in language.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-27, we have Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

The amendment, Mr. Chair, ensures the bill is consistent and clear in the language it uses, particularly in granting regulation-making authority to the different regulators under this bill. The amendment prevents any uncertainty as to the authority of regulators to make regulations in relation to feedback processes by specifically establishing this authority. Regulators must be able to define, adjust and adapt requirements for the feedback process, as necessary, to ensure that all Canadians, especially persons with disabilities, have an effective tool to communicate with regulated entities on accessibility.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Don’t we want the accessibility commissioner doing this job?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Through the chair, yes.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I am trying to get more rationale for this. Shouldn’t it be the accessibility commissioner?

Just going back to some of my arguments and my amendments, what is the accessibility commissioner going to do?

(0920)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just want to follow up with that, too, because in almost all of the testimony that we heard from stakeholders who either came to us by video or flew across the country to come to speak with us, they had said how their….

We consulted with the stakeholders, but the stakeholders consulted with their people, and they had all said that they wanted this to be a simpler process and the accessibility commissioner to just be in charge.

Through you, Mr. Chair, I am also confused with my colleague. What is the reasoning?

Through you, Mr. Chair, could the Liberals please give an explanation for this amendment as to why we wouldn’t have the accessibility commissioner in charge?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, we feel the sectoral approach is the best approach to move forward with this.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Through you, Mr. Chair, I feel that this actually goes against what stakeholder witnesses have testified to us.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Ms. Falk.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We now move to LIB-27.1.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, again, this is just a consequential amendment to LIB-16.

LIB-27.1 makes timelines for regulations.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 54 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 55)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll start with LIB-28. If LIB-28 is adopted, CPC-34 cannot be moved due to consistency with LIB-28 and LIB-29. I just want to give the CPC members of the committee a heads up on that.

On LIB-28, we have Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, it’s consequential to LIB-17 and LIB-22. It’s the same discussion.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-29, we have Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, again, it relates to the publication of the rationale for exemptions, consequential to amendments LIB-18 and LIB-23.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’ll now call the vote on clause 55 as amended.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sorry, Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We believe that clause 55 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. This bill allows entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements, as Britain has regulated. There is no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted and not others. Any exemptions will weaken the overall purpose of the act, and we believe that there should be no exemptions in this bill.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, I concur with my colleague. Clause 55 must be omitted from the bill. This clause permits the minister, the CRTC or the CTA to exempt organizations from complying with requirements to prepare and publish accessibility plans, create feedback processes and develop progress reports.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

May I ask for a recorded vote, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I figured you would.

(Clause 55 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 56)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): The first amendment to clause 56 is LIB-30.

Mr. Morrissey.

(0925)

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

This is simply adding communication.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, I’d like to propose a subamendment, please.

I want to ensure consistency with similar motions. May I read it?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Please amend LIB-30 to read:

ferred to in paragraphs 5(a), (b), (f) and (g) and in the area referred to in paragraph 5(c.1) as it relates to the areas referred to in those paragraphs; and

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is everybody clear on the subamendment to LIB-30?

Can you read it again, Mr. Long?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

It reads:

ferred to in paragraphs 5(a), (b), (f) and (g) and in the area referred to in paragraph 5(c.1) as it relates to the areas referred to in those paragraphs; and

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

That’s a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’m just wondering what that changes in this clause.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long, do you want to respond to that?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I think it just adds more clarity to the amendment.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Consistency with communication.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on the subamendment?

(Subamendment agreed to)

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Next is CPC-35.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We feel that clause 56 should be amended by adding, after line 21 on page 26, the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

To clarify, LIB-14, LIB-21 and LIB-25, which we’ve already passed, are actually more comprehensive than what’s being proposed right now. I just wanted to point that out.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you, Mr. Ruimy.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just want to make a statement through you, Mr. Chair.

That contradicts a bit of what we’ve heard, We’ve heard that we want simplicity in the legislation and comprehension in the regulations. That’s what we’ve been hearing from the government. I’m a little confused by that last statement.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-20.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, we have an opportunity where, if applicable, the bargaining agent of employees is included in the preparation of the accessibility plan.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to LIB-31.

Mr. Long.

(0930)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this one is consequential to amendments LIB-14, LIB-21 and LIB-25.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 56 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 57 agreed to)

(On clause 58)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The only amendment is NDP-21.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, as you’ve noted, there are many clauses of this bill that need to be amended to recognize that many affected people will be public workers with collective agreements. It is important that their rights not be undermined, and it is important that we work in synchronicity in this foundational legislation.

Once again, this amendment is an example of areas where the bargaining agents of employees are included in the preparation of a progress report.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 58 agreed to)

(On clause 59)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, we have three amendments proposed: LIB-32, LIB-33 and CPC-36. If LIB-32 and/or LIB-33 are adopted, CPC-36 cannot be moved due to consistency.

We will start with LIB-32 as put forward by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to LIB-17, LIB-22 and LIB-28, previously discussed.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

On this side of the table, we have spoken several times about exemptions and how we feel. That’s all I’m going to say.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to LIB-33, submitted by Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Once again, this is regarding publication of rationales for exemptions and are amendments consequential to LIB-18, LIB-23 and LIB-29.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on LIB-33? Seeing none, I will call the vote.

Ms. Falk?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Go ahead.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will now ask if there are any discussion on clause 59 as amended.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, thank you for assuming what I was going to do.

We believe that clause 59 of Bill C-81 should be voted down. Again, this bill allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements. There is no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted. Any exemptions will weaken the overall purpose of this act.

Again, we do not agree with exemptions. There shouldn’t be any in this act.

I would also request a recorded vote, please.

(Clause 59 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 60)

(0935)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The first amendment is LIB-34, submitted by Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, this amendment serves to bring this in line with amendments from the Liberal side: LIB-5, LIB-6, LIB-13, LIB-19, LIB-24 and LIB-30.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to CPC-37.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, we feel that clause 60 should be amended by adding after line 31 on page 29 the following:

The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I feel like a broken record, but again, just to reiterate, these changes would strengthen the effectiveness of accessibility plans, which I’m sure we all believe is important and would help ensure that proper barrier identification is done, which I’m sure we all agree with. Also, the prevention and removal address issues of intersectionality and poverty, which I would assume—but I don’t want to assume—we would all agree with.

Thank you.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-22.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, similar to our concerns about exemption with the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency should not be the one that is notified by a regulated entity in terms of the publication and update of its accessibility plan. It should be the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I just want to be on record that we also agree. We heard from the stakeholders in testimony here and also the ones who have reached out to our offices that this is important. They want that accessibility commissioner to be there and to be accessible to them so the process isn’t confusing. So, again, on the record, I just want to say yes.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have NDP-23.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, the bargaining agents of employees must be part of this legislative process; otherwise, you are not using synergy. You are undermining people’s rights. You are splintering again, and you are not maximizing infrastructure and relationships that are already in place. You’re not leveraging those relationships for this new bill.

Once again, bargaining agents of employees must be included as partners in preparing an accessibility plan.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Our final amendment on clause 60 is LIB-35, submitted by Mr. Long.

(0940)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is repetitive, but consequential to LIB-14, LIB-21, LIB-25 and recently LIB-31.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 60 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 61)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

For clause 61 we have one amendment submitted, NDP-24.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, this is another example of a problematic area when we don’t have the accessibility commissioner being the authority that is notified. The regulated entity doesn’t notify their own organization, in this case, the Canadian Transportation Agency. They notify the accessibility commissioner. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 61 agreed to)

(On clause 62)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have two amendments submitted, NDP-25 and NDP-26.

Ms. Hardcastle, let’s start with NDP-25.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, I will just underscore the point that we are establishing with Bill C-81 an accessibility commissioner who needs to be given all of the strength and focus in order to be able to implement effectively. That’s who should be notified when these organizations are going through the process to comply with Bill C-81. There’s no other agency that should be in charge of that kind of compliance with Bill C-81.

As you’ll see in further amendments, I keep underscoring this point of an accessibility commissioner. The importance of the accessibility commissioner needs to be bolstered. We have language here that does not substantiate the office and the mandate of the accessibility commissioner without these amendments.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-26.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Briefly again, Mr. Chair, we have to leverage our partnerships and the collective bargaining agent for many of the employees who are going to be affected by Bill C-81. A partner needs to be included.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 62 agreed to)

(On clause 63)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have three amendments proposed. We’ll begin with LIB-36 submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential to LIB-16. It provides more clarity.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On amendment LIB-37, Mr. Long.

(0945)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, it’s consequential to LIB-15.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-37.1, Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

It’s a timeline to making regulations, consequential to amendments LIB-16.1 and LIB-27.1

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just have a question. It’s to make at least one regulation—at least one regulation—within the period of two years.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

That’s the trigger point.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

One.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

At least one, yes.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

One.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

At least one.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just wanted clarity to make sure I wasn’t seeing wrong. It says to make at least one in two years.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

That’s the trigger point. It has to be able to—

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Sure. Yes, okay.

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

They can do more.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings] )

(Clause 63 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 64)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have three amendments proposed, which we have seen previously. Again, LIB-38 and/or LIB-39, if they are adopted, CPC-38 cannot be moved due to consistency.

We will begin with LIB-38 submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this one is as previously discussed with Liberal amendments LIB-17, LIB-22, LIB-28, and recently, LIB-32.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy, you have LIB-39.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Once again, this is regarding publication of the rationale for exemptions, consequential to LIB-18, LIB-23, LIB-29 and LIB-33.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on clause 64 as amended?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, we believe that clause 64 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. We have heard from our witnesses over and over in the briefings that we have received that this bill as is allows for regulated entities to be exempted from complying—exempted from complying—with accessibility requirements. There is no principled reason—no principled reason—why some organizations should be exempted at all. Again, we don’t believe there should be any exemptions.

We would request a recorded vote, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, I too want to specify that my stance was that clause 64 should be omitted from the bill. Just in the order of the process, where we express those exemptions comes after….

I’ve seen a pattern of what’s happening now in the meetings. I’m trying to keep myself engaged so that I don’t become cynical. In reality, I did vote for the amendments to clause 64 because my colleagues across the way did propose some time limits on exemptions, and publication in the Canada Gazette, which is important transparency that I do support. It’s the lesser of two evils.

I just want to clarify that for anybody else who actually is paying attention to how we are voting today. We actually have to move forward and make the best of this. I will continue trying to be engaged and put forth the amendments that I think will make this meaningful, but indeed clause 64 should be omitted entirely.

(0950)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ve had a request for a recorded vote.

(Clause 64 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 65)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have several amendments proposed to clause 65.

We will begin with LIB-40, submitted by Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

I move it as it is.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Perfect.

Oh, Mr. Long. We were so close.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I know.

Mr. Chair, I’d like to propose a subamendment, please. It’s to address a drafting error.

I’d like to strike out the number “20” in line two of subparagraph 65(1)(a)(ii).

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, so in “passenger 20 trains”, you want to take that “20” out.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Yes, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

You have a good eye.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Next is CPC-39.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like clause 65 to be amended by adding after line 25 on page 33 the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

Basically, the rationale is that part 4 should include an additional provision requiring accessibility plans to relate to the purpose of the act, and to be prepared and implemented in accordance with the principles of the act.

Plans should address how they will contribute to achieving a Canada without barriers by the date specified in the act. These changes would strengthen the effectiveness of accessibility plans and help ensure that barrier identification, prevention and removal address issues of intersectionality and poverty. That’s why we Conservatives believe that should be changed.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-27.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, the employees of the regulated entities of, in this case, the Canadian Transportation Agency, need to have the bargaining agents of those employees included in the preparation of its accessibility plan.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Now we’ll have the final amendment to clause 65, which is LIB-41, submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, I’m being repetitive and I apologize for that. This is consequential to amendments LIB-14, LIB-21, LIB-25, LIB-31, and recently, LIB-35.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 65 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 66 agreed to)

(On clause 67)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have one amendment proposed, NDP-28.

Ms. Hardcastle.

(0955)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, in the preparation of a progress report, a regulated entity that has employees who have bargaining agents, those bargaining agents need to be included. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 67 agreed to)

(On clause 68)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Clause 68 is similar to what we have addressed a few times. We have LIB-42 and LIB-43. If they are both adopted, CPC-40 cannot be moved due to consistency.

We will start with LIB-42.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this is consequential to LIB-17, LIB-22, LIB-28, LIB-32 and recently LIB-38.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll go to amendment LIB-43.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, again, this is for the publication of rationale for exemptions, and is consequential to LIB-18, 23, 29, 33 and 39.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on clause 68 as amended?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I’m going to repeat myself, but that’s okay; I’m on record.

We believe that clause 68 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. We just don’t believe that exemptions should be granted. Again, there’s no principled reason why some organizations should be exempted, especially if accessibility is the goal, and we’re trying to shift the culture. I don’t think that any federally regulated organization should be exempted.

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll have a recorded vote.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, once again, clause 68 is one that gives the power to exempt to the minister on any terms that the minister considers necessary. That must be omitted from the bill.

(Clause 68 as amended agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(On clause 69)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will finish this clause and then take a bit of a break at 10 o’clock.

We have three amendments proposed for clause 69, and we’ll begin with CPC-41.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, this is all about strengthening CRTC accessibility plans. We propose that clause 69 be amended by adding after line 29 on page 36 the following:

(1.1) The accessibility plan must include a statement on how it will contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Next is NDP-29.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Once again, Mr. Chair, in the preparation of an accessibility plan, the collective agreement bargaining agents for the employees need to be included.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(1000)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The final amendment on clause 69 is LIB-44.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, this is consequential of LIB-14, LIB-21, LIB-25, LIB-31, LIB-35 and recently LIB-41.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 69 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 70 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will suspend for about five minutes.

(1000)

(1015)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, everyone. We’ll get back to it.

I’ve been looking through the rest of the clauses. There are quite a few that don’t have amendments, so although it doesn’t look like it, we are getting a bit closer.

I think the plan will be that we’ll be pushing through until about 11:30 or 11:45, in there somewhere, and taking another five-minute break at that point. They are bringing lunch. Lunch will come and we’ll grab it and come back to the table. We’ll keep going through it and will not take a lunch break, if that’s okay with everyone. We will take another five- or 10-minute break closer to noon. It will be for five or 10 minutes and that’s all. We’ll try to get done by that one o’clock deadline.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

The goal should be 12:30.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The goal should be 12:30?

Mr. Gordie Hogg: Higher expectations.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Well, that depends on you guys.

(On clause 71)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): The only amendment we have to clause 71 is NDP-30.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, as you know, a lot of times in employer-employee relationships there are a lot of reasons why people are on two different sides of a fence, so to speak. This is a situation where we are removing barriers for people living with disabilities, and some of those people who are affected are indeed employees in these federal jurisdictions.

Why wouldn’t we want to strengthen the relationship with labour? Why wouldn’t we want to include them in some of the requirements that are laid out in the bill, for instance, to prepare a progress report? This amendment includes the bargaining agents of the employees in the preparation of the progress report. I can’t see why that would be something that isn’t embraced.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 71 agreed to)

(On clause 72)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

There are two amendments proposed, and we will begin with LIB-45.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, again, this has been discussed before. It is consequential to LIB-17, LIB-22, LIB-28, LIB-32, LIB-38 and recently, LIB-42.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now have LIB-46.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Mr. Chair, this is referring back to the publication of rationales for exemptions and is consequential to amendments LIB-18, LIB-23, LIB-29, LIB-33, LIB-39 and LIB-43.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 72 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No amendments were proposed for clauses 73 and 74. Do I have unanimous consent to apply the vote? Is everybody okay with that?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 73 and 74 agreed to)

(On clause 75)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have amendment CPC-42.

Ms. Falk.

(1020)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

This would just change some language, so it would be “must” instead of “may”. This would ensure that the accessibility commissioner makes a compliance order every time there is reasonable grounds to believe that an organization is not complying.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, your amendment is identical.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Absolutely, Mr. Chair. Throughout the bill we have language such as “may” where we need to have the word “must”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

As we saw last night, and as we heard from our officials, it’s more that the language is consistent throughout.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I would like to respond.

With something like this, even though it has always been, sometimes we need to evolve if we’re trying to shift a culture and make a statement and show we care about this. We have expectations and want to add accountability. I think the language we use is very important.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Since clause 75 was not amended, I will ask for unanimous consent that the vote be applied on clauses 75 to 92 inclusive.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will start with clause 75.

(Clause 75 agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will try that again. Is there unanimous consent to apply the vote to clause 76 to clause 92 inclusive?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 76 to 92 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Great, thank you.

(On clause 93)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have amendment CPC-43.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I have the same argument as before. The language used in this bill is going to set the tone for compliance and for people with disabilities to know we are serious about having this whole process be transparent and about keeping the accessibility commissioner transparent and accountable.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We have all heard the expression, “words matter”. These words very much matter. “May” should be changed to “must” so we can have some teeth in this bill.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, yours is an identical amendment.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes, Mr. Chair. I want to reword for the sake of stakeholders who are listening to the debate between the words “must” and “may”. Right now we’re talking about the accessibility commissioner and enforcement, so the fact that the accessibility commissioner must make public certain notifications of violations and if a penalty were imposed on other information that’s already been specified, it is extremely reasonable to expect in any kind of legislation that they have to do it, which means we will be using the word “must”, not “may”.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 93 agreed to)

(On clause 94)

(1025)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have amendment CPC-44.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Mr. Chair, I move that Bill C-81, in clause 94, be amended by replacing line 9 on page 51 to line 3 on page 52 with the following:

(2) For greater certainty, complaints in respect of a contravention of any provision of regulations made under subsection 117(1) may only be filed with the Accessibility Commissioner in accordance with subsection (1), and in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, the Public Service Employment Act or any other Acts of Parliament, the provisions of this Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

This amendment is to designate the accessibility commissioner as the one body to handle compliance with accessibility standards and adjudication of complaints. This bill as it stands does not designate one central agency to oversee compliance with accessibility requirements and adjudicate accessibility complaints. Instead, if this amendment is not passed, enforcement will be done by multiple agencies. These would include the accessibility commissioner, CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board.

As we’ve heard from stakeholders, they requested that the process be simplified and that we have just one body to which complaints would be directed. Stakeholders testified that it would be easiest and more accessible for them if this was achieved through the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Seeing no further discussion, I will call the vote on CPC-44.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Could we have a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

(Clause 94 agreed to)

(On clause 95)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have a few amendments.

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, amendments CPC-45 and NDP-32 are identical.

We’ll start with amendment CPC-45.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, again, it’s very similar. We Conservatives believe that in order to give this bill some teeth, the word “may” should be changed to “must” in clause 95. This change would ensure that the accessibility commissioner does investigate all complaints that fall within its purview. There is no justification for the accessibility commissioner to decline to investigate if all the criteria described in the bill are met, since there would be no other legal mechanism available for pursuing the complaint.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, I would like to reinforce that this language change to the more assertive use of the word “must” is under investigation under the section for investigation when there is no other recourse. We’re saying that the accessibility commissioner must investigate when someone has no other recourse under the provisions that are outlined in this section.

(1030)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like a recorded vote on this as well.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will now move to amendment CPC-46.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We Conservatives believe that clause 95 must be amended to make it clear that the one-year limitation period to file an accessibility complaint begins from the time the complainant became aware of the act or omission that caused them to suffer a loss.

This change will ensure that people are not prevented from filing an accessibility complaint because they were not aware of the organization’s failure to comply with that act that occurred more than one year ago.

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 95 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will now ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 96 to 102. No amendments were proposed.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 96 to 102 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 103)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will now move to clause 103 and amendment CPC-47.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We propose:

    That Bill C-81, in Clause 103, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 56 the following:
     The review must be conducted by a different officer or employee than the one who made the decision under review.
     The complainant must be given the opportunity to make representations to the officer or employee conducting the review in a manner that is accessible to the complainant.

With this amendment we are asking to require that the person who reviews the decision not to investigate or to discontinue an investigation of a complaint is not the same person who had made the original decision. Part 6 must include a section that provides that complainants who request a review of the accessibility commissioner’s decisions will have an opportunity to make submissions in a manner and form that is accessible to them.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We’d like to propose a subamendment where we will remove the text in subclause (1.1) and replace it with the text currently in subclause (1.2), so subclause (1.2) becomes subclause (1.1).

(1035)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on the proposed subamendment to CPC-47?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Subclause (1.1), as it is, states:

(1.1) The review must be conducted by a different officer or employee than the one who made the decision under review.

That seems like common sense to me. That’s keeping impartiality. There is no conflict of interest in this. What is the reasoning for this amendment? I feel that this subamendment would actually weaken what is trying to be accomplished with this amendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We want the Human Rights Commission to keep its independence. It’s just a suggestion. If you would strike (1.1), we would support it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Do you guys have a comment down at the other end? I thought yesterday that the Human Rights Commission already had that right. They’re above this. I don’t understand, because yesterday, I’m pretty sure, unless I dreamt it in my short nap last night, I understood that the Human Rights Commission would already have the final say.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I understood that the Human Rights Commission was already immune to having its independence eroded, so I don’t understand. I think it’s redundant then.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Because we have the interpretation, I’m asking you to go one at a time.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

We don’t want to bind the Human Rights Commission’s hands, but again, we can certainly go back to your proposal if you want.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have the subamendment on the floor.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

That, to me, implies that there are aspects that could be potentially binding the Human Rights Commission’s hands, then. I thought the Human Rights Commission was untouchable. I need to clarify some of this, because we’re going to need another lens to look at this through, if it is true that we indeed can tie its hands.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I’ll defer to the department.

(1040)

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Mr. Van Raalte.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte (Director General, Accessibility Secretariat, Department of Employment and Social Development):

Mr. Chair, maybe I’ll just clarify the point.

The Human Rights Act will always prevail. This is an administrative procedure amendment. The Human Rights Commission has a great deal of independence in how it operates and how it sets its rules from an administrative justice perspective. The distinction, I believe, if I’m hearing things correctly, and I could be wrong…. This is about telling the Human Rights Commission how to conduct its business as opposed to how it applies human rights laws and its human rights lens to different decisions.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Mr. Van Raalte.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 103 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 104)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): On clause 104, we have several amendments proposed, beginning with LIB-47.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal expressed concern that there might be insufficient detail set out in Bill C-81 in relation to appeals and that there was a risk there could be future legal challenges regarding what the tribunal can do and cannot do with an appeal.

It has also been raised by the Department of Justice that 30 days may not be a sufficient amount of time for persons with disabilities who are self-represented to file an appeal.

The effects of this motion would amend clause 104 to provide greater detail for the appeal power of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and provide the tribunal with the ability to extend an individual’s time to make an appeal if the circumstances warrant it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on LIB-47?

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Is this giving a suggestion to the Human Rights Tribunal? I thought we had heard discussion in the last one, in which we had the subamendment debate, from the department about telling CHRT what to do.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The CHRT, in consultations on all of this, are the ones who are actually recommending this to avoid future legal challenges regarding what the tribunal can or cannot do. It’s something they feel they need to have in there to protect their process.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Just to clarify, because I don’t feel my question was answered, in discussion of the subamendment to the previous clause, we somewhat were told that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal does not want to be told how to do its job, but this amendment here would suggest to it what to do. I’m just trying to understand, because I’m feeling there’s not a consistency.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This actually comes from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. I will say it again. They are the ones who feel that, without this amendment, it could create problems down the line. This is just trying to speak to where they feel there may be court challenges. It gives them the ability to continue doing what they are doing.

(1045)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I find it quite interesting that there was reason before not to change something, or to change something, whatever it was. There’s this inconsistency. I don’t understand.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Van Raalte.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I hope I can make the distinction.

The previous amendment concerned the review process carried out by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Your first level of recourse is through a process within the commission. It was an amendment that would prescribe how the commission was to conduct its work. There are always concerns about the independence of the commission and telling the commission how to undertake its work.

This is an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which is the appeal body to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It is my understanding from the testimony and the submission that they have requested flexibility in their appeal powers.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Okay, thank you. That clarifies some things. It’s interesting that we’re taking some things we hear and we’re not taking other things we hear, for example, timelines. We’re cherry-picking what we want to take.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move LIB-48 submitted by Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

This is consistent with the discussion we’ve just had. It puts us in line with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and subclause 104(1.1) would read:

The appeal lies on any ground of appeal that involves a question of law or fact alone, or a question of mixed law and fact, including a principle of natural justice.

This is to go in alignment with the CHRT and their actions, so it’s to come into compliance and alignment with them.

(Amendment agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We are on LIB-49.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

We’re suggesting adding in:

the grounds of appeal and set out the evidence that supports those grounds.

It’s just keeping in line with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on LIB-49?

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 104 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 105 agreed to)

(On clause 106)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): I understand that there will be some changes to the amendments in clause 106. We’ll start with LIB-50.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I would like to withdraw LIB-50 and replace it with a new amendment, reference 10151430. Copies have been distributed.

Clause 106 would be amended by replacing lines 9 and 10 on page 57 with the following:

may, by order, confirm, vary, give the decision that the Accessibility Commissioner should have given or rescind the decision or order to which the appeal relates or refer the complaint back to the Accessibility Commissioner for reconsideration in accordance with any direction the Human Rights Tribunal may give.

(1050)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will call the vote on the new reference 10151430.

(Amendment agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Now we move to LIB-51.

Mr. Hogg, that was submitted by you.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Despite the principles and brilliance of the original intent, it has been pointed out to me that it is not consistent with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

I would recommend that we withdraw and replace.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Does everybody have a copy of the replacement amendment, reference 10151332? No.

Mr. Hogg, I’ll get you to read your new amendment, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

It would be subclause 106(1.1):

An appeal shall be on the merits based on the record of the proceedings before the Accessibility Commissioner, but the member or panel of members of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal shall allow oral argument and, if he, she or it considers it necessary for the purpose of the appeal, shall hear evidence not previously available.

That is wording to put us in alignment with the CHRT.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

It says, “allow oral argument”. What about deaf persons?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

My belief is that sign language will be accepted within that, as part of that.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Van Raalte, I know it’s not your amendment.

Does that stipulate other options being used, or is it being very specific that only oral arguments—

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Or I would assume, written arguments.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Mr. Chairman, may I have a moment to confer?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, absolutely.

While they’re conferring, we’ll have Ms. Falk.

(1055)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I was just assuming that it would be written, and then say, “including oral”.

If this is coming from the tribunal, have they used an accessibility lens? Are they already using an accessibility lens? I don’t know if that makes sense, but it would be a shame to take something, and then if somebody comes who is deaf and has to sign….

It would be unfortunate if in the bureaucracy they’re not able to—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It seems that the focus of the amendment is new evidence not previously available. If that is the focus, maybe we can play with that oral part, that it’s being overly specific.

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Mr. Chair, the word here is, shall “hear”. It’s not just to hear with the ears. It’s the word used technically for the term, legally, to give them an opportunity to represent. It’s to give him, her or it an opportunity to represent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I see what you’re saying, but the concern here is that it’s very specific with “oral” arguments and I don’t think that’s necessarily the goal from the discussions on the Liberal side.

Mr. Van Raalte, do you have any input?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Thank you for your patience, Mr. Chair.

From an inclusion perspective, I believe “oral” would be better, more inclusive, if it were “in person”, which can be by video conference or by telephone. The person doesn’t have to appear physically. The words “in person” would facilitate the accommodation necessary for anybody who was appearing in person.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much, Mr. Van Raalte.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

When I hear “in person” that means a person with disabilities has to appear in person, so I think “or by video conference” should be spelled out. That’s very specific.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Can’t we just change “oral” to “appropriate format”? “Shall allow alternate”….

“Appropriate formatted arguments” sounds wordy. How do they word that? “Braille and alternate formats in oral and alternative formats”…. “Accessible”…. Yes, whatever is accessible to the person. Maybe we should change “shall allow”.

What happens if you take out the word “oral”? I think the chair mentioned that. “Shall allow argument”…. If “oral” limits us, in saying “argument”, does it then imply sufficiently in the context of accessibility legislation that all appropriate accessible formats are acceptable?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

There are technically two ways to express yourself in the courts or in the tribunals: written and oral. Written is a written presentation. Oral can be speaking directly to the court or presenting where you want to present to the court. I think “oral” is technically for every other thing except the written representation.

(1100)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is “oral” a legal term?

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

I said two terms only: “oral” and “written”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I appreciate that feedback. That concern with the disability accessibility act is where we—

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

“Oral” will include everything.

You can’t give one specific term for every…not even to listen, not even to speak and not even to see. Orally using other instruments…to express to the tribunal.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I don’t want to get too involved but because we’re dealing with a disability accessibility act, we don’t want to be very specific on “oral”. I think that’s where the confusion is coming from, even if it may be a legal term. That’s great input. I appreciate that.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I find that comment a little ironic because we had witnesses here who couldn’t speak and they signed. That was their language.

This is obviously a greater problem if our only two definitions are “oral” and “written”. This is much deeper and bigger than this act.

I’m really concerned about that, because, as I said yesterday, to have this pass and look 20 years down the road and have people not being able to access because we didn’t do our job here would do an injustice to people who need accessibility.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

If we were to replace “allow oral” with “accommodate or accept arguments” that would accommodate arguments that he or she considers necessary for the purpose of the appeal.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Maybe we could get some clarification from the legislative clerk regarding their opinion on whether “hear” suffices for “accept”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thus far they don’t believe that “oral” is sufficient to include everything. The feeling is that “oral” is specific.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

It does.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

They don’t want to give advice on that. It’s a legal question, not a procedural one, but we do have another suggestion on the table.

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

As Mr. Hogg says, it can be “oral, with accommodations, and written”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That’s not what I heard from Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Can we just take one minute?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sure, we’ll suspend for one minute.

(1100)

(1105)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have a couple of different suggestions. Mr. Hogg had put a bit of a change forward.

Do you have a new suggestion?

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

If we were to take out “oral” and just say “allow arguments”, make that plural, then I think that’s probably the simplest way of addressing it and allowing the intent that Ms. Falk put forward.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much. That was a roundabout way of getting to where we started.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

We’re not exactly where we started.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, we added the plural.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

And we took “oral” out.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That’s right. That’s the most important part. It’s a huge leap.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Thank you for bringing that up.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will call the vote on reference 10151332.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Thank you, everyone. That was a good discussion.

We now move to amendment LIB-52. That was put forward by Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This refers back to the appeals of the CHRT and is consequential to amendments LIB-47, LIB-49 and LIB-50.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’m just wondering if it has to state “in accessible format”, because pending even the accessibility commissioner…, and if they are somebody who has disabilities, that’s just so that it would be in a format that’s accessible.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

So you’re adding that as a suggestion for subclause 106(3) and that’s after “and the parties to the appeal”? So it’s “A copy of the order…must be…in accessible format”.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Yes.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

It would be “A copy of the order made by the”—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

—“must be provided in accessible format” is what I think they are—

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I think that’s implied.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

When we read the definitions at clause 2 of the bill, I think it’s totally described there who is in need of the benefits and how they are to be provided. If it is not, that has to be in the definitions. The rest, everything, will flow throughout the whole act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I think right now we’re looking at everything through an accessibility lens. But even, for example, with the prior amendment, we can’t assume that it’s implied, because it clearly wasn’t previously. I think that we just have to be extra cautious that we are looking through the lens and putting that accessibility hat on, and looking through every one of these clauses just so we don’t become complacent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It hasn’t been put forward as a subamendment. I think it’s just a discussion right now.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

No, no. What we’re trying, number one, is to keep it consistent with the rest of the motions we have been putting through on the CHRT. This motion will facilitate by clearly setting out what the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal can and cannot do in dealing with an appeal, avoiding confusion and uncertainty in the process.

Perhaps James can help us here, because from my recollection of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, 60% of complaints came from disability.

We need to keep consistent throughout the whole bill with this. What can you tell us about that?

(1110)

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Apologies, Mr. Chair, I’m not clear on the question.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Yes, I’m not clear on the question either.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Does it have to be specific in the wording, James, that submissions to the commission or the tribunal have to be accessible documents that can be accessed by people with various disabilities?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

No it does not. Further, I would say the tribunal’s administrative structure that sits in behind it would be a regulated entity, and so it would be subject to the regulations and standards brought forward under the act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you.

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I guess this goes back to my question. If this is coming from other departments or the tribunal or whatever it is, I don’t see them looking at something with the disability or accessibility lens. Again, I just really hope that there is not going to be a hole in there, and 10 or 20 years down the road we find out that, oh look, they’re providing inaccessible documents, and the commissioner can’t even access them, maybe because of their disability or accessibility requirements.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Sangha.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Again, the big lens is this act. This act provides everything about barriers: how to be barrier-free, what a disability is, what a barrier is. Everything is explained in clause 2. Let’s leave everything for subclause 117(1) to form the regulations and bylaws under that. That’s where things will be regulated.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 106 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I will ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 107 to 110.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 107 to 110 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 111)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): On clause 111, the first amendment is NDP-33.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Just for the record, this section deals with the appointment of the chief accessibility officer. It says, “the Governor in Council may appoint”. We propose to change the wording to “must appoint”.

(Amendment negatived)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move on to CPC-47.1.

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Bill C-81 must include timelines for when the chief accessibility officer is to be appointed. The amendment proposes to add:

The Chief Accessibility Officer is to be appointed no later than six months after the day on which this subsection comes into force.

I think that by agreeing to this amendment, it’s not only going to show our stakeholders that this is something the government cares about, but also that it’s something the government will take action on immediately after it receives royal assent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I think it’s important to note that, throughout our amendments, we’ve been talking about the chief accessibility officer based on the premise that this officer exists. With the previous motion being defeated, we don’t have decisive language that says “must”.

I would hope that my honourable colleagues would at least consider a timeline. This chief accessibility officer isn’t going to exist without that language. We’re discussing based on the fact that the officer does exist. Let’s give it a timeline. The way it stands now, if the Governor in Council doesn’t have to appoint a chief accessibility officer…. They may, but there’s no timeline.

It’s too precarious for this legislation. This is foundational legislation

(1115)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’ll have a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

(Clause 111 agreed to)

(Clause 112 agreed to)

(On clause 113)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): For clause 113, we have LIB-53.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

In effect, this motion would create an amendment to the existing duty to the chief accessibility officer. It will provide the officer with the authority to give information and advice to the minister.

(Amendment agreed to)

(Clause 113 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any discussion on PV-11?

(Amendment negatived)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): I’m going to ask for unanimous consent to group the vote on clauses 114 to 116.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 114 to 116 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 117)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We have several amendments on clause 117. I will begin with LIB-54, which was submitted by Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

This is consequential to amendments already discussed: LIB-15, LIB-37.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to CPC-48.

Whatever the vote is on CPC-48 will also apply to CPC-53, which is on page 136 of your package. The vote is consequential and it deals with both clauses.

Ms. Hardcastle, on this one, your NDP-33.1 is identical.

(1120)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Yes.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We are suggesting with CPC-48:

That Bill C-81, in Clause 117, be amended by deleting lines 3 to 15 on page 61.

These should be omitted from the bill. This section permits the government to exempt certain organizations or undertakings from producing and publishing accessibility plans, feedback processes and progress reports.

This is just another opportunity for transparency and accountability.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

As we heard again and again from our witnesses, there is simply no good reason why any parliament or obligated organization should be exempted from these requirements or any requirements imposed under the bill.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I’d like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to Liberal amendment 54.1, submitted by Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Again, this is just referencing back to the timeline to making regulations in the consequential amendments of LIB-16.1, LIB-27.1 and LIB-54.1.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, last night in our discussion I believe the timeline described to us was that it would be the summer of 2020. Is this the same timeline? No?

Okay. Never mind.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to CPC-49.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

With this proposal from the Conservatives, Parliament would see every regulation to be made under paragraph 117(1)(c) providing more oversight. We suggest amending clause 117 by adding, after line 28 on page 61, the following:

(5) The Minister must table in each House of Parliament every regulation that the Governor in Council proposes to make under paragraph 117(1)(c).
(6) Each House may refer the proposed regulation to any commitee that is appropriate under the rules of that House and, if the proposed regulation is so referred, the committee may review it and report its recommendations to the House.
(7) A regulation may not be made before the earliest of
(a) 30 sitting days after the proposed regulation is tabled in both Houses;
(b) 160 calendar days after the proposed regulation is tabled in both Houses; and
(c) the day after the committee reports its recommendations or, if the proposed regulation was referred to more than one committee, the day after the last report.
(8) For the purposes of subsection (7), sitting day means a day on which either House sits.
(9) The Minister must take into account any report of the committee of either House. If a regulation does not incorporate a recommendation of the committee of either House, the Minister must table before that House a statement of the reason for not incorporating it.
(10) A proposed regulation that has been tabled in Parliament need not be tabled again before the regulation is made, whether or not it has been altered.

(1125)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I believe I have a similar or the same amendment, so I would just like to concur with my colleague, who spoke before me on his amendment and underscore a few added points to that.

This amendment is under general regulations. That is part 8, for those people who are listening and following along today. Under general regulations, right now, it is the Governor in Council. This amendment creates transparency and some independence by providing stipulations that these documents be tabled in Parliament, independently of the Governor in Council. That way we do have some transparency as well, which is extremely important in building the indoctrinated support that we need in this legislation.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

We’d like a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 4; yeas 3)

(Clause 117 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 118)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to clause 118. There is one amendment proposed, LIB-55.

Go ahead, Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

We need to ensure consistency with a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I’d like to propose a subamendment, please, to ensure consistency with similar motions. Please amend LIB-55 to read: “paragraphs 5(a), (b), (f) and (g) and in the area referred to in paragraph 5(c.i) as it relates to the areas referred to in those paragraphs.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment agreed to as amended [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 118, and incidentally clauses 118 to 121, of the bill should be removed along with any similar provisions in the bill, where they limit federal regulations under this act from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations under this act. The bill should be amended to repose all power to make accessibility standard regulations in the federal cabinet and to remove the bill’s grant of the power to make some accessibility standard regulations to the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission.

Once again, I will repeat that clause 118 should be removed.

(1130)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Is it the communication part that you want removed?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, she doesn’t want clause 118 in the legislation.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The communication part.

(Clause 118 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 119)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On clause 119, there is one amendment proposed, LIB-56.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Again, it’s to ensure consistency with similar motions, and it will be subamended.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I have a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

For crying out loud.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Do you want me to read this or can we all mouth it together here? Please amend Liberal—

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sorry, Mr. Long, just one second.

Are you going to have a few of these throughout as we go?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I have one more.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

One more? Okay, then we’ll just carry on.

I’m assuming it’s the same. Okay.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

“As it relates to”.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment agreed to as amended [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I just want to note that clause 119 is another one of these provisions in the bill that should be removed because it limits federal regulations under this act from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations that are supposed to be under this act.

(Clause 119 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

(On clause 120)

We’re into clause 120. There are two amendments proposed.

The first is LIB-57, by Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, these are consequential to amendments LIB-5, 6, 13, 19, 24, 30, 34, 40, 55 and 56.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now turn to LIB-58.

Mr. Morrissey again.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

This is to ensure consistency with similar motions related to the mobility of persons, with a subamendment.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long, the same subamendment?

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

The same subamendment, yes.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 120 of the bill should also be removed. It is another one of those provisions in the bill that limits federal regulations under this act. It limits them from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations.

(Clause 120 as amended agreed to)

(1135)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

(On clause 121)

I’ll move to clause 121. Again, there are two amendments proposed, beginning with LIB-59.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Again, exemptions can’t be unlimited, so we propose what we proposed in 17, 22, 28, 32, 38, 42 and recently 45.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On LIB-60, Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Again, it’s just referring back to publication of rationale for exemptions, consequential amendments to LIB-18, 23, 29, 33, 39, 43 and 46.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 121 of the bill should be removed, and any other similar provisions in the bill should be removed because they limit federal regulations under the act. They limit these regulations from reaching all aspects of all obligated organizations under this act.

(Clause 121 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We have two amendments, PV-12 and PV-13.

I will begin with PV-12. PV-12 is identical to CPC-54, page 137. If the decision on PV-12 will impact CPC-54, it would not be admissible.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Do we have to make comments on that now?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It’s the same amendment. It’s being added to a different part of the bill, but because it’s the same amendment, the Green Party has put theirs ahead of the CPC. Therefore it’s dealt with first. So any decision on PV-12 will be reciprocated on CPC-54.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

So if it fails, does CPC-54 fail?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

If it fails, CPC-54 fails.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I’m going to speak in support of this amendment as put forth by the member from Saanich—Gulf Islands. I know that she wanted to be here today but can’t be, because she had an important event in her riding for Kristallnacht.

I do concur with my colleagues in their similar amendment. It is extremely important that we have accountability and transparency worked into this bill in a more substantial way and that we have timelines. This does help us do that, and it rolls in the independence aspect in answering to Parliament rather than to the Governor in Council. I think it’s a very significant amendment and an improvement that I welcome.

(1140)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Mr. Chair, we Conservatives agree, for instance, that if no regulations are made under paragraph 117(1)(c) within 12 months after the day on which this clause comes into force, the minister must cause a report to be tabled before each House of Parliament, on any of the first 10 days on which that House is sitting after the expiry of that 12-month period.

Two, if no such regulations are made within 12 months after tabling the report referred to in subclause (1), the minister must cause a report to be tabled before each House of Parliament on any of the first 10 days on which the House is sitting after the expiry of the 12-month period, and at least once every subsequent 12-month period, as long as no regulations have been made.

Three, the reports must include an explanation for regulations not being made and must establish a schedule for the making of such regulations.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I just want to add, too, that I don’t believe that this is partisan legislation. I think we should all have the best intentions for people who need accessibility. That being said, I want to somewhat repeat my colleague’s comments yesterday. We don’t know who the government is going to be in 10 or 20 years, and this ensures that accessibility is going to be a priority and that it’s not going to be something that is overlooked. It holds that level of accountability and transparency.

We request a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to PV-13.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): No amendments were made to clause 122, so I’m going to ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 122 to 130. Do I have unanimous consent to do so?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

(Clause 122 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’ll give it one more try and ask for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 123 to 130.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 123 to 130 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 131)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On clause 131, the first amendment is PV-14. Again, if this one is adopted, CPC-50 cannot be moved due to a conflict, as the Green Party amendment will change the same lines as CPC-50. That’s only if it’s adopted.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(1145)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move on to CPC-50.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We are requesting an amendment stating, “Five years after the day on which this Act receives royal assent, or as soon as feasible after that day, a comprehensive review of its provisions and operation is to be commenced by a”.

What we’re saying is that clause 131 should be amended to require that the committee conduct its first review five years after the date on which the act is proclaimed into law. This change will prevent the review from being delayed if the regulations are not promptly passed.

We request a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 131 agreed to)

(On clause 132)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

On clause 132, we’ll start with PV-15, which is identical to amendments put forward as CPC-51 and NDP-34, so whatever decision is made on PV-15 will be reciprocal on CPC-51 and NDP-34.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I think that what we heard from witnesses and testimony was that timelines were important. It is important to measure how well the government is doing with accessibility. It is important to make sure that there’s direction given that will prompt people to move forward and want to move forward.

This amendment would require the first independent review of the act to be held in 2025 and every four years thereafter. This will coincide with Canada’s reporting obligations under the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

We know that a timeline for independent review is an important component, not only to our stakeholders but to ready us for the day when we implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we are signatories to, but this bill falls short of implementing.

It will position us so that we can evolve into that position. I think all of us here want to see this legislation be effectual. I would hope that we’re all prepared for a compromise here. If there is a compromise on a specific date that would provide for the passing of this amendment, then I think we should discuss that. I’m open to that.

I’ll like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move to LIB-61 put forward by Mr. Ruimy.

(1150)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This motion would provide an amendment to the independent review of the act to ensure that the person or persons conducting the independent review is required to consult all implicated parties.

With this amendment, we make sure that the minister responsible under this act is not limited in executing their responsibility to appoint a single independent reviewer.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 132 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 133 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We go to Green Party-16. The feeling is that it is inadmissible due to making specific declaration on the specifics of sign language that is beyond the scope of the bill. It introduces new concepts that were not included in other parts of the bill. That would include PV-16 and CPC-52 as inadmissible.

I’ll now be asking for unanimous consent to group the votes on clause 134 to clause 141.

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

No. I have something to say about clause 138.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, do I have unanimous consent to group clauses 134 to 137?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 134 to 137 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 138)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We will now go to clause 138. Is there any discussion?

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Clause 138 of the bill should be removed because it gives the Speaker of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Commons the power to exempt a parliamentary entity from certain aspects of the bill’s requirements.

That’s not good.

(Clause 138 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’m asking for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 139 to 141.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 139 to 141 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): That takes us to clause 142.

Because these two amendments were dealt with in previous proposals, can I get unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 142 to 146?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 142 to 146 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): New clause 146.1 has already been dealt with.

(Clause 147 agreed to)

(On clause 148)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll now move to clause 148. We have two amendments proposed. We’ll begin with CPC-54.1, on page 137.2.

Ms. Falk.

(1155)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Basically, this amendment is again on timelines:

The Accessibility Commissioner is to be appointed no later than six months after the day on which this subsection comes into force.

It’s pretty straightforward, just timelines, accountability.

Can we have a recorded vote?

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Now we’ll go to amendment CPC-55.

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The amendment is:

Section 26 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (5):
(6) The Accessibility Commissioner must receive appropriate training in matters related to accessibility and discrimination.

I know I spoke to something such as this earlier. Knowledge is power. Sometimes it’s just even having a conversation or some type of additional training that makes people more aware of their words and actions.

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion on CPC-55?

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

The accessibility commissioner should receive anti-racism, anti-oppression and cultural competency training to ensure that a complaint process does not perpetuate systematic discrimination experienced by ethno-racial persons with disabilities, or even indigenous persons with disabilities.

It’s just becoming aware that different things have different meaning in different cultures. In some cultures, you don’t make eye contact with people—it’s actually disrespectful to do that. Unless people are educated and aware, they are causing more harm than good.

(Amendment negatived)

(Clause 148 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

As you can see, lunch is being set up now. We have a bunch we can carry here. If we can get through those really quickly in the next two minutes before noon, we’ll do that. Then we’ll break for 10 minutes to grab lunch.

(On clause 149)

On clause 149, we have CPC-56.

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Clause 149 should ensure that persons with disabilities participate meaningfully in the monitoring and implementation of the CRPD. Such participation is required under article 33(3) of the CRPD.

Clause 149 must be amended to require the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor in accordance with articles 33(2) and 33(3) of the CRPD.

Sufficient resources must be provided to the commission and disability communities to support them in their roles.

(Amendment negatived)

(1200)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Can I have unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 149 to 153?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

No.

(Clause 149 agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I’m asking for unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 150 to 153.

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 150 to 153 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 154)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Mr. Ruimy, please present LIB-62.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

This is replacing the word “emotional” with the word “psychological”. The bill generally refers to psychological harm, except in two instances where it interchangeably refers to emotional harm. This amendment will ensure the bill consistently uses the term “psychological harm”.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I understand consistency, but why can’t it be psychological and emotional harm?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

I know we had conversations. I’m just trying to think of what the witnesses were telling us.

Honestly, it’s because there are two instances of “emotional harm”. We’re making it more consistent throughout the entire act. Why would you have two sections referring to it as “emotional harm”, when we’re referring to it as “psychological harm”?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I see psychological and emotional as two different things.

Is the government proposing that we specifically remove “emotional harm”?

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Yes. We’re replacing “emotional” with “psychological” to make it consistent throughout.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

They’re two different things, I’m just wondering about this. Is psychological harm more important than emotional harm? I’m just trying to understand.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Can I ask Mr. Van Raalte to chime in here a bit?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Our apologies to the committee. It is a drafting error. The intent all the way through was to use “psychological”. It is a broader and more accepted term and it encompasses the emotional aspect.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

That’s how the department sees it.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you very much for your intervention.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 154 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 155)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll move to clause 155. If we get through this, you can go and have lunch, probably, by the looks of it.

We have LIB-63, with Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Again, this is referring back to replacing “emotional” with “psychological” as a consequential amendment to LIB-62.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, it’s just changing “emotional” to “psychological”.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 155 as amended agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Can I have unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 156 to 162?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 156 to 162 inclusive agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll take a 10-minute recess to grab some food and take a break. We’re now suspended.

(1205)

(1220)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you. We’ll come back in session.

We will start back at clause 163. I appreciate everybody’s diligence in getting through this. I feel very good about our finishing this by one o’clock, so we’ll see how well we do.

We’re on LIB-64.

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

The bill incorrectly refers to the accessible Canada act in French as La loi sur l’accessibilité fédérale. The amendment will ensure that the bill is consistent and correct by referring to the correct title, which should be La loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité.

[Translation]

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thank you.

[English]

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

They gave it to me because of my French.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, I could tell.

[Translation]

Me too.

[English]

Are there any comments?

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 163 as amended agreed to)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Could I get unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 164 to 168?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 164 to 168 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 169)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): We’ll now move to clause 169. Two amendments are proposed. We’ll begin with LIB-65.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

LIB-65 is a consequential amendment in reference to LIB-1 and LIB-2, which have already been approved.

(Amendment agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to LIB-66.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Many stakeholder groups have reacted positively to the definition of “disability” in Bill C-81, and some have stated that the definition advances beyond the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by recognizing that certain impairments may cause the experience of barriers to be episodic. This amendment recognizes that.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 169 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 170)

(1225)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We now move to clause 170 with proposed amendment LIB-67.

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

This is a consequential amendment resulting from amendments LIB-5, LIB-6, LIB-13, LIB-19, LIB-24, LIB-30, LIB-34, LIB-40, LIB-55, LIB-56, LIB-57 and LIB-58. They broaden the scope by including communication.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We’re on to LIB-68.

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Exemptions can’t be unlimited, and consequential to previous amendments, we’d like to change this part.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 170 as amended agreed to)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Can I get unanimous consent to group the votes on clauses 171 to 206?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Clauses 171 to 206 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 207)

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Is there any discussion on CPC-57?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

This amendment basically would make it so that “on the 90th day after the day on which this Act receives royal assent” it would come into force. It’s giving 90 days for this act to come into force.

The current coming into force provision does not require the government to act. Additionally, if this clause is left as is, according to the Statutes Repeal Act, this act would be automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent.

I would like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Can I move an amendment, if possible?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

It’s that Bill C-81, in clause 207, be amended by replacing lines 28 and 29 on page 301 with the following, “206, come into force on the 60th day after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.”

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Sorry, I’ll just say, it’s the same amendment, different day.

(1230)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I would like a recorded vote, please.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

May I move another amendment?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

It’s that Bill C-81, in clause 207, be amended by replacing lines 28 and 29 on page 301 with the following, “206, come into force on the 30th day after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.”

Again, the current coming into force provision does not require the government to act. Additionally, if the clause is left as is, according to the Statutes Repeal Act, this act would be automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Can we ask Mr. Van Raalte what the practices normally are in these instances in terms of the dates coming into effect and whether there’s a rationale for this?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

There are a range of practices. Some pieces of legislation are left to the discretion of the Governor in Council. Some pieces of legislation have different coming into force dates for different sections, depending on the requirements.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

That will remain silent on it now?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

The Governor in Council will come forward with a coming into force date.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Make a determination, thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Further to that, is there a timeline when the Governor in Council does bring forward that timeline or that date? Do we have that, then?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

No, as the bill sits now, my understanding is there is no timeline.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Right, that’s how I understand it too, but we just heard in an explanation that this was going to be provided later, a timeline.

Is that not what you just said, Mr. Van Raalte, that a timeline would be provided later?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

The Governor in Council will have to come forward, publish through the Canada Gazette, with the coming into force date.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

There is no requirement right now. Nothing changes. That explanation doesn’t change our situation at all. We still have nothing. We still don’t have any dates for anything required.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle, as it sits now, the bill will sunset in 10 years if there are no steps taken or regulations or anything in force. However, from Mr. Van Raalte, that possibly could change.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay, that’s all. I wanted to make sure we heard.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We request a recorded vote.

(Amendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We believe that clause 207 in Bill C-81 should be voted down. We have tried to improve it, through a few amendments here, and that didn’t work so we weren’t able to improve it. Again, the current coming into force provision does not require the government to act. Additionally, if the clause is left as is, according to the Statutes Repeal Act this act would be automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent.

(1235)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

It will be a recorded vote.

(Clause 207 agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I’d like to ask my colleagues if we could get unanimous consent for a subamendment to LIB-19, which we missed earlier, just for consistency.

A voice: No.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

We will move on to the preamble. We had a couple of amendments proposed earlier in the process last night that were withdrawn, dealing specifically with the interpretation of indigenous peoples of Canada. That was LIB-3, so it was very early on in the process.

We have two proposed amendments as part of the preamble, LIB-69 and CPC-58, but they are deemed to be inadmissible because they deal with the preamble but there is no coordinating part of the bill itself. You can’t have something in the preamble that doesn’t have a coordinating portion or amendment within the bill itself.

Does anybody need any additional clarification on that?

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Mr. Chair, I think we need clarification. What about paragraphs (b) and (c) of amendment LIB-69?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

That amendment is coming up next as CPC-59, which would be almost identical to what you’re proposing, but that CPC amendment would have precedence over yours because it was submitted prior. It would have to be a new amendment.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Can we just have a moment?

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Yes, we’ll suspend for one minute.

(1235)

(1240)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

The Liberal amendment is inadmissible, as well as CPC-58.

You could not make an amendment to that one as CPC-59 is pretty much identical and would have precedence.

We now move to CPC-59.

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

This is an amendment to the preamble to change “Canadians” to “persons in Canada”. The change is necessary to help ensure that everyone in Canada, regardless of their citizenship, status or identification with Canada, gets benefits from accessibility requirements under the act.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Again, Ms. Hardcastle, this amendment is identical to yours right after. If you want to make a comment, I would suggest you do it now.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay. As it reads now, somebody could interpret that if they’re in Canada but are not a Canadian, the rules don’t apply to them either way. I think it’s pretty simple and straightforward.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Morrissey.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

I would move a subamendment to strike “abilities or” in part (b) of CPC-59.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Okay, so it would just be “regardless of their disabilities”.

Is there any discussion on the proposed subamendment?

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I had a similar amendment early on, and there was some debate. Didn’t we keep that in? We kept “abilities” in for some reason, or did that…?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

We took it out.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

We did? Okay.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

I believe that we were keeping “disabilities” throughout the bill to retain that consistency, so “abilities” was removed in favour of “disabilities”, if I recall correctly.

(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): I have to commend all of you on your diligence. We’re almost there. We just have the last few to go.

(Preamble as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the short title carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the title carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the bill as amended carry?

Mrs. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

First of all, I am very disappointed that this bill does not have teeth. We heard very clearly from our stakeholders that they cared about timelines, about accountability, about transparency, about ease of accessibility, about having one body to oversee complaints, about enforcement—all of that. Two amendments were adopted that weren’t Liberal amendments, but I’m disappointed that this seemed to turn into a partisan issue and what the minister wanted—we heard that a couple of times, that “the minister wanted this”.

We serve Canadians. We serve our stakeholders. I’m terribly disappointed that we brought them in here. We heard them speak passionately. These are people who have lived with disabilities. They lack accessibility to the majority of everything. That they were being heard at the table was historical, in the sense of groundbreaking. I’m just so disappointed that we as a committee couldn’t add more teeth.

(1245)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Ms. Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

I know intimately that in the disabilities community people are very pleased to be asked and to be engaged, and they are actually very easy to please. They’ve done without so much and they have so many struggles; they take what they can get.

They are watching closely today. They know some of the fundamental problems with this bill, one of them being that the government can exempt itself from many of these regulations; another being the splintering of implementation and enforcement, which is really insensitive to the actual, lived experience of people living with disabilities. The bill needed to be greatly simplified. However, I know that people are going to be ecstatic. They’re going to want to see us be diligent in moving forward on this.

I’m feeling very mixed emotions right now for people, just because we had expected that in earnest we were going to come here to debate these amendments. It was very clear that there was a preconceived notion of what should be happening and an agenda, which has been realized, that really didn’t take into account that testimony.

I know it sounds harsh, but I need to say this in a very clear and concise way, because we have stakeholders listening who are very frustrated and who want to have an acknowledgement that we know that they know that we know that they know that these amendments and the language in this bill do not meet their needs sufficiently.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Ruimy.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Since we’re all having a say here, I first of all want to thank all the stakeholders in the disability community for the months of consultations that went on to get us to where we are today. We heard testimony and recommendations for amendments from multitudes of people, and we put forward 69 of our own amendments. Many of them were very similar to what the opposition had put forward, but which were improved upon.

While it’s easy to say right now that there’s disappointment, I think there’s excitement for what we have accomplished.

We heard from every witness who came through that while they wanted to see amendments, they were excited that we were moving forward. This is the end result. On our side we heard, we listened and we made adjustments to the legislation.

I want to thank everybody for all their hard work and for getting us to where we are today.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

It is a start, I would say, but it falls far below the bar. We could have done far better. I think we Conservatives fought very hard to try to get some real teeth, but this is really like a toothless guard dog.

I believe that the Liberals are failing Canadians with disabilities. I think the fact that there are no implementation timelines is a huge thing. It’s just unacceptable. We certainly heard some pretty strong language from the countless witnesses who came here. I was quite shocked at how strong their language was, but they’re the people we are trying to serve. We listened to them and I truly don’t think that, overall, they were heard.

It is not nearly as good as it could be, and I’m quite disappointed. The very fact that there are no timelines and there are exemptions where entities can get out of even having to deal with the bill is shameful, I think.

Of the amendments, how many were taken? Two or three, perhaps, were taken of the 60 amendments that I think would have improved the bill. It’s quite disappointing. As I say, it’s a start, but it falls far below the bar.

(1250)

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

The timelines and extensions have been referenced a number of times, and I think there’s a lot more commonality than is being portrayed.

There are a number of principles that we talked about, and the principles can be implemented in a number of different fashions. Not everything should be in legislation. We’ve referred to the standards, the practices and to accreditation. All of those are important variables in the provision of any types of disabilities.

I was an active participant in the development of disabilities legislation in British Columbia, where we created Community Living B.C. We went through a very similar process and we relied heavily upon input from the people who were part of it. Any good public policy has to have the people who it impacts having not just an important say in it, but also a say in the process by which it becomes implemented.

I believe we have followed the majority of principles that have been put forward. I think there is pretty good agreement on both sides of the House, or all around the House, in terms of those principles. I think there’s a disagreement in terms of how they can best be implemented to respond most effectively to the needs of making our country most accessible.

We heard many people coming before us say that we are leading the world in terms of moving forward with this legislation. We’re really at the forefront and I think we should be relying on those people who have the ability and the skills within the framework of the legislation, and the practices and the accreditation that we have available to us. I think we have come to a very good balance in terms of being able to do that.

I’m very pleased, delighted and darned excited about what we’ve been able to achieve.

An hon. member: Hear, hear!

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Chair, thank you for your leadership over the last two days. It’s very much appreciated.

Certainly on behalf of my riding and on behalf of countless groups across New Brunswick, and in particular southern New Brunswick, we are absolutely thrilled to move forward with Bill C-81.

I’m proud to be part of a government that is moving forward with this legislation after what I would call the previous government’s 10 years of non-action—no action. I’m very proud of Bill C-81 and the movements we are taking to move this forward.

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Is there any further discussion?

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

I’d like to add that you did a marvellous job as the chairperson. You handled that extremely well.

[Expand]

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow):

Thanks very much.

Now we will continue on with the vote.

Shall the bill as amended carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the House at report stage?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Vice-Chair (Mr. John Barlow): Excellent.

Well done, everyone.

I appreciate everyone’s support to get us through what I have to say is probably a pleasant surprise to all of us, to get this done as expediently as we did.

Certainly, my final comments would be that our thoughts are with Bryan May and his family. I know he was watching last night. Apparently, he is a glutton for punishment.

But, again, just on the number of amendments that were brought through on Bill C-81, I think all of us saw that there was work to do on this bill to ensure it met the goals that were brought forward by our stakeholders. I think as parliamentarians, and as this committee, it now behooves us to ensure that we hold this government, and whatever the next government is, accountable to ensure that they follow through with what we heard from our stakeholders and certainly from the discussions we had here among us as a committee.

Thank you very much for everyone’s commitment to this.

Thank you very much to the staff, the clerk and our legislative clerks who guided me through this over the last two days.

I hope everybody has a great constituency week and spends some time with their family and friends.

The meeting is adjourned.



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Transcript of the October 4, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 2 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Notice of meeting

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 113

Thursday, October 4, 2018, 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

8:45 a.m. to 10:40 a.m.

Televised

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Witnesses

Treasury Board Secretariat

  • Yazmine Laroche, Deputy Minister, Public Service Accessibility
  • Alex Benay, Chief Information Officer of the Government of Canada
  • Carl Trottier, Assistant Deputy Minister, Governance, Planning and Policy Sector, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer

Canadian Human Rights Commission

  • Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner
  • Marcella Daye, Senior Policy Advisor, Policy and Legal Services Branch

Canada Post Corporation

  • Jessica L. McDonald, Chair of the Board of Directors and Interim President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Susan Margles, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs

10:40 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

(In Camera)

Committee Business

Clerk of the Committee

Stephanie Feldman (613-996-1542)

2018-10-03 11:05 a.m.

Minutes of Proceedings

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 113

Thursday, October 4, 2018, 8:51 a.m. to 10:46 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Presiding

Bryan May, Chair (Liberal)

Expand AllCollapse All

Members of the Committee present

Liberal

Conservative

Acting Members present

Associate Members present

In attendance

Library of Parliament

  • Elizabeth Cahill, Analyst
  • Havi Echenberg, Analyst

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Witnesses

Treasury Board Secretariat

  • Yazmine Laroche, Deputy Minister, Public Service Accessibility
  • Alex Benay, Chief Information Officer of the Government of Canada
  • Carl Trottier, Assistant Deputy Minister, Governance, Planning and Policy Sector, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer

Canadian Human Rights Commission

  • Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner
  • Marcella Daye, Senior Policy Advisor, Policy and Legal Services Branch

Canada Post Corporation

  • Jessica L. McDonald, Chair of the Board of Directors and Interim President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Susan Margles, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs

Pursuant to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the Committee commenced consideration of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Yazmine Laroche, Marie-Claude Landry and Jessica L. McDonald made statements and answered questions.

Motion

Cheryl Hardcastle moved, — That the Committee provide recommendations for legislative and policy changes necessary to ensure that the needs of persons with episodic disabilities caused, among other things, by multiple sclerosis, be adequately protected to ensure equity in government policy to support Canadians across all types of disability; that the Committee report to the House by February 2019; and that it be instructed to request a comprehensive government response to its report, pursuant to Standing Order 109.

Debate arose thereon.

Wayne Long moved, — That the debate be now adjourned.

The question was put on the motion and it was agreed to, by a show of hands: YEAS: 5; NAYS: 4.

The witnesses answered questions.

At 10:27 a.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 10:30 a.m., the sitting resumed in camera.

Committee Business

The Committee proceeded to the consideration of matters related to Committee business.

It was agreed, — That a proposed budget in the amount of $49,425.00 be adopted by the Committee in relation to the study of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, and that the budget be submitted to the Subcommittee on Budgets of the Liaison Committee, to provide for various accommodation services in relation to the meetings on this study, including resources required to prepare the video of the Committee’s proceedings to include the in-room recording of the sign language interpretation to make it available on ParlVU after the committee meetings, in order to make the proceedings as accessible as possible for those who use American Sign Language and Québec Sign Language.

It was agreed, — That, in relation to the study of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, a proposed contract budget in the amount of $10,000.00, be adopted by the Committee and submitted to the Subcommittee on Budgets of the Liaison Committee, to provide for various external services in relation to this study, to convert written submissions to the Committee to accessible formats.

At 10:46 a.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.

Stephanie Feldman

Clerk of the Committee

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

EVIDENCE

Thursday, October 4, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(0850)

[English]

[Expand]

The Chair (Mr. Bryan May (Cambridge, Lib.)):

I call the meeting to order.

Good morning, everybody.

I have a preamble that I need to go through at the beginning of each of these meetings, so please bear with me.

We are meeting on Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The objective of today’s meeting is to continue the committee’s thorough review of the bill.

I would like to take a moment to remind both those participating in the proceedings, as well as those observing the proceedings of the committee in person and on video, that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study.

As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways. This includes providing sign language interpretation, and near real-time closed captioning in the room. Please note that both American sign language and Quebec sign language are being offered to those in our audience.

For those who would like to watch the American sign language interpretation, please sit in the benches to my left. For those who would like to watch the Quebec sign language interpretation, please sit in the benches to my right.

In addition, please note that the first two rows of benches have been reserved for those who wish to avail themselves of these interpretation services.

Screens displaying the near real-time closed captioning have also been set up, with the English text to my left and the French text to my right. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being videorecorded for the eventual broadcast of the meeting through ParlVu via the committee’s website.

In light of these arrangements, the committee would ask that if you need to leave the room during the meeting, please do not walk in front of the sign language interpreters. Instead, please use the extremities of the room.

In addition, we would ask that those in the room remain seated as much as possible during the meeting so that everyone in the audience can clearly see the sign language interpretation.

Finally, if a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of the staff or the committee clerk.

The last meeting was our first meeting with the sign language interpretation. You can tell from my tone and pace that I am trying to slow things down a little bit, so please take your time. I won’t be as strict with the timing as usual.

We did have some issues at the first meeting with the interpretation having trouble keeping up with the speed of the speakers. If I get an indication that you do need to slow down, I will do this. I’m not saying to stop; I’m just saying slow down.

I’d like to welcome all of the witnesses here today. We have a very large group, so we’ll get right to it.

From the Treasury Board Secretariat, we have Yazmine Laroche, deputy minister, public service accessibility; Alex Benay, chief information officer of the Government of Canada; and Carl Trottier, assistant deputy minister, governance, planning and policy sector, office of the chief human resources officer.

From the Canadian Human Rights Commission, we have Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner, and Marcella Daye, senior policy adviser, policy and legal services branch.

From Canada Post Corporation, we have Jessica L. McDonald, chair of the board of directors and interim president and chief executive officer, and Susan Margles, senior vice-president, corporate affairs.

Welcome again to all of you. I believe we are going to start with Yazmine Laroche, deputy minister, public service accessibility, for seven minutes.

(0855)

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche (Deputy Minister, Public Service Accessibility, Treasury Board Secretariat):

Good morning, Mr. Chair.

[Translation]

Thank you for the invitation to appear before your committee to discuss Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I am delighted to be here with my colleagues to speak about this bill.

The goal of of Bill C-81 is to vastly improve the quality of life for Canadians with disabilities through the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. Currently, barriers to accessibility continue to adversely impact Canadians with disabilities and their families.

[English]

The bill, if passed, would require organizations under federal jurisdiction to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility in six key areas: the built environment, employment, information and communications technologies, the procurement of goods and services, the delivery of programs and services, and transportation.

Chief among these organizations is the Government of Canada. As such, the accessible Canada act has the potential to significantly change the way that the federal public service does business and serves Canadians, as well as to improve the lives of federal employees with disabilities. As the largest employer in Canada, the government must lead by example.

Our goal is a simple one: to make the public service of Canada the gold standard of an accessible and inclusive public service.

[Translation]

But we have our work cut out for us.

Among the 12,000 respondents to the PSES, the public service employment survey, who self-identified as a person with a disability, too many report facing more challenges in the workplace than those without disabilities.

Public servants with disabilities report higher rates of harassment, feeling emotionally drained after their work day and that their work-related stress is high or very high. They also report being less engaged, less empowered and less respected than people without disabilities.

[English]

To address this, Treasury Board is taking action in its capacity as employer of the core public administration.

Today I’d like to briefly outline some of the work that’s currently taking place at the secretariat.

As the first-ever deputy minister of public service accessibility, just appointed in August, I have charged my team with developing an overarching strategy and an implementation plan. Our work will be based on consultation with partners and stakeholders that will help the federal public service show leadership in meeting the requirements in the accessible Canada act.

[Translation]

My office will act as a hub, providing strategic advice on accessibility issues for all Government of Canada departments and agencies. We will leverage the expertise of partners in other levels of government, as well as both the private and non-profit sectors.

[English]

One of the goals set by the Government of Canada is to hire 5,000 new employees with disabilities by 2025. Beyond recruitment, we will also lead initiatives to remove barriers to inclusion and full participation in the workplace, and ensure employees with disabilities can access the adjustments they need in a timely manner.

Our goal is to optimize productivity and maximize every employee’s contributions.

(0900)

[Translation]

We will also take an active role in supporting departments and agencies in publicly reporting on their progress through multi-year accessibility plans. In this way, we can be held to account.

While our office is new, much work is already underway thanks to my colleagues, like Carl Trottier, in the office of the chief human resources officer.

This office within TBS has been developing the diversity and inclusion strategy and action plan for the public service, to be launched this fall.

On recruitment, TBS is developing a strategy to address gaps and barriers for equity seeking groups, including persons with disabilities.

One of the components of this strategy will be to examine opportunities to reach Canadians with disabilities, and further understand and address barriers to recruitment, retention and engagement once in the public service.

[English]

The secretariat will build on its own experience with successful pilot programs, such as the youth accessibility summer employment opportunity for students with disabilities and its partnership with LiveWorkPlay for people with intellectual disabilities.

The secretariat has identified the need to train and support managers and human resources professionals early in the recruitment process and to provide timely access to services such as the accessibility, accommodations and adaptive computer technology program at Shared Services Canada.

Mr. Chair, allow me to turn to the work now currently being led by my colleague Alex Benay, Canada’s chief information officer.

[Translation]

In a modern workplace, information and technology are key enablers that support collaboration, innovation and mobility.

However, in today’s public service, information and communications technologies are not as accessible as they should be. Many work tools can pose accessibility and usability barriers to employees with disabilities.

To address this, TBS is evolving the current suite of collaboration tools into an open and accessible digital workspace for public servants.

Using modern open-source technology and tools, this workspace will be accessible by design, ensuring that all of our employees can bring their diversity and passion to the table to provide better services to Canadians.

[English]

As well, the Government of Canada recently released the digital standards, which include accessibility by design. As the government continues to transition towards digital, a key focus will be keeping user needs, including accessibility, at the forefront of the design of all government services and operations.

[Translation]

In closing, let me plainly say that the public service should reflect the diverse nature of the citizens it serves. We know that diverse and inclusive organizations are more creative, innovative and productive.

[English]

Our goal is to create a workplace where every federal public servant has what they need to do their very best work so that they can do their best for Canada and for its citizens.

Thank you so much. We’d be pleased to answer any questions.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Excellent. Thank you very much.

Now, from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, we have Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner, for seven minutes.

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry (Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission):

Good morning.

(0905)

Thank you for inviting the Canadian Human Rights Commission to take part in your study of Bill C-81. With me is Marcella Daye, senior policy adviser at the commission.

The commission is an independent agency of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and Canada’s human rights watchdog. Bill C-81 is a positive step toward ensuring that everybody can live free from barriers: barriers in the buildings we work in, barriers built into the technology we use, and barriers created by attitudes and stigma that prevent people from contributing fully to society. This bill will improve accessibility, and so we congratulate the government on this very important initiative.

For the CHRC, the bill provides for a new accessibility commissioner and a new accessibility unit. It also designates the CHRC as the monitoring mechanism for the UNCRPD, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and we welcome this designation. The Canadian Human Rights Commission supports this bill, and we urge you to pass it.

I would like to highlight two sets of changes that the CHRC believes will have a positive impact on the success of the bill’s implementation.

Our first suggestion is about making sure the legislation begins to work immediately. This comes in two parts.

First, the bill states that the government may choose to put regulations in place. We believe that the legislation should require government to make regulations. It needs more. It needs a kick-start to action. We recommend in subclause 117(1) changing “may” to “shall” and adding the words “which may include” at the end of this subsection. We therefore propose that subclause 117(1) would read as follows: “Subject to sections 118 to 120, the Governor in Council shall make regulations which may include”.

Two, we also recommend that the bill require timelines to be set for organizations to meet any standard that is passed into regulation. We propose to add to the end of subclause 117(1)(c) the words, “and timelines for their implementation”. With our proposal, subclause 117(1)(c) would read as follows: “establishing standards intended to remove barriers and to improve accessibility in the areas referred to in section 5 and timelines for their implementation”.

With these changes, we believe the legislation will inspire and compel concrete action. It will ensure that neither the government nor organizations will be able to let good intentions gather dust, and it will embed accountability.

Our suggestion is about the lack of clarity around the application of this legislation in first nations communities. They are not excluded, but they are also not specifically included. We are concerned that this lack of clarity may lead to a gap in human rights protection for indigenous peoples. This is why we welcome the government’s commitment for more robust consultation with first nations, the Inuit and the Métis nation. The commission is familiar with the consequences of excluding a group of people from human rights protections. Prior to 2008, section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act excluded persons living on first nations reserves. It was intended as a temporary measure. It remained for 30 years. We must ensure that such a gap does not happen again.

Bill C-81 has the potential to bring about incredibly positive changes for those living with disabilities in first nation communities. We urge the government to work quickly in consultation with first nations towards the effective implementation of the Accessible Canada Act on reserves. Such work must of course take into accounts their rights, unique interests and circumstances. We also encourage the government to provide adequate resources to first nation governments to meet the urgent needs that exist in far too many communities.

On a last note before I conclude, during your review of the bill, you will likely hear many concerns, including those about the very broad exemption powers in the act and the lack of recognition of American sign language and la langue des signes québécoise. We believe that concerns of civil society such as these merit consideration by this committee.

The CHRC is committed to putting in place the people, tools, expertise and partnerships needed to play our part in this ambitious legislation. This includes our setting up of working groups with the CTA, the CRTC, the FPSLREB and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

I want to thank you again. Marcella Daye and I look forward to answering your questions.

(0910)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now, from the Canada Post Corporation, we have Jessica L. McDonald, chair of the board of directors, interim president and chief executive officer.

You have seven minutes.

[Translation]

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald (Chair of the Board of Directors and Interim President and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Post Corporation):

Thank you.

Hello, everyone.

[English]

Thank you, Chair and committee members, for inviting Canada Post to participate in this important discussion on Bill C-81.

My name is Jessica McDonald. As you said, I’m chair of the board of directors. I’m joined today by my colleague, Susan Margles, senior vice-president of corporate affairs. It’s a pleasure to be here today and to speak to the committee.

Identifying, removing and preventing physical and non-visible barriers in the workplace and society is an incredibly important issue for our country, but also for Canada Post. We fully support Bill C-81 as proposed and embrace the goals of the legislation.

Canada Post recognizes the significance of this legislation to Canadian citizens, the Government of Canada and parliamentarians, including our minister, who is a champion for accessibility and removing barriers. We also know that as a Crown corporation we can and must always do more in this area. Identifying, removing and preventing barriers is a continuous evolution. Canada Post takes very seriously its obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as the Employment Equity Act.

[Translation]

We strive to ensure that our services and facilities are accessible to all Canadians. In the next few minutes, I will outline our approach for helping to improve accessibility for our customers and employees.

[English]

First, it’s important to understand the size and scope of our operations. More than 50,000 people, full- and part-time employees, work for Canada Post, not including our subsidiaries. That makes us one of Canada’s largest employers. We have the country’s largest retail network, with nearly 6,200 post offices across Canada. Most of these are operated in urban centres, but many are operated out of very diverse locations, such as pharmacies, corner stores, or people’s homes.

Often in remote reaches of the country, we’ve learned from experience that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to providing services. We deliver to more than 16 million residential and business addresses in every corner of the country. We’re proud to partner with small businesses across Canada, and we understand their importance to the Canadian economy.

We recognize the need for our services to be as accessible as possible to help small business owners and customers with disabilities. It’s our job to serve Canadians, and we’re proud to do so. Because of our size and scope, we’re keenly aware of the importance of removing barriers for Canadians with physical and non-visible disabilities. We understand that the nature of disabilities can be as diverse as the people who experience them.

In supporting the legislation, we also know it will take some time to fully grasp how it will affect Canada Post. We’re looking forward to better understanding the impacts and the opportunities from Bill C-81. Being a large organization with legacy infrastructure in communities across Canada, we recognize it will require significant effort and resources to make improvements going forward, but we are absolutely committed to respecting the legislation and regulations, once adopted.

As you may recall, the Government of Canada launched a review of Canada Post to better position us for the future. Based on feedback from the public and stakeholders, the government announced a new vision for Canada Post earlier this year. One of those pillars was to enhance our existing accessible delivery program. Canada Post is committed to ensuring that all customers, including seniors and persons with disabilities, have access to their mail and parcels. This specifically includes persons living on first nations reserves. We have a dedicated team in place to respond to each customer’s needs on a case-by-case basis and together determine appropriate accommodation options. Again, we know we can do more and improve our processes.

We take our duty to remove barriers and accommodate disabilities and mobility issues very seriously. We’re working diligently to ensure that our operations and services respect Canadians’ right to dignity, autonomy and privacy, and that everyone has equal opportunity to access our services and compete for a job.

(0915)

[Translation]

In all aspects of our operations, when a situation of inaccessibility is brought to our attention, we take action to address the situation as quickly as possible.

For Canada Post, Bill C-81 is an opportunity to improve accessibility to our services and facilities to meet the needs and expectations of an aging population. The 2016 census showed that for the first time in Canadian history, seniors now outnumber children in Canada. There are now nearly six million seniors in Canada, and by 2031, close to one in four Canadians could be 65 years of age or older. We absolutely recognize the need to adjust our operations accordingly.

We have also been working hard on creating an accessibility advisory panel. This panel will provide ongoing input and be a forum for dialogue that will help us make delivery services more accessible to persons with disabilities and to seniors. We’re very delighted that some leading experts and strong advocates with lived experience have agreed to sit on the panel and take on this important role. We expect to announce the accessibility advisory panel very soon.

I wanted to quickly share some of the other services we currently provide that make it easier for people with disabilities to access our postal products and services.

In our retail locations, examples include access ramps, electronic doors, accessible payment devices and the welcoming of service animals.

[English]

To support the visually impaired, we provide a literature for the blind service that allows specific items used by blind persons to be mailed for free, such as materials impressed in Braille and sound recordings, such as CDs. For the hearing-impaired, we have a dedicated toll-free TTY customer service line. We also provide instruction to our employees on how to deal with customers with visual or hearing impairments.

We are also committed to making our website accessible to all Canadians. Some of the accessibility features include keyboard shortcut options for navigating without a mouse, an ability to change text size, and quick-access links.

We also have a disability management team. Canada Post provides training for employees on how to accommodate physical and non-visible disabilities in the workplace. Our collective agreements with our unions all address accessibility. We collaborate with unions and have joint decision-making on how to remove barriers. Each union also has a specific committee with Canada Post on respecting human rights.

As a major federal employer, service provider, and procurer of services, Canada Post recognizes that this legislation and its regulations will impact many aspects of our organization going forward. The legislation will require us to identify, remove, and prevent barriers in six key areas identified in the bill.

Recognizing that we have much work to do in this area, I also want to note that Canada Post is in the process of hiring a director of accessibility policy. This is an important step as we work to improve accessibility at Canada Post.

We know that this work will require a lot of resources, but as I mentioned earlier, we welcome this important legislation and we embrace its goals.

(0920)

[Translation]

We hope that our efforts and continued commitment to doing more demonstrate the importance Canada Post places on improving accessibility for our customers and employees.

[English]

On behalf of Canada Post, I’d like to thank the committee for inviting us to appear.

We applaud the government and members of the committee for working to remove barriers and improve accessibility for all Canadians through Bill C-81. This is an important conversation, and we are very happy to contribute to it.

Our approach to improving accessibility has evolved over many years and aligns with the goals outlined in the bill. We look forward to further understanding what the legislation will mean for Canada Post going forward.

We would be very happy to take your questions.

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Thank you to all of you. You kept a very good pace. We didn’t get any complaints from interpretation, so thank you.

As a reminder before we get into questions, colleagues, please take your time with your questions.

To start off, MP Barlow, go ahead for six minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC):

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all our witnesses for being here this morning. The end of the table is very full. I appreciate your time, certainly.

I’m going to direct a couple of questions. If I direct them to the wrong place, if you don’t mind, could you just shuffle them off? I’m not exactly sure how everybody…. Also, you can share.

One of the questions I had, which came up, really, with the minister‘s presentation on Tuesday, is about the different levels of departments and officials who are going to be overseeing this bill and the implementation of this bill. We have the accessibility commissioner, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There seem to be a lot of different layers.

I’m wondering, Ms. Laroche or Ms. Landry, if you can explain to me the hierarchy of this implementation and the long-term overseeing of this legislation. Who’s going to be in charge of what?

I think all of us around this table agree that this is the right direction to go, but sometimes more does not help. I’m concerned that there are going to be so many different layers of bureaucracy and departments overseeing this that it’s not going to be implemented as efficiently and as quickly as we would certainly like.

Perhaps one of you could explain to me how this is going to work.

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Why don’t I start, and then my colleague will maybe speak a little more about the accessibility commissioner, since that relates more specifically to her?

I can’t really speak to the architecture that’s in the legislation, because it is Minister Qualtrough and the Department of ESDC who are the policy leads for that and who designed it. However, what I can tell you is that in my own case, in my job, I am not another layer of bureaucracy. We’re actually a small, tasked team. We’re going to be about 10 people, and our job is to actually help connect some of the dots, because there are so many players involved.

Take a look at the six different pillars that are contained in the legislation. On procurement, well, Treasury Board has a policy responsibility for procurement. On built environment, Treasury Board has a policy responsibility for built environment. It’s the same thing with information and communications technologies, but Public Services and Procurement Canada has a huge role to play in the actual procurement and the actual acquisition and management of our built environment. There is by necessity a need for coordination. Part of my job, in terms of helping get the federal public service ready, is making sure that we are working in a coordinated way as we start to develop the strategy, so that we know who’s accountable for what, and by when, and what they’re expected to do.

That’s a bit about how we’re going to be organizing.

[Translation]

Perhaps Ms. Landry could tell us a bit about the commissioner.

[English]

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

My colleague will start and I will add on.

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye (Senior Policy Advisor, Policy and Legal Services Branch, Canadian Human Rights Commission):

Thank you for the question.

What I would say about governance overall is that this is a complex system, but that does not mean it cannot be a very effective system. It is really critical to harmonize the interplay between the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the domestic charter and human rights provisions, and this bill does that. It takes those three governing statutes and says they should work to complement each other. Then it recognizes the complexity that exists partly in the federal system, which includes the sectoral bodies regulated by the CTA and the CRTC, but it also recognizes that some folks won’t be able to reach out to those because they work in the federal public service, for example, or they work in areas that are in private industry and are not governed by those two bodies.

The complexity that you are seeing in the bill is, partially, simply a representation of the complexity in society, but what this bill does do is try to harmonize that complexity. It does so in very specific ways, which our chief commissioner can speak to. It requires us to harmonize all of the complaint systems at the front door and to collaborate on policies and practices.

It also offers very welcomed oversight in the system. Those three layers of international and domestic legislation, governance that recognizes the diversity of sectoral bodies in Canada, and the very appropriate oversight role may at first glance appear as a bureaucracy, but they can actually drive this country to better accessibility because they will be able to lean on each other for their various roles.

I’ll let the chief speak on that.

(0925)

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have about 40 seconds.

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

What I will add is that the commission recognized the technical expertise and the long experience of other sectoral bodies in dealing with their specific and sometimes technical areas of jurisdiction. They are experts in their respective fields. What is important for us as the Canadian Human Rights Commission is the “no wrong door” policy. Human rights should not be exclusive to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It’s something that we should all care about.

The most important thing I would say is that in the bill it’s clear that there is a call for co-operation. We’ve already started this work to make sure we will have this co-operation among us to make sure we will do good for the people who need us, but the most important wording is the “no wrong door” policy.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now we have MP Morrissey for six minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey (Egmont, Lib.):

Thank you, Chair.

My question is to Madame Laroche.

You’re the first deputy minister appointed with sole responsibility for accessibility. You referenced you had a small team of 10. Could you briefly elaborate on how that’s going to allow you the ability to support the whole-of-government approach that this legislation, and the minister in particular, is emphatic will occur?

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Thank you so much for the question.

I think the goal in creating my job and in setting up my unit is to recognize that you need a small group of individuals who are actually going to help drive that change, but as the commissioner said, it can’t be the responsibility of one group or one individual. It requires a big collaborative effort, and you need to mobilize the machinery of government. I’m very fortunate that I have colleagues like the ones at the table, Alex and Carl, and deputy ministers throughout the system who are going to be part of this.

As I mentioned earlier, there are six pillars in the legislation, and there are different departments and organizations throughout the Government of Canada that are responsible for actually delivering on those different pillars. My job and the job of my team is to help build those connections. I really like the hub-and-spoke model. We are a small hub, and it’s our mandate and our responsibility to connect to all of the different players in this system, to make sure that we’re aware of what they’re doing, that we’re connecting what they’re doing, that we’re learning from each other, and that together we’re going to build the strategy we have committed to designing for the government.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Do you think you could do that without Bill C-81? Is Bill C-81 the integral piece that was missing to ensure a whole-of-government approach?

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Thank you. That’s an excellent question.

I think the reason my job has been created is there’s a recognition that the Government of Canada needs to show leadership. Certainly Bill C-81 has helped to galvanize and focus the attention. Would we have gotten there anyway? I think we were starting to move in that direction, but having a deadline and knowing that the act is going to be proclaimed, we hope, in the coming year, and being told that we need to have a strategy ready for implementation a year after the date it comes into effect really do help to focus the attention.

Knowing what the act is trying to achieve also helps to focus the attention. Knowing the areas it’s going to be looking at allows us to better focus our own efforts and not necessarily go off in a million different directions, so it is helping.

(0930)

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Again to Madame Laroche, as a member of Parliament, I was disturbed by the comment in your statement that public servants with disabilities suffer higher rates of harassment. How will this legislation begin to correct that?

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Thank you for the question.

Before I took on this job, I was the deputy minister champion for public servants with disabilities. In fact, I was the first deputy minister with an actual disability to serve as the champion for public servants with disabilities. One of the things I wanted to do when I took on that job was to actually try to understand the status quo.

We now do an annual—it used to be triannual—public service employee survey, and I wanted to understand the data. Carl, my colleague in OCHRO, and his team do an excellent analysis of that, and you can actually disaggregate the data by how people have self-identified. You can do it by gender, by language group and by occupational group, and by people who have self-identified as having a disability.

In successive surveys, we see that people with disabilities report much higher levels of harassment and discrimination than the norm for other public servants. When you try to unpack that a little bit and actually talk to public servants about what could be driving that, one of the key issues is a feeling that the environment isn’t designed to support people with disabilities, so whether our buildings are not accessible, whether washroom facilities are not accessible, or whether our technology works for employees….

If it takes you six months to get access to a piece of technology that can actually help you do your job properly, we can understand your response when that annual survey comes around and asks if you feel you’ve been discriminated against, if you feel harassed. That might help to explain a little bit about that.

In thinking about the strategy we’re designing, we’re trying to understand how we could change that. Do we need to put a first focus on building a welcoming environment? How do we then track the changes? The good thing is we do annual surveys, because they will allow us to measure our progress and ask whether the actions we’re taking are making the difference we need. We’re using that data piece to actually help us measure our results.

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now we’ll go over to MP Hardcastle, please, for six minutes.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As this is my first opportunity to have the floor in the public session today, I’d like to point out that I have Mr. David Yurdiga here today, a member of Parliament, whose private member’s business has inspired us to look at definitions of disability, in particular episodic disabilities.

I have tabled a motion that I would like to bring forward at this time, sir.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Would you like to read the motion?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Does somebody have a copy?

I thought you had it, so—

[Expand]

The Chair:

We’ll distribute it, but do you want to read it into the record?

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay; give me one minute.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

(0935)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you for that indulgence. It reads:

That the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities provide recommendations for legislative and policy changes necessary to ensure that the needs of persons with episodic disabilities caused, among other things, by multiple sclerosis, be adequately protected to ensure equity in government policy to support Canadians across all types of disability; that the Committee report to the House by February 2019; and that it be instructed to request a comprehensive government response to its report, pursuant to Standing Order 109.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

Go ahead, Mr. Long.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.):

Mr. Chair, I’d like to move that the debate be now adjourned.

[Expand]

The Chair:

We don’t debate on that.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: Ms. Hardcastle, you have three minutes and 55 seconds left for questions.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for indulging our rules of procedure, but it probably has you thinking about definitions. I’d like to hear your thoughts about how the definition in Bill C-81 can be strengthened or how it serves its purpose effectively as it is.

Who would like to go first?

I was very intrigued to hear all of your comments earlier, Ms. Daye, Deputy Minister Laroche, Ms. Landry—

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

I’d be happy to go first.

Thank you very much for raising that point.

From my perspective, the spirit and intent of the legislation is the most important thing. From Canada Post’s perspective, we recognize that we have a lot of discovery ahead of us in terms of the barriers and the opportunities, to ensure that we’re both delivering so that there is full accessibility, as well as being an employer who both embraces and supports people with disabilities. We recognize that includes both visible and non-visible disabilities.

I think the only way that one can truly understand, respond to and support people who need any form of extra support in the workplace or as a customer is by deeply respecting the spirit and intent, which, from my perspective, would be the broadest understanding possible.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you.

Does anybody else want to weigh in?

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

Yes. Thank you for your question.

“Temporary or episodic in nature” is already in the definition of this bill.

What is important in our review at the Canadian Human Rights Commission is that every person who suffers from a disability find themselves in the act. This is an important principle, and it’s consistent with human rights law, including the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which has generally given a broad and liberal approach to the definition of “disability”.

That’s the most important thing: that people should find themselves in the act.

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have one minute.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Ms. Daye, could you expand a little bit more on how we would harmonize a complaints system at the front door? What do you think we all have to get our heads around? I had a private member’s bill regarding that very thing, I thought. Maybe you can talk a little bit more about what our approach should be in order to ensure that there is such a harmonization.

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

Thank you very much for the question.

There are different options in order to encourage and embed this kind of harmonization so that people who are trying to find the right place to file their complaints find it easily and simply and without a lot of bureaucracy or delay. That is certainly a key concern of stakeholders. We have heard it. The other regulating agencies have heard it.

The bill responds in a specific way, in that it provides us with both the authorities and the requirements to coordinate better. A series of clauses in the bill, starting at clause 122, require all of those organizations that can receive complaints to work together in order to ensure that complaints find their way in a way that does not create additional barriers at the front end. We take that very seriously.

We have actually already met, as our chief commissioner mentioned, with the other five agencies that are involved in complaints processing in order to begin that work. We have established two working groups, one on the compliance side and one on the “no wrong door” policy to develop procedures that will help make that happen.

(0940)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Long, you have six minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you, Chair.

Good morning to our presenters this morning. It was very informative.

I want to focus specifically on timelines. I want to go across the panel. Minister Qualtrough talked about timelines and basically said that one of the issues with timelines is that people will wait until that date and, if anything, they may not be as productive.

Ontario understands its timelines, but what they have done is actually slowed changes down, because, again, businesses wait until that time to implement change. It technically acts as a deterrent. Are you at all concerned that timelines actually make accessibility implementation take longer?

I’ll start with you, Ms. Landry.

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

Timelines are certainly a concern, both from the point of view of people with disabilities who want solutions put in place faster and from the point of view of those regulated bodies that want to be able to meet their obligations in a timely way.

This bill does not have specific dates in it. The amendments we have proposed do not propose specific dates. They do not indicate that Canada should be barrier free by 2030, for example. Part of the reason for this is that constant improvement is required under this bill. It’s part of progressive realization. A barrier that does not appear today might appear tomorrow. The target will always be changing, and that’s appropriate in Canada, where technology and infrastructure that affect our wide country is developing as quickly as it is.

The timelines that do matter are the timelines to put in place regulations and for organizations to implement those regulations. The two amendments that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has put forward address both of those. Integrating “shall” into the clause requiring government to make regulations will kick-start that timeframe.

What the courts have said, including the Supreme Court in the decision recently this year, is that those time frames need to be reasonable. They cannot be indefinite and they need to move forward.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

Ms. Laroche, would you comment?

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Thank you.

As an organization that’s going to be subject to the legislation, we’re not waiting. We’re moving forward now to start to implement some of the changes that we think will make things better for our employees with disabilities.

Alex can maybe speak a little bit about his digital strategy launch and some of the work he’s doing on the next generation as well, which is all about accessibility.

[Expand]

Mr. Alex Benay (Chief Information Officer of the Government of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat):

I’d be happy to.

As of April 1, 2018, our new information technology policy requires accessibility by default for new systems bought or developed. We’ve also issued, as of a few weeks ago, Government of Canada digital standards. The application of these standards will be required for the development of new services to Canadians, where accessibility by default is also not a nice-to-have but a must-have. In a lot of cases, we have started putting in place the rules pre-emptively around accessibility of systems in the Government of Canada.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you.

Ms. McDonald, would you like to comment?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

The words have been taken out of my mouth. We’re not waiting. We are already under way. For everything that is in motion today, whether it’s a retrofit of our retail operations or any other initiative across the company, we are quickly reviewing, revising and prioritizing accessibility. The accessibility panel, as I say, is imminent in terms of an announcement. We’re hiring a director now to review accessibility policy.

(0945)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you very much.

Ms. McDonald, one of the more interesting presenters I’ve seen in HUMA in my three years was Randy Lewis. He was the vice-president of Walgreens. He talked about how he transformed his distribution centres using people with disabilities as employees. Absenteeism went down. Productivity went up. Turnover went down. He talked about the cultural shift, about how it took a cultural shift.

I mean, we can put legislation in Bill C-81 and bring that forward, but this also takes a cultural shift from the top. I compare Walgreens and their distribution centres to Canada Post and their distribution centres. I want to talk about your delivery programs in a second, but can you talk to how Bill C-81 will transform internally the distribution centres at Canada Post itself? How will Bill C-81 transform that and break down barriers for people with disabilities?

Also, can you talk to what you have done over the past year or two, maybe, to break down those barriers?

[Expand]

The Chair:

You have about 45 seconds.

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

Thank you.

Thank you for pointing me to that testimony. I’d be very interested. We’ll find it and read it. Learning from others is I think one of the first lessons for all of us.

In terms of our distribution centres in particular, I think you were using that as an example, rather than necessarily just the focus—

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

That’s right.

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

The operations of Canada Post are legacy systems. As well, they’re complex in terms of sorting and getting parcels and mail out to customers. We need to and do work very closely with the union in terms of making any alterations to how that works.

One of our most important steps will be working collaboratively in terms of employee suggestions as to how things can work differently, but as well in terms of agreeing on a supportive workplace that more successfully includes people with disabilities and can also work for all.

I have only been at Canada Post since December, so I can’t speak to the last two years, but my vice-president, Susan Margles, could add to this. In the time that I have been here, there has been, as I’ve said, a tremendous effort, because it is one of the pillars of my mandate letter to address accessibility.

Bringing in and asking for the support of people with lived experience to help us understand the correct changes to ensure that we’re delivering in a way that is accessible for all is something that we are 100% focused on. It has been an area of great attention for me since I’ve been here.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you very much.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

MP Ruimy is next, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.):

Thanks to all of you for being here today and helping us go through this important piece of legislation.

I’m going to start with you, Ms. Landry. We’ve been hearing that anywhere from 50% to 60% of the complaints that are being heard are disability complaints. I have a couple of questions on that. Do we have a sense of what those complaints are? Are we tracking this so that we’re able to understand how this legislation can impact those complaints?

[Expand]

The Chair:

I have a reminder, folks: Keep your pace nice and slow. We have a lot of time.

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

Yes. Overall at the commission, disability complaints usually make up between 57% and 60% of all the complaints we receive. About half of these are related to accessibility. From 2008 to September 2018, the commission received 4,171 disability-related complaints.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

When we talk about accessibility, do we know if those complaints are about infrastructure or technology?

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

It could be employment, services, transportation, communications, accessible buildings.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Is that information available to us? Would we be able to see a breakdown—without intruding on privacy, of course?

(0950)

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

We know that 81% of them are related to employment, 18% to services, 8% to the physical environment, 1% to transportation, and just less than a half of one per cent to communications and technology.

Those data that we gather, however, are not as rigorous as we could have in our system. Our system isn’t well designed to pull out relevant data that is well connected to the areas outlined under this act, and we look forward to building a more robust system to come back and report in more detail.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Do you feel that this legislation can and will help to address some of those complaints?

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

As my colleague mentioned, we need to have the proper tools to report on that specifically, and this is what we are doing. The Canadian Human Rights Commission is working to make sure that we will be able to report on that with the appropriate tools, and for that we need appropriate funds and appropriate resources.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you.

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

The funds at the Canadian Human Rights Commission have not been increased for 14 years, and that’s a challenge we’re working on.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Okay. Thank you.

Do you want to add something?

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

I would.

We don’t know the impact of this bill on that portion of our complaints that deal with accessibility. Our first instinct might be to say that because accessibility will be dealt with more proactively, those complaints might go down, but the very wide consultation process and the engagement of people with disabilities in this country may counteract that intuitive guess. People with disabilities in this country are very engaged, and they may bring more complaints to us because of a growth in awareness.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you for getting that on the record.

Ms. McDonald from Canada Post, from what we just heard, you have 50,000 employees. I can’t imagine how you begin to try to move forward. Could you quickly tell us? You are being proactive already, and from your testimony, you’re saying that you’re trying to address a lot of these issues. How do you see this moving forward?

Specifically, we talked a little about timelines, but the timelines were for when we implement the legislation or the regulations. How do you see implementing what those regulations could be and how would they apply to your organization?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

As I said in my opening remarks, we have a tremendous amount of work to do. Stated another way, we have a tremendous amount of opportunity in this area.

As you say, with 50,000 employees, we have a great representation of people with challenges at work. The legislation in its intent addresses what I will call—as a civilian, not a professional expert in this area—mental health issues and non-visible disabilities.

Think about the diversity of challenges that people may have in the workplace and about how the workplace can contribute to those, about the more standard way in which some people may look at disabilities in the workplace, and about addressing the physical disabilities, an area where we also do put attention but can put more attention. There’s just a tremendous diversity of understanding that we need to gain inside the organization about how we can better support employees in a very demanding field of work.

As you may be aware, we have tremendous change happening in terms of what it means to be a delivery company that had been focused on letter mail and is now on parcels. When it comes to either physical or non-visible challenges, there’s a lot more we need to understand so that we build future systems in a supportive way for employees.

That is where there is a tremendous amount of collaborative work needed with our employees. In order to bring out the discussion properly, it’s my view that we need better processes of talking with our employees and understanding how they feel today. Introducing employee surveys, for example, is something that we need to do more of. Changing the language inside the organization in terms of how we refer to disabilities and how we respect people’s challenges is another area.

People with disabilities are under-represented in our workforce. We need to understand if we have exhausted the efforts of ensuring that we provide appropriate accommodations, but we must also appear to be a welcoming employer for people who could be very productive employees and great contributors if they were supported in the right way.

Obviously, this is a very broad question. When I talk about our physical infrastructure, we have a tremendous amount of work to do there. When we talk about the organization itself—its culture, its processes, its understanding of its employees, and its employees’ level of confidence that the workplace is supportive and will adapt—that’s also an area where we have a tremendous amount of work to do.

The key for me as interim CEO is the immediate hiring, which is under way, of a director of accessibility policy. That’s key for us in terms of having a champion and somebody with the responsibility to drive all of this forward and ensure that we’re not missing any opportunities and can report back on very specific progress.

(0955)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Falk is next.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC):

Wonderful. Thank you, Chair.

I want to thank you all for being here and sharing your experience about what’s currently going on.

My first question is for the Human Rights Commission.

In Bill C-81, the accessibility commissioner is responsible for compliance and enforcement activities. How does the role of the accessibility commissioner differ from the current powers of the human rights commissioner?

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

The accessibility commissioner will have the specific mandate to audit and to receive complaints. There will be a specific mandate.

I have a broad mandate to receive applications and complaints and to do promotion and education under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The accessibility commissioner will be specifically focused on the accessibility act, with the specific mandate he or she receives through the act.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

The legislation provides the accessibility commissioner with the powers to enter a place to verify compliance and to prevent non-compliance. This is a very broad power. Is there a risk that the proposed compliance mechanisms would infringe on the freedoms that are guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

Could you be a bit more specific about which freedoms you might be thinking would be infringed?

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

With the “power to enter”, in clause 73: :

Subject to subsection (7), the Accessibility Commissioner may, for a purpose related to verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with any of sections 47 to 49, 56 to 58, 65 to 67 and 69 to 71 or any provision of regulations made under subsection 117(1), enter any place, including a conveyance, in which he or she has reasonable grounds to believe there is any record, report, electronic data or other document, or any information or thing, relevant to that purpose.

I’m interested in the process. Are we going to see the accessibility commissioner going into places, taking data, or doing whatever could happen? I’m interested in the process, and whether the process would infringe on a person’s charter rights and freedoms.

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t think I can answer that question completely, but I can give you my brief insights.

First of all, the characterization of that body of activity is more akin to an auditor, who would be more likely to make an appointment to come into an organization and be guided partly by communications with that organization in order to gather information. I’d say it’s less a SWAT team and more an inspector.

Those kinds of powers are not unusual. Health inspectors or building code inspectors have those powers, and where they are legal and appropriate and they meet the mandate of the legislation, they are generally permissible. Does that help?

(1000)

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

My next question, I believe, will be for Canada Post.

I live in a rural community. I know that you mentioned this in your remarks, that services can’t…. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for different services. In many rural and remote communities, local businesses are authorized dealers for Canada Post. Will these businesses be required to comply with the accessibility standards established through Bill C-81? I’m talking about those small towns of about 400 people or fewer. Will these costs associated with complying, if there are costs to these standards, be the responsibility of the local business?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

In both rural and urban areas, we do partner with small businesses. I can appreciate that in rural areas these may be smaller operations. In terms of accessibility at facilities that we partner with but do not own, our contracts actually specify already that the facilities must comply with the legislation, and that the Canadian Human Rights Act and any associated CSA standard must apply. This is in our existing legislation.

We’ll need to work in a very supportive way with outlets, and particularly with smaller ones, so that they understand what that means in practice. Absolutely, to answer your question, it does extend.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

Has there been a cost analysis done to determine the estimated costs for complying with the accessibility standards?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

Not yet.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Do you know when that would be expected?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

Well, there will be a tremendous amount of work—which was what I was trying to avoid saying, but it’s true—involved in assessing all of our physical infrastructure. We have that under way. We are just beginning to look at how to dive into the entire system, from retail outlets to our transportation to our internal logistical systems and headquarters.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Is there an estimation of how long that is going to take?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

No, I honestly can’t answer that question. I wish I could.

What I’d like to tell you is that in principle it’s a huge priority for us, but it’s just a tremendous amount of work, given the scale of Canada Post’s operations. As I say, it’s one key reason that we need a director who is able to plot out an entire road map and get timelines against it. We’ll be very happy to transparently report what that work plan is and what timelines are associated with it.

The main thing I want to convey to you is what a significant priority this is for us. I’m sorry that I can’t answer all the questions at this very early stage.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Sangha, you have six minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.):

Thank you, Chair.

My questions will be mostly regarding the Human Rights Commission, and either Madame Landry or Madame Daye can answer my questions.

As chair of the Human Rights Commission, the human rights organization involved in accessibility issues, you are already dealing with complaints from persons with disabilities. I think more than 60% of complaints come to you regarding disabled parties. In dealing with those complaints, you are not able to give them full relief, because some of the accessibility standards were not met and you are not able to provide better results.

Do you think now with the implementation of Bill C-81 that you will perform those duties better and be able to give better progress reports? Will accessibility standards be better met than before?

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

I think it’s complementary. We have the complaint process, and it has addressed some problems, but the thing with the bill is it’s proactive. It’s going to bring forward a completely different way to address systemic situations of accessibility or lack of accessibility. For me, the fact that it’s under the Canadian Human Rights Commission and act will give us a broader and larger set of tools to address accessibility.

(1005)

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Ms. Daye, do you want to add something?

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

I can give more details and perhaps a story.

The way the system works now is that people who have been discriminated against have to file complaints and then get individual remedies. That is the only complaint process that exists right now. If 100 people fail to get into a building, 99 will leave and one might have the wherewithal to file a complaint and get a resolution. Sometimes those resolutions result in systemic changes, but sometimes they are individual remedies.

What this act will do is give us two new tools. Number one, it will require organizations to change things, so that hopefully 100 people can get into that building and there is no need for a complaint. The requirements for compliance have teeth, and that goes back to the inspection powers. We can inspect, and we can make judgements on whether someone is meeting a standard or not. If they are not, they can be found in violation, and they can face large fines if they are in violation. It is an encouragement to do better.

The new system also creates a complaint process. Let’s say somebody, maybe that 99th or 100th person, tries to get in, but they still can’t get in. What they discover is that the organization has not implemented the standard. In the new system, there’s only one type of complaint, and that’s a complaint over a standard not being implemented. The resolution of that complaint is to implement the standard and remedy the harm.

It gives us two robust new tools to identify and address issues. It places less of a burden on those 99 people who couldn’t get in and less of a burden on the one person who had to shoulder the complaint under the act.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

When we talk about development and implementation of accessibility standards, I have already heard here that you try to have consultations and that you get better information from the general public. Do you think Bill C-81 will provide better provisions for bringing the regulatory changes, or is it better to get it from the general public?

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

I would say this bill has excellent provisions. These provisions require every regulated entity to consult with both their employees with disabilities and members of the public. They must consult as they develop their accessibility plans, as they develop their feedback mechanisms, and as they issue their progress reports. This means that somebody doesn’t even have to try to get into the building in order to discover there’s a problem; they can be part of an accessible advisory council and help identify the problems at the front end.

The role of persons with disabilities is seen now as more of providing an expert body to assist in developing good regulations. In fact, the requirement for CASDO to include people with disabilities as half of the members will help ensure that standards and regulations are created with those persons with disabilities and their lived experience baked right in. These are very strong developments that will help the system.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

That means that the battle to have the consultation from the public and standards laid down by the section—both of them will help.

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

I’m sorry; I don’t think I understood—

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

The standards that are going to be laid down in Bill C-81 and information that you get from the public will both be helpful for making improvements.

[Expand]

Ms. Marcella Daye:

Both will be helpful, and both will be built with the voices of persons with disabilities built right in. It gives effect to the mantra in the United Nations convention on persons with disabilities, “nothing about us without us”.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

MP Diotte, you have five minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte (Edmonton Griesbach, CPC):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all the people at the committee here today.

This is for Ms. Laroche. You’re talking about hiring basically 5,000 people with disabilities. Will there be an attempt to have a balance of disabilities? In other words, I mean people with visual impairment, mental disabilities, mobility disabilities and maybe episodic disabilities. Will that attempt be made?

(1010)

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Thank you so much for the question.

I’ll start off with a general comment, and then ask my colleague Carl to provide a bit more detail.

Certainly there’s no intention, as we’re developing the strategy to bring in 5,000 new employees, to focus on any one group. The idea is to attract many great potential public servants with disabilities without focusing on any one area.

One of the challenges to doing that, and it’s something that our colleagues at the Public Service Commission are working on, is how to make sure that your actual recruitment tools—going out to search for people—are as accessible as possible for people suffering from a range of different disabilities.

Carl, I don’t know if you have any other details you want to give on the 5,000.

[Expand]

Mr. Carl Trottier (Assistant Deputy Minister, Governance, Planning and Policy Sector, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat):

I don’t have a whole lot, but I have a few points.

There should be no distinction made in terms of who it is that is being recruited. It’s a broad effort to try to attract 5,000 new employees with disabilities between now and 2025.

This is embryonic work right now. We are working with the Public Service Commission on devising how we’re going to go about attracting approximately 1,000 persons per year.

It’s a bit early to give the details of how the approach is going to be, but there’s definitely no intent to have distinctions made among the disabilities.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

I guess that’s to say that all people with all disabilities will be looked upon, including people with episodic disabilities. They’re all going to be reached out to.

[Expand]

Mr. Carl Trottier:

Yes.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

I’m assuming that there would also be a gender balance and also indigenous people and visible minorities. Is there going to be any special effort in that regard?

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Thank you again for the question that you’re raising.

When you look at some of the data on where disability happens, we do see a prevalence among indigenous Canadians, for example. It’s really important that our outreach efforts are taking into account regional distribution and gender and of course also looking at our indigenous peoples.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Thank you.

This is for Ms. McDonald from Canada Post.

I know it’s very early on in the game here, but I think we most often think of barriers as being a lack of wheelchair ramps and automatic doors.

Can you paint a picture about what other possible barriers could exist throughout your 6,200 post offices?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

Sure. I think they could be everything from how we communicate to how we present ourselves so that if we have not thought of what someone’s challenge might be, they feel welcome asking for support.

I think when you mention being accessible to wheelchairs and having doors that are able to open, you’re probably referring to other very basic physical infrastructure. I think we’ve all come to understand and know when we see it that it is making an effort toward ensuring we are accessible to those where we can build two standards and fit out two standards that are accepted for meeting people with disabilities that we can recognize.

I think what I’m looking forward to understanding more is really the depth in society, particularly as people age, and as we become more accepting and supportive in general of non-visible disabilities so that we start to understand how we can build our own standards and how we present ourselves so there is a better service standard for accessibility.

(1015)

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Do you have any more specifics? We all know that if somebody in a scooter comes up, the counter should be a certain height and the door should open. What other disabilities are your outlets having to deal with?

[Expand]

The Chair:

Could we have a very brief answer, please?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

I feel as though I may be missing your question, but I want to say it’s as basic as understanding there can be a broad range of challenges that people may have that are not visible and that you can’t necessarily build for or expect standards to automatically be adapted to. Rather, how we present ourselves can encourage people to tell us what their challenge is and how we can support them as a service provider.

I personally approach this by being open-minded and by understanding that we probably have less representation in our workforce than we are even aware of in terms of the people who will self-report as having challenges. The same thing is true for the society we serve.

What we need first and foremost are people with lived experience. We need as well to represent ourselves in such a way that customers will come forward so we can truly understand the adaptations and service approaches they want.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Hardcastle, go ahead for three minutes, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Thank you.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you.

I will try to talk slowly for the interpreters, but I might have to go fast.

I want to talk about the accountability. The federal government is the largest employer. It’s going to be the most affected by Bill C-81. It’s the largest organization that is going to have to obey the legislation, but at the same time, the key agencies that do enforcement and oversight are going to have to report to the federal government. I see that as being problematic.

I know there are probably ways we can strengthen the bill. How can we make these agencies more independent? Instead of reporting to the federal government, should they be reporting to Parliament, or have you already anticipated this? What are the ways we can make sure these agencies are operating in an independent manner?

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

I’m not sure that I can answer that question. It’s a really good question. I’m representing the public service as one of the entities that will be governed by the bill, so I’m not responsible for the policy decisions and what’s being debated right now as the bill works its way through the legislative process as to how the machinery and mechanics of the different oversight bodies work together.

I can say from our perspective that we in the Public Service of Canada—meaning all government departments and agencies—will be required to develop multi-year accessibility plans, which are provided for in the legislation. That becomes our accountability mechanism. That sets out what each organization is going to do under each of those six pillars to make the workplace environment better for people—not just public servants, but Canadians with disabilities.

What’s so interesting about those multi-year accessibility plans is that they are all in the spirit of “nothing about us without us”. Those multi-year accessibility plans aren’t just going to say, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” They also require us to say, “How did you engage people with lived experience in designing these plans?” They also provide for a feedback mechanism on our own implementation of the plans. What I find so powerful about that is that it means that people with lived experience will be contributing not just to the design of the plans, but also to telling us how good we are at implementing them.

From the perspective of the public service as one of the entities being covered by the legislation, I’m very pleased with the way those multi-year accessibility plans were designed.

Maybe my colleagues want to talk about—

(1020)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Sorry, but we need to move on. Maybe there will be another opportunity.

That brings us to the end of the second round, but we probably have enough time for a microround of one question from each side. Please keep it to about two minutes, because we need to break for committee business before we rise today.

John, go ahead.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Ms. McDonald.

You were talking briefly in answer to some of the other questions about the impact this could have on some of your postal outlets. We know how important some of these rural outlets are to the rural communities. If they lose their post office, it would be a real detriment to those communities.

Clause 91 of the bill sets a maximum penalty of $250,000 with respect to violations of regulations. On Tuesday we asked the minister where the revenue from those infractions would go, and she said it would be going to government’s general revenue.

Would you support an amendment that those fines would go into an enabling accessibility fund that federally regulated private sector businesses could access to help fund some of the changes they would have to make at some of their facilities to comply with the new legislation?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

That’s a very interesting question. Thank you.

Speaking from my role at Canada Post, I would like to think that Canada Post can give support to those outlets and facilities that partner with us so that we can be successful together. As I’ve said, the contracts that we have are already very specific about how the dealer will fit out their equipment, furnishings, signs, etc. We understand that in rural areas, where I’ve lived a lot of my life as well, these can be very small, multitask outlets that don’t have a lot of budget flexibility, but if we’re doing our job well at Canada Post in working with those retail outlets and recognizing their circumstances, we could work successfully to support them in meeting the standards.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Do you support that amendment to have that fund available so you or some of these outlets could access it, rather than have it just go into general revenue?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

I don’t know that I would say from Canada Post’s perspective that we would need such an amendment in order to be successful with our partners.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Go ahead, Wayne.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Mr. Chair, thanks again.

I want to start by saying thank you to our interpreters for doing a wonderful job, as they have always done.

I want to get your opinion about board composition. I know CASDO recommends a majority of persons with disabilities on the board. We had a visitor yesterday in our office who proposed a higher percentage of people with disabilities on the board of CASDO.

Could each of you give me your opinion on how that board should be composed? Should it be 50% plus one, 70%, 100%?

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

That is another very thoughtful question.

I do think that representation from interests and lived experience and personal background needs to show the broadest diversity possible. I’m struggling to answer your question because to put a specific number is difficult, but I think—

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

There are those who say it should be 100%—

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

Yes, I know.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

—but there is also a balance.

[Expand]

Ms. Jessica McDonald:

Perhaps 50%….

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

I’ll just share an anecdote with you, if I may. It’s a great question.

Over the last year some really interesting articles and reports have come out about board diversity more generally. The thing that really strikes me about them is that when they talk about the under-represented groups on boards—and this is whether public, not-for-profit, or private—they talk about women, visible minorities, and once in a while indigenous people. They never include people with disabilities. We’re not even visible enough to be counted among the disadvantaged. Do you know what I mean?

Again, this is a personal view.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Sure.

[Expand]

Ms. Yazmine Laroche:

Just the fact that there is a recognition that people with disabilities need to be represented, particularly on bodies that are serving them, is a great start.

(1025)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Sorry, Mr. Long; I have to cut you off there.

MP Hardcastle, you have just under two minutes.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Okay. I have the same question. Thank you. I am trying to save time.

[Expand]

Ms. Marie-Claude Landry:

Yes, absolutely. Thank you for your question, and I will answer in French, if I may.

[Translation]

At the Canadian Human Rights Commission,

[English]

we are at arm’s length from government.

[Translation]

We report to Parliament, either through our special power to report to Parliament or though our annual report.

We are the national human rights institution, and we have the power to report on the government’s performance on implementing various legislation.

To answer your question, there are mechanisms for us to report effectively on the government’s performance, by way of either a special report to the government or our annual report. We can also do this in the report on the country’s performance that we make to the United Nations as the national human rights institution, or through the national monitoring mechanism, the NMM, which will be our role.

I hope I have answered your question.

[English]

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

I think that brings us to the close.

I want to thank all of the witnesses. I think my colleagues and I had quite a bit of information to digest today.

I do, unfortunately, have to ask that you vamoose fairly quickly. We have committee business and we do need to go in camera, so I will suspend.

Thank you very much, everybody.

[Proceedings continue in camera]



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Transcript of the October 2, 2018 meeting of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities – Day 1 of Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Notice of meeting

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 112

Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

8:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

Appearing

House of Commons

  • Hon. Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

Witnesses

Department of Employment and Social Development

  • James Van Raalte, Director General, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Erik Lapalme, Senior Policy Analyst, Accessibility Secretariat

9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Witnesses

Department of Employment and Social Development

  • James Van Raalte, Director General, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Benoît Gendron, Director, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Erik Lapalme, Senior Policy Analyst, Accessibility Secretariat

Clerk of the Committee

Stephanie Feldman (613-996-1542)

2018-09-28 12:01 p.m.

Minutes of Proceedings

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Meeting 112

Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 8:48 a.m. to 10:49 a.m.

Room 415, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street

Televised

Presiding

Bryan May, Chair (Liberal)

Expand AllCollapse All

Members of the Committee present

Liberal

Conservative

Acting Members present

Associate Members present

In attendance

Library of Parliament

  • Elizabeth Cahill, Analyst
  • Mayra Perez-Leclerc, Analyst

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Appearing

  • Hon. Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

Witnesses

Department of Employment and Social Development

  • Benoît Gendron, Director, Accessibility Secretariat
  • Erik Lapalme, Senior Policy Analyst, Accessibility Secretariat
  • James Van Raalte, Director General, Accessibility Secretariat

Pursuant to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the Committee commenced consideration of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

The Minister made a statement and, with James Van Raalte, answered questions.

At 9:47 a.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 9:50 a.m., the sitting resumed.

The witnesses made statements and answered questions.

At 10:49 a.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.

Stephanie Feldman

Clerk of the Committee

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

(0850)

[English]

[Expand]

The Chair (Mr. Bryan May (Cambridge, Lib.)):

Good morning. Welcome to the committee’s first meeting on Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The objective of today’s meeting is to start the committee’s study on the bill. We will begin this process today as we are joined by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility and her officials.

Bear with me, I’ve got a bit of a preamble here. I’d like to take a moment to remind both those participating in the proceedings as well as those observing the proceedings of the committee in person and on video that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for the full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study.

As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways. This includes providing sign language interpretation and near real-time closed captioning in the room. Please note that both American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language are being offered to those in our audience. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being videorecorded for eventual broadcast of the meeting on ParlVU via the committee’s website.

In light of these arrangements, the committee would ask that if you need to leave the room during the meeting, please do not walk in front of the sign language interpreters. Instead, please use the extremities of the room. In addition, we would ask that those in the room remain seated as much as possible during the meeting so that everyone in the audience can clearly see the sign language interpretation.

Finally, if a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of the staff or the committee clerk.

Thank you very much, everybody, and without further ado, I would like to welcome the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, as well as James Van Raalte, director general of the accessibility secretariat, and Erik Lapalme, senior policy analyst, accessibility secretariat.

Welcome to all of you, and Minister, I believe you have some remarks. The next 10 minutes are all yours.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough (Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility):

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for your intentional and deliberate efforts and success at making these committee meetings inclusive and accessible for everyone. I know that the members of the disability community certainly appreciate it, as do I.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for inviting me here today to present Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, the accessible Canada act.

It was an honour to stand up in the House of Commons two weeks ago and open debate for this proposed act. The bill, should it be enacted, will allow for the identification, removal and prevention of barriers that keep all Canadians from participating in society. Bill C-81 would significantly transform how Canada addresses accessibility. It would allow us to become proactive instead of reactive. It would allow for a fundamental shift in the way the Government of Canada does business.

We need to ensure equality for all from the start. It’s time for broad organizational and cultural change. There is no reason to wait for people to be discriminated against before we act. We know discrimination exists. We know that over 50% of the complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission are on the basis of disability.

Canadians with disabilities deserve better, to be valued as civic, social and economic contributors to Canadian society with the full rights of citizenship.

An incredible amount of dedicated work and public consultation went into the drafting of this bill. We heard from over 6,000 individuals and organizations from all across the country.

[Translation]

This extensive consultation allowed us to better understand the needs of the disability community.

[English]

We came to the conclusion that policies and practices currently in place simply do not adequately take into account the barriers faced by Canadians with disabilities in their day-to-day lives. Canadians with disabilities do not want to be treated as a burden, but as full, equal members of society. They should have the same rights and the same opportunities as everyone else, and accessibility is about addressing the barriers created by society that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their human rights on an equal basis with others.

[Translation]

Bill C-81 will lead to the establishment of accessibility standards in the areas of employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, the delivery of programs and services and transportation. It will apply to Parliament, the Government of Canada, crown corporations and federally regulated entities, including organizations in the transportation, telecommunications, broadcasting and banking sectors.

[English]

Thanks to Bill C-81, Canadians with disabilities, who are valued and contributing members of society, would have greater opportunities to participate in their communities and in the workplace. It would make it easier for them to get a job and stay in that job, to travel, to communicate with friends and family, and to access products, programs and services on an equal basis with others.

Bill C-81 would create a framework and new organizations for developing accessibility standards, establishing and enforcing accessibility requirements, and monitoring implementation. It would establish the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, or CASDO, in order to create standards that work for both industry and the disability community.

The majority of CASDO board members would have lived disability experience. Once accessibility standards are developed, they would need to be adopted into regulations by the Government of Canada to become law. Standards would change over time with changes in technology and best practices. Having standards in regulations, rather than in the proposed act, would mean they can be updated more readily to reflect these changes.

Our intention is to allow the government to move more quickly to improve accessibility by adopting recognized and established standards that have been developed and validated by technical experts, industry and people with disabilities.

What would all this mean for Canadians with disabilities? An example I like to use involves the accessibility of a bank ATM for a person with a visual impairment. In our current system, if a customer is blind and can’t use the ATM and this isn’t addressed by the bank, the person would need to file a discrimination complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Once a decision was made—and this could be years later—in favour of the complainant, it would be applicable only to the specific ATM in question and not to all banks and certainly not all ATMs across the board.

To compare this with what the scenario would look like under the proposed legislation, it would be CASDO— through a technical committee comprising persons with a disability, industry representatives and technical experts—that would define the standards for accessible ATMs. The standard would then come to the minister of accessibility for adoption through the regulatory process, after which time the regulation would apply to all banks in Canada. The accessibility commissioner would monitor compliance with the regulation and would have the ability to impose monetary penalties if the banking sector was not adhering to the regulation.

This example shows how this important change in framework and process shifts the burden from the individual to the system and also allows for a more comprehensive and consistent application of accessibility within areas of federal jurisdiction.

(0855)

[Translation]

This is a very tangible example of how this legislation will positively impact Canadians.

[English]

The proposed legislation would require organizations to think about how to integrate accessibility into their day-to-day operations. However, there may be circumstances, albeit exceptional, in which it would be appropriate for a regulated entity to be exempted from certain requirements under Bill C-81.

For example, it may be appropriate to exempt, on a case-by-case basis, a small business, because it might be more productive for this organization to focus its resources and efforts where it can have the biggest impact on accessibility.

To ensure transparency and accountability, the exempting authority—the designated minister, the CRTC or the CTA—would be required to make exemptions public by publishing them in the Canada Gazette.

The bill also provides real teeth to ensure meaningful and lasting change among organizations under federal jurisdiction. Compliance, enforcement and complaints would be processed through the accessibility commissioner, with the exception of those under the jurisdiction of the CRTC, the CTA and the Federal Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board.

This model builds on existing sector-based mandates for the purposes of efficiency and takes advantage of accessibility experience and expertise. Bill C-81 includes provisions for a “no wrong door” approach to ensure collaboration and coordination across organizations for efficient and expeditious referral of accessibility-related complaints.

If passed, this legislation will also be a significant step in Canada’s ongoing implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which Canada is a proud state party. Once Bill C-81 receives royal assent, the Canadian Human Rights Commission would become responsible for monitoring the Government of Canada’s implementation of the convention.

Make no mistake. There is still a lot to be done to create a Canada without barriers and it’s imperative to do things right from the get-go. As proposed, the legislation includes a number of foundational elements. It’s anticipated that new organizations such as the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, the accessibility commissioner and the chief accessibility officer would be up and running within six to 12 months of the legislation coming into force and that the first set of regulations under the legislation would come into force in 2020-21.

I’m being told to slow down.

How will Canadians know that organizations are taking steps to improve accessibility? Under Bill C-81, regulated entities would be required to prepare and publish accessibility plans in consultation with persons with disability. These plans would describe the organizations’ strategies for improving accessibility and meeting their legal obligations. The organizations would also have to establish feedback processes on their accessibility from employees and members of the public, and prepare and publish annual progress reports on the implementation of their plans.

Moreover, a new position, called the “chief accessibility officer”, would be established. The person appointed to this role would be responsible for monitoring and reporting on the overall outcomes achieved by the act and in respect of systemic and emerging accessibility issues.

(0900)

[Translation]

These measures would allow for Canadians to monitor progress on accessibility and the implementation of Bill C-81 in a very transparent manner.

If adopted, Bill C-81 will bring broad organizational and cultural change.

Through the creation and enactment of new accessibility standards, new planning and reporting requirements, and strong proactive enforcement tools, Bill C-81 will lead to greater accessibility for everyone in Canada, especially persons with disabilities.

[English]

Bill C-81 would set a standard worthy of Canadians and Canada’s place in the world.

Thank you. I would be happy to answer questions, and I promise to speak more slowly.

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The Chair:

Thank you.

I apologize. We were trying to get a note passed to you through your parliamentary secretary.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I don’t do well with visual clues. I apologize.

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The Chair:

I’ll have to add that to my already long preamble.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Be slow, in respect of the interpreters. I get that, and I do apologize.

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The Chair:

Yes. We do have the unique scenario of the multiple types of interpretation going on here today, so I encourage all participants to be clear and keep a slower pace than maybe we’re used to.

Welcome, MP Nuttall. You’re up first for questions, for six minutes.

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Mr. Alexander Nuttall (Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, CPC):

Thank you to the committee for welcoming me here today.

Also, certainly, thank you, Minister Qualtrough, for your presentation this morning. After I gave you the notes on consultation, I also sent a version to you digitally to ensure that I, too, was respectful of accessibility standards.

Minister, I’m just going to quote a couple of items from your presentation. You said:

It’s time for broad organizational and cultural change. There is no reason to wait for people to be discriminated against before we act.

When I read that, I think about the three years that have gone by before this bill finally came to the floor. I’m by no means blaming you, Minister. That is not the intent. But a lot of language we’re seeing around the marketing of this bill is that “we can’t wait any longer”, yet the government has waited three years and is now onto its fourth minister, who was also its first minister. It’s a little frustrating in terms of the stop-and-start that we’ve seen. I’ve heard that from consultations within the different communities.

This also goes on to talk about the extensive consultation. This consultation that’s taken place…. I don’t have the time to be able to read through it piece by piece, but essentially the first question I have is on something that we’ve been able to speak about and that your staff have been able to speak about with me as well. In terms of the consultation that’s been taking place and people wanting immediate action—and I think the government is saying that it wants immediate action—the language that’s used in your presentation today and is contained within the bill doesn’t say that there are going to be changes in accessibility standards. This says it “will lead to”, and that’s an exact quote.

In fact, it says that the first regulation changes would take place in 2021. If we use the timeline and the success of the timeline’s place in terms of how six months after the government took its place it said it would have a bill related to the accessibility act, that 2021 could be much further out. I believe what the staff have said is that it’s somewhere within the six-year time period from the point that this receives royal assent.

Could you demonstrate to the committee what actual practical changes affecting people with disabilities will go into effect—besides the creation of new bureaus and new departments—on day one?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I have a couple of things in an immediate response around the consultation. Make no mistake—a lot of work has happened over the past three years.

We’re very proud of the intentional effort around our consultations to be included, to have a national conversation, which, I would submit, has never happened before around disability issues. We needed to take the time to properly consult and include anybody and everybody who wanted to speak on what their vision of an accessible Canada was. I’m incredibly proud of the consultation process. I think it set a gold standard for how we can be inclusive in the way we consult as governments of any stripe.

What we clearly heard through the consultation was that Canadians with disabilities wanted to enshrine the concept of “nothing about us without us” in law. What that means is, “We don’t want to have standards or requirements imposed by law, by government, that will impact our daily lives.”

What Bill C-81 does is create a framework of a process, a system, whereby Canadians with disabilities are squarely at the centre and have direct input into the decisions that are being made around the barriers to accessibility that they’re facing.

(0905)

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Mr. Alexander Nuttall:

Minister, I have two minutes, so what practical change on day one…? On the change in the system of the inclusion of those with disabilities and ensuring there’s firm consultation in the process that’s gone through, I completely understand it and I admire that part of the bill, but from what we’ve seen, there are no actual changes in terms of practical changes that will affect Canadians living with disabilities.

I have to go on to my next question. There is a portion in here in relation to fines for either government agencies or the private sector, which could be institutions, banks or many other things. On those fine dollars, where do they go when that fine is levied against that business or government agency?

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The Chair:

You have just over one minute.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Thank you. I apologize for the preamble.

Make no mistake—to answer your first question—I think there will be absolute fundamental change in terms of how we interact and respect Canadians with disabilities, day one after this law is enacted.

In terms of the money for the fines, my understanding is that it will just be going into general revenue.

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Mr. Alexander Nuttall:

Wouldn’t it be better if those funds that were levied against organizations for not respecting persons with disabilities went directly to something like the opportunities fund or something that would go back into encouraging better accessible standards with either private sector entities or within government entities?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I think that’s a very innovative and interesting idea.

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Mr. Alexander Nuttall:

Are you open to amendments coming out of this committee and towards this bill at the end?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I definitely want to see this law being the best it possibly can. I don’t want to prejudge the outcomes or recommendations of the committee, but I am certainly open to hearing what you all have to say and what stakeholders have to say.

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Mr. Alexander Nuttall:

Thank you, Minister.

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The Chair:

Up next is MP Long for six minutes.

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Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.):

Good morning, Minister. Thank you so much for coming this morning. I just want to thank you for your incredible leadership and advocacy of those living with disabilities.

My eyes were wide open to the challenges and barriers faced by people with disabilities on this HUMA committee. Several months back we interviewed a couple of gentlemen, Mark Wafer with Tim Hortons and Randy Lewis with Walgreens. We talked to them, learned from them, and heard from them that their organizations’ employee turnover dropped, absenteeism dropped, productivity increased and morale increased.

In my own riding of Saint John—Rothesay, there are two organizations in Key Industries, run by Christine Evans. Then there’s CCRW run by Joan Mallory and Misti Denton. They work with people with disabilities daily. They help integrate them into society. Again, you see the wonderful opportunities that are there that Bill C-81 can certainly help with. Unemployment rates amongst people with disabilities are upward of 80%.

The bill itself, Bill C-81, signifies the largest advancement for persons with disabilities since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Could you tell the committee how this will fundamentally change the relationship between the federal government and persons with disabilities? Why is the bill necessary, in your opinion?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I think what you’re referring to at the beginning of your question is what I’ve come to think of as the untapped economic potential of the 14% of Canadians who have disabilities. Savvy, innovative, progressive, thoughtful and clever businesses, like the ones you mentioned, have figured that out. We know that including Canadians with disabilities is a game-changer in terms of the economic benefits.

The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that, if we remove barriers and accommodate Canadians with disabilities, you’re looking at $1.3 to $1.9 billion annually of economic growth. That’s significant.

We know that there is improved loyalty, less absenteeism and all the benefits you talked about when we remove barriers. That’s the game-changing aspect of Bill C-81. It puts the onus on the government to remove barriers to inclusion up front for Canadians with disabilities. That is a fundamental shift in how we approach accessibility and disability rights in this country.

(0910)

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Mr. Wayne Long:

I’ve seen it time and time again in the riding that organizations seem to understand the potential, but, in going from understanding the potential to actually enacting and hiring people with disabilities, there seems to be a gap there, a lack of preparedness, I guess, or maybe fear of the unknown.

Could you speak to what we can do? What will Bill C-81 do to alleviate that?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Bill C-81 is focused on removing barriers. The idea is that, if I can get into your building, I can shop there, I can work there and I can participate meaningfully in whatever is going on there. I can access services there. The idea is that we are going to remove the obstacles to inclusion before discrimination happens. That is a real key, as I’ve said, a shift to a proactive approach from a reactive approach.

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Mr. Wayne Long:

Minister, you’ve conducted extensive consultations across the country prior to drafting the legislation.

Can you tell us what you heard from stakeholders and industry as to what they wanted to see in the bill?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I sure could. I could spend the rest of the hour telling you what we heard. Fundamentally, it came down to the shift in the conversation that we—as Canadians with disabilities—would like to see, away from the medical model of “We need to take care of these poor people” to a more social or human rights model of “We are contributing, valued citizens with rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and we have something to offer that should be valued.” That’s a massive change in the conversation.

I’ve been handed a note here. I apologize, Mr. Chair. I said $1.3 billion to $1.9 billion. It is 1.3% to 1.9% of GDP a year for the economic inclusion, which is $26 billion to $38 billion a year. I apologize. I think that’s a big difference. I had said “billion” instead of “per cent”, so I want to put that on the record.

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Mr. Wayne Long:

Minister, you’re comfortable that the stakeholders’ feedback was integrated in the drafting of the legislation?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I certainly am. I can tell you that the biggest compliment I’ve had since we tabled Bill C-81 was when a prominent member of the disability community looked me in the eye and said, “I see myself in this. I see the feedback I gave in this, and I really appreciate that. Thank you for listening.”

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Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you, Minister.

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The Chair:

Now we will move to MP Hardcastle, please. Welcome to our committee today.

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Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):

Thank you, and thank you for having me.

It’s a pleasure to be here to advocate for Bill C-81, which has some meaningful amendments to it. I think we all celebrate the act.

To use our time effectively, I just want to jump in with the minister, who has really been a champion. I love the way, Minister, you just articulated that we wanted to see with this a profound change in how we look at or how we take a medical or prescriptive approach rather than a social and inclusive approach. That’s the disability lens aspect of it that is so extremely important.

I see lacking—and this also came from the consultations—that we’re not requiring federal laws or policies or regulations to be studied through a disability lens. I think maybe it’s implied. I could make that argument on the other side, that it’s implied, but I would make the argument that it needs to be articulated. This is our historical achievement with this national act. Although it does not bring us far enough to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities—I will say it falls short of that—we can make amendments and bring it in that direction.

I believe, Minister, some of your comments were about government being nimble in reassessing and looking at this in the future, so I’m hopeful for that.

I’d like to hear a little bit of what you think the potential might be now for us to actually anchor this a bit more, this looking through a disability lens.

I notice that your title, Minister, includes “public services, procurement and accessibility”. Can you imagine if we had a federal directive to look through a disability lens for procurement? I just feel that if we’re going to do this, we have some tangible ways that we really can anchor this just a little bit more. I’d like to hear some of your thoughts, your takeaways, what you are thinking we can move forward on and what some of the potential opportunities are for us to look at here with the committee.

(0915)

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Thank you, and thanks for your work on this file. It’s wonderful to be working with you again.

One of the principles in the act—and as you all know, the principles are interpretive guidelines or how we are supposed to be looking at this law in the future—very clearly says that laws, programs, policies, services and structures must take into account the abilities and needs of Canadians with disabilities.

To me, that means that every time we put in place a law, a policy, a program, a service or a structure, we have to look at it through the lens of accessibility.

I do think that in specific departments…. I’ll use my own because I think procurement is an incredibly powerful tool to address accessibility. We are establishing a centre or an office of accessible procurement with the idea being that the Government of Canada will not procure products that aren’t accessible.

The Prime Minister has appointed a deputy minister responsible for an accessible public service, whose job is to prepare the Government of Canada to be an accessible employer and to offer services accessibly to Canadians. There are machinery of government things going on right now, in parallel with this legislation going through the House of Commons.

I would suggest absolutely that we cannot realize a barrier-free Canada unless the Government of Canada makes decisions taking into account the accessibility needs of Canadians with disabilities.

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Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you.

Further to that, then, we have a situation right now in the absence of a national act. I won’t get into it here—we all know the provinces that have their own disabilities act—but we don’t have a national framework right now. That being said, these are great and admirable tenets for us to have, but what’s glaring in this is that it’s not required. It’s great that we’re doing this and that the minister’s going to lead by example and that this new office will be trail-blazing, but these things are not mandatory for federal jurisdictions. What can we do to make the timelines more succinct, to bring some requirements in?

I want to say as well that the feedback I get from people living with disabilities is that they’re used to having to work with whoever’s in government. This is a vulnerable population that can’t afford to make enemies, and they don’t, but they’re tired of waiting. We need some real teeth in this act, and we can’t wait for them to get vocal about it. People are worn out from having to advocate for themselves and their family members already. It’s up to us to beef this up and actually put some timelines in, to actually put some requirements in.

Right now, all of the wording is that you’re “allowed” to do something. Nobody’s required to do anything by a certain date. I feel as though we need to get our heads around that. Where does the minister see some opportunities for us to maybe articulate to these federal jurisdictions to get ready and that, more succinctly, this is going to be coming?

(0920)

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The Chair:

We’re actually way over time, but I’m going to allow for a very quick answer, if that’s okay.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Thank you.

These are excellent questions. Again I can talk forever about this, so I’ll keep it succinct, Mr. Chair.

The point is that we need to establish in the standards the timelines you’re talking about. We need to set clear timelines. There are existing standards that are world-class within Canada and internationally that can be adopted immediately and then built upon. The expectation, I would say, is that right out of the gate there will be standards we can adopt. We don’t have to wait for years of consultations in some areas. There are excellent website standards. Ontario has done phenomenal work in their standard creation, and we can adopt a similar standard at the federal level.

I would suggest that there is some incredibly low-hanging fruit that we can adopt very, very quickly.

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The Chair:

Thank you.

Mr. Ruimy, go ahead, please.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.):

Thank you, Minister, for being here today, and thank you for your work on this file. It’s been a long time coming, and taking into consideration all the consultation that needed to happen, I completely understand that.

You mentioned that 14% of Canadians have disabilities. I would add that they touch most of us if not all of us. I remember when a private organization offered a job to my brother, who has faced barriers all of his life. It was a simple job, but he got a paycheque, and I remember how he felt. That’s what we need to be offering Canadians today—the opportunity to move forward and to feel good about themselves. That’s why I’m so excited about this legislation.

Minister, can you talk to us about why it’s so important that Bill C-81 establish a framework for addressing issues facing persons with disabilities rather than incorporating standards directly into the legislation so they can be implemented immediately?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

The framework established through this legislation will allow for a very technical standard to be developed. Imagine a scenario down the road where counter heights will be dictated through standard. You can imagine that putting that in law would be incredibly clunky, for lack of a better word. We don’t even know the hundreds of standards that will result over the years as accessibility changes, and as our expectations change.

I’ll use curb cuts as an example. Historically, the idea was that you put a ramp down at the end of a sidewalk to go across the street, and that was the best way to accommodate someone with mobility aids. If we had enshrined that in law, that wouldn’t have been very helpful moving forward. What we learned in the north is that when it snows and rains, puddles happen at the edge of the curb. They’ve raised the crosswalk so that it’s just flat across. The standard up there might be that it’s flat across instead of a curb down that results in a big puddle when it snows.

That’s the kind of evolution that happens as our thinking changes and our expectations for inclusion evolve. That’s the kind of nimbleness that CASDO and the standards will provide by not having it in law.

Can you imagine going to the floor of the House of Commons to change a section of an act because the curb cut thinking has evolved? Imagine that across every aspect of federal jurisdiction. It would be incredibly onerous.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you. I agree with that.

I think that disabilities have been changing and evolving throughout the years. To put something in legislation that clearly might not impact everybody could be very onerous, and it could take a lot of time to get that changed.

Can you explain a little more about the need to create a new government entity rather than using existing entities—a lot of people are asking these questions—such as the Canadian General Standards Board?

How will the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, be different from other government entities?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Thank you. That’s a really important question.

We looked around the world when we were designing this model, and we saw that we needed to ensure that citizens with lived disability experience were involved in the decision-making and the creation of the standard.

Incorporating it into an existing organization or structure risked watering down the impact of the disability voice in all of this. This is modelled after the United States and other countries that have gone down the same path but earlier. We have learned from them that we needed to have lived experience as a fundamental part of the decision-making governance structure of this.

That’s why we’ve put in this act that the board of CASDO has to be more than 50% people with lived experience. You have to live it.

(0925)

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Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you.

Before I came to Parliament, I had no glasses and was able to read pretty well. I’m finding now that I can’t, that—

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Welcome to my world.

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Mr. Dan Ruimy:

—I need to wear glasses.

I bring that up because, for me, that’s my own little experience with it being more difficult for people being able to do their jobs. They’re certainly capable of doing their jobs, but we have to be able to allow for the different disabilities out there.

I look forward to moving forward with this. Indeed, I think we owe it to every Canadian who has faced a barrier to make sure that we get this right.

Thank you.

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The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Morrissey, for six minutes, please.

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Mr. Robert Morrissey (Egmont, Lib.):

Madam Minister, I have a couple of points. There is no reference in here to the impact of an aging demographic in Canada on disability.

Does your department have data on what that dynamic and demographic change is going to do, and how this legislation will positively impact that?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I think that’s a reality that we are intimately familiar with. We know that disability rates are estimated at around 14%. I would say it’s a little higher, but let’s go with 14%. Within 15 years, including Canadians who are elderly and with mobility impairments, that’s anticipated to go up quite significantly, to over 20%.

One of the reasons we’ve moved away from the language of a “Canadians with disabilities act” to “accessibility” is to include the broadest range of people in this act. It isn’t necessarily about your diagnosis or condition or illness, or whatever is going on in your life; it’s about removing the barrier you are facing to being fully included, whatever that is.

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Mr. Robert Morrissey:

It’s of age.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Whether you can’t see, and if you’re elderly and now you use a mobility aid, you, too, are going to be impacted by this law.

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Mr. Robert Morrissey:

I want to go back to an earlier comment you made regarding the economic impact on the Canadian economy. Was it $28 billion you referenced?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

What the Conference Board has estimated is that by fully including Canadians with disabilities in the workplace, those who can work, and accommodating these individuals, there’s an estimated 1.3% to 1.9% growth of GDP, which is $26 billion to $38 billion annually. It’s very significant.

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Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Those are very significant numbers. It’s startling.

Could you give just a brief example? If you don’t have it, it’s fine.

Take me into a particular workplace, if you know of that, and just show us, if you can.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I’ll give you an example. There’s a group in British Columbia called the Presidents Group, which is a group of CEOs from major companies. They have completely recognized the economic potential that we’re talking about today. Vancity credit union can show you, and can tell you, how hiring more inclusively has impact at the bottom line quite significantly, whether it’s being able to address labour shortages through this untapped labour pool or creating a culture of diversity that results in more innovative solutions. Let me tell you, Canadians with disabilities are some of the most innovative people you’ll ever meet because the world wasn’t built for us and we figure out very quickly how to innovate.

Tim Hortons was mentioned. YVR is an incredibly inclusive employer and service provider, and as such, Canadians and people with disabilities deliberately travel through Vancouver because their needs are going to be met. I didn’t even talk about the accessible tourism market, which is a multi-billion dollar industry because people need to go somewhere. It’s not just about the individual who doesn’t have money to spend. It’s about those of us who do.

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Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Thank you, Minister.

Obviously, your passion for improving the lives of people with disabilities is coming through in your answers. That relates to my next question, on discussion around the need for timelines within the proposed legislation. Could you expand on why they were not included?

(0930)

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

That’s been an ongoing—

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

What would be the logistical issues about attaching them to the legislation?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

There are two aspects to the conversation around timeline. There’s setting a date in this bill by which accessibility will be achieved. Then there’s also setting timelines within the standards themselves. Some jurisdictions go for rolling timelines. They will establish the employment standard within five years and it will then apply two years later. It will establish a service standard within six years and it will apply four years later. It’s whatever that is.

It is very difficult to predict how long it will take to establish a standard and very, I would say, risky to suggest that we know exactly when accessibility will be achieved given that the standards are always going to be changing. What is accessible today will not be accepted as a standard five years from now, or 10 years from now. We know that. The curb cut example is a good example.

We also want people to get moving on this now. We don’t want to say that we are going to have an accessible Canada by 2025 or 2030, and then people sit back and say, “Okay, I have time.” We need to do this now. It’s like giving people a reason to wait instead of requiring people to do something now. I think that’s really important. I also personally believe that we would not put in the Criminal Code that Canada is going to be crime-free by a certain date. We wouldn’t put in the Human Rights Act that Canada is going to be discrimination-free by a certain date. We need it now. The bill has to say people deserve a barrier-free Canada today, and this are all the steps we need to take to get there. We know it isn’t going to happen today, but to set a timeline at the other end just seems antithetical to what we are asking federally regulated entities to do.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

What’s the intention of your statement, “progressive realization”?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

It speaks very clearly to the idea I was just talking about. It’s enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It’s the notion that accessibility changes as a concept, so what is acceptable today will not be acceptable in 10 years. The standards will change and we will expect more of people as our thinking evolves.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

MP Barlow, go ahead, please.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC):

Thanks, Minister, for appearing in front of the committee.

There seems to be some misunderstanding or misconception about this bill. You’re saying we don’t want to set these standards, we don’t want to put a timeline and we don’t know when these things are going to be done, but we want to get going now.

You talked about the Criminal Code. Yes, we don’t want to say we are crime-free by 2030, but in the Criminal Code there are certainly some regulations and standards and pathways on how to reach that goal, whether or not we can actually reach it. You said there are some standards, visitable housing in Manitoba, at the University of Alberta, where they’re doing some groundbreaking work on accessibility. There are some standards that you said are available right out of the gate. So those standards that are leading edge, why are they not in this legislation at all?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Sorry, to clarify, do you mean the technical details of the standards themselves in the legislation?

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Mr. John Barlow:

That’s correct.

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

It’s for the same reason I articulated earlier, that we did not want to get into a situation where… Do you mean in the body of the law or as a prepared regulation to be adopted immediately?

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Mr. John Barlow:

There’s nothing in the bill in terms of a pathway or specifics on how you’re going to achieve removing some of these barriers, making things more accessible. You’ve talked about it through this entire presentation today, that we don’t have anything ready. Why aren’t some of these standards that are already set…? As you said, there are some standards that we can enact from day one, so why are they not part of this legislation?

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Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I would suggest that the law actually lays out a very clear pathway to how we’re going to get there, by setting up a standards organization: how that’s going to be set up, what they’re going to do to develop the standards, the priority areas that we heard through the consultations, whether it’s employment or service. This is not a complete list, obviously. These are the six things we heard about the most in the consultations. There will absolutely be opportunities.

Remember, this is enabling legislation that sets up this framework and this system, and a lot of work has been done already that we can build upon or adopt, depending on the circumstance and the appropriateness of doing that. I’m very confident that this law sets out a very clear path to how we’re going to get there.

(0935)

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Mr. John Barlow:

Thanks.

None of this has been costed in the bill, in terms of what the impact will be on private sector businesses that are federally regulated. Has there been a cost analysis on what the impact will be on some of those private sector businesses that are federally regulated? Has that been done as part of this consultation and analysis?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Well, we absolutely know the cost of not doing anything, and I would suggest that you wouldn’t be suggesting that there’s a cost that’s too high to be inclusive.

What we know is that through the regulatory process, as a matter of course, everything will be costed out. I’m sorry, I can’t remember the term but there’s an economic impact part of the process.

James, can you help me out with the process?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte (Director General, Accessibility Secretariat, Department of Employment and Social Development):

It’s a RIAS, a regulatory impact assessment statement.

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

So every time one of these standards goes through the regulatory process, which, I’ll remind you, is very public and is a chance for people to provide input on the standards, there will be a clear understanding of the costs of the implementation of that standard.

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Mr. John Barlow:

So none of that has been done as of yet.

You talk about the fact that this legislation is going to have immediate impact on Canadians with disabilities, and I do give you credit for talking in your speech in the House about the disability tax credit. You said it was a game-changer for Canadians, and I appreciate that, but my colleague from Carleton put forward the opportunities for a workers disability act, which would have ensured that Canadians with disabilities—the harder they work, the more they earn—wouldn’t be impacted by taxes and clawbacks, but you and your government voted against that bill. That bill would have had an immediate impact for Canadians with disabilities to ensure that what they were earning was going back into their pockets.

That would have had an immediate impact, so why not support a bill like that, which wouldn’t have taken six years to have the effect but would have happened immediately? Why not support a legislation of that kind as well?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Like your colleague—he and I have had great conversations about this—I absolutely believe that there are programs, particularly across the provinces and territories, that create disincentive to employment, because after a certain threshold, every dollar you make will be clawed back from the benefits, and literally some people cannot take the risk of losing their benefits by taking a job. We need to correct that disincentive.

Quite frankly, while seemingly clever, the idea of using the finance and tax system to incentivize provinces to change their programs and services around what benefits are available to Canadians with disabilities within their jurisdiction was beyond the reach of federal jurisdiction. This was a matter of federalism. I had this long conversation with your colleague, but as a goal, I absolutely share it.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

With regard to the number you were citing today, the 1.3% to GDP as Canada is more accessible—the $20 billion to $30 billion a year—how did you come up with that number?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

That was work done by The Conference Board of Canada.

Maybe James can give more details about it, at some point.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

We can share that with the committee.

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

It was really groundbreaking work.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Mr. Ruimy, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you very much.

There was a mention by my colleagues on the other side about the provinces and municipalities. Indeed, folks in my riding likely would have the same question around how this impacts them if it’s only federal or provincial or municipal. Could you expand on this a little bit more? Within the federal jurisdiction, including the federal government and federally regulated industries, how do you envision this bill enabling you to work through the provincial and territorial and municipal governments? How do you see this taking on a leadership role?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

We know that in some ways the federal jurisdiction is limited in terms of the businesses. Certainly the vast majority of small and medium-sized enterprises are within provincial jurisdiction. We know that provinces are watching this process very carefully. I’ve heard directly from provinces that they’re waiting to see how we do this and then they’ll head down similar paths themselves.

In an ideal world, we would have incredible consistency across jurisdictions so that the experience of a Canadian with a disability is seamless. The best example is credit unions and banks. Credit unions are provincial and banks are federal, but in terms of the day-to-day life experience of someone, they don’t walk into a credit union and go, “Oh, I get this. It’s section 92 of the Constitution. There’ll be a different standard in the bank next door.”

That’s not how we should operate as governments. I think this gives us an incredible leadership opportunity to bring people to the table to ensure that consistency. I also know that the CASDO standards they developed could be model standards that could be quickly adopted through provinces. A number of opportunities here enable us, through our leadership, through CASDO, to really impact provincial jurisdiction—respectfully, and respecting the Constitution.

(0940)

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you.

Can you talk about how this legislation fits in with our commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the new role of CHRC?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Yes. It’s a very exciting win, I would say, for the disability community. Certainly the international community has been calling for some time for Canada to establish a monitoring body for the UNCRPD. This law does that. This law sets the Canadian Human Rights Commission as the monitoring body for Canada’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. That is quite significant, which the disability community would tell you, so I think internationally it will be well received.

In addition, the UNCRPD speaks everywhere through that document about removing barriers and obstacles to full inclusion and participation. That is fundamentally what this law does.

[Expand]

Mr. Dan Ruimy:

Thank you.

Mr. Chair, I will share my remaining time with my colleague Mr. Hogg.

[Expand]

The Chair:

MP Hogg.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg (South Surrey—White Rock, Lib.):

Thank you.

You made reference to a gold standard coming out of this, to setting a gold standard. You also commented on the UN rights of individuals, and that we fall short of those. Could you reconcile those two comments for me?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I’m not sure I made the second comment, but I can certainly say that it’s a work-in-progress with regard to our full and complete implementation of the UNCRPD. We have a way to go in Canada.

Quite frankly, this will go a way towards that, but it is a very high standard to be fully inclusive. I can’t tell you a time or a certain point at which our country will be fully accessible and inclusive, but that’s definitely a goal we should all share.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Well, one of the principles of policy development is often not just the engagement of the end-users of the policy, which you talked about, but also their involvement in the implementation of the policy. We see around the world a number of instances where the policy development has worked extremely well and then it’s been lost in the implementation.

Do you have a process in mind or in place that will allow those people who were consulted in the development of the process—who are end-users, in many instances—to also be involved in ensuring that the implementation is consistent with the expectations that were laid out when the policy was developed?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I think that’s a fundamental misstep that legislators can make, and I don’t think that’s been done in this case. Two examples immediately come to mind, but there may be others. First of all, there’s the idea that on the board of CASDO, more than 50% of individuals have lived experience. The technical committees of that body will also be significantly comprised of people with lived experience.

The second piece is the requirement for federally regulated entities to create accessibility plans. Those plans must be done in conjunction with and in consultation with citizens with disabilities. Progress reports have to be done in consultation with Canadians with disabilities. Every step of this process that we’ve put in this law has, as far as I can tell, a requirement for the ongoing participation of Canadians with disabilities.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Thank you.

You made reference near the beginning to the word “clunky”.

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I think I said the system was very clunky.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Okay. Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

We have very little time left with the minister.

Next on the list we have MP Nuttall.

Unfortunately you won’t have your full five minutes. Maybe you could ask just a brief question.

(0945)

[Expand]

Mr. Alexander Nuttall:

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, there has been a report cited by The Conference Board of Canada about the economic benefits related to removing those barriers to full accessibility. Within that report, if they’ve been able to calculate the economic benefit, I’m sure they would have calculated what the costs are to get there. Could you describe what those costs are?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I don’t believe they did that math. I apologize, but as was said, we can definitely get that to you.

[Expand]

Mr. Alexander Nuttall:

I have about 25 seconds left.

As a follow-up to that, when you said there are things we can do on day one, and I think those that are already live within provincial jurisdictions were what was being referred to, surely those costs have been looked at and could be shared with this committee as it’s going through its study.

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Are you saying, for example, that if we adopt the Ontario accessible customer service standard, we can figure out exactly how much that will cost?

[Expand]

Mr. Alexander Nuttall:

I’m saying that you said there are things we can do on day one and we will, so those items that you cited and said you will enact on day one, if you know what they are, could you provide what they are?

If they’ve been done elsewhere, which is what you’ve said had happened, could you provide what the costs associated with that are so that this committee, as it’s going through the study, can use those to help determine some of its steps going forward?

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

I would suggest that I would recommend ones that are easy to adopt. I wouldn’t preclude picking those. I don’t think I could tell you how much it will cost to update websites to a certain standard, but I can tell you the standard of an accessible website, the globally recognized standard of an accessible website.

What I’m struggling a bit with is the implication that somehow there’s a threshold beyond which this would cost too much. I don’t think that’s an acceptable premise. I apologize.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Thank you to all the participants here today; and of course, thank you, Minister, for your time.

[Expand]

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Thank you.

[Expand]

The Chair:

We are going to suspend for a very brief moment to allow the minister to get on with her day. We’re going to come back and continue questions with the government officials who are present.

Thank you very much.

(0945)

(0950)

[Expand]

The Chair:

All right, everybody. We’ll come back to order here.

Just before we get started with questions, there are two things I want to remind people of.

First, I don’t mind if you walk behind me if you need to get to the other side of the room. However, can we please do our best not to walk in front of the interpreters?

Second, as a request, please try to slow down. I’m fairly liberal with my timing.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Oh, there you go. There you go.

[Expand]

The Chair:

No pun was intended.

Those of you who have been in this committee for a while know that I’m not too much of a stickler on time. If you want to slow down a bit, going over by 20 or 30 seconds is not the end of the world. Let’s try not to abuse that but keep to a slower pace for this meeting.

Again I will welcome and remind everybody that we have joining us James Van Raalte, director general, accessibility secretariat; Benoît Gendron, director, accessibility secretariat; and Erik Lapalme, senior policy analyst, accessibility secretariat.

Thank you all for being here.

We will begin our round of questioning with MP Barlow.

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I’m going to split my time with my colleague, Ms. Falk.

I wanted to start with the minister’s last comment. We’re not saying there should be a ceiling to the cost, but I think it is our fiduciary responsibility as legislators to understand that a budget should be set and costs should be understood. I found it ironic, that as we talk about Canadians with disabilities, there is no ceiling to the cost.

I know our Prime Minister said there is a threshold of spending when it comes to veterans and many of them are disabled and have issues. There seems to be some disconnect there.

We’re not saying by any means that there should be a ceiling. We would, as legislators and representatives of our constituents and taxpayers…on what the costs would be.

My question to the officials is a clarification for me. Reading through the bill, in subsection 73(1) it says:

the Accessibility Commissioner may, for a purpose related to verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance…enter any place, including a conveyance, in which he or she has reasonable grounds to believe there is any record, report, electronic data or other document, or any information or thing, relevant to that purpose.

I just want to make sure I’m not reading too much into this, and the fact that a commissioner can enter a place of business for preventing non-compliance. Is that unusual, that you are predicting that a business is not going to comply with the new regulations, and you’re able to go in there? I’m wondering if you could explain that section in the legislation.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair.

The accessibility commissioner serves two roles. The first is proactive compliance or enforcement, and the second is dealing with complaints.

From a proactive perspective, the accessibility commissioner has that power to go in and ensure that a regulated entity is caring about what’s needed to live up to the regulation.

(0955)

[Expand]

Mr. John Barlow:

Thanks.

Mr. Chair, I’ll pass to Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Ms. Falk.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC):

Thank you for being here today.

When most people hear the word “disability” they think of either visual, hearing, wheelchair, walker, that type of thing. I know that the definition of disability in the act goes into mental, intellectual, learning, communications, sensory impairment, etc.

I’m wondering what the scope of this would be on buildings. It could be argued that somebody with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar, that type of thing…. How are these buildings going to be impacted to be more accessible for them?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I think this is an important question. It’s been a part of a learning process for all of us. I’m happy to provide an example for the committee.

One of the biggest issues faced by a range of disabilities, especially in the built environment, is a concept called wayfinding.

It’s intuitive for many of us when we enter a building, on how to get from the entrance to, say, this chamber or this meeting room. We look for signs and signals. For people with visual impairments there, should be Braille. For many people with a range of functional limitations, it’s not intuitive on how to get from A to B. It is expected going forward, that the types of standards that CASDO would look at would incorporate this concept of wayfinding.

I would encourage the committee to engage more with the disability community about this important issue.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Would our constituency offices fall into this?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

The short answer is, yes.

The legislation will be applied to parliamentary entities, including constituency offices for members of Parliament.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

In some of our rural and northern communities, this is very difficult. I know that in my riding, I can’t find anything in one of my communities. There is a need for an office there. Has anyone thought about what kind of an impact this is going to have on the members themselves? Some of the members have a difficult time finding something reasonably priced to serve constituents that is as accessible as it can be. What if there are communities that have nothing available?

Where would that budget come from?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

In terms of where that money would come from, I would defer that question to your relative boards of internal economy. However, it speaks to the flexibility that’s provided in the legislation for exemptions. We do need to recognize that in some communities, especially small communities, or even small, regulated entities, best efforts can be made around accessibility, but there are going to be limitations.

Again, the legislation would provide for that type of an exemption, made through the Speaker of the House of Commons.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

MP Sangha, you have six minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.):

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Any of you can reply to my question.

What governance is in place to support whole-of-government implementation?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I think this is an important question going forward for the public service. It’s a very horizontal piece of legislation, and that whole-of-government governance issue will be important in terms of tracking the progress of the implementation.

I think that at the first level, the Prime Minister has appointed a new deputy minister, Yazmine Laroche, who I believe will be appearing on Thursday morning. You’ll have an opportunity to hear from her, and she can provide her views on her role. She is the deputy minister of public service accessibility and will be responsible for the development. Her first job is a Government of Canada strategy for making the Government of Canada a leader on accessibility. She has some initial support in that strategy; the government announced a number of initiatives to support her.

The first is the hiring of 5,000 persons with disabilities within the public service, over the next five years. Those are not incremental hires. Those are hires within the normal hiring process, within the government. Number two is a centralized accommodation fund to support the hiring, the promotion and the retention of persons with disabilities with any accommodations that they may require. Also, as the minister talked about, Public Services and Procurement Canada will be creating a centre of excellence for procurement, as well as undertaking accessibility audits of government buildings.

The other part is that each deputy head within the Government of Canada will be required to submit accessibility plans for over 133 organizations, Crown corporations, agencies and traditional departments like my own—Employment and Social Development Canada. There will be an opportunity to monitor the progress that each department is making, both on an individual basis and across the Government of Canada. We will have a line of sight on that progress or lack of progress. Again, those accessibility plans must be made in consultation with persons with disabilities.

Finally, the legislation sets out a new office—the chief accessibility officer—and the role of that office is to have a broad line of sight on how the system is working or not working. They have to report annually to the minister on how well we are doing. As well, that office can conduct special reports, either by a question from the minister or through its own motion powers.

(1000)

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

We need accessibility standards. They are to identify the requirements and then remove those things. Then you have to break the barriers for accessibility. What are the principles that you’re going to set to identify, remove and implement those things?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

The legislation empowers the new Canadian accessibility standards development organization to help set those priorities. It will be a departmental corporation. It will set those priorities both in consultation with the minister as well as persons with disabilities. As the Minister has explained, the board of CASDO will be represented by a majority of lived experience.

Some of the areas, the priorities that are set out in the legislation, will help of course guide CASDO’s deliberations on those priorities, but we are looking at six priority areas, namely employment, transportation, information and communication technology, service delivery, procurement, and I always forget one—

[Expand]

Mr. Erik Lapalme (Senior Policy Analyst, Accessibility Secretariat, Department of Employment and Social Development):

The built environment.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

—the built environment, very important.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

For the accountability and for the transparency, which department will be looking into it and how will it be implemented?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m not sure I understand the question from the member.

[Expand]

Mr. Ramesh Sangha:

We are looking for transparency and accountability in the total system. Who will be actually responsible for this to look and to see that the accountability and the transparency is in place?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I think it’s important in two places in the legislation from an accountability and transparency perspective. The publication of the accessibility plans, and the feedback mechanisms and the progress reports are made public. Those publications are not to the Government of Canada. We will be tracking them. We will be monitoring them. We will be assessing them. We certainly will be providing advice on how they could be improved.

The purpose from an accountability and transparency perspective in terms of having those reports published is so that Canadians, in particular Canadians with disabilities, have ready access to them and they can hold those companies or organizations to account from a citizen or a customer perspective. That’s a very important principle. Persons with disabilities will be involved in the development of the plans, but they will also have access to them so that they can have an opinion on how well progress is being made or not being made.

Within the Government of Canada system, the legislation provides for the chief accessibility officer, and the role of that individual and the office that will be supporting them is to provide an annual report through the minister to Parliament on how the system is working or it’s not working. This includes that regular annual report, and as well that individual, that officer, will have the power to conduct and submit special reports. Either an individual or a group of people have identified an issue for the chief accessibility officer, and they think something should be studied and the chief accessibility officer can then report to the minister, or maybe the minister has an issue that they want addressed.

(1005)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

MP Hardcastle, please.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I didn’t realize on this committee the way the format is and that my time is so limited, so I’m going to be extremely blunt so that we can get through. It is intriguing.

Let’s talk about exemptions right now. A moment ago you alluded to what might be a logical exemption in the remote north or something with a small community scenario, but the way that I’m reading the exemptions, it’s very different. Cabinet has the power to exempt the CRTC and the CTA. This is a more powerful scenario. I just would like to understand a little bit more about why we are allowing those kinds of exemptions with major jurisdictions and why cabinet is allowed to do that.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

There are two types of exemptions that are contemplated within the legislation. The first is a statutory exemption around the reporting requirements that I just referenced a moment ago around the accessibility plans and the feedback mechanisms. Those exemptions are provided in the exact case that I responded to in the question for the other honourable member. It’s a recognition that there is a potential, especially for small organizations or small entities—let’s say a small interprovincial trucking firm that has five employees. It’s a well-run business. It’s trying its best to make that business both accessible to any employees who have a disability or customers who have a disability. The exemption there is a recognition by the government, whatever the regulatory body is that has jurisdiction for that regulated entity, that it may be better that that company focus on accessibility for employees or customers rather than doing an annual report. We want that flexibility so that those discussions can happen about making progress. What’s the right balance with limited resources, so that they can have that exemption?

Then there are regulatory exemptions. Those are to recognize that under the regulations there may be reasons why we need an approach tailored to a size of a company or a size of an entity. As well, there is what we call an innovation exemption. There will be cases where, both within government and within the federally regulated private sector, a company is out ahead of the regulatory process. They have found an innovative solution for meeting accessibility requirements and we don’t want new rules coming in behind them penalizing them. We want to recognize the work that they’ve done in terms of supporting accessibility. If they’ve done it in a way that is equal to or greater than the regulatory requirements, we want to be able to exempt them from the regulatory rules.

(1010)

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

In terms of enforcement, besides the idea that the disability community is going to look on a website and engage in making businesses enforce an accessibility plan, what about enforcement from the accessibility commissioner? What about those powers? Right now, we see that it’s fragmented among different entities and the CRTC and the CTA implementation and enforcement are splintered.

Do you think there’s an opportunity for us to consolidate this better so that it’s not just dependent on this idea that it will be citizen engagement that does the enforcement? Right now, you have to post an accessibility plan, but, when you read the language, it doesn’t have to be implemented. You have to have a plan and you have to make it public, but you don’t have to implement it. I’m wondering if you see opportunities for us to concentrate on consolidating enforcement in one place where we could be doing that. Right now there are four different places that you do implementation and enforcement. For a disability community, that’s really impractical.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I’m going to ask my colleague, Mr. Lapalme, to address the question.

[Expand]

Mr. Erik Lapalme:

In terms of enforcement, yes, there is that public accountability for the plans and progress reports. There is that requirement to prepare and publish those progress reports. Part of those reports is the entity talking about how it is implementing its plan.

There is the public aspect, but also there is the accessibility commissioner for the entities that are within its jurisdiction, and the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for the organizations that are within their jurisdiction. They’d have to be notified of the publication of those plans and reports, as well as the fact that the organization has implemented its requirement to establish a feedback process. In fact, they can enforce those requirements. It is within their enforcement powers to ensure that the organizations that have those requirements have published their plans, have consulted with persons with disabilities, and have made them available to persons with disabilities in alternate formats, for example.

As Mr. Van Raalte mentioned, there is also the possibility to work with entities to ensure that their plans and reports are meeting requirements and that they could be made better or made stronger.

Of course, more broadly, in terms of meeting the requirements under regulations in standards that have been adopted into regulations, that’s where the accessibility commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC have their broad enforcement powers to ensure organizations are, in fact, meeting their requirements.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you very much.

Now we go over to MP Long for six minutes.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

Thank you for coming in this morning.

I don’t think there’s any question that C-81 is going to open up opportunities and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

I do have a few questions for you this morning. How does this legislation compare to accessibility legislation in other jurisdictions, provincially and internationally?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I am pleased to respond to this question, because I think it speaks to quite a bit of work the public service has undertaken, also in consultation with the disability community across the country and internationally.

I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due in terms of some of the provincial leadership that has been undertaken over the past decade—namely Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia—and that has allowed us to build on that foundation.

There’s quite a bit of similarity between C-81 and what it sets out to do and the legislative frameworks within those three jurisdictions I mention, in four areas in particular: the development and enforcement of standards; the concept of the accessibility plans; issues related to compliance; and then review mechanisms, again at the end to make sure the legislation is meeting its needs.

I am referencing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 2005; the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, which was passed in 2013; and most recently, the Accessibility Act in Nova Scotia in 2017.

From a standards development perspective, it varies somewhat amongst how the provincial accessibility laws generally provide for the creation of standards through standard development committees and/or an accessibility advisory board that may create committees to develop standards.

By contrast, C-81 proposes CASDO as that arm’s-length independent standards-setting process and the technical committee piece. I’m happy to answer questions about CASDO and its ability to set model standards.

From an accessibility plan perspective—again, similar to provincial laws—C-81 sets out that planning and reporting requirement. One of the big differences, however, is including persons with disabilities in that process in terms of, as well, having a feedback mechanism.

Provincial accessibility laws and Bill C-81 all include provisions to ensure compliance, including provisions for inspections, compliance orders and administrative monetary penalties. In the provinces, these are undertaken by designated directors and inspectors. These individuals are housed within the government departments responsible for administering the act, whereas Bill C-81 establishes unique remedies in relation to the contravention of accessibility requirements that result in harm.

Finally, in terms of that review process, similar to provincial accessibility acts Bill C-81 provides for periodic reviews of the provision and operation of the act, to make sure the act is—

(1015)

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

You’ve mentioned provincial jurisdiction, but what about international?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

The closest model is within the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course, the federated model within the United States and the powers of the federal government vis-à-vis the states are very different from what we have in Canada.

In terms of looking at setting up the CASDO, we did look at the American access board. In fact, Minister Qualtrough travelled to Washington, D.C. almost two years ago and spoke with representatives from that organization in terms of feeding into and informing the legislation.

Beyond that, we looked at the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. This legislation goes far beyond what those jurisdictions are doing.

[Expand]

Mr. Wayne Long:

I want to home in a bit on enforceability. We’ve heard concerns about the enforceability of the standards and regulations created under the framework established by the bill. Can you speak more to enforceability mechanisms? How are you going to enforce this?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I’m going to turn that over to my colleague Mr. Lapalme.

[Expand]

Mr. Erik Lapalme:

As I mentioned, there are the three main enforcement bodies under the bill: the accessibility commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC. In terms of the proposed accessible Canada act itself, the main body set out there is the accessibility commissioner. The Canadian Transportation Agency has a broadened mandate and increased powers and responsibilities through amendments that are proposed to the Canada Transportation Act. The accessibility commissioner would have a broad range of powers. These are set out in terms of inspections, production orders—a paper-based audit that could request documents—compliance orders to stop an activity and notices of violation. These can be a warning: Something is not good and you’re getting a warning, but it should be fixed. It can also be a notice of violation that has an administrative monetary penalty associated with it.

(1020)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Sorry, I have to cut you off.

MP Hogg might give you a few minutes to follow up.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

You can finish.

[Expand]

Mr. Erik Lapalme:

Thanks.

These mechanisms are part of what is called the “proactive compliance enforcement”. This is the accessibility commissioner proactively going out and ensuring, verifying, compliance with regulatory requirements. Then there’s also a remedies process available to individuals. Individuals who have experienced harm as a result of the contravention of regulated standards would be able to file a complaint with the accessibility commissioner, and then the commissioner would potentially launch an investigation. If the complaint is substantiated, then the commissioner has a wide variety of remedies available that he or she could order. They include compensation for pain and suffering, amounts for lost wages, and additional amounts if a practice was the result of a wilful or reckless practice. There are some maximum amounts set out in the legislation for pain and suffering compensation and for wilful and reckless practice, but there are also provisions to ensure that these amounts change over time to account for inflation. There is this proactive side and there is the reactive side to help remedy individual situations of harm.

[Expand]

Mr. Gordie Hogg:

Thank you.

Looking at the preamble and the purpose with respect to the legislation, I see there are values and principles that we would all in a free, positive and progressive democratic society support. I look particularly at the reference made that Canada, being a state party to the United Nations convention, “has agreed to take appropriate measures respecting accessibility and to develop and monitor minimum accessibility standards”. A little further on it’s referred more effectively to the vision or the mission statement, which says:

…Parliament considers that it is essential to ensure the economic, social and civic participation of all Canadians, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, and to allow them to fully exercise their rights and responsibilities in a barrier-free Canada;

It’s talking about right across Canada.

Yet when we look at this, we see the bill will only affect organizations within federal jurisdictions, including the federal government and federally regulated industries. As a federal government, how do we envision taking this set of principles and values and being able to ensure that we can, I don’t know if “inculcate” is the word, but make that a principle, a vision, a statement that is going to be taken on by provinces, local governments, society, all of those things that are not contained within the regulatory provisions of this legislation?

If we’re wanting to really change the intent and wanting to really change our country in a positive way around this with all of the things that are laid out here, what types of levers do we have? We often talk about the federal government wanting to use different methods to encourage or incentivize provinces and local governments to be more actively engaged. What do you see as the disconnect? How do we deal with that disconnect between that great set of values and principles and the application of those?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I’m happy to answer this. It’s a fundamental question of culture change. The minister speaks of this frequently. I think there are three levers, if I can use those words. One of them is quite formal and then two are more on the informal side.

On the formal side, Bill C-81, again, contemplates the creation of CASDO. The independence of CASDO is very important in terms of its ability to establish model standards that any organization can use. From an ideal perspective, the minister can ask CASDO to establish standards, but other organizations can work with CASDO to establish model standards as well. A province, a municipality or an international organization can approach CASDO and ask it to develop a model standard on—let’s pick open spaces, not the built environment, but parks and recreational areas. They could say, we want a model standard, and we want you to form a technical committee. Could you do that for us? CASDO has that ability under the proposed legislation to do that.

Model standards, once they’re developed, as I said, can be used by any organization. Having that independence and that model standard means that any jurisdiction, province, territory or municipality can use that model standard to have that coherent approach across Canada.

On the informal side, there is the regular ongoing conversation at a political and officials’ level with our provincial and territorial counterparts. For the past two years, as an example, I’ve been co-chair with my Ontario and Saskatchewan colleagues of an open forum on accessibility, to set the groundwork for a more formal consultation with the provinces and territories, should Bill C-81 be adopted.

How are we going to work together in terms of accessibility coherence across jurisdictions? As I indicated, there is the leadership from Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba. Also active at the table, I would say, are Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia with lots of interest in what we’re doing and how we’re going to work together. I know the minister has had a number of occasions to talk to her provincial and territorial counterparts going forward.

The final informal piece is behaviour change. That is the conversation about how you can do better and how you can take it to the next level. The legislation is just one part of that conversation change. It’s a lever to ensure that organizations are talking about accessibility. I think the minister, especially in her business case for why it makes sense to hire persons with disabilities, is also a big, important part of that conversation.

(1025)

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

Now for six minutes, we will hear from MP Diotte.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte (Edmonton Griesbach, CPC):

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

I just want to go back. We know that this bill will apply to federal government and federally regulated agencies. We also heard that implementing it could result in up to a $38 billion per year benefit. I’m just trying to understand that a bit more. It seems so huge for something that is not going to apply everywhere. Can you break it down a bit more? It’s just staggering.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I’m happy to offer a clarification.

What the minister is talking about is a study that references employment for persons with disabilities and their inclusion in the labour market. The economic benefit to the Canadian economy is estimated at between 1.3% and 1.9% of GDP. For all of those individuals who are able to work and contribute but are now unemployed, if they were working, that’s the calculation of that economic benefit.

The legislation will contribute to the employment of persons with disabilities through the development of employment standards around accessible workplaces. Part of the equation in getting persons with disabilities in, and staying in, the labour market is to ensure that hiring organizations have policies from a recruitment, retention and promotion perspective that are accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities. It is not a one-for-one calculation. There are many other things that the government is doing in terms of supporting the employment of persons with disabilities, as well as our partners within the provinces and territories and the non-profit community.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

Thanks for that.

It seems to me that we’re creating a lot of bureaucracy here. You have the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. You’ll have an accessibility commissioner, a chief accessibility officer, and there’s also talk of hiring 5,000 civil servants.

What would the civil servants be doing? It sounds like they’re just going to be regulating.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

This is an important question. I’m going to divide it in two parts.

As I said in an earlier response, the announcement about hiring 5,000 new persons with disabilities into the public service is part of the normal hiring practice as attrition occurs and hiring occurs across the Government of Canada.

Right now, the participation rate across the Government of Canada for persons with disabilities is around, I think between 4% and 5%.

(1030)

[Expand]

Mr. Erik Lapalme:

It’s 5.6%.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

It’s 5.6%. Thank you.

When you match that against the fact that 14% of the Canadian population are persons with a disability, while we are meeting our employment equity targets, it still falls quite short of representativeness across the country.

The 5,000 additional hires over the next five years will bump that 5.6% up to somewhere between 7% and 8%.

Again, there’s a lot more that can be done in terms of recruitment within the public service to make the public servants representative of persons with disabilities. I’m sure Deputy Minister Laroche will have a lot to say about that on Tuesday. It’s something that is near and dear to her heart.

In terms of the new organizations that are contemplated under Bill C-81, just at a high level, I’ve explained that the Canadian accessibility standards development organization will have a mandate for developing standards on an ongoing basis for the government to consider from a regulatory perspective. It will also have a technical assistance mandate, in terms of being able to help organizations translate what a model standard actually means for an organization. It also has a research mandate, in terms of contemplating and getting ahead of the standards that are needed for the next generation, so that we’re not in a reactive mode in standards building or standards development. We’ll be looking at and leading on the next range of standards that are going to be needed.

The chief accessibility officer, as I believe I’ve explained, has that systemic monitoring role. The person will be required to report annually on the progress and implementation of the legislation across the system. Again, it will have that special reporting capacity, should either the minister or somebody from the outside signal that there are problems with the system.

Then finally, there is the accessibility commissioner, who will be housed within the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It is intended to take advantage of the infrastructure that already exists in place within that commission, and will have the proactive compliance and enforcement as well as the complaints-handling mandate that my colleague has explained for the committee.

[Expand]

Mr. Kerry Diotte:

This is all very commendable. We all want to make Canada more accessible.

But do you think it’s fair to the Canadian taxpayer—you’re essentially saying we should sign a blank cheque—especially when some of the people who are lower income would have accessibility issues themselves and probably earn less money. It’s their taxes that are going to be impacted by this.

We have no idea what this is going to cost.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Very briefly, please.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Very briefly, the regulatory impact assessment statements that are required for each regulation package are required under law, under the cabinet directive on regulations, to include a cost-benefit analysis for each set of regulations.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

MP Morrissey, please.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Thank you, Chair.

I want to go back to the 5,000 positions within the public service. I understand that those are existing positions that will be designated to be filled by persons with a disability.

Am I correct?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Yes, you are correct.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

That leads to my second question.

Not only do people with disabilities face greater challenges in the rural parts of the country, but employment opportunities are limited as well.

Has that been analyzed within the department when you made the decision to identify 5,000 positions? That would take your ratio from, I believe you said 5% to 7%, which is still small considering that the population is 14% of people with disabilities.

How would you address the issue of people with barriers in small rural communities with limited federal positions there to begin with?

(1035)

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I think that is a very important question, and it speaks to the range of programming that’s offered by the Government of Canada, in terms of the new workforce development agreements that have been negotiated with provinces and territories, and in terms of being able to meet the employment needs of persons with disabilities. As well, there’s the opportunities fund, which is another $40 million a year to work with the not-for-profit sector to identify priorities for the supports that a person might require, both to get them into an interview and to get them ready for an interview, and then for the supports they may require in terms of that first job or the transition to another job. That funding, both the funding that is provided to provinces and territories and the opportunities fund, is provided across Canada.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Do you have any data on what the picture is today, where positions are located?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I’m happy to get that data for the committee. Those responsibilities are elsewhere within my department, but we can certainly supply that for the committee.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

I would like to see a breakdown of where existing positions are located, which are being filled by people with disabilities. I do applaud the minister for setting an initial target. Is this an additional 5,000?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

It’s not incremental to public service hiring; it is within public service hiring. It’s an additional 5,000 over the next five years.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Is that within the public service?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

Yes.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Still, that number will only go from 5% to 7%.

I want to go back again. You had spoken briefly, I believe, to my colleague Ms. Falk, on exemptions and limitations. I want to apply it to a rural context, again to small identities, small business. You did speak to it briefly in a good way. Could you elaborate a bit more on how the legislation would work in those communities, with businesses in those communities? Would it be similar to an urban centre, which would have a large footprint?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

It’s the same process for any regulated entity seeking an exemption. There would be an application made to the responsible minister or regulatory body. Depending on the jurisdiction, it could be the minister responsible for accessibility, it could be the minister of transport, who is responsible for the Canadian Transportation Agency, or it could be the CRTC. The public service would then provide advice to the minister responsible on whether that exemption, and the basis for that exemption, were founded. Then there would a determination by the responsible minister or the responsible body, and that exemption must be published, for transparency purposes, in the Canada Gazette.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

Do you know what the timeline would be around that? Have you determined that?

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I have to say no.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

You’re referencing a lot of departments, and different departments and agencies would have to respond. Is there a governance model in place that supports this whole-of-government implementation? Obviously it requires a whole-of-government implementation process. I’m not sure if that was addressed. You may have, but I’m not sure if it was.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Briefly, please.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

It was addressed. It’s at three levels. There is the new deputy responsible for public service accessibility. Again, she’ll be happy to present to the committee on Tuesday. Each deputy minister is required to submit an accessibility plan, and so there’s lots of governance amongst and between deputy ministers and departments.

[Expand]

Mr. Robert Morrissey:

That deputy minister’s primary responsibility is to oversee the whole of government.

(1040)

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

She will be responsible for developing a Government of Canada strategy to allow the Government of Canada to become a leader on accessibility.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you.

MP Falk, go ahead, please.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

Thanks, Chair.

I know I’ve heard a lot this morning about culture change. In my previous experience in my line of work, I had the opportunity to work with people who had an array of disabilities.

I’m just wondering if there really is the belief that creating a whole new bureaucracy, more departments and more red tape is actually going to shift the culture. I know through working with people that it was the worst when we would have to call this person, that person and that person just to get them a ride somewhere, or work with social services, or that type of thing. So I’m just really wondering if creating this whole new department is going to shift the culture as it seems to be believed will really happen.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I think there are a couple of policy responses to that question.

First, we do know that directly involving persons with disabilities in the decisions that affect them will affect that culture change. Having them involved in an organization where they are informing the development of accessibility plans and informing how that organization thinks about persons with disabilities—both employees with disabilities and customers or citizens with disabilities—will change the conversation about how that organization approaches that customer base or those employees.

From a policy perspective, having persons with disabilities involved in governing the Canadian accessibility standards development organization and being involved in technical committees for standards development, again, will change the conversation about those issues that affect the lives of persons with disabilities.

Do I think legislation is the only silver bullet for changing the conversation? That’s not what I’m saying. There are lots of other things that can and should be done in terms of that culture change.

[Expand]

Mrs. Rosemarie Falk:

I guess really my point is that I don’t think a top-down approach works well. I think if we’re really going to shift culture, it’s everyday people at the grassroots level whom we have to impact. I guess that’s just my question. I just don’t see how effective, tangible, real change is going to happen today by doing all these consultations and all these reports that are projected for years down the road.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Okay. Thank you.

That actually frees up some time.

MP Hardcastle.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Thank you.

I want to go back to the issue of exemptions, because I’m still trying to understand. It’s the minister who has to deem the exemption.

We already have a track record for the CRTC and the CTA, to be frank. That’s where my concern is. What is the recourse? What is the appeal process?

Right now, there’s no publishing of the decisions and the rationale for them. There’s nothing articulated in the bill right now. That’s my concern.

I’m not saying that all of these decisions would be arbitrary, but do you see where I’m going? Maybe there’s an opportunity where we need to have an amendment, unless I’m understanding it wrong. When a decision is made for an exemption, and I’m in the persons living with disability community—which we just heard here today is supposed to sharpen our swords and advocate whenever we need to on the ground—how do I do that if I don’t understand rationale and there’s no mechanism right now for me to appeal that decision?

Does that seem as if maybe I’m missing a beat and misunderstanding it, or do you see an opportunity for us to maybe re-examine that?

(1045)

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

From a transparency perspective, the decisions around an exemption do have to be published in the Canada Gazette, so there is an accountability mechanism there in terms of making the public aware of a decision by either a minister or the regulatory body.

From an appeal perspective, ministers can always change their mind. More importantly, from a flexibility perspective, a minister can put conditions on the exemption. The exemption can be time-limited. The exemption can be a partial exemption. I don’t want to leave the committee with the impression that it’s a carte blanche. But the appeal mechanism would be to the decision-making body itself.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Through you, Mr. Chair, the rationale for the decision doesn’t have to be published though.

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

That is correct.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

And there isn’t a direct appeal process. That’s okay if it’s just an area we need to explore. I get that. I don’t know if that would be under the office of the commissioner or—

[Expand]

Mr. James Van Raalte:

I will clarify that exemptions under the act are undertaken in consultation with the accessibility commissioner.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Excellent. Thank you.

That takes us to the end of our second round.

Sorry, Madam Hardcastle, go ahead.

[Expand]

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Mr. Chair, maybe we can have that information circulated to the members of the committee just to clarify right now as we go into contemplating amendments. Right now, is there an appeal process for a member of the community to appeal a decision? I think it would be important for us to have that information.

Thanks.

[Expand]

The Chair:

Thank you to everybody present today and watching at home. I want to personally thank those involved in working on the logistics and set-up we have here today. This is unique, and I think it’s important to recognize their efforts and the efforts moving forward in this study.

Just as housekeeping on future business, on October 4 we are back here in this space. Again we’re going to be working on Bill C-81, in our first session with witnesses. After the break we’re back here again in this space on October 16 to meet with the minister and witnesses on motion M-110. Again, thank you to the department officials for being here with us today.

The meeting is adjourned.



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Today is the 20th Anniversary of the Ontario Legislature’s Historic Unanimous Resolution, Calling for Ontario to Enact Strong and Effective Disability Accessibility Legislation – How Far Have 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Progressed Since that Day?


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

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the Ontario Legislature’s Historic Unanimous Resolution, Calling for Ontario to Enact Strong and Effective Disability Accessibility Legislation – How Far Have 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Progressed Since that Day?

October 29, 2018

          SUMMARY

Twenty years ago today, tireless and tenacious grass roots disability advocacy paid off, with long term consequences for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities!

On October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Government of Premier Mike Harris was in power, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) got the Ontario Legislature to unanimously pass a powerful resolution, which we set out below. It called for the enactment of a provincial disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated.

The events of that dramatic day are summarized in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s detailed article that summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

Two decades later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, against the 11 principles the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. We also continue to measure any accessibility standards and other actions taken under the AODA 2005 against the 11 bedrock principles which the Ontario Legislature adopted on that historic day.

Since then, we’ve certainly made progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. We’ve had tremendous high points and frustrating low points along the way.

High points include:

* Getting the Ontario Legislature to pass the weak Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and then later, the stronger the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

* Getting helpful, though limited accessibility standards enacted under the AODA to address a number of disability accessibility barriers.

* In every provincial election over the past two decades, getting some or all of the political parties to make pledges for more progress on disability accessibility, in letters to us.

* Where actions have fallen short on accessibility, offering constructive feedback and practical recommendations on how to improve.

* Holding governments accountable for actions that impede progress on accessibility.

* Getting two Independent Reviews, appointed under the AODA, to identify the need for much more progress on accessibility, in 2010 and 2014.

* Sharing our experience as our efforts helped motivate others to press for accessibility legislation in Manitoba (passed in 2013), and Nova Scotia (in 2017). These principles have also influenced advocacy efforts on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, now before Canada’s Parliament.

Over these two decades, we have also seen government after government and minister after minister miss many great opportunities to make more progress on accessibility.

Yet on this anniversary, our advocacy work is far from finished. For example, it is a painful irony that on the anniversary of this major event, Ontario’s new provincial government still has in place its freeze on the work of some Standards Development Committees. Frozen are those working on recommendations for the Government on what needs to be done to remove the many barriers in Ontario’s education system  that impede students with disabilities, and the many barriers in Ontario’s health care system that impede patients with disabilities. The Ontario Government said it imposed this freeze in order to get a chance to brief Ontario’s new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho.

Since then, the Government has had fully 131 days to brief that minister. The accessibility issue is an obvious top priority for that minister. It’s time to lift that freeze, so that the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the Education Standards Development Committee can get back to work now. When the Ontario Conservatives were in opposition, they slammed the previous Wynne Government for delay in getting to work on creating an Education Accessibility Standard. Now that they are in power, they are causing more delays.

For more on this freeze, read the AODA Alliance’s August 29, 2018 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Cho.

One year ago today, illustrating how far we still have to go, we unveiled a shocking online video. It shows serious accessibility problems at a brand-new publicly-funded building, the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre. That video, and two others we’ve created, have gone viral and have gotten great media attention. The Ryerson video alone, in its various forms, has been viewed 13,818 times in the past year.

Learn more about the ODA Committee’s campaign that led to the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign to get the Federal Government to enact strong national accessibility legislation.

          MORE DETAILS

RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998

In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation;

and since all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

And since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

  1. a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and
  1. b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

and since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise,

Therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

  1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;
  1. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.

 Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter

(2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

By David Lepofsky

8)         FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

  1. a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.



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Read What Was Said During the Third and Final Day of Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – September 26, 2018


Parliament of Canada House of Commons Hansard September 26, 2018

Originally posted at:

http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-326/hansard#Int-10263898

[Government Orders]

[English]

Accessible Canada Act+-

The House resumed from September 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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Ms. Sheila Malcolmson (Nanaimo—Ladysmith, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, more than 5.3 million Canadians, almost 16% of the population of this country, are living with some form of disability that affects their freedom, independence or quality of life. Of that number, over 200,000 are children and youth.

One in five Canadian women live with disabilities. Women with disabilities are poorer than their male counterparts. They are three times more likely to rely on government programs than women without disabilities and more likely than men with disabilities. They are also particularly susceptible to domestic violence. The rates of violence against women living with disabilities is particularly high. They disproportionately call on women’s shelters, face homelessness and are victims of violence. The rate of head injuries associated with women who are victims of domestic violence or intimate partner violence is particularly high. I really commend DAWN Canada for doing groundbreaking work in this area. We were very reliant on its advice and testimony at the status of women committee.

Here we are today hearing about Bill C-81, which is intended to help and support persons living with disabilities. The need is tremendous. Persons living with disabilities within Canada have waited over two years for this bill to be tabled. In particular, I want to mention my constituent Jack Ferrero, who has been most insistent that this legislation be tabled and come as soon as possible to this House. It is regretful that we are three years into this term and are only debating it now.

Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities back in 2010. That convention elaborated a human rights framework for addressing the exclusion and the lack of access persons with disabilities have encountered in Canada. This is both physical access to buildings and access to services. It was intended to establish a society where “persons with disabilities are viewed as full citizens with exactly the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens of Canada.”

Only three provinces in Canada have accessibility laws, and federally, Canada does not. I have heard in great detail from constituents that the need is dire. The following is part of a letter from a man in my riding, Terry Wiens. I am pretty sure that he is a Nanaimo resident. This is a long and heartbreaking letter, which I will read in part. He had polio and is facing extraordinary costs associated with his disability. He writes:

“I recently had to buy a new RoHo Hybrid cushion for my wheelchair ($820) as well as a hospital bed ($1800 mattress not included) so decided to make a one-time withdrawal of $10,000 from my RIF. What I didn’t realize was the ripple effect of that decision. That raised my annual income enough to eliminate me from the Guaranteed Income Supplement (all $18/month worth). I have no doubt that next year I will qualify again, but in the meantime, we are penalized for our independence. You can’t really compare the income of an individual that is facing costs that the average person never sees. To add insult to injury, losing that GIS also cost me my Premium Medical Services subsidy, another $420 a year, my opportunity for a subsidized assisted living apartment, because GIS qualification is required for the subsidized program, and a cutback to my rental subsidy and doubling (from $450 to $900 yearly) of my Pharmacare deductible. It is not the $18/month payment but the status of qualifying for GIS that is important.”

It is a terrible example of government services not supporting the people who are working the hardest and have the most barriers in front of them.

I have another letter from a person in my riding, who asked to keep her name confidential. She writes:

“It is with great dismay that I write to you about a problem with the pension plans. I am 69 years old, I have some disabilities and my only income is from the government pensions and some money that was awarded to me from a divorce. My total income is under $20,000 per year. I have recently been informed that because I receive $250.00 per month from my divorce judgment that I am losing $1,000.00 per year on my pension. This is a clawback if I have ever seen one. How can the government do this to the very people that for 50 or more years of working and being the back bone of the country do this to their seniors? In B.C., the previous provincial government did this to welfare recipients until they complained, and now it can’t claw back those monies.”

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“I have personally seen local seniors going through garbage cans looking for cans and bottles just to make ends meet.”

“I take exception to the government saying that we have a class system in our country and they will do everything for the “middle” class and nothing for seniors. To be politically correct, we have low income, medium income and high income. Since when did Canada decide that we have a class system? I have worked all my life, served in the Armed Forces and this is how I get treated. I applied for the disability tax credit, and although I had three things that were on their list to qualify, I was refused and even told that if I went any further with my claim that I might be responsible for legal fees.”

I have a dozen letters like this that describe the people who the social safety net in Canada is meant to be supporting, the people who are meant to be getting help from these government programs and are thwarted again and again.

I am going to read a summary from my fantastic caseworker, Hilary Eastmure, who helps a lot of people out at our front desk. She says:

“Canadians accustomed to getting reliable service are becoming quickly disillusioned with our system, which is getting increasingly difficult to navigate. The shift to online platforms is also a major stumbling block for Canadians of all ages, including those who don’t have regular access to a computer or printer or those who are not computer literate. Being told to access or submit a form online is a major source of frustration for people with disabilities, seniors and low-income Canadians, the very people who often require the most support from government agencies.”

We have in front of us Bill C-81, which is meant to remove those barriers. However, I have to emphasize the design of the civil service, the design of the interface between the people the system is meant to serve and their ability to access these programs.

Bill C-81 would empower the government to create accessibility standards or regulations, but it would not require the government to do that. We like the idea of an accessibility commissioner in charge of enforcement.

New Democrats are going to support this proposed legislation at first reading so we can get it to committee and make as many constructive amendments as we can to serve the people with disabilities who need this to work well, but we could not support it if it were to come back in this form.

The bill would not bring us into conformity with our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The text on civil rights legislation for persons with disabilities is really the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is dated 1990. We have a good model out there. Canadians should be at least meeting the standard set by the Americans.

My New Democrat fellow MP for New Westminster—Burnaby in 2007 tabled proposed legislation in the House. My fellow MP in this Parliament, the MP for Windsor—Tecumseh, has been very strong as our critic for the NDP on this bill, saying that any accessibility bill tabled has to be seen as enabling legislation for Canada’s commitments to the United Nations. Therefore, we will be pushing in committee for mandatory timelines for implementation. Without those, the implementation process, and even a start-up process, could drag on for years.

We will be pushing to require that all federal government laws, policies and programs be studied through a disability law lens. We will be asking that the bill not continue its error right now of giving several public agencies or officials much too much power to grant partial or blanket exemptions from important parts of the bill. The bill right now would separate enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. In committee the NDP will argue instead that Bill C-81 should provide people with disabilities with a single service location or one-stop shopping so that they can access the services with dignity and the support they need.

Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time, but I have no indication of who it is with. I have finished my speech, though.

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Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague, who has underscored the importance of moving this legislation from second reading to committee, because obviously there are some questions the NDP want to ask.

The hon. member also raised issues about seniors. We are so pleased that we now have a minister responsible for seniors issues, who will be working closely with the Minister of Accessibility to move some of those concerns forward.

I really do suggest that the hon. member get in touch with the ministers and express her concerns at that level, or at committee. I look forward to that.

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Ms. Sheila Malcolmson:

Mr. Speaker, I have written to the Prime Minister directly on this. I have outlined to him the multiple ways I am hearing from every sector of my riding, whether business people trying to access the CRA, or seniors trying to navigate the Canada pension plan and the GIS, or families waiting for key answers from Citizenship and Immigration about whether their family members might qualify for reunification, or anything.

I have raised this a number of times in the House, and in the summer I wrote to the Prime Minister directly, because I was so dismayed at what I was hearing from people once I was back in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I have had no answer.

It is clear that the government has chosen not to restore the public service and the front-line people who are meant to be serving. To have people kicked off phone lines or left on hold interminably, or for them to have to call 20 times to even have the privilege of being put on hold, says that everyone is being challenged by a broken system.

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[Translation]

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Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, if I am not mistaken, speeches are limited to 10 minutes at this time, with five minutes for questions and answers. My colleague was therefore not sharing her time.

My question is simple. I often have people who come to my office with some sort of problem. The problem might be related to a lack of services. People never really know what falls under provincial or federal jurisdiction. They come to us even when their problem falls under provincial jurisdiction. People do not always know what they need to do to obtain services.

If people have to go to four different departments on top of that in order to obtain services, what kind of impact is that going to have on those individuals?

[English]

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Ms. Sheila Malcolmson:

Mr. Speaker, it was a particularly discouraging situation for my fellow New Democrat member of Parliament for Windsor—Tecumseh when she introduced her Bill C-348. If the bill had been supported by the government, it would have provided persons living with disabilities a single point of entry to access federal programs.

As it is right now, a person living with a disability has to apply to six different programs in six different ways, whereas my fellow New Democrat’s bill sought to have them prove just once that they had a disability and then that same proof and application could allow them to enter into the multitude of government programs available for people with disabilities. Her bill, unfortunately, was voted down by the government. The Liberals suggested that we should wait for Bill C-81.

Unfortunately, the remedy that was in Bill C-348 was not replicated in this legislation. It is a real disappointment, because the people who are the most vulnerable need the most help. My colleague might have to work harder.

I have honestly heard a number of people say they are going to give up, which means they are living in poverty and in terrible circumstances. In a country as rich as ours, that should not be so.

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Mr. Larry Maguire (Brandon—Souris, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada today. Almost every Canadian family has or knows someone with a disability. They were either born with it or became disabled some time in their life. I have long advocated for the rights of those with disabilities, as I know first hand the daily challenges and barriers they face. My own son, who fell in a work-related accident 14 years ago last week, has shown me how someone, through tremendous perseverance, can come through great adversity.

There are also great Canadian heroes, such as Rick Hansen, who have inspired millions around the globe. Through his Man in Motion World Tour, he raised awareness and helped raise millions of dollars for research. To date, Rick has continued his advocacy and is a beacon of hope to all those who are impacted by disability. In my own constituency, my annual charity golf tournament has donated thousands of dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation and Special Olympics.

Our society has come a long way in recognizing that those with disabilities have a lot to offer. They are full members of society and must have the same access and rights as anyone else. I am proud to belong a party that has advocated and supported many of the measures that have improved the lives of Canadians who suffer from a disability.

Just next month, the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney will be conducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame for his steadfast support, and for being a strong national leader on this issue. He was the first prime minister to appoint a minister responsible for disabled persons. This ensured that there was an advocate for the disabled around the cabinet table. His government also created the disabled persons’ participation program, which dramatically increased support for organizations involved with disabled people. It was also his government that expanded disability-related deductions for income tax purposes. Let us never forget that it was the Hon. Jim Flaherty who implemented the registered disabilities savings plan and heavily invested in the opportunities fund to help persons with disabilities get the necessary training to obtain employment.

These are just some of the tangible actions that have dramatically improved people’s lives. We know that the first step in breaking down barriers involves education and helping people better understand the everyday challenges those with disabilities face. Since being elected as the member of Parliament for Brandon—Souris, I have been a staunch advocate of the enabling accessibility fund, which has supported projects that have made buildings and community infrastructure more accessible. Just this summer, I worked with a community-led organization in Ninette, Manitoba to make it easier for those in wheelchairs to access Pelican Lake. I have worked with communities to secure the necessary funding to renovate bathrooms in places like the Deloraine theatre, so they can be accessible to seniors. I worked with the Brandon Legion so that veterans can now access all parts of their building as well.

These are just a few of the projects that have happened in my neck of the woods, but they are a good reminder that one does not have to reinvent the wheel to make buildings or workplaces more accessible. I am encouraged that this legislation would establish proactive compliance measures. Making buildings and workplaces accessible should never be an afterthought; it should be at the forefront of any architect or engineer’s plans. It is important that we have common accessibility standards across the board.

While I note that this legislation only impacts federally regulated workplaces, it is my sincere hope that it will lead to a much broader conversation within provinces and territories. I believe there is willingness across the country to get this done. There is such opportunity for businesses and organizations to encourage as many people as possible to either be employed, to volunteer, or to shop.

I have been inspired by my colleague, the member for Brantford—Brant, who passed a motion in the last Parliament that called on Canadian employers to take action on hiring persons with disabilities. He started a much-needed conversation about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and improving their quality of life.

I also want to highlight my colleague, the member for Carleton, who led the charge earlier this year with his proposed opportunity for workers with disabilities act. I strongly support his efforts to reform government policies that financially punish people with disabilities when they get a job, earn a raise or work more hours, forcing them to remain jobless and impoverished. He had widespread support for his legislation and I know that he will continue to be a strong advocate for disabled Canadians.

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To provide one more example, my colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac championed his motion, Motion No. 157, which encouraged builders and contractors to adhere to visitability guidelines and to be proactive when constructing new buildings. I believe his motion helped inspire many of the elements contained in Bill C-81, and I applaud him for all he has done in this area.

As with any new regulation or law, we must always be mindful about the costs to be borne by those who will be impacted. The other element we have to look at is what it will cost taxpayers to implement, enforce and measure. It costs money to hire people and to perform the day-to-day operations of a new federal entity.

I think all members would agree that we should measure the success or deficiencies of a particular program or organization.

The question at the end of the day is this: Does the federal government need to set up completely new bodies, or can we find ways to harness existing resources? While the fine details will be worked out at a later date, I urge the government to focus squarely on tangible outcomes and projects that will improve accessibility. It would be disappointing if all of the dollars allocated to this legislation just created new full-time equivalents rather than going to bricks and mortar projects. These are the sorts of questions that must be asked up front, because once a government entity is created, it is normally quite difficult to make the necessary changes down the road.

Because this legislation will only impact federally regulated workplaces, most small businesses and community-led organizations will not be directly impacted. That said, the federal government must work hand in hand with federally regulated workplaces and the disabled community. For this legislation to have the impact that we all want it to have, it cannot be drafted in a silo or entirely by the civil service. The regulations and standards must be written in easy-to-comprehend language. There must be crystal clear expectations, coupled with appropriate enforcement measures. I also encourage everyone involved to look for best practices not only in the various provinces, but also around the world, and we must make sure that we do not just create another bureaucratic institution.

Building a new institution that would just create mounds of paperwork and have limited buy-in from workplaces would not be in anyone’s best interest. I know that when this legislation goes to committee, there will be great interest in it. It would be prudent for the government to provide the committee with as much information as possible so there is meaningful dialogue. It is imperative that the minister spend the necessary time to get this right. I will definitely be voting in favour of this legislation so that it gets the proper study and engagement it so rightfully deserves.

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Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the implementation and administration of this accessibility legislation is going to take resources and investments. Where possible, I agree that we would build on our existing authorities and expertise. This only makes sense in efficiency and cost savings terms. I am certainly not thinking that the member opposite would suggest that we should not put money and resources to this very important issue.

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Mr. Larry Maguire:

Mr. Speaker, we all know there will be resources used to implement the program and move it forward. I see that the government has committed to providing $290 million over six years to upgrade federal workplaces and a number of facilities, but I want to make sure that this money is indeed used for that type of work, as opposed to creating a new bureaucracy, as I said in my speech.

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Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to have my colleague’s long memory and the realization that it was under the previous government of Brian Mulroney when we had our first minister for disabilities issues.

I found this legislation curious, in that it states that the Governor in Council may appoint a minister to be responsible for this area of responsibility. I think it is clearly the government’s intent that there will be such a minister because so much hangs on a minister acting.

Can the hon. member for Brandon—Souris suggest any reason why this would not be supported by all parties to make it a mandatory responsibility of cabinet to appoint a minister to have conduct of Bill C-81?

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Mr. Larry Maguire:

Mr. Speaker, I cannot think of a good reason. However, not being the government and among the ones who put this bill forward, I guess we will have to leave that up to them.

My colleague is quite right about the wording of the bill. I wanted to make very clear as well that the government may have some reason for not using that and going forward with it, but we want to make sure. There may even be amendments that will still come forward in this bill as it goes to second reading.

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Mr. David Yurdiga (Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, today I stand before you to support Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The bill is an excellent step in the right direction in reducing barriers for people living with disabilities.

Millions of Canadians are impacted by some form of disability. Every day, more Canadians are either afflicted or diagnosed with life-altering disease, ailments or injury. It is estimated that 3.5 million Canadians live with some form of disability and 1.4 million Canadians live with a disability that requires daily care.

Disabilities can be physical, mental or episodic in nature. Unfortunately, Canadians with disabilities are on average underemployed, earn less and are twice as likely to be victims of abuse.

This is an issue near and dear to my heart. In 2004, my wife Kathy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Ever since, my family and I have worked together to navigate the often difficult road for people with disabilities. My wife’s disability, MS, is an unpredictable, chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. When someone or their loved one is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, life can change in an instant.

Kathy suffers from what is called an episodic disability. This means sometimes her body functions normally and then it sometimes stops working the way she needs it to.

Canadian legislation should treat individuals living with all types of disabilities equally. A disability can happen to anyone, anytime, without warning, and so it is of interest to everyone to protect Canadian citizens living with disabilities. Every Canadian deserves the same rights as any other. However, most Canadians with disabilities are treated differently, not only by society, but by the very institutions put in place to protect them.

It is true that there are thousands of pre-existing programs and funding options for people with disabilities, but we all know we can do more and we can do better. The 2015 Liberal platform promised they would eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities by introducing a national disabilities act.

The bill sets out to benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, through the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. Over $290 million has been committed to be spent over six years. This is an excellent first step, but people with disabilities deserve more. They deserve more funding, more research, more programs and more access.

Together, we can create better employment supports; improve income and disability support; increase access to treatment, comprehensive care and housing; and invest in fundamental research for all disabilities.

Stakeholders, community leaders, health care professionals and of course, Canadians with disabilities are all saying the same thing: This legislation is a step in the right direction. We can always do more to create equity in legislation for Canadians with disabilities. As the Government of Canada, we can and we should do more.

We need to give Canadians back the dignity and independence they deserve. It is time to break down barriers in the way of individual success. Creating an equality of opportunity should be a top priority. With the increased investment, we can provide employment opportunities, foster a safer environment within society, provide new information and communication technologies, and deliver better quality programs and services to Canadians living with disabilities. Together we can make these changes.

Of course, the government alone cannot change the way people with disabilities are treated here in Canada. There are several noble organizations that play a fundamental role in providing programming, education and scientific research for Canadians with disabilities.

Over the past few months, I had the honour of working with my friends at the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. Together, we drafted private member’s Motion No. 192. This motion strives to ensure Canadians living with episodic disabilities like multiple sclerosis are treated equitably in Canadian legislation.

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With their help, we have reached over 3,000 signatures on our online petition, and we have received thousands of pieces of correspondence in support of the motion. The outpouring of support in favour of this motion from Canadian people has touched me and my family to no end.

When my wife was unexpectedly diagnosed with MS 14 years ago, our entire world changed. Everyday tasks became difficult for her to complete and we had to re-evaluate the role she played in our family business. Disability changes everything. It impacts not only the physical ability for someone to do something, but also the way society treats the individual and his or her economic opportunities in the workforce. My private member’s motion aims to shed light on the fact that people living with disabilities and their families face several challenges in securing employment, income and disability support. They struggle daily in accessing treatment, comprehensive care and housing, and moving around in the communities where they live.

Research is the most important step to obtain new treatments and better quality of life, and increased funding is the best way to kick-start the pursuit of a cure. There should always be a desire for our government to lend a helping hand. No one should be forced to face living with a disability alone. This is why I ask my friends and colleagues sitting here with me today to commit to supporting all legislation put forward to benefit Canadians living with disabilities. While Bill C-81 is a step in the right direction, there is still so much more the government can do for Canadians with disabilities. The barriers that exist for Canadians living with disabilities are unacceptable. Together, we must tear all barriers down and make Canada an international model for disability equality.

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Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for sharing his personal story. It really does come from the heart. The other day, I was able to share some of my personal stories too. As the member was saying, everybody is touched by people with disabilities. I agree totally with what he said, that disabilities change everything. That is why I am so proud that we are able to move forward with this legislation. Really, it is the first step. Our goal is to make accessibility a reality across the federal jurisdiction.

Would the hon. member agree with me that the federal government should be a leader in this field, so that others will follow suit?

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Mr. David Yurdiga:

Mr. Speaker, yes we should be leaders. Being a leader is all about making changes. I did not understand the reality of people living with a disability and what they have to go through until I experienced it myself. Often, we hear stories about people suffering and not having access and we do not really appreciate it until it affects us directly. I am appreciative of this bill coming forward. It is needed and I am looking forward to the discussions in committee. I believe there is going to be a positive note to this. Everybody wants to do what he or she can to assure the people who are disabled or potentially will be disabled through accidents or whatever it may be, that we should be there and we are going in the right direction.

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Mr. Colin Carrie (Oshawa, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, everyone in the House wants to do something to help Canadians who are having challenges. The debate in this House more or less is how we go about doing that. I wonder if I could get the member’s opinion. This bill, I believe, is $290 million, but there are not a lot of details here. Is it something that we want to create a new bureaucracy for, or do we want to use this money to help people with disabilities? I wonder if the member could give his opinion. Does he think this bill gives enough detail about what the money would be used for, and does he think it would be helpful on the ground for people who do have disabilities?

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Mr. David Yurdiga:

Mr. Speaker, it is true. It is how we spend our dollars. If we were to spend the majority of the money on bureaucracy, we would not be helping anyone. We should use the resources we have in our various departments, and not create a new one, to make a difference for people suffering with disabilities.

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Mr. Jamie Schmale (Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I think all of us in the House have a story about someone in their families, or their friends or their circle of network who has experienced some kind of barrier to participating fully in their community.

I know my colleague for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake spoke about issues with his family member who had multiple sclerosis. I am going to do the same because it feels very appropriate right now.

My mother had a very progressive form of multiple sclerosis and quickly went from a very thriving person, full of life and active in the community to slowly finding herself unable to participate, unable to even get out of bed on some occasions. For someone so active, that was hard to take. She was used to getting up everyday, going to work, coming home and going out to volunteer. It really took its toll.

When something like that happens, we start to realize the things we take for granted, such as working in the kitchen. If we have trouble standing that day, all of a sudden we cannot reach the cupboards on the top, or when we go into the bathroom, we are unable to step over the top of the tub. All of these challenges can become very real, very quickly and, at many times, very costly.

Thanks a number of organizations that are working to help remove barriers, like the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and many others, my mother was able to find ways to help her adapt to this new reality and to help us, as a family, come to terms with the it. I think many Canadians struggle with that. We all have friends who have been diagnosed with an illness that may start very quickly or may start very slowly, which gives that person more time to react.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that my mother’s form of MS was very progressive and moved quite quickly. At first when we heard the news, coming to terms with it was one thing. Then it was trying to figure out what the next steps would be. Trying to locate all the services available in our communities was very tough.

It can be quite overwhelming for family members as well as they try to go about their daily lives and deal with this new reality. Unfortunately, overtime she was unable to walk anymore and was confined to a wheelchair. To go outside her front door, she needed a ramp. It was an extensive ramp, because the house was built on a bit of a hill, which was a challenge for us as well. Just going along the sidewalk in our municipality was a challenge. Being from Ontario, winters can be long and sidewalks are not cleared as often, which becomes a problem. Often the curbs were high and the wheelchair was unable to get onto the road to allow her to cross.

Again, these were challenges for someone who was active at one time. To now go into the community and participate, these challenges were very real and hard to overcome at times, especially as she was suffering.

It affects a person’s mental health as well and the desire to go out into the community and participate. It kind of wears on that person. My mother certainly dealt with that. At times, she did not want to go outside. I should point out that my mother was a very positive person. She was a fighter.

I share this story, as my colleagues on both sides of the House have done, to talk about the importance of creating a barrier-free Canada in which everyone can participate fully in their communities.

On this side of the House, we are going to support Bill C-81 at second reading. We thank the government for bringing it forward. This will allow all of us to have a robust debate in committee, and in the House, and talk about how we can make all our communities in Canada more accessible for everyone, not just those who do not have mobility issues.

I thank everyone who participated in the debate. I know for some it was challenging to bring their stories forward . However, by bringing our circumstances from real life forward, it shows that we are all in this together.

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Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):

Mr. Speaker, I join my colleague in voting for Bill C-81 at second reading to go to committee. I do so in the fervent hope that we will see many improvements made to it at committee.

I do not understand why at this stage, after years of consultation, we would bring forward legislation to achieve a barrier-free Canada that uses language like “progressive realization of”. I have checked and there is no legislation anywhere else in Canada on any topic that sets a goal of “progressive realization of”. Our legislation usually says that by so many years or months from royal assent, we will have achieved tangible goals.

The disability groups that have commented on the proposed legislation say that “progressive realization of” could mean one ramp a year built somewhere across Canada to remove a barrier. I do not think the government and the fine ministers who brought the bill forward actually intend a go-slow plan to remove barriers. This is why I hope that in committee the Conservatives, the New Democrats and the Liberal members of the committee will accept amendments to provide real progress, which is measurable toward a barrier-free Canada.

I invite the member’s thoughts on this as we go to committee.

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Mr. Jamie Schmale:

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. There are items in the bill about which we on this side of the House have a few questions and concerns. It is an opportunity in committee to iron out the finer details.

All of us will carefully examine the legislation as it progresses through committee. Hopefully, witnesses are able to come to committee to provide testimony and their suggestions on how to improve the bill. All of us will have another opportunity to look at the final draft and then make a final decision on it.

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Mr. Martin Shields (Bow River, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate hearing the story from my colleague on the issues he had to deal with regarding a family member.

One of the things we most recently saw, as a result of the horrific accident in Humboldt involving the hockey team, was not only the deaths as as result of that accident but what the families had to go through.

An individual became a paraplegic as a result of that accident. He has been fighting back. Most recently, he has been playing sled hockey. He wants to show the different things one can do. It is fantastic to see what he is bringing to the public by showing that one can break through the barriers that may be out there. However, we, as a governing body, need to help with that.

I wonder if my colleague might be able to mention an example of a barrier that his family had to overcome. He mentioned a few, but maybe other examples of barriers might come to mind where the government could eventually work to break them down.

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Mr. Jamie Schmale:

Mr. Speaker, I agree that there are many barriers, from people simply not being able to stand one day to all of a sudden they are unable to reach the cupboard above their heads, which is on a personal level, or going out into the community and trying to navigate a sidewalk, or entering a place of business that does not have a ramp, or has a lip that a wheelchair cannot get over or has a door that is not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Several barriers still exist even today.

When we do not have an issue with mobility, sometimes we do not even think about those barriers or something that may appear so small to us could be a really big deal for those who are not mobile.

This is a good first step. I look forward to it going to committee and seeing the testimony that comes out of that. We on this side of the House think there are areas that need to be fixed, as does the member from the Green Party. Hopefully that can be done in a robust way.

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Mr. Luc Berthold (Mégantic—L’Érable, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech. He provided us with a greater understanding of the challenges people face with regard to mobility.

We always rely on support staff on these types of files. On that subject, I want to acknowledge the research and writing that went into my speech on Bill C-81. That work was done by Hugo Berthiaume, who recently joined my team as an assistant. I wish him lots of luck and especially lots of work. Opposition members often rise in the House to talk about good causes and the people who are important to them, the people in their ridings.

In this case, we are speaking on behalf of persons with reduced mobility, who have to overcome many barriers in their lives.

Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, is a step in the right direction. Every member in the House supports measures to reduce barriers for all Canadians in every aspect of their lives.

Canadians with disabilities deserve to have a government that always keeps mobility in mind to ensure that those with reduced mobility can live in a barrier-free society.

Unfortunately, even if it is a step in the right direction, Bill C-81 will not improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities in the short term. To this day, our society does not always bring forward measures that will make life easier for Canadians with disabilities.

We believe that we need to take action to help them, and we want to work with the government to find real solutions. However, this bill is proof that the Liberal government is somewhat out of touch and that it does not always understand the challenges that people with disabilities must face. With this bill, the government is going to use taxpayers’ money to write reports or action plans.

I am going to talk a bit about my experience as mayor and, in particular, as the former president of an association that works to improve the quality of life of the disabled on a daily basis.

People with reduced mobility need us to deal with their infrastructure, both their homes and their workplaces. We must do everything we can to make it possible for them to get to work and contribute to Canadian society.

We need to help more Canadians with mobility issues enter the workforce. Our political party has always been committed to our country’s economic development, and we believe that absolutely everyone can contribute.

There is no greater boost than feeling a sense of accomplishment and achieving one’s full potential. Too many Canadians live and work in environments that, unfortunately, do not meet their needs. For example, they have poorly adapted apartments or houses, there are too few parking reserved spots at shop entrances, and public transit systems are inadequate.

It is our responsibility to do more and do better for those most vulnerable. We must work hard to ensure that every single Canadian has access to the same society, regardless of their physical abilities. On this side of the House, our goal is to help all Canadians.

The Liberal government wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives. I repeat, it wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives.

That seems like a lot of money to me. This money will be spent over a period of six years. Does that mean we will have to wait six years to see any changes? Will any other funding be announced in the meantime for putting these plans into action and achieving the objectives? Unfortunately, the bill before us has no answers to those questions, so it is hard for us to get a clear idea of what is actually going to come out of Bill C-81.

Canadians with disabilities cannot understand how a government can think it is totally normal to spend $290 million on plans and objectives. These people are living their lives right now, and now is when they want improved living conditions, accessible workplaces, and help to participate in this country’s economic development.

People with mobility issues do not need a government that will invest in bureaucracy. They need a government that will actually tackle problems by adapting infrastructure.

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I just want to point out that it was the Harper Conservative government that signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. The purpose of this convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. The previous government created the enabling accessibility fund, which had a real impact on Canadians’ everyday lives by funding infrastructure upgrades for thousands of Canadians. That is the way to help Canadian families and people with reduced mobility. This fund is still being used today to build projects in my riding and in many of my colleagues’ ridings. It does not take six years of study to figure out when a two-storey building needs a stair lift.

The Liberals are pros at running deficits and burdening future generations. The worst part is that the money is being spent on plans and committees instead of going directly to the people it is supposed to help. We have a lot of questions, as I said. We know the Liberal government wants to create a Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The bill seems pretty good at first blush. Will the government be working closely with people with reduced mobility? Why wait so long before taking action? How will that $290 million be spent? I sure hope the government will be consulting the people it is supposed to be helping and will invite them to play an active role in the organization.

As I was saying, there are far too many unknowns in this bill. Again, with this $290 million we can really make a difference in people’s lives. I can only imagine what local advocacy groups in each of our ridings can do with $290 million over six years to help persons with disabilities. These organizations work miracles with very little money. Through their actions and awareness raising they manage to get municipal and private buildings adapted. They achieve that with little to no resources. Therefore, $290 million is good. If it is needed, it is good, but if it is going to be used only to draft plans that will be shelved then we have cause to reconsider and to be concerned. We sincerely hope this is not the case.

We have many concerns. I would remind hon. members that it was not so long ago that we were standing here heavily criticizing the criteria for tax credits for persons with disabilities that penalized countless people with diabetes. Fortunately, the opposition’s repeated questions made the government take a step back and correct the situation. However, would the government really have changed its mind if advocates and the official opposition had not spoken out against this anomaly? I have my doubts.

For all of these reasons, we need more answers to our questions in order to ensure that taxpayers’ money will actually be used to benefit people with disabilities, whether in federal buildings or elsewhere. The Liberals do not have a very impressive track record when it comes to accessibility. Canadians expect better. The Liberals have been in office for three years, and they are just now beginning to take an interest in this issue, even though this was one of their election promises.

Let us come back to Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Mobility is one of society’s major challenges, and it is even more of a problem for people with disabilities. I would say that this is an ongoing battle in these people’s lives. Every day they have to deal with difficult situations that may seem trivial to others. People with reduced mobility do not have the same access everywhere. Think about the shelves at the supermarket and other stores, offices that are not adapted, and workplaces they cannot get to. There are far too many places and things that are inaccessible to them.

We must be ambitious. The proposed plan is questionable. It serves only to implement bureaucratic measures that will have no real impact on these people’s lives. We need to be more aware of this reality and always be in a position to act. There is still a lot of work to be done before we have proper facilities for all Canadians. We must give all Canadians the same opportunity to be empowered. In order to get there, we must be more inclusive and include as many organizations as possible. We must address the issue of accessibility in close co-operation with the provinces and municipalities across the country.

We can do better. We hope that we will get some answers in committee and that we will be able make amendments to the bill so that it really meets the needs of the people it is targeting, and so achieves in , thus creating a more barrier-free Canada.

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Mr. Colin Carrie (Oshawa, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Mégantic made a very passionate speech.

I look back and want to talk about our former colleague, Jim Flaherty. What a champion he was for Canadians with disabilities. I remember when we brought in the RDSP, registered disability savings plan, the current minister said it was a real game-changer.

One of the things Jim championed in my community in Durham region was the Abilities Centre. Mr. Speaker, if you ever get a chance to come to my community, I hope I can give you a tour and introduce you to this wonderful centre. It could have been called the “disabilities centre”, but they named it the Abilities Centre because it focuses on Canadians who have challenges to work with their abilities to make their lives and the lives of other Canadians better. It is a wonderful institution.

I will be supporting sending the bill to committee. However, my concern with the bill is to make sure that it is making a difference. The things we put in as a government really did make a difference.

I wonder if my colleague could comment on what he would like to see in the bill after it goes to committee. What kind of changes does he want to see? Does he think there was enough consultation done on how to spend this money?

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Mr. Luc Berthold:

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by acknowledging the excellent work of our former colleague, Jim Flaherty.

I am going to take my colleague up on his offer. I would like to visit the centre he just talked about because we do focus a lot on the disabilities rather than the abilities. Many members should tour this centre. We tend to take for granted that there is always someone else taking care of these problems and the people who really need help. We always believe that an association or that someone in some government agency is looking after it for us. However, that is not always the case.

Now the government is telling us that it is going to spend $290 million on this file, but what exactly is it going to do with that money? They are going to hire people who will prepare plans. What will happen next? What are they going to do with those plans? What guarantees does Bill C-81 provide that there will be real change?

If that is the cost of making changes in these peoples’ lives, it is a small price to pay. However, if nothing comes of it, it is money down the drain.

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Mr. David Tilson (Dufferin—Caledon, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I think most of us in the House have had some experience with someone with a disability. I have spoken many times about ALS, and every June I try to give a statement on ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. My father succumbed to ALS. He went through the stages of using one cane to two canes to a walker to a wheelchair to a bed to a point where he could not eat on his own. This was obviously very difficult for my family, but we learned a lot of things. For example, we learned that not all doors in businesses or people’s houses are wide enough to allow a wheelchair through. We learned the difficulties of just doing simple things, such as the assistance that people need when going to the bathroom. One of my colleagues talked about ramps. There are other simple things, such as how to get into an elevator with a wheelchair.

I do not really have a question for my colleague, but I would like to congratulate the government for bringing this bill forward. I could sit and talk about the many things the Conservative government did, but others can do that. I simply want to congratulate the government for making an effort to deal with people with disabilities.

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Mr. Luc Berthold:

Mr. Speaker, every step taken by the previous or the current government towards a barrier-free Canada and to help people with reduced mobility fully participate in life in Canada is worthwhile. We hope that this stage will be successful and we pledge to the government that our party will collaborate, to the extent that we feel all parties are truly collaborating in committee in order to improve this bill.

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The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota):

Is the House ready for the question?

Some hon. members: Question.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)



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Read What Was Said During the Second Day of Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – September 24, 2018


Parliament of Canada House of Commons Hansard September 24, 2018

Originally posted at:

http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-324/hansard#Int-10254384

[Government Orders]

[English]

Accessible Canada Act+-

The House resumed from September 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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Ms. Pam Damoff (Oakville North—Burlington, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

For decades, we have seen concerted efforts made to try to remove barriers to accessibility across Canada, but pervasive barriers still exist all around us. These barriers exist in our physical environment. They exist in the way information and communications technologies are developed, in how employment practices are established, in the way procurement policies are created by the government, in how government serves Canadians and in how our federal transportation networks are structured. These barriers stop millions of Canadians from participating in everyday activities that many people take for granted.

There was a time in Canadian history when the needs of people living with disabilities were not even part of the conversation. That is still too often the case, but thanks to the advocacy of leaders in disability and accessibility issues in Canada, we are more aware of the issues of those living with disabilities. We are increasingly aware of the challenges and injustices faced every day. Legislation alone will not be enough to address the issue; we need a change in the way we as Canadians think.

In Ontario, legislation will ensure that a sports complex has accessible parking spots, wide doors and washrooms. However, if people in wheelchairs are relegated to the second floor because no accessible seating is provided, or where accessible seating is provided, people stand up and block their view for the most exciting part of the game, the goals, that is hardly inclusive.

This is an issue I have been deeply committed to throughout my tenure as a member of Parliament and before I was elected. In the spring of 2017, I held a round table on employment for people living with disabilities in my riding of Oakville North—Burlington. The round table brought together organizations such as Community Living, experts on accessible employment and people with lived experience.

I continue to advocate for this issue in the community, in the House and with my colleagues in Parliament. We need to recognize the contribution people living with disabilities make to employers. It is not about doing what is right, although it is. It also makes economic sense. Just ask employers such as Mark Wafer, former MPP Pete Kevin Flynn, and Phillipa Durbin, who talk about the benefits to their businesses because they have hired those living with disabilities. Ask employees such as my staffers, Steven Muir and Karina Scali, or people like Robin, Andrew or James, who are outstanding employees who make significant contributions to their work.

Madam Speaker, you are aware that our government is a strong proponent of promoting inclusion and fairness to grow the middle class. Our government has committed to measures to make Canada a more equitable place, such as improving income security for seniors and helping families through improvements to the Canada child benefit.

Accessibility is a right in this country, not a privilege. That is why we are putting accessibility at the heart of our actions for greater social justice. That is why our government has brought forward Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act, to uphold that right in areas under federal jurisdiction. This involves Parliament and all that we do here. It involves the Government of Canada, crown corporations and the federally regulated private sector. It includes organizations in the federal transportation network, the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors and the banking and financial sectors.

Federally regulated sectors represent a large component of the Canadian economy. They employ about 900,000 people and are essential to economic, civil and social participation in society.

I believe that our government and our partners in the federally regulated sectors can be true leaders in accessibility. By changing the status quo in these areas, I am confident that a change in standards will follow in the private sector. However, our ambition is greater than that. Our ambition is that this legislation will lead to a more consistent experience of accessibility across Canada.

With this in mind, our government’s actions on accessibility are focused on priority areas that Canadians living with disabilities have told us have an impact on their daily lives. They include public buildings and spaces, service delivery, employment, transportation, information and communications technologies and procurement of goods and services.

The core of Bill C-81 is the development and implementation of new accessibility standards in these priority areas. Through Bill C-81, our government is proposing the creation of a new organization called the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. This innovative organization would govern and oversee the process of creating new accessibility standards in partnership with key stakeholders.

I am proud that this organization will be led by a majority of persons living with disabilities on the board of directors. This is key to ensuring that those with lived experience are part of the decision-making process. This has been an issue in the past and continues to be an issue in our country, when those developing policies do not include those living with a disability.

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This organization will be the first of its kind in Canada and one of the few in the world that is dedicated to developing only accessibility standards. The organization will work in partnership with persons living with disabilities, technical experts, industry leaders and representatives from organizations that are obligated to comply with the law and its regulations.

The standards created by the organization will then be considered by the government for application to the federal jurisdiction through regulation. Provinces and territories will also be invited to participate in the standards development process. By bringing together perspectives and knowledge about accessibility issues into one place, our government envisions that the Canadian accessibility standards organization will become a global centre of technical knowledge and expertise on accessibility.

We believe that this organization can serve as a national and international model for action on accessibility by putting the principle of “nothing about us without us” at the heart of its operation, letting people living with disabilities lead the way.

Over time, these standards will lead to measurable improvements to accessibility and have a real impact on the lives of Canadians living with disabilities and functional limitations.

In closing, I would like to reflect on the spirit of this legislation. Our government is committed to backing Bill C-81, with focused investment across the Government of Canada. This includes the development of the Canadians accessibility standards development organization.

As a government, we want to make accessibility a reality as we hire people, make our facilities easier to access and purchase goods from private sector suppliers. It is the sum of all these efforts, including new accessibility standards, that will allow people living with disabilities to be included in a way that many of us take for granted.

This legislation is the start of building not just an accessible Canada, but an inclusive Canada. We need to recognize that accessibility is a start, but it is not enough. We need to be leaders and effect real cultural change. This is how we will provide everyone in this country with the chance to realize their full potential. This is how we will make sure that everybody can contribute to the Canada of the future.

Our country will be stronger and all Canadians will benefit when we include everyone in the conversation, when we ensure that each and every Canadian can reach their full potential and when we build a truly inclusive country.

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Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP):

Madam Speaker, the member and I see eye to eye on many points she has raised.

One thing I want to bring to her attention is that some people are concerned that the bill is not perfect. I understand that happens sometimes. Bills come forward, and of course the committee work is there to make them even better and, perhaps, to identify things that might be missing.

I know that people have raised with me that they are very concerned that the bill lacks timelines. There is some concern that we could be going on for quite a long time before we actually see some of the changes on the ground.

I am not sure if the member is on the committee, but does she understand the need to be open to additions or amendments to the bill in committee?

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Ms. Pam Damoff:

Madam Speaker, at this point I am not on the committee, although I did sit on the committee when it reviewed Bill C-65.

My experience on committee has been that there is really good work that happens there. Bill C-65 would be a prime example, where really important amendments were brought forward.

In my opinion, it is critical that this bill be implemented. I know the minister has made a commitment to see that this is legislation that will impact people’s lives and not years from now, but in the near term.

I look forward to the deliberations that happen at committee and to hearing from witnesses. If there are improvements to be made, the committee will benefit from the expertise that will be provided at the committee meetings.

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Ms. Sheri Benson:

Madam Speaker, I wanted to mention that one of the areas that has been brought to my attention as missing in the bill is the American sign language and Quebec sign language. The bill does not speak to including them in the Official Languages Act.

Across Canada, on the weekend, there were community demonstrations in over nine legislative buildings, asking that this be an important addition or amendment to the bill.

Would my hon. colleague like to comment on that omission in the bill?

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Ms. Pam Damoff:

Madam Speaker, I should have said this last time, but I want to thank the hon. member for her advocacy, as well as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who has been a vocal advocate on that side of the House for people living with disabilities.

I have spoken up at events where sign language interpretation is provided but the interpreter is standing in the dark. There is not much use having interpreters standing in the dark who cannot be seen by the people who need to see them. I am not familiar with the reasons why that was not included in the bill. I am sure it is something that will come up at committee hearings. Those individuals who wish to be heard will certainly be given the opportunity to speak at committee.

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer—Mountain View, CPC):

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments that were made by the member opposite.

However, going through the summary of the bill, I know that there is a lot of talk about how there are going to be some changes and help as far as how individuals are concerned. The reality is all we are looking at is a bunch of bureaucracy. We are looking at an accessible Canada act and we are dealing with a Canadian accessibility standards development organization. We are looking at a commissioner associated with that, the chief accessibility officer. It seems as though what we are building, instead of continuing to talk to people who have done so much work in the past, is just another set of bureaucratic stumbling blocks that we will have to deal with.

It has been two and a half years or three years since this was first introduced. I am wondering how people can have assurances that there is actually going to be some action taken from all this bureaucratic information that we have in front of us.

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Ms. Pam Damoff:

Madam Speaker, I know from speaking to advocates in my community and beyond that this is legislation that they have been calling for. I applaud the minister for her due diligence in meeting with organizations all across the country, as well as meeting with individuals who have done work on best practices in other countries. The minister sat down with Inclusion International to see what best practices would be. I have heard incredibly positive comments about the legislation.

We need a starting point and this is it. It is a really good one and I am very proud of the work of the minister and our government in bringing this forward. I think it is going to make a huge change for people in our country living with disabilities.

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Mr. Arif Virani (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. With this bill, our government is fulfilling our commitment to guarantee the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons with disabilities, in society.

The consultation previous to the tabling of this legislation was vast, an important part of our government’s commitment to hear from Canadians on issues that affect them. More than 6,000 Canadians participated in various ways. We held 18 public engagement sessions, nine round tables, a national youth forum and an online questionnaire. The principle, “Nothing about us without us”, was embraced for these accessible Canada consultations, which asked all Canadians to think about what accessibility means to them and what it could mean to their communities.

The consultations were the most inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities in Canada’s history. These consultations informed the legislation that is before us today, the accessible Canada act, which would work to remove barriers for persons with disabilities in numerous ways. Among other things, it would create the role of a chief accessibility officer; it would reinstate the disability advisory committee, which had been dismantled by the previous government; and it would enhance the opportunities fund by adding $40 million per year, which would fund employers to hire persons with disabilities and provide the framework to create more accessible environments. In total, our government would pledge $290 million over the next six years to implement this important legislation.

I want to take a step back from the current legislation and focus locally on my riding of Parkdale—High Park. This summer, I hosted a town hall in my riding to hear from my constituents regarding the accessible Canada act. I was joined by eight panellists with various backgrounds and expertise, including David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and law professor at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall; Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission; and Jeff Adams, a Paralympian gold medallist and six-time champion in wheelchair sports. The town hall was to explain this new legislation and take questions on it from my constituents. It was an educational experience not only for the individuals in attendance at the town hall but also for me.

We set out to organize this town hall with the goal of ensuring that it was completely accessible for all persons with disabilities. My staff and I attempted to take into account the numerous and varied barriers that might affect the ability for a person with a disability to participate meaningfully in the meeting. However, many were brought to our attention that we did not anticipate. For instance, we sent out an email to constituents informing them of the upcoming town hall, with a poster enclosed as a PDF attachment, something I think many members in this House might have done. We quickly learned that the document we created was not accessible for those with a visual impairment. The poster needed to be in a format where a screen reader could interpret the text, such as text contained within the body of an email, not as an attachment poster, so that screen-reading technology could communicate that material to those who are visually impaired.

We also made sure to bring a sign language interpreter at the town hall so that those with a hearing impairment could understand and participate in the discussion. We found that some people are hearing impaired, but do not understand or know sign language. Therefore, to ensure that my town hall was as inclusive as possible, we had on-site live captioning for those who are hearing impaired, but do not understand sign language.

Finally, we resolved to host the town hall in a fully accessible building that was also large enough to accommodate all of the guests who wished to attend. This meant that there were fewer buildings to choose from in my riding, but in the end, we hosted the event at the Swansea Town Hall, a level and spacious venue that was fully accessible. Thanks to Swansea Town Hall for hosting this.

However, the experience of organizing the town hall cemented my view about how important it is to have this piece of legislation move actively forward. As a government, as a Parliament, we must ensure that we establish a framework for a truly inclusive Canada and that as many barriers to access are removed for individuals with disabilities as possible. I was fortunate to receive important feedback that evening from my constituents, from persons with disabilities and from relevant experts. They will contribute to this bill and make it even stronger.

This is the start of a very important conversation about accessibility in Canada, one which I would state is long overdue, but I am happy to report that this conversation is already bearing fruit. Not less than four weeks after holding my town hall, I was honoured to host the Prime Minister in my riding for the Bloor Street West Ukrainian festival and the Roncesvalles Polish Festival, both the largest of their kind in North America. Over 500,000 people visit these two festivals over the course of the weekend. At the opening ceremonies of both festivals, I brought a sign language interpreter up onto the stage to provide live simultaneous sign language interpretation for my remarks and the Prime Minister’s remarks. He was a bit more excited about translating the Prime Minister’s remarks, truth be told. This was a first for both festivals.

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I would now like to talk specifically about the legislation itself. First, it represents the single biggest development in federal access health legislation in 30 years, since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms itself came into force. This new legislation is the cornerstone of our government’s plan for the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. Second, Bill C-81 would provide accessibility standards for entities to achieve and maintain an ongoing monitoring system to ensure that Canadians see results, and to hold organizations accountable.

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[Translation]

Third, approximately $53 million over six years will be invested in support of a new strategy for an accessible Government of Canada that will be developed and released to the public within one year of the passage of the legislation. This strategy will serve as a roadmap that enables our government to meet and exceed its new accessibility obligations under the legislation.

The Treasury Board Secretariat, in collaboration with people with disabilities and their organizations, will ensure a coordinated and cohesive approach to the design and implementation of the strategy across government.

This will be accomplished through the establishment of an accessibility hub that will provide leadership, coordination and oversight in making the Government of Canada accessible to its clients and employees.

[English]

Fourth, Bill C-81 would expand the existing opportunities fund for persons with disabilities to better support activities in two areas. The first area would improve matching services that connect employers and persons with disabilities. While the opportunities fund helps persons with disabilities develop the skills and knowledge they require to meet the needs of today’s economy, more could be done to connect these individuals with employers with available jobs.

The second area would enhance businesses’ efforts to develop effective recruitment and retention strategies. The opportunities fund would work with these employers by supporting their efforts to create inclusive workspaces and to develop and implement in-house strategies to effectively recruit, accommodate and retain persons with disabilities. The fund would have both a national stream and a regional stream, totalling nearly $40 million per year in funding. This would better support employers that have a demonstrated commitment to hiring persons with disabilities but who need support to find the right match and to create workplaces that allow employees with disabilities to reach their full potential.

Fifth, as I alluded to earlier, we are also reinstating the disability advisory committee, which is vital to ensuring that the Canada Revenue Agency connects with a wide range of stakeholders and takes their views into account as we administer tax measures for people with disabilities. The committee’s mandate is to provide advice to the Minister of National Revenue  and the commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency on the administration and interpretation of the laws and programs related to disability tax measures administered by the CRA. The legislation would guarantee that the needs and expectations of the disability community are taken into consideration.

The committee would also advise the CRA on how it could better inform persons with disabilities and various stakeholders about tax measures and important administrative changes. Moreover, it would be tasked with reviewing the CRA’s administrative practices and making recommendations on how we could enhance the quality of our services for persons with disabilities.

Those six components make for a comprehensive suite of items that would work collectively toward the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. Most importantly, our entire approach to the development of this legislation has been informed by one fundamental principle: nothing about us without us. The practice of paternalistic thinking, that the government knows what is best and what is appropriate for persons with disabilities, is gone. In its place is a new, modern 2018 approach to legislating, where the government listens and actively solicits the input, feedback, advice and ideas of persons with disabilities about how best to address their needs. This legislation is the first step in that process, and it is one that is long overdue. I urge everyone to take a non-partisan approach to this important legislation and to support it.

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Mr. John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil, CPC):

Madam Speaker, in my riding of Barrie—Innisfil, I have been dealing with Gloria Noseworthy, who has an organization called the Crossroads Community Centre, which helps adults with autism transition from their younger years into adulthood. We were very fortunate this weekend to have the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin come to speak at an autism symposium that Ms. Noseworthy had put on.

One of the concerns that was raised among parents of adult children with autism is their ability to access employment. Many of them currently have skill sets that can be applied. For example, it is well known that the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin’s son Jaden works in a library. He does a great job.

How would this legislation help address the concerns of people like Gloria and other parents who have children with autism who are transitioning into adulthood?

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Mr. Arif Virani:

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member opposite’s genuine concern for this important issue. Empowering and unleashing the potential of people who are living with autism as they transition to adulthood is critical, and that is exactly what informs this entire piece of legislation.

I would redirect the conversation to what I outlined in my speech about the opportunities fund, which is about ensuring that young people, including people with disabilities, have skills. It is also about matching them with employers who are ready, willing and able to employ such persons but literally do not know how to go about doing so because they do not have the resources at hand. Providing that match is fundamental. For parliamentarians on both side of the floor, it is incumbent upon us to facilitate that kind of matchmaking and unleash this potential, not just for autistic young adults but for all young adults with disabilities.

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Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP):

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that legislation to address accessibility for people with disabilities in Canada is overdue, so I am glad to see this bill before us. However, it is missing some significant components, including a timeline to achieve full accessibility. I would just quote David Lepofsky, Canadian lawyer and disability advocate. He said:

It’s a good starting point and certainly the most substantial piece of legislation introduced by any government in Canada. But it’s going to need substantial additions and improvements to be effective, including a deadline to reach full accessibility.

Would the government be open to accepting amendments to this bill at committee stage so that we can truly work toward full accessibility with a timeline to meet the needs of Canadians in a non-partisan way?

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Mr. Arif Virani:

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member opposite’s important work on behalf of her party and on the immigration file that we worked on jointly previously.

It is important not only to have a strategy and objectives, but also a sense of when those objectives and strategy should be fulfilled. I heard from Mr. Lepofsky, as I mentioned, at my own town hall, I know him from legal circles prior to being elected to the House. He made the exact same important point to me. It is informed by his understanding of the Ontario act, which does have a timeline. That is an important facet to keep in mind.

As for the member’s question with respect to the committee process, as always we are hoping for a very vigorous and comprehensive study at the committee stage, and robust amendments that would fulfill the important areas of this legislation and flesh out areas that may not have been contemplated earlier can be proposed.

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Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I was so glad to hear that my hon. colleague held a town hall about accessibility issues, something that I have wanted to do.

What are some of the best practices he learned from that town hall that could inform other MPs who think they would like to do this in their constituencies?

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Mr. Arif Virani:

Madam Speaker, the best thing I could say is not to be afraid of doing something. It is more complex, as it is a bit of uncharted territory, but members should not be afraid to listen to those who are giving them feedback. Do not be afraid to think outside of box in how they embrace people and their ability to understand what they are doing. A case in point is that we dealt with some hiccups. We dealt with some concerns about closed captioning and sign language and how we can ensure it would all work conjointly. It was not particularly easy, but it is so worthwhile ensuring that everyone understands the message this legislation is sending, which is that this place, this government and this nation belong to all of us.

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer—Mountain View, CPC):

Madam Speaker, today’s discussion is on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. When I first heard that the government might have an interest in helping the disabled, I immediately thought it would be formalizing some of the great work done by advocacy groups for the disabled, perhaps looking at special initiatives to enhance the disability tax credit program or considering ways to help caregivers cope with their everyday stresses. Truly it was disappointing to hear that its initiative was instead centred around the creation of a government bureaucracy. When the creation of a regulatory body to facilitate consultations is the main focus of the proposed legislation, it makes one wonder what has been happening on this file since the initial mandate letter was presented back in 2015.

It took two cabinet shuffles with two mandate letters to finally get this project to the House, and the notable outcomes are to continue consultations and to start considering actions for regulations. With this comes a price tag of $290 million. Therefore, after two and a half years of consultations, we have come up with a plan to formalize more consultations. Do members see a pattern here?

With the current government, talk is what it is does best. Positive, thoughtful action is a mysterious notion to it, and one that is only calculated once political expediency has been factored in. What could the Liberals have done to recognize and make meaningful the lives of those Canadians who face physical, psychological and emotional barriers?

I would like to start my remarks by addressing something that is very dear to me, the carnage here in the national capital region last Friday night when the horrific tornado destroyed people’s homes, damaged public infrastructure and seriously hurt so many people. I witnessed the carnage of the black Friday tornado in Edmonton in 1987. Homes were destroyed, areas were levelled and, sadly, many lives were lost. Thirteen years later, I witnessed this again firsthand.

As a farmer, it is just natural to look at the sky, and I remember doing so on a hot and muggy Friday afternoon in 2000 as I was delivering grain to our local elevator. Someone was going to get hit. It was obvious that a storm was brewing, and it was so hot that afternoon we decided to go to our trailer at Pine Lake, where it was just a little cooler, to make supper.

Being on the lake below the hill, we never saw what was coming, but a guy on a catamaran racing to the shore to take cover under a neighbour’s deck was our first clue. Then it started hailing, and then hailing into the wind. Trees were twisting and snapping onto our trailer and boat, and we were just a few feet away. The water rose two feet and then rose two feet again as we watched this giant green wall of water in front of us. Then, as quickly as it had come, it abated. It looked at though the ground was covered with lawn chairs. However, it was trailer walls and debris instead.

A boat that had been stored on a trailer half a mile away was stuck in the mud in front of us. There was carnage everywhere. Once we freed our boat from the tree that had landed on it, we tried to get to our neighbouring campground of Green Acres. Our friends owned the campground. My brother had his trailer there, and many of our friends considered it their summer home. Local fire and rescue crews were quickly on the scene and I, along with many others, made it to the site to do what we could. The 12 deaths and the utter destruction of the campground made national news. The path of the tornado also caused extreme hardship for our neighbours, as their homes, farms, and fields were also caught up in this devastation. This was part of the story that never made the news. The other part of the story that sadly gets so quickly forgotten is those who were injured during the disaster.

Whether it is injuries from a natural disaster, accidents at home or on the road, or disabilities from disease, members of our society need to know that we stand with them. That is what I want to quickly address today.

Besides the physical damage that many people must endure, there is also the reality of serious psychological damage that needs to be addressed. In the aftermath of the Pine Lake tornado, our community came together to deal with both. Leaders arose from this disaster. Champions of the disabled community became well-known spokespeople and got the attention of everyone. One such champion was Marlin Styner. Marlin was a quadriplegic. He helped bring all of us to a heightened state of awareness of the barriers that existed in our city of Red Deer.

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Marlin later sat on the premier’s provincial task force for the disabled. He, along with another advocate for the disabled, Dr. Gary McPherson, showed us how to create a city and community that understood what true barriers for the disabled were. Red Deer soon became, and continues to be, a community where not only physical barriers but other barriers as well are always top of mind, and we have solutions.

Our nation has had many other champions as well. Terry Fox taught us what can be done when we look beyond those things that others think would limit us. Another personal hero of mine is Rick Hansen. His Man in Motion tour took him through my hometown of Innisfail. My mother, who was wheelchair bound in her last few months of dealing with bone cancer, presented Rick with a cheque on behalf of the Pythian Sisters organization which she so proudly served.

Rick Hansen did more than just raise money for spinal cord research. He also showed us what a true advocate for the disabled he was when one of our local cowboy heroes, Duane Daines, was injured in a rodeo accident in B.C. Rick visited Duane shortly after his accident and assured Duane that he still possessed all the qualities that made him a champion saddle bronc rider, and that these qualities would make him successful in whatever he did in the future. He was right.

Local farmers and ranchers Bob Blair and Oliver Marshall are two other friends who have always impressed me with their determination and drive. This makes those of us in our community realize that all barriers can be overcome.

Sadly, Marlin Styner and Dr. Gary McPherson, who I mentioned earlier, are no longer with us.

Another champion, Trevor Paré, a young man I had the pleasure of teaching in Innisfail many years ago, recently passed away. Even though Trevor was afflicted with Pompe disease, he showed our nation, our community and especially his beloved Red Deer Rebels just how one should strive to live every day to the fullest.

The reason I have spoken of these champions is that they know, and knew, how to overcome barriers. This can and should be a lesson to all levels of government. Our community of Red Deer always considers the issues of the disabled. Our province championed their concerns and one would hope that our federal government would as well.

Too often forgotten are the other champions of the disabled: the caregivers. Whether it is the parent of a disabled child, the spouse of an Alzheimer’s sufferer, the family of a terminally ill loved one or the professional caregivers who work to make their patients’ lives better, they deal with barriers as well.

When this government looks at ensuring a barrier-free Canada, it is not just the management of a bureaucracy that needs to be considered. It is not about hiring thousands of people to ensure that government workers make sure government departments heed their directives. It is not about setting up an enforcement regime to ensure that all are following a government mandate. It should not be about just giving lip service to the real needs of the disabled. Rather than pushing for years and years of consultation, we should be looking at the many success stories that are part of Canada’s efforts of inclusion. We are a nation of champions and we know how to accommodate those who need help. We are a nation that respects all of its citizens. We always have and we always will.

How can we reduce barriers and help integrate those with disabilities? How can we do this quickly so that logical solutions are implemented as soon as possible? It takes vision and commitment.

I submit that this was one of the hallmark aspects of our previous Conservative government. I remember very well the campaign in 2008, during which under Stephen Harper we advocated for a registered disability savings plan. That election was in October. By December, the registered disability savings plan was introduced and available for Canadians. That monumental change, which helped both the disabled and their caregivers, took place in under three months.

The Liberal government’s plan is one of talk and more talk, bureaucracy and government red tape, and delay when one should be championing results. The legislation is what it is. The next stage is committee review. I believe it is necessary to get this bill to committee so that we and the public can give it its due consideration.

I hope that during this discussion the real needs of our disabled community can be highlighted, that the real champions of our disabled community can be given a voice and that the caregivers who put their lives on hold to devote to their loved ones will be recognized.

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[Translation]

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Mr. Greg Fergus (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech made by my colleague across the way.

After reviewing the bill, does my hon. colleague agree with its underlying principle, namely that policies need to be developed by the community, for the community?

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, the point I was trying to make was that there are a lot of solutions that are already there. It is one thing for the government to say that it is going to try to bring them together, but nowhere in here do I see where it talks about real initiatives and engagement with those groups that are involved. No doubt the government has talked to them about it and there have been discussions. However, when we go through the summary and the various parts of the bill, all we see is how it is going to set up bureaucracy. Nowhere does it talk about, other than in the very short preamble, how the government would attempt to realize some of the goals that it has mentioned. I think this is the critical component. It is a big bill and there is a lot in there, but once we read the bill, we realize that it is all bureaucracy and red tape.

[Translation]

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Ms. Linda Lapointe (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from Red Deer—Mountain View.

He talked about the tornado that hit his riding 13 years ago. I myself lived through a microburst five years ago. It was utterly terrifying. My thoughts are with the people in both Hull and Ottawa who went through that experience last week. Of course, people with disabilities have an even tougher time, especially in severe storms like this one. Earlier, the member mentioned the barriers faced by people with disabilities.

How is this bill going to help people with disabilities? Most importantly, are you going to support Bill C-81?

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The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):

The hon. member was doing just fine, but she went off course when she addressed her question directly to the member. I would ask the member to address the Chair, not individuals.

[English]

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, I am sure that having studied this yourself as well you would see the merits that would be associated with the bill.

The point I was trying to make about the carnage that had taken place was not with respect to what happened that day; it was about the lives that had been affected, and the fact that there were champions of the community who were able to become part of it and make sure that we had some real solutions. With those real solutions came approaches that the Province of Alberta was able to use. That is what I was dealing with when I was speaking of it. It is not a case of there is something that just happened and there were a number of people who were killed and many who were injured, and now they happen to have barriers. The point was that it brought the community together, and we looked for the excellence that was there and expanded upon it.

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Mr. Larry Maguire (Brandon—Souris, CPC):

Madam Speaker, my colleague made some very good points. There are many disabled persons in Canada, and the bill is attentive with respect to that area. However, if I was looking at this from their perspective, I would ask what is in it for me.

I would ask my colleague from Red Deer to elaborate a little more on what he was just referring to. There does not seem to be much more than a complaints process in this bill. I am wondering if he concurs with that or if there is something I have missed in it.

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, the important thing that I was attempting to get at was there are some solutions, but having read the bill and simply looking at the summary, all that we see is how the government can develop another department, how it can bring it together, and how it will have the ability to go after another department and put penalties on it. That is really what is here. I do not think that is what people in the disabled community felt was going to happen. The title, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, has nothing to do with the major part of the discussion in the nine or 10 parts of this bill.

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[Translation]

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Ms. Karine Trudel (Jonquière, NDP):

Madam Speaker, we are talking about Bill C-81, but this reminds me of an event that took place this summer in my riding, Jonquière. The Martin-Valin ZEC, a controlled harvesting zone, inaugurated a new lakeside wharf for use by people with reduced mobility who want to go fishing.

I had a chance to talk to some of them during the grand opening. Some had never seen the lake up close before, and others were holding a fishing rod for the first time. Wonderful projects like that are so great.

I would like to congratulate the Martin-Valin ZEC on this wonderful project, which enables people with reduced mobility to enjoy nature and fishing.

I would like my colleague to comment on Bill C-81. Does he think that all government laws and policies should be examined from the perspective of people with disabilities?

[English]

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, certainly I believe it is important we look at inclusiveness for everyone to be able to help them. Again, the point I was attempting to make is that we see that in our community. One would simply anticipate the government would be that enlightened, but as we know, it is a big machine and it is hard to get moved around. It is important we address those kinds of concerns. When I consider the legislation being put before us, there are concerns about everything associated with it. For example, how does one build one department so it can look after another department? It is one of the reasons that when the bill gets to committee, I hope the Liberals are not going to try to push it through without actually talking to people who are really affected by this.

[Translation]

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Mr. Ramez Ayoub (Thérèse-De Blainville, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to ask my colleague a question on this important bill.

This is a historic bill. My colleague mentioned that the Rick Hansen Foundation has also described this as a historic bill.

My question is very simple, and my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles has already asked it, too. Will you be supporting the bill?

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The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):

The member for Thérèse-De Blainville made the same mistake as his colleague. I hope the member will be sure to address his question to the Chair next time.

[English]

The hon. member for Red Deer—Mountain View.

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, I read in some of the commentary how this was a historic piece of legislation. It is important. It is important there be discussions, and I believe once it gets to committee there can be discussions there. It took a long time to get to this stage. The mandate was presented in 2015 and here it is 2018. If that is what the member means by a lot of history and being historic, I suppose that would speak to that. However, the reality is that things can get done quickly if one desires it and really makes it an important focus of the government.

[Translation]

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Mr. Luc Berthold (Mégantic—L’Érable, CPC):

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

In my previous jobs, I have worked extensively with people with disabilities and people with various difficulties.

I discussed this bill with them over the weekend. Their first comment had to do with the $290-million envelope allocated to preparing a plan, which will ultimately lead to something. Since they are familiar with the costs and needs involved, they are wondering why that money is not being used right away.

I would like to hear the member’s thoughts on that.

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Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, the member certainly knows very well the issues and concerns of disasters that can take place in his hometown. This is something that affects communities. I believe people understand there has to be direct action. What we see in front of us is a call for money, and there would tax dollars associated with this in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Going through each of the various parts of the legislation step by step, we see this in things like how we can develop another watchdog to look after another group or how we are going to deal with transportation because it is under federal purview, and how are we going to deal with each of these different groups. There is a lot more that can be done, and hopefully that will be the focus of the discussion at committee.

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Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I am thankful to have this opportunity to speak about the measures our government is taking to make Canada a more inclusive and accessible society for all Canadians.

The word “inclusion” tends to be overused, but, for us, it has a specific meaning. It means making efforts to support people who face obstacles when they try to participate fully in society. Of course, this primarily affects people with disabilities.

I am very proud to see Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, being tabled in this House. It responds to real needs for many Canadians. The numbers are troubling. Only 49% of Canadians with disabilities, aged 25 to 64, have a job, and that is compared with 79% of Canadians without a disability. They earn 44% less than Canadians without a disability, and are more susceptible to poverty.

We can all agree, I am sure, that this is unacceptable, and that is why we are acting so resolutely. As we are preparing our plan to create accessibility legislation, we knew we would need to listen to Canadians who really have this topic at heart. We held the largest consultation on this topic in the history of Canada. We met with more than 6,000 people and over 90 organizations.

By listening to Canadians throughout this consultation, we learned about the real issues surrounding accessibility in our country. These consultations guided the preparation of the bill that is before the House today.

I would like to start by noting that if it is passed, the bill will apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. This includes Parliament, the Government of Canada and Crown corporations, as well as the federally regulated private sector. This last group includes organizations in the transportation sector, the broadcasting and telecommunications sector, and the banking and financial sector.

One of the priority areas of the bill is the development and implementation of new accessibility standards. Bill C-81 proposes to create the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. This innovative organization, the first of its kind in Canada, would have a mandate to develop model accessibility standards that would guide the requirements that organizations under federal jurisdiction must respect to identify and eliminate obstacles, and to prevent the creation of any new obstacles.

The Canadian accessibility standards development organization would give people with disabilities a voice in the development of accessibility standards that affect them directly. As a result, the board of directors would be made up of a majority of people with disabilities.

We are fully aware that accessibility will not happen overnight when this bill is passed. Passing bills is not enough to change mentalities and implement solutions. That is why we are determined to collaborate with all Government of Canada organizations to produce results that will make the implementation of accessibility practical and possible for everyone.

Our approach is simple: we want to lead the way