London West MP Kate Young announces she won’t run in next federal election – London


London West Liberal MP Kate Young announced Thursday that she’s decided not to run for a third term.

“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to step back from political life,” she said in a statement.

Read more:
Incumbents Mo Salih, Jesse Helmer won’t run in London’s 2022 election

Young was first elected in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019. During that time, she’s also served as parliamentary secretary to ministerial portfolios including transport, science, people with disabilities, and economic development.

“This is not an easy decision because I am honoured to represent the people of London West. However, I believe the time has come to let someone else serve this riding,” she said.

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She says she will continue to represent the riding until the next election.

“While the timing of the next election is unknown, I think it is important that I give the London West Riding Association the time needed to nominate a candidate who will successfully represent the Liberals in this riding. I know there are many strong community members who would serve London well.”

A release states that Young’s accomplishments include increased funding for affordable housing in London West and improvements to environmental infrastructure in the riding. She’s also “proud to have been part of bringing in the Canada Accessibility Act in 2019.”

Young says she plans to continue advocating “for increased funding for childhood cancer research during her remaining time in office.”


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Trudeau, Liberals rising in popularity thanks in part to handling of COVID-19 pandemic: Ipsos poll


Trudeau, Liberals rising in popularity thanks in part to handling of COVID-19 pandemic: Ipsos poll – Mar 8, 2021




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New affordable housing announced for downtown Kelowna – Okanagan



A new affordable housing complex has been announced for downtown Kelowna.

The 68-unit building is expected to provide homes for low- to moderate-income individuals and families at below-market rates, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The six-storey wood-frame building with above-ground parking will be located at 555 Fuller Ave. near Bertram Street.

Read more:
Kelowna named 6th most expensive rent market in Canada

Eight units are expected to be fully accessible for people with disabilities, and Pathways Abilities Society will manage the entire site.

The building will be called Hadgraft Wilson Place, in recognition of two families who were strong advocates for persons with disabilities, according to a news release.

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“Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen said.

“Investments like this one right here in downtown Kelowna demonstrates our government’s commitment to providing access to safe, affordable homes for singles, seniors, families and persons with disabilities, while helping create good middle-class jobs and stimulate the economy.”

Read more:
Kelowna residents can’t afford to purchase real estate, report says

The land is owned by the City of Kelowna, which is providing it for use on a long-term lease.

“This development will not only increase the amount of affordable housing in the city, but also supports the city’s official community plan and the desire for a more dense, walkable downtown core,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said.

The federal government is providing at least $2.48 million towards the project, while the province is contributing at least $7.7 million.

Read more:
Suburbs fuel rise in housing completions, construction, CMHC says

Another $2.45 million will also be provided through an affordable housing fund that involves joint funding between the provincial and federal governments.

The new building is expected to open in the fall of 2022.




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Why Do Provinces Often Confiscate Federal Benefits From People Who Clearly Need Them?


By Laurie MonsebraatenSocial Justice Reporter
Toronto Star, May 22, 2020

Amanda Demerse lost her part-time job as a rink attendant with the City of North Bay in March when the municipality closed recreation facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happened next, amid a global health emergency, is an example of what goes on every day for vulnerable people living on the fault lines of creaking federal and provincial income support systems, social policy experts say.

Since Demerse is on provincial social assistance, she is required to apply for Employment Insurance (EI), a federal benefit that Ontario and most other provinces claw back dollar for dollar.

But millions of other Canadians thrown out of work when the country went into lockdown applied for EI, too, quickly crashing the cumbersome system and prompting Ottawa to introduce a temporary emergency benefit to keep people financially afloat while ordered to stay at home to prevent spreading the virus.

Ottawa said those, such as Demerse, who applied for EI and lost their jobs on March 15 or later, would be transferred automatically to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The emergency federal benefit pays $2,000 a month for four months to those out of work or making less than $1,000 due to the pandemic and who have earned at least $5,000 in the past year.

To date, some 7.8 million Canadian workers have applied for the CERB, including as many as 75,000 Ontarians on social assistance who lost part-time jobs.

In April, Carla Qualtrough, Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, urged provinces to exempt the emergency federal benefit from social assistance clawbacks “to ensure vulnerable Canadians do not fall behind.”

B.C., Yukon and the Northwest Territories obliged.

Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec agreed to partial clawbacks.

The rest of the provinces ignored Qualtrough; they claw back the entire amount.

Under a temporary measure introduced by Doug Ford’s Ontario government last month, laid-off workers on social assistance are able to keep $1,100 of the CERB on top of their provincial welfare benefits.

But due to an EI reporting anomaly the last shift Demerse worked was March 8. Ottawa never transferred her application to the CERB.

And because Demerse is on social assistance and receiving EI, she is allowed to keep nothing.

Demerse, 31, who has an intellectual disability and is unable to work full-time, relies on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits to supplement her part-time wages.

Without those wages, she is struggling to make ends meet, said her father Johnny, who is his daughter’s financial guardian.

“She lost her job because of COVID,” he said in an interview. “She should be on CERB like everybody else. It’s craziness that they put her on EI where she can’t keep any of it.”

The North Bay woman’s circumstances form just one example of the many cracks in federal and provincial emergency support systems for vulnerable Canadians laid bare by the coronavirus crisis, experts say.

As governments turn their focus to reopening the economy, it will be important to deal with the “tectonic plates” of federal and provincial income support that too often collide with one another and cause “earthquakes” for vulnerable people, they say.

A spokesperson for Qualtrough, said Ottawa has expanded eligibility for the CERB to include workers who have exhausted their EI benefits since Dec. 29, 2019.

But, in an email exchange with the Star, Marielle Hossack was silent on whether laid-off workers such as Demerse would be allowed to transfer to CERB before their EI benefits run out.

Toronto social policy expert John Stapleton says Ottawa’s silence on cases such as that of Demerse is disappointing, but not surprising.

“The easiest thing would be for Minister Qualtrough to deem EI as CERB for anyone who has lost their job to the pandemic,” said Stapleton, a former provincial social services bureaucrat.

“Now that CERB is in place and is a replacement for EI, why would Ottawa not offer the same break to people receiving EI who were unlucky enough to have their jobs end earlier but who need to self-isolate in the same way?”

This begs the question why provinces, which treat social assistance as a program of last resort, continue to claw back federal supports from people who are clearly in need, Stapleton said.

Maximum monthly benefits for Demerse and others receiving ODSP are $1,169, and just $733 for people without disabilities, amounts that fall as much as 60 per cent below the poverty line.

“Why do we continue having a destitution-model social assistance system?” Stapleton asked.

“Why is it that as soon as you start to dig yourself out, the government takes everything away from you?

“It’s high time this was changed,” he said.

Demerse is among 884 people on social assistance who reported EI benefits in April, according to provincial officials. Treating these workers the same as those receiving CERB on a temporary basis ? would not be costly for the province, Stapleton said.

“But EI is only one of the tectonic plates of federal and provincial income support,” Stapleton said.

“If we exempt EI, why not CPP-Disability, veterans’ benefits, workers’ compensation and other income-replacement programs? Why would you not offer this same break to people receiving those benefits?” he asked.

The reason is likely cost and equity.

Taken together, as many as 52,000 people on social assistance receive federal and provincial benefits that are subject to complete clawbacks, Stapleton estimated.

Those clawbacks poured about $34 million into provincial coffers in April, said Palmer Lockridge, a spokesperson for Ontario’s ministry of children, community and social services.

Ontario isn’t ready to give any of that money back to people such as Demerse by treating EI the same as CERB during the pandemic.

Lockridge suggested it was up to Ottawa to transfer the North Bay woman’s EI onto the CERB.

“Given the intent of the (CERB), we encourage the federal government to show flexibility so the people who need it can access it,” he said in an email.

Reducing social assistance clawbacks for all federal and provincial income replacement programs was a key recommendation of a 2017 expert panel report on income security reform. The report also recommended boosting social assistance by up to 22 per cent within three years, with a goal of allowing people to reach the poverty line by 2027 through a combination of federal and provincial income supports.

But that report, commissioned by the previous Liberal government, was scrapped when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives were elected in 2018.

Original at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/05/22/why-do-provinces-often-confiscate-federal-benefits-from-people-who-clearly-need-them.html




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Still More Media Reports Reveal Disproportionate Harm to Ontarians with Disabilities Due to the Ontario Government’s Failure to Effectively Plan for Urgent Disability Needs in its COVID-19 Emergency Efforts – and – Federal Government Announces Disability COVID-19 Advisory Panel, So We Offer Our Advice


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Still More Media Reports Reveal Disproportionate Harm to Ontarians with Disabilities Due to the Ontario Government’s Failure to Effectively Plan for Urgent Disability Needs in its COVID-19 Emergency Efforts – and – Federal Government Announces Disability COVID-19 Advisory Panel, So We Offer Our Advice

April 23, 2020

          SUMMARY

Here are yet more helpful media reports that illustrate how people with disabilities are disproportionately suffering the consequences of the Ontario Government’s failure to effectively include the urgent needs of people with disabilities in its emergency COVID-19 planning. Our ongoing advocacy efforts are showing some signs of success, but the battle remains an uphill one. We remain tenacious as we join in that battle!

Below you will find:

* An excellent April 22, 2020 City TV news report by reporter Pam Seatle, on the Ford Government’s failure to effectively plan for the COVID-19 needs of Ontarians with disabilities.

* A great April 22, 2020 report on CBC Radio Kitchener Waterloo by reporter Paula Duhatschek on the cruel impact on one individual with disabilities of the Ford Government’s unjustified and inexplicable closure of the Adaptive Devices Program during the COVID-19 crisis as a supposedly non-essential program. We commend the individual who brought that issue to CBC.

* An earlier superb April 11, 2020 Canadian Press report by reporter Michelle McQuigge that appeared in a number of media outlets including the Globe and Mail, on the Federal Government’s announcement of a federal advisory panel on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.

We also set out below the Federal Government’s actual April 10, 2020 announcement of its federal disability advisory panel on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. We commend the Federal Government for Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough’s acknowledging:

“We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities. For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.”

We first learned of the Federal Government’s plans in this regard at the same time as did the public – when it was publicly announced. It is good that the Federal Government has recognized the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. However, as we noted in the April 11, 2020 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, 95% of the problems people with disabilities face in this crisis are within provincial responsibility, and are not the responsibility of the Federal Government.

It is very important for the Federal and provincial governments to also directly reach out to, hear from and follow the advice of anyone with the best front-line experience with the impact of COVID-19 on the grassroots disability community. That would include, for example, the ten experts that were interviewed on the April 7, 2020 virtual public forum on COVID-19 and people with disabilities organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

In the federal sphere, we offer these recommendations:

* The Federal Government pledged in the fall 2019 federal election that it would apply a disability lens to all its decisions. Beyond creating a new advisory panel, it is important for the Federal Government to let us and the entire public know what it is doing and has done since this crisis began to apply that disability lens to all its decisions in the COVID-19 crisis.

* The new federal disability advisory group should itself watch the April 7, 2020 virtual public forum on COVID-19 and disability, and advocate for the recommendations made there.

* The Federal Government should immediately make public the work of its new federal disability advisory group, when it is meeting, what it is recommending, and what actions the Federal Government is taking as a result to protect people with disabilities during this crisis. Openness and transparency by our governments is especially important during a crisis like this one.

We are not recommending that the Ford Government create a similar advisory panel. It would take the Government too long to set it up, and risk being a distraction. Instead, the Ford Government should immediately reach out to the grassroots disability community to learn about the hardships they are facing during this crisis. The Ford Government should also recognize, as has the Federal Government, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. As we have been urging for weeks, the Ford Government should quickly develop and make public a comprehensive plan of action to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities as part of its emergency COVID-19 planning.

Our non-partisan campaign is substantially fortified when individuals bring to the media their personal stories about the hardships and barriers they are facing during the COVID-19 crisis due to their disability. The AODA Alliance remains ready and willing to provide broader comments to the media on these issues, as we do in the stories set out below. To help you with this, you can get more background, check out and widely share:

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.

* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.

There have been an inexcusable 448 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 29 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

We are sending you more AODA Alliance Updates than usual because of the influx of important news that is important to people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We are doing our best to stay on top of the rapidly changing events, and to effectively advocate for efforts so that people with disabilities are equally served by government emergency COVID-19 planning.

          MORE DETAILS

City News April 22, 2020

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/04/22/advocates-say-coronavirus-planning-leaves-out-people-with-disabilities/

Advocates say coronavirus planning leaves out people with disabilities

BY PAM SEATLE AND DILSHAD BURMANPOSTED APR 22, 2020

Summary

Disabilities advocates say their community has been overlooked in the government’s COVID-19 planning

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the province to provide in-home testing for people with disabilities

No plans have been announced but Minister of Health Christine Elliott says those with disabilities will be accommodated

As the country continues to wage battle against the novel coronavirus, vulnerable populations have been highlighted repeatedly — including seniors, those with compromised immune systems, and more recently, those living in low-income neighbourhoods.

While there is no doubt all of those groups are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, disabilities advocates say their community is also a large and highly vulnerable group that has been entirely overlooked by the government in many areas.

“People with disabilities in Ontario number at 2.5 million. [They] are facing, really, a triple whammy during this COVID crisis, beyond what everybody else is facing,” says David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA).

Lepofsky says the problem includes the following issues:

  • People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to contracting COVID-19 and also likely to suffer it’s most severe medical impacts
  • A combination of government neglect and failure to plan is making them even more prone to getting COVID-19 than they already are
  • If they do get the disease and have to visit a hospital, they face serious existing accessibility barriers in the healthcare system

“The solution is as clear as it is obvious as it is missing. We need the Premier and the Government of Ontario to say ‘we gotta plan. We gotta include in our emergency planning for COVID, specific plans to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable’,” says Lepofsky.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is also calling on the Ford government to address the needs of Ontarians with disabilities.

“They are worried and concerned that they’ve been left behind,” says Horwath.

She says there is no plan to ensure that people with disabilities will get tested if they begin to show symptoms of COVID-19 and there are concerns in the community that they will not have access to testing like everybody else.

“We’ve asked the government to put in place a plan to have testing available for those folks — that would include ensuring that they can get tested at home,” says Horwath, adding that this would help mitigate the issues of barriers to transit and navigating public spaces for those with mobility issues.

“Let’s not leave these folks out. Let’s do some proactive testing, let’s get to people in their homes and let’s give them the peace of mind that others are able to get by having mobility and being able to go out to testing centres and get that testing done.”

However, testing and care are not the only ways in which Lepofsky says people with disabilities are falling through the cracks.

He adds that thousands of children with disabilities are being left behind as the government implements online learning — which is not accessible to many such students. Plus, he says people with disabilities who live independently at home but still need assistance, are being overlooked as well.

Wendy Porch, the head of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, manages a program for about a thousand Ontarians who live independently but need assistance with daily tasks such as eating, getting washed and dressed.

She agrees with Lepofsky and says the people she works with have been ignored.

“The folks that we work with have not been considered a priority in any of the priority populations that we’ve seen defined,” she says. “There has been no particular guidance that’s been released around people with disabilities living at home.”

In addition, she says when the issue is raised with authorities, they are told they’re “just not there yet.”

“There’s no attention paid to this population at this point,” says Porch.

Making matters arguably worse is that those who care for people with disabilities at home are not receiving any government assistance with personal protective equipment (PPE), despite being essential workers with close physical contact with clients.

“Our program … is not a medically oriented program, but the people who receive these supports at home, they see the same personal support workers that work in long-term care facilities and they’re certainly at risk. But because they’re at home, it seems as though they’ve fallen through the cracks,” she says. “Because we were named as an essential service, if we could be included in the kind of supply chain relationships that exist between the Ministry of Health and some of these suppliers [of PPE], that would go a long way towards solving this problem for our folks.”

In addition to these worries, Lepofsky says one of his biggest concerns is what he calls the province’s “secret plans” on how patients will be prioritized should critical equipment such as respirators fall into short supply. He says the government’s plans to ration critical medical care if such a situation were to arise leaves out those with disabilities.

In an open letter, the province responded to such concerns saying all will be treated equally.

“We believe that a human life cannot be valued differently. As such, Ontario Health has been asked to consult with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as well as human rights and key community experts, to make certain that any medical protocols that may be required during this outbreak do not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous communities and racialized people,” they said

Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked about the issue at the province’s daily briefing on Wednesday. She said the government is willing to accommodate everybody.

“If people need to be tested, we can take the testing to them, especially people with disabilities who maybe have significant mobility challenges,” she said. “We want to make sure, if they need to be tested, that they will be tested and if they need care that they will receive the care that they need, including hospital admissions or if they’re doing self-isolation — making sure that they have the supplies and equipment and assistance that they need.”

At this time, the province has not yet put forth a definitive plan for at-home testing and care.

CBC News Kitchener Waterloo April 22, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/man-stuck-hours-daily-on-floor-while-province-closes-assistive-devices-office-1.5540041

Man stuck hours daily on floor while province closes Assistive Devices office

Michael Wilson says wheelchair broke while awaiting a replacement, then COVID-19 hit

Paula Duhatschek

A Kitchener man has spent nearly a month stuck in his apartment after his wheelchair fell apart and a replacement has been delayed.

Meanwhile, the province has shuttered its Assisted Devices Program office, which helps people access funds to pay for their wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Michael Wilson, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around, receives a replacement every five years, paid for through the province’s program.

This year, he says he was due for a new wheelchair but that the process was delayed after the province initially rejected his application and he had to file an appeal.

Wilson was still using his old wheelchair on March 24 when he left his apartment to stock up on essentials. The motor and wheel fell off mid-trip, he says. Without a functional wheelchair, Wilson been unable to venture out for grocery or banking trips, and has mostly been eating delivery pizza. He also can’t comfortably change positions or move himself around his apartment.

“It’s awkward,” he said.

Office not processing applications

Although the province pays most of the cost of devices provided through the Assisted Devices Program, it’s up to individual vendors to supply them.  Corrinne Cave, who is with a local home care company working with Wilson, said she couldn’t comment on individual cases for privacy reasons. But she says her business’s operations have been complicated by the fact that the program office was closed due to COVID-19 and is no longer answering the phone or processing new funding applications.

“We’re trying to figure out a balance on how to get these [devices] to people who do need it” while also considering what costs they can absorb, she said.

France Gélinas, NDP health critic and Nickel Belt MPP, told CBC News that vendors and people with disabilities have been left in a tough position following the closure of the office. She says the program itself has long been due for an upgrade, so that people who need new wheelchairs and other devices can get them based on need rather than “arbitrary” rules.

For the time being, Gelinas says the office should at least have someone around to pick up the phone.  “Right now, to not even be able to talk to them … I don’t understand it,” Gelinas told CBC News.

“It is disrespectful, it is causing a lot of real hardship to people who often have severe disabilities, depend on those wheelchairs, to anything else to live their lives, and now they’re stuck.”

Pandemic creates urgency

Ontario disability advocate David Lepofsky agrees. He says assistive devices are even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, now people have been told to physically distance and can’t ask their friends and neighbours for extra help.

“The first thing [the province] should do is immediately re-open the assistive devices program and declare it essential,” said Lepofsky. “The second thing they should do is … essentially do a short-term surge to try to clear the backlog that will have now been created.”

Province ‘evaluating options’

A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province couldn’t comment on individual cases. She said vendors will still receive payments based on historical invoices and can dispense and repair devices for clients who are eligible. “We’re currently evaluating options to provide greater continuity of services under the assisted devices program during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.

He says they should replace wheelchairs more frequently, before safety becomes an issue. He thinks the program should also be more cautious about rejecting applications and requiring appeals for needed devices like wheelchairs, especially when it comes to situations like his.

As of Monday, Wilson was still without a wheelchair. But after CBC News contacted the vendor and province about his story, Wilson was told his wheelchair would be delivered Wednesday. When it arrives, he says, he looks forward to finishing up the errands he started back in March.

The Globe and Mail April 11, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-federal-government-names-group-to-ensure-disabled-canadians-included-2/

Federal government names group to ensure disabled Canadians included in COVID-19 response MICHELLE MCQUIGGE

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday March 26, 2020.

Qualtrough did not elaborate on specific systemic barriers in place, but members of Canada’s disabled community have been sounding alarms since the beginning of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS figure

The COVID-19 pandemic takes a particularly heavy toll on Canadians with disabilities and more efforts are needed to ensure they’re included in national efforts to respond to the crisis, the minister overseeing accessibility issues said Friday as she appointed an advisory group to take on the task.

Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough said disabled residents have been sounding alarms about a host of concerns related to the outbreak, which has already killed at least 550 Canadians and sickened a minimum of 22,000 others. In a statement announcing the advisory group, Qualtrough said greater efforts are needed to ensure disabled voices are heard during a troubling time.

“For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19,” Ms. Qualtrough said in the statement. “Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

“As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity.”

Ms. Qualtrough did not elaborate on specific systemic barriers in place, but members of Canada’s disabled community have been sounding alarms since the beginning of the outbreak.

Early public-health messages and briefings at all levels of government often failed to include accessibility measures, such as sign language interpreters for the deaf or simplified messaging for those with intellectual disabilities.

Since then, more concerns have been raised about access to overtaxed health-care resources, the availability of educational supports for disabled students, and the greater vulnerability of those living in confined settings such as prisons, homeless shelters and long-term care institutions. At one assisted living facility in Markham, Ont., the executive director confirmed an outbreak had infected 10 of 42 residents and two staff members. Shelley Brillinger said news of the outbreak prompted the rest of the staff at Participation House to walk off the job, leaving residents without the care they need.

“Our residents are the most vulnerable in society,” she said. “… They don’t have a voice, and my message would be it’s our responsibility to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and ensure that they have the care that they deserve.”

The 11-member advisory group, consisting of academics and organization leaders spanning a range of physical and intellectual disabilities, has been tasked

with apprising the government of the barriers their communities face and ensuring their needs are adequately addressed.

Committee member Bonnie Brayton, executive director of the DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, said the issues before the group are matters of equality and fundamental access to human rights.

She said the proliferation of the novel coronavirus has laid bear many systemic issues that dogged the community for decades, but have taken on increased urgency as the disease continues to spread.

“What the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that the question of equality rights for people with disabilities apparently is still on the table in the legal system, in the health system, and I think in the soul of Canadians,” Ms. Brayton said in a telephone interview. “It’s the last piece of our really becoming the country we need to become in terms of human rights.”

Other advocates welcomed the federal governments’ recognition of the need for action, but expressed reservations about the impact such a move could have. David Lepofsky, founder of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a long-time crusader for accessibility rights, said federal governments do not have jurisdiction over most of the programs with the greatest impact on the lives of disabled residents.

“Only provincial governments can take 95 per cent of the action people with disabilities desperately need to avert the disproportionate hardships that the COVID-19 crisis inflicts on them, including the horrifying risk that their disability could be used as a reason to deny them medical services during rationing,” he said. “We’re disproportionately vulnerable to get this disease, to suffer its harshest impacts and then to slam into serious barriers in our health care system.”

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of the Arch Disability Law Centre, shared Mr. Lepofsky’s concern. He said there is currently no uniform approach to disability inclusion during the COVID-19 crisis. While he applauded the federal government for acknowledging as much, he expressed hope that the advisory group would continually seek input from those without seats at the government table. “The disproportionate impact of this pandemic on persons with disabilities is undisputed, but it is playing out very differently across different provinces, territories, cities, and towns,” Mr. Lattanzio said. “We need voices from people with disabilities who are on the ground and who understand the complexity and nuances of what is actually happening.”

April 10, 2020 Announcement by Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough

Originally posted at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/statement-by-minister-qualtrough-on-canadas-disability-inclusive-approach-to-its-covid-19-pandemic-response.html

Statement by Minister Qualtrough on Canada’s Disability-Inclusive approach to its COVID-19 pandemic response

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

April 10, 2020       Gatineau, Quebec       Employment and Social Development Canada

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, today issued the following statement:

“From the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has taken significant steps to curb the spread of this virus and to reduce its impacts on the health of Canadians and our economy.

We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities. For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity. This includes through more formal communication channels and touch points with the disability community.

To this end, we are establishing the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, comprised of experts in disability inclusion. This Group will provide advice on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis; disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps; and strategies, measures and steps to be taken. Areas of particular focus will be equality of access to health care and supports; access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation; and employment and income supports.

From the onset, our Government has worked hard to ensure that the interests and needs of persons with a disability are being taken into consideration in our decisions and measures adopted in response to COVID-19. We have put a disability lens on decision-making and have been consulting national disability organizations and other stakeholders. We are also working with other levels of government. We are making strides on accessibility of public announcements and Government of Canada communications.

But we know that there is much more to do.

We have heard the concerns expressed by individuals and organizations for persons with disabilities, as well as their recommendations for ensuring a disability-inclusive approach to this pandemic.

Rest assured that as we support Canadians through this crisis, our Government is unequivocal in our commitment to the rights of every citizen and the value of every life, including the right to equal access to medical treatment and care. This is in keeping with our Government’s commitment to “nothing without us”, and in line with the principles and objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Accessible Canada Act.”

April 10, 2020 Federal Government Backgrounder

Originally posted at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/backgrounder–covid-19-disability-advisory-group.html

Canada.ca Employment and Social Development Canada

Backgrounder : COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Backgrounder

During this time of public health and economic crisis, in the spirit of “Nothing Without Us” and the Accessible Canada Act, and in recognition of Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations, the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that it considers, respects and incorporates the interests and needs of persons with disabilities into its decision-making and pandemic response.

Persons with disabilities face unique and heightened challenges and vulnerabilities in a time of pandemic, including equality of access to health care and supports, access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation and employment and income supports. Additional vigilance is also required to protect the human rights of persons with disabilities during these times. This necessitates a disability inclusive approach to Government decision-making and action.

The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action by announcing the establishment of the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group (CDAG). The CDAG will advise the Minister on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis on disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps and on strategies, measures and steps to be taken.

Co-chaired by Minister Qualtrough, the Advisory Group will be comprised of individual experts from the disability community:

Co-Chair: Al Etmanski, is a writer, community organizer and social entrepreneur. He was welcomed into the world of disability in 1978 when his daughter was born. He led the closure of institutions, segregated schools, and sheltered workshops in BC, founded Canada’s first Family Support Institute, and initiated the precedent setting right-to-treatment court case for Stephen Dawson. In 1989, he co-founded Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) with his wife Vickie Cammack. PLAN lobbied into existence the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Mr. Etmanski sparked a national conversation about ‘belonging,’ and was instrumental in establishing a grass roots alternative to legal guardianship and expanding the legal definition of capacity. His last book, Impact: 6 Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation is a national bestseller. His forthcoming book is The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He blogs at aletmanski.com.

Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. Mr. Adair offers a depth of provincial and national experience in the spinal cord rehabilitation field. As a former Ontario government employee, national task force leader and Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society, he has nearly three decades of expertise in non-profit management and strategic leadership. Prior to joining Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, he was Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society for 13 years. His involvement in providing services to people with disabilities includes serving as the Director of the International Year for Disabled Persons, the Executive Director of a national task force that designed a system to coordinate cancer control efforts throughout Canada, and the Founding Executive Director of Wellspring.

Neil Belanger, Executive Director of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS). Mr. Belanger has over 30 years of experience working within in Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous disability and health sectors. Since 2013, BCANDS has been the recipient of eight provincial, national and international awards, the most recent being the Zero Project International Award presented to the Society in Vienna, in February 2019. He also serves in a variety of disability related advisory roles, some of which include: Canada Post’s Accessibility Advisory Committee; Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction; Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility; Minister’s Registered Disability Savings Plan Action Group and Board Member with Inclusion BC. He is a member of the Lax Se el (Frog Clan) of the Gitxsan First Nation and resides in Victoria with his wife and two children.

Diane Bergeron, President, CNIB Guide Dogs and Vice President, International Affairs.As President of CNIB Guide Dogs, Ms. Bergeron brings lived experience to the position. As a guide dog handler for more than 35 years, she raises her voice to challenge stigma and support equal rights. In addition, as vice president of International Affairs for the CNIB Foundation, she is actively engaged in regional, national and international initiatives that enable people impacted by blindness to live the lives they choose. Before joining CNIB, Ms. Bergeron held senior roles with the Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton.

Bonnie Brayton, A recognized leader in both the feminist and disability movements, Ms. Brayton has been the National Executive Director of the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) of Canada since May 2007. In this role, she has proven herself as a formidable advocate for women with disabilities here in Canada and internationally. During her tenure with DAWN Canada, Ms. Brayton has worked diligently to highlight key issues that impact the lives of women and girls with disabilities. Since 2016, Ms. Brayton has served as a member of the Federal Department of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE, formerly known as Status of Women Canada), Minister’s Advisory Council on Gender-Based Violence. She also presents regularly to Parliamentary and Senate Committees, at public consultations and has represented women and girls with disabilities in both Canadian and International spheres.

Krista Carr, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL). Ms. Carr was previously the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL). She had been working with the NBACL for 21 years, the last 16 as Executive Director. She also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of New Brunswick.

Maureen Haan: Ms. Haan has been the President & CEO of the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) since 2012. CCRW is the only national organization with the sole vision of equitable and meaningful employment for people with disabilities, in operation for over 40 years. Under her leadership, CCRW has seen an increase in direct program service throughout Canada, as well as a more transparent, stream-lining of understanding the business case of hiring a person with a disability. She has been very active in the cross-disability sector, currently focusing on employment issues. Ms. Haan has been involved with numerous committees and groups that increase awareness of and access for the disability sector and the Deaf community, including involvement with civil society on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and co-development and leadership of the pan-Canadian Strategy on Disability and Work.

Hélène Hébert, President, Réseau québécois pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (REQIS). Ms. Hébert is the president of Reqis, a provincial organization defending the collective rights and promoting the interests of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Its mission is also to contribute to the development and influence of its members through networking and knowledge exchange. She is also a member of VoirDire, a bi-monthly publication serving the deaf population of Quebec since 1983.

Dr. Heidi Janz, University of Alberta, Assistant Adjunct Professor with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre. Dr. Janz specializes in the field of Disability Ethics and has been affiliated with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre since 2006. She was previously the Curriculum Coordinator for an emerging Certificate Program in Disability Ethics in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta. In her “other life,” Dr. Janz is a writer and playwright. Dr. Janz is also Chair of the End-of-life ethics committee for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).

Rabia Khedr, CEO, Disability Empowerment Equality Network Support Services and Executive Director, Muslim Council of Peel. Rabia is a community leader who helps others with issues of fairness and justice that affect persons with disabilities, women and diverse communities. She was recently the Commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Ms. Khedr created the Canadian Alliance on Race and Disability, which represents persons with disabilities and organizations at local, provincial and national meetings. She is also a member of the Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee. She is a motivational speaker and documentary commentator and has been awarded many awards, including a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Dr. Michael Prince, Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria. He teaches courses on public sector governance and public policy analysis in the School of Public Administration and the School of Public Health and Social Policy. As a policy consultant, Dr. Prince has been an advisor to various federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal government agencies; four Royal commissions; and, to a number of parliamentary committees federally and provincially. An active volunteer, Dr. Prince has been a board member of a community health clinic, a legal aid society, a hospital society and hospital foundation, the BC Association for Community Living, and the social policy committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.



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Coronavirus: Federal panel aims to ensure Canadians with disabilities included in response


The COVID-19 pandemic takes a particularly heavy toll on Canadians with disabilities and more efforts are needed to ensure they’re included in national efforts to respond to the crisis, the minister overseeing accessibility issues said Friday as she appointed an advisory group to take on the task.

Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough said disabled residents have been sounding alarms about a host of concerns related to the outbreak, which has already killed at least 550 Canadians and sickened a minimum of 22,000 others. In a statement announcing the advisory group, Qualtrough said greater efforts are needed to ensure disabled voices are heard during a troubling time.

READ MORE:
Live updates on coronavirus in Canada

“For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19,” Qualtrough said in the statement. “Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

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“As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity.”

Qualtrough did not elaborate on specific systemic barriers in place, but members of Canada’s disabled community have been sounding alarms since the beginning of the outbreak.

Early public health messages and briefings at all levels of government often failed to include accessibility measures, such as sign language interpretors for the deaf or simplified messaging for those with intellectual disabilities.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Health-care worker at Markham, Ont. long-term care home tests positive

Since then, more concerns have been raised about access to overtaxed health-care resources, the availability of educational supports for disabled students, and the greater vulnerability of those living in confined settings such as prisons, homeless shelters and long-term care institutions.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

At one assisted living facility in Markham, Ont., the Executive Director confirmed an outbreak had infected 10 of 42 residents and two staff members. Shelley Brillinger said news of the outbreak prompted the rest of the staff at Participation House to walk off the job, leaving residents without the care they need.

“Our residents are the most vulnerable in society,” she said. “… They don’t have a voice, and my message would be it’s our responsibility to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and ensure that they have the care that they deserve.”

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READ MORE:
Coronavirus outbreak at Markham home for adults with disabilities causes staff to walk off job

The 11-member advisory group, consisting of academics and organization leaders spanning a range of physical and intellectual disabilities, has been tasked with apprising the government of the barriers their communities face and ensuring their needs are adequately addressed.

Committee member Bonnie Brayton, Executive Director of the DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, said the issues before the group are matters of equality and fundamental access to human rights.

She said the proliferation of the novel coronavirus has laid bear many systemic issues that dogged the community for decades, but have taken on increased urgency as the disease continues to spread.






Coronavirus outbreak: Officials say RCMP enforcement of Quarantine Act additional measure


Coronavirus outbreak: Officials say RCMP enforcement of Quarantine Act additional measure

“What the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that the question of equality rights for people with disabilities apparently is still on the table in the legal system, in the health system, and I think in the soul of Canadians,” Brayton said in a telephone interview. “It’s the last piece of our really becoming the country we need to become in terms of human rights.”

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Other advocates welcomed the federal governments’ recognition of the need for action, but expressed reservations about the impact such a move could have.

David Lepofsky, founder of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a long-time crusader for accessibility rights, said federal governments do not have jurisdiction over most of the programs with the greatest impact on the lives of disabled residents.

READ MORE:
Coronavirus: Support continues for those with intellectual disabilities in Saskatchewan

“Only provincial governments can take 95 per cent of the action people with disabilities desperately need to avert the disproportionate hardships that the COVID-19 crisis inflicts on them, including the horrifying risk that their disability could be used as a reason to deny them medical services during rationing,” he said. “We’re disproportionately vulnerable to get this disease, to suffer its harshest impacts and then to slam into serious barriers in our health care system.”

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of the Arch Disability Law Centre, shared Lepofsky’s concern.

He said there is currently no uniform approach to disability inclusion during the COVID-19 crisis. While he applauded the federal government for acknowledging as much, he expressed hope that the advisory group would continually seek input from those without seats at the government table.






Coronavirus: One of Quebec’s most vulnerable groups says they are getting ignored by the government


Coronavirus: One of Quebec’s most vulnerable groups says they are getting ignored by the government

“The disproportionate impact of this pandemic on persons with disabilities is undisputed, but it is playing out very differently across different provinces, territories, cities, and towns,” Lattanzio said. “We need voices from people with disabilities who are on the ground and who understand the complexity and nuances of what is actually happening.”

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—With files from Nicole Thompson in Toronto

 



© 2020 The Canadian Press





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


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

November 18, 2019

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

November 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

November 18, 2019

Introduction

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

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

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

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

1. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D. No Federal Laws Should Create or Permit Disability Barriers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada or any agency thereof by loan, grant, or other like payment in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the Act.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

November 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

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

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

November 18, 2019

To:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: [email protected]

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

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

Via email: [email protected]

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Twitter: @AndrewScheer

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

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

3750 boul. Crémazie Est, bureau 402

Montréal Quebec H2A 1B6

Twitter: @yfblanchet

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP

Via email: [email protected]

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

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

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Twitter: @JoAnnRobertsHFX

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

November 18, 2019

Introduction

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

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

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

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

  1. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Compliance with regulations

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

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

“Compliance with regulations

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

D. No Federal Laws Should Create or Permit Disability Barriers

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

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

  1. Section 2 of the Accessible Canada Act’s definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada or any agency thereof by loan, grant, or other like payment in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the Act.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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



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A Non-Partisan Look at the 2019 Federal Election Results from a Disability Accessibility Perspective


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

October 22, 2019

SUMMARY

What is the upshot of last night’s federal election results, from the perspective of over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada who want this country to become accessible to them?

We congratulate all those candidates who ran in this election and won. We are ready to again roll up our sleeves and work with all of the federal parties, as we further describe below, to advance the goal of making Canada barrier-free for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

Last June, Parliament unanimously endorsed the goal of making Canada barrier-free by 2040. We turn our attention to what the Federal Government should now do to ensure that Canada is on schedule for meeting this mandatory goal which the new Accessible Canada Act has set.

MORE DETAILS

The Recent Election Campaign

Our movement has now succeeded in mounting a non-partisan campaign for disability accessibility during a total of nine elections since 1995, seven at the provincial level in Ontario and 2 at the federal level. For its part, the AODA Alliance wrote the major federal parties back on July 18 2019, well before the formal election campaign began, to ask them to make 11 specific commitments on disability accessibility.

Our agenda for reform was not pulled out of the air. It built on key issues that so many disability organizations and advocates raised with the Federal Government over the past year during public hearings on the Accessible Canada Act before the House of Commons last fall, and later before the Senate last spring. These in turn built substantially on experience that we have had with the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is so important for us to come forward with concrete and workable action requests, and not to be satisfied or distracted by the broad plattitudinal pronouncements of politicians, whatever be their political party.

We succeeded in launching a major blitz on social media to try to get the parties and their candidates to make the election pledges that we sought. We sent hundred and hundreds of tweets over the past weeks, and generated real attention on this issue in the social media context. We thank all those who retweeted our tweets, or took other actions to raise disability accessibility issues with any candidates over the past weeks. To see what we were up to, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

We secured written election commitments from two of the major parties, the NDP and later the Liberals. We plan to hold them to those commitments. A comparison of the parties’ responses is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

While the Conservatives did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter, we plan to hold them to their strong statements on November 22, 2018 in the House of Commons during Third Reading debates on Bill C-81. They promised that if elected, they would treat the strengthening of Bill C-81as a priority. Similarly, the Green Party did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter. However it spoke in strong terms about the need to strengthen Bill C-81 during debates in Parliament over the past year. We aim to urge them to act on that policy position in the upcoming Parliament.

We express our strong regret and deep frustration that the conventional media once again gave far too little attention to these issues during the recent election campaign. This is a sad continuation of the conventional media’s failure to give much attention to the proposed Accessible Canada Act during its journey through Parliament over the past months. We commend those few reporters who bucked this trend, and covered this issue.

The Election’s Results

As we often repeat, the AODA Alliance does not campaign for or against any party or candidate. We aim to get strong commitments on disability accessibility from all parties and candidates.

Canada now will have a minority government. This provides a wonderful opportunity for us to press to try to get the Accessible Canada Act strengthened by legislative amendments. The Liberals suggested during the election campaign that they did not plan to amend the Accessible Canada Act. However, because they do not have a majority government, the door is open to us to try to get an amending bill through Parliament, and to try to get the Liberals to support it.

We have a recent and relevant track record in this regard. Last spring, we and others, working together, got the Senate to make some amendments to Bill C-81 to somewhat strengthen it. These included amendments that the Liberal Government had rejected when the bill was before the House of Commons in the 2018 fall. When the Senate’s amendments came back to the House of Commons last June, the Liberals ultimately agreed to approve the Senate’s amendments which included changes to the bill that the Liberals had earlier opposed. We and others in the disability community have done it before. We can do it again!

We thank any and all MPs who worked on making this bill as strong as they could. Let’s take a quick look at the election outcome. Several key MPs who have played key roles regarding Bill C-81 have been re-elected. These include Liberal MP Carla Qualtrough, the Accessibility Minister who led the Government’s efforts to get Bill C-81 through Parliament, and Liberal MP Bryan May, who chaired the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81. Also re-elected were Conservative MPs John Barlow (who was the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81), and who promised Tory support for strengthening Bill C-81) and MP Mike Lake (who was the Tory critic in this area as Bill C-81 was going through the Senate).

NDP MP Cheryl Hardcastle, the NDP’s critic on this issue who pressed for amendments at our request, was narrowly defeated. Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who was Accessibility Minister for a short time while Bill C-81 was being developed, was also defeated.

What’s Next

We will be eagerly watching to see whom Prime Minister Trudeau will appoint to be the next minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Bill C-81. We also will be eager to see whom the opposition parties appoint as their critics in this area.

We won’t just sit around and wait. We are already working on ideas of what to include in a new bill, whether a Government bill or an opposition private member’s bill, to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We welcome your ideas. Write us at [email protected] We will also be monitoring the Government’s implementation of the Accessible Canada Act to see where we might be able to helpfully contribute to it.

Last night’s election results have some echoes in history. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau won a majority government in his first try in 1968. His son did the same in his first try in 2015. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau only won a minority government in his second try, in 1972. So did his son in 2019. In both cases, the NDP held the balance of power. From 1972 to 1974, they instituted some progressive reforms. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the past weeks that if re-elected, he would lead a progressive government.

In the dying days of this most recent campaign. The Liberals promised to apply a “disability lens” to all government decisions. Last fall, the opposition had pressed without success for Bill C-81 to be amended to entrench in it just such a disability lens.

Even though the Liberals said during the recent election campaign that it didn’t intend to amend Bill C-81, we nevertheless see it as worthwhile to press for an amendment to Bill C-81 to entrench such a “disability lens”. If it is added to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, it would become a mandatory part of law, one which a future government cannot simply ignore. People with disabilities in Canada need a mandatory disability lens, not a weak, voluntary one that can be ignored at will.

We have lots to do ahead of us. We are ready to be as tenacious as ever! Just watch us.




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A Non-Partisan Look at the 2019 Federal Election Results from a Disability Accessibility Perspective – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

A Non-Partisan Look at the 2019 Federal Election Results from a Disability Accessibility Perspective

October 22, 2019

     SUMMARY

What is the upshot of last night’s federal election results, from the perspective of over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada who want this country to become accessible to them?

We congratulate all those candidates who ran in this election and won. We are ready to again roll up our sleeves and work with all of the federal parties, as we further describe below, to advance the goal of making Canada barrier-free for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

Last June, Parliament unanimously endorsed the goal of making Canada barrier-free by 2040. We turn our attention to what the Federal Government should now do to ensure that Canada is on schedule for meeting this mandatory goal which the new Accessible Canada Act has set.

     MORE DETAILS

The Recent Election Campaign

Our movement has now succeeded in mounting a non-partisan campaign for disability accessibility during a total of nine elections since 1995, seven at the provincial level in Ontario and 2 at the federal level. For its part, the AODA Alliance wrote the major federal parties back on July 18 2019, well before the formal election campaign began, to ask them to make 11 specific commitments on disability accessibility.

Our agenda for reform was not pulled out of the air. It built on key issues that so many disability organizations and advocates raised with the Federal Government over the past year during public hearings on the Accessible Canada Act before the House of Commons last fall, and later before the Senate last spring. These in turn built substantially on experience that we have had with the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is so important for us to come forward with concrete and workable action requests, and not to be satisfied or distracted by the broad plattitudinal pronouncements of politicians, whatever be their political party.

We succeeded in launching a major blitz on social media to try to get the parties and their candidates to make the election pledges that we sought. We sent hundred and hundreds of tweets over the past weeks, and generated real attention on this issue in the social media context. We thank all those who retweeted our tweets, or took other actions to raise disability accessibility issues with any candidates over the past weeks. To see what we were up to, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

We secured written election commitments from two of the major parties, the NDP and later the Liberals. We plan to hold them to those commitments. A comparison of the parties’ responses is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

While the Conservatives did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter, we plan to hold them to their strong statements on November 22, 2018 in the House of Commons during Third Reading debates on Bill C-81. They promised that if elected, they would treat the strengthening of Bill C-81as a priority. Similarly, the Green Party did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter. However it spoke in strong terms about the need to strengthen Bill C-81 during debates in Parliament over the past year. We aim to urge them to act on that policy position in the upcoming Parliament.

We express our strong regret and deep frustration that the conventional media once again gave far too little attention to these issues during the recent election campaign. This is a sad continuation of the conventional media’s failure to give much attention to the proposed Accessible Canada Act during its journey through Parliament over the past months. We commend those few reporters who bucked this trend, and covered this issue.

The Election’s Results

As we often repeat, the AODA Alliance does not campaign for or against any party or candidate. We aim to get strong commitments on disability accessibility from all parties and candidates.

Canada now will have a minority government. This provides a wonderful opportunity for us to press to try to get the Accessible Canada Act strengthened by legislative amendments. The Liberals suggested during the election campaign that they did not plan to amend the Accessible Canada Act. However, because they do not have a majority government, the door is open to us to try to get an amending bill through Parliament, and to try to get the Liberals to support it.

We have a recent and relevant track record in this regard. Last spring, we and others, working together, got the Senate to make some amendments to Bill C-81 to somewhat strengthen it. These included amendments that the Liberal Government had rejected when the bill was before the House of Commons in the 2018 fall. When the Senate’s amendments came back to the House of Commons last June, the Liberals ultimately agreed to approve the Senate’s amendments – which included changes to the bill that the Liberals had earlier opposed. We and others in the disability community have done it before. We can do it again!

We thank any and all MPs who worked on making this bill as strong as they could. Let’s take a quick look at the election outcome. Several key MPs who have played key roles regarding Bill C-81 have been re-elected. These include Liberal MP Carla Qualtrough, the Accessibility Minister who led the Government’s efforts to get Bill C-81 through Parliament, and Liberal MP Bryan May, who chaired the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81. Also re-elected were Conservative MPs John Barlow (who was the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81), and who promised Tory support for strengthening Bill C-81) and MP Mike Lake (who was the Tory critic in this area as Bill C-81 was going through the Senate).

NDP MP Cheryl Hardcastle, the NDP’s critic on this issue who pressed for amendments at our request, was narrowly defeated. Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who was Accessibility Minister for a short time while Bill C-81 was being developed, was also defeated.

What’s Next

We will be eagerly watching to see whom Prime Minister Trudeau will appoint to be the next minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Bill C-81. We also will be eager to see whom the opposition parties appoint as their critics in this area.

We won’t just sit around and wait. We are already working on ideas of what to include in a new bill, whether a Government bill or an opposition private member’s bill, to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We welcome your ideas. Write us at [email protected] We will also be monitoring the Government’s implementation of the Accessible Canada Act to see where we might be able to helpfully contribute to it.

Last night’s election results have some echoes in history. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau won a majority government in his first try in 1968. His son did the same in his first try in 2015. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau only won a minority government in his second try, in 1972. So did his son in 2019. In both cases, the NDP held the balance of power. From 1972 to 1974, they instituted some progressive reforms. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the past weeks that if re-elected, he would lead a progressive government.

In the dying days of this most recent campaign. The Liberals promised to apply a “disability lens” to all government decisions. Last fall, the opposition had pressed without success for Bill C-81 to be amended to entrench in it just such a disability lens.

Even though the Liberals said during the recent election campaign that it didn’t intend to amend Bill C-81, we nevertheless see it as worthwhile to press for an amendment to Bill C-81 to entrench such a “disability lens”. If it is added to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, it would become a mandatory part of law, one which a future government cannot simply ignore. People with disabilities in Canada need a mandatory disability lens, not a weak, voluntary one that can be ignored at will.

We have lots to do ahead of us. We are ready to be as tenacious as ever! Just watch us.



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Federal Liberals Promise to Use a Disability Lens in All Government Decisions


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

October 18, 2019

SUMMARY

In a news article published today, just three days before the federal election, the Canadian Press reported that the federal Liberals have committed that if re-elected, they will apply a “disability lens” to all Federal Government decisions. We set out the October 18, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, below, which was posted on the National Post’s website.

It would be very helpful for the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to all of its decisions, to ensure that they do not work against people with disabilities. We provide some context to this commitment.

First, as reported in the Canadian Press article, below, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough appears to implicitly acknowledge that the new Accessible Canada Act, whose development she led, does not require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to each of its decisions. That, regrettably, would be an accurate reading of the Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough also is reported in this article as saying that the Liberals would not make any amendments to the Accessible Canada Act. As such, this disability lens would be a voluntary measure that any future Federal Government could reject without needing to bring it before Parliament for a vote.

Second, during debates over the Accessible Canada Act over the past year, opposition members pointed out (at the request of disability advocates) that this proposed legislation lacked such a disability lens. They urged that a requirement for a disability lens should be added to the bill. None ultimately was added.

The Federal Government had an ideal opportunity to establish such a disability lens in Bill C-81 when it was before Parliament, and when all parties were focused on the need for national accessibility legislation. It is difficult to understand why the Federal Government did not add a disability lens then, and yet promises a voluntary disability lens now, just four months after Parliament passed Bill C-81. It would be preferable to entrench a disability lens into the Accessible Canada Act through an amendment once the new Parliament is elected. The AODA Alliance expects to propose such an amendment.

Third, during Second Reading debates last year in the House of Commons over Bill C-81, Liberal MP Kent Hehr actually said that Bill C-81 includes a disability lens, and praised the bill for having it. He had earlier been the Government’s minister responsible for developing this legislation for about half a year. On September 24, 2018, during Second Reading debates in the House of Commons, Mr. Hehr made these two statements on point:

1. “I can also highlight this bill and its effects on government service. The day and age of people not getting through the door is essentially over with this legislation. It puts a proactive onus on government to move forward and look at things with an accessibility lens that I believe will be very helpful for people with disabilities and those trying to navigate an often complex system.”

2. “I mentioned at the start of my speech that there are still very many inequalities in this country. In particular, people with disabilities are more likely to be poor and have difficulties finding employment, even getting services through government departments. This legislation would put that proactive emphasis on governments and systems within the federal jurisdiction having an accessibility lens to look at how we are not only going to get people through the door but help them come out the other side and succeed, whether it be through employment, accessing technology or getting government services. It is now incumbent upon us as government to follow through with what would be put in place through this legislation to make things better for people with disabilities in this country.”

We also alert you to the news that as this election campaign races to its conclusion, CTV national news broke the overwhelming silence of most conventional media outlets on this issue. It led its October 17, 2019 national television newscast with a report on how the parties have had so little to say in this campaign about accessibility for people with disabilities, and how voters with disabilities are unhappy with this. We do not have the text of this news report at this time. It can be watched online by visiting https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1807311&jwsource=twi

You can read our non-partisan comparison of the parties’ commitments on disability accessibility (which was written yesterday, and hence before this Canadian Press news report) by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

Follow @aodaalliance on Twitter for up-to-the-instant updates on our analysis of election returns as they come in, from the perspective of our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

MORE DETAILS

National Post Online October 28, 2019
https://www.bing.com/search?q=Accessible+Canada+Act&go=Submit&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=Accessible+Canada+Act&sc=10-14&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=d63c261e27184bb7b950c2bd9c5a8240

Liberals vow to implement disability lens for all government policies if re-elected The Canadian Press
Michelle McQuigge
October 18, 2019
The federal Liberals say they will evaluate all existing and future government policies for their impact on disabled residents if voted back into power next week.

The pledge from Carla Qualtrough, the Liberals minister for accessibility issues, comes days before Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21 and shortly after disabled voters raised concerns about the lack of discussion of issues affecting their lives during the current campaign.

The Liberals released a disability equality statement earlier this week, a document that was not in their original platform.

Qualtrough clarified its contents in an interview with The Canadian Press, saying the party was committing to applying a disability lens to government decisions, a formal consideration of how each would affect people with disabilities.

The Liberals mandated that all policies be subjected to a gender-based analysis over the past several years, assessing whether government policies are affecting men and women in different ways.

Qualtrough says the Liberals would take the same approach with disability, reviewing existing policies and studying new ones to make sure government moves dont exclude or adversely affect anyone.

This is the next step, to kind of systematically entrench disability inclusion into the way government does business, into the way government makes decisions, she said in a telephone interview from Delta, B.C., where she is seeking re-election.

Qualtrough said such analysis would build upon the Accessible Canada Act, the countrys first federal piece of accessibility legislation, which passed into law in June. The act was the fulfillment of a 2015 Liberal campaign promise and is widely seen as a milestone in disability rights, though dozens of advocacy groups have expressed concern that its currently too weak to be effective.

Qualtrough said a re-elected Liberal government does not plan to amend the law, but said a disability lens would offer additional safeguards. The partys new equality statement also pledges timely implementation of the new act.

The Liberal announcement earned praise from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national advocacy group that has been calling for such analysis for years.

During the national consultation that led to the ACA, council members argued the government needed to duplicate the approach used for gender when considering disability issues.

The Liberals applied gender-based-analysis-plus, which extends to characteristics such as age, religion and ethnicity, to a federal budget for the first time in 2017 and mandated it be used across the board. But internal documents obtained earlier this year showed fewer than half of departments and agencies had GBA+ plans in place.

Council spokesman John Rae said adopting the same approach for disability would be an important practice that may ensure disabled voices are heard even if they arent in the room to speak up for themselves.

We arent present in sufficient numbers in places where decisions about important aspects of life are made, Rae said. Its very easy for our needs to get overlooked if not consciously ignored.

Rae declined to comment on the timing of the Liberal announcement, but said he hoped other parties would follow suit.

Despite the recent passage of the ACA, neither the Liberals nor the other federal parties had made significant reference to disability issues for the bulk of the election campaign.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment on accessibility measures, and the Peoples Party of Canada said its platform contained no policy related to disabled persons.

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

The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures, reads the NDPs letter to the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.

The Conservatives, too, pledged to work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.

At a Thursday campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., leader Andrew Scheer said his party would implement the ACA and criticized the Liberals for their handling of other disability-related files.

We made commitments to make it easier to qualify for the disability tax credit, something that Justin Trudeaus government made harder especially for people with Type 1 diabetes, he said.

While campaigning in Trois-Rivieres, Que., also on Thursday, Trudeau said his governments approach was about fundamental equality, adding there is more to be done to achieve that goal.

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

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults said theyd prefer to see their concerns addressed in a broader strategy focusing on disability as a whole.

We face similar issues that people with other disabilities face, said Anne Borden of the self-advocacy group Autistics For Autistics. We all need access, human rights, dignity, self-determination We have more in common across our disabilities than any differences.

Qualtrough said she, too, favours that approach.

I am very much a proponent of a more overarching strategy that includes everyone and doesnt focus on diagnosis, she said, adding that research focusing on individual disabilities still has value and should be encouraged.




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