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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That could include those with an incurable illness or disability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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




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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities


A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 28, 2021 Toronto: Forty years ago today was the most important single event to protect the constitutional equality rights of millions of people with disabilities, in Canada’s first 114 years. Four decades ago today, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada (the Joint Committee) voted to add equality rights for people with disabilities to the proposed Charter of Rights, then being debated. (The disability amendment)

Weeks earlier, in October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament to add a new Charter of Rights to Canada’s Constitution. The proposed Charter of Rights included an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, courts could not interprete section 15 to protect disability equality.

Without the benefit of fax machines, email, the internet or social media (which were years away), people with disabilities campaigned for the disability amendment. Their blitz got little media coverage.

In fall 1980, three major disability organizations appeared before the Joint Committee to call for the disability amendment. In response, on January 12, 1981, Justice Minister Jean Chretien said no to the disability amendment.

Despite that, people with disabilities tenaciously kept up the pressure. Victory came on January 28, 1981, when the Trudeau Government withdrew its opposition to the disability amendment. That day, the Joint Committee voted to pass the disability amendment. Canada became the first western democracy to explicitly protect equality for people with disabilities in its constitution. (Hansard transcript below)

Over the forty years that followed, the disability amendment led to some important court victories for disability rights. It also helped drive the passage of several accessibility laws: Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, Manitoba’s Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act 2017, and the federal Accessible Canada Act2019.

Canada should be proud of what was achieved forty years ago today in the name of equality and full participation for people with disabilities, said David Lepofsky who was one of the disability advocates who appeared before Parliament to advocate for the disability amendment and who now chairs the non-partisan AODA Alliance that campaigns for disability accessibility. However, despite the disability amendment, over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face far too many unfair barriers in areas like employment, transportation, education, health care and access to buildings. Top of mind today is the serious danger that patients with disabilities will suffer unjustified disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, requiring the rationing or triage of critical care, dressed up as objective medical science. Those of us who fought for the disability amendment could not have imagined that forty years later, we’d need to use that victory to try to prevent disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care.

In months of public debate over the Charter of Rights four decades ago, the only new constitutional right that was added to the Charter, and which was not in the original draft, was equality for people with disabilities something the media has also rarely covered. Even lesser known was a second disability rights victory for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing at the Joint Committee four decades ago today. The Joint Committee also amended section 14 of the Charter, to guarantee the constitutional right to an interpreter for deaf persons when participating in legal proceedings. Previously, section 14’s wording did not guarantee the right to an interpreter to persons needing one due to hearing loss.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] For more background, check out:

1. Transcript of the three disability organizations’ presentations in the 1980 fall to the Joint Committee calling for the Charter disability amendment.

2. Captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation by David Lepofsky to the Joint Committee, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is now chair of the AODA Alliance.

3. Transcript of the initial refusal on January 12, 1981 by federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien to agree to the disability amendment, which he announced during his appearance before the Joint committee a decision the Federal Government reversed forty years ago today.

4. Online captioned lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the history of the campaign for the Charter disability amendment.

Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada on the Constitution of Canada Hansard Excerpts January 28, 1981

The following took place on Charter ss. 14 and 15 as it pertains to people with disabilities:

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would then move this amendment as follows, that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980 be amended by striking out lines 40 to 44 on page 5 and substituting the following:
14. Every person has the right to the assistance of an interpreter in any proceedings before a court, tribunal, commission, board or other authority in which the person is involved or is a party or a witness if the person does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted, or is subject to a hearing impairment. Et en français, it est proposé
Que l’article 14 du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, aux lignes 40 à 43, de ce qui suit:
«14. Les personnes qui ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue dans laquelle se déroulent des procédures devant une instance judiciaire, quasi-judiciaire, administrative ou autre, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète; les personnes atteintes de déficiences auditives ont également ce droit dans les mêmes circonstances.»
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Before I invite you to give an explanation, Mr. Robinson, the honourable James McGrath on a point of order.
Mr. McGrath: I am just wondering, Mr. Chairman, at first glance it would seem that our amendment, which is CP-7, Clause 14, page 5 should come first.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The only reason I have called the amendment proposed by the New Democratic Party, I refer to you the previous indication that the Chair would call in order the amendments, and so far as the New Democratic Party amendment deals with line 40 and your amendment deals with line 43, that is why I have to call according to the previous procedure, I have to call the New Democratic Party amendment first even though the Chair realizes that if the [Page 84]
New Democratic Party amendment is accepted by this Committee, the amendment identified CP-7 is already included in the previous amendment, but if the amendment by the New Democratic Party is not accepted that does not prevent you from moving the amendment identified as CP-7.
Mr. Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, for a matter of clarification, you gave the background of the discussion on Clause 14. We cannot accept the amendment of Mr. Robinson and I will explain why, but we can accept the amendment of the Conservative Parvty and so perhpas we should deal with the two and I can give the explanation to Mr. Robinson so that it will notthe intention is all the same but the way of drafting one is better than the drafting of the other, and the Robinson amendment, if I can use that term, the 150th amendment, it is too vague and could create all sorts of problems. I am informed, for example
Mr. Robinson: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the Minister, if I might have an opportunity to at least explain the amendment before it is shot down by the Minister. That is, I believe the normal procedure.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite Mr. Robinson to present his amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I know that the Minister still has an open mind on the subject and will be listening with great interest and will not be subject to any impairment involving hearing. it is one thing not to listen, Mr. Chairman, it is another thing to be subjected to a hearing impairment.
Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment is to expand the protection presently accorded in Clause 14 to an interpreter, and it is not something which is unusual or vague or difficult to apply, as the Minister suggested, because with respect, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, the wording is taken precisely from the terms of Bill C-60.
Now, once again, Mr. Minister, I would have assumed that the same people who advised you on Bill C-60 would be advising you today and I am sure that they would not have wished to advise you at that time to accept something which was vague or impossible to interpret.
Mr. Chairman, it is not a question of vagueness, it is a question of scope. In Clause 14, as the amendment would read, we would be going beyond proceedings in which a person was a party or witness, but we would be going to proceedings in which a person was involved, to use the words of the proposed amendment, and we would also be expanding the words to deal with other authorities.
As I say, this is the proposal in Bill C-60, it was accepted by the MacGuigan-Lamontagne Committee, it was not considered by the government two years ago to be vague or difficult to interpret. I suggest that the amendment was reasonable and that it should be accepted. I would hope that it would be accepted by the government.
I would also say that I am pleased to hear that the government is prepared to accept the amendment with respect to [Page 85]
deafness which is being proposed both by the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party but I would hope that the government would recognize the desirability of expanding this in terms which it was presented in Bill C-60. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Chrétien: I will ask my advisor to give the explanation but the fact that it was accepted in Bill C·60, the deputy minister is not the same, perhaps he is a judge now, so we have a different troop and to explain why we feel after reflection what is better.
Mr. Ewaschuk: Obviously in relation to the proceedings the administration of justice is conducted by a provincial authorities. The expression in which the person is involved means more than the party or the witness so you can have all kinds of interested parties come to court and this would in fact give them a constitutional right to have interpreters so they could understand the proceedings.
Now, oftentimes that is so. If it is a language problem, the interpreter is there, and there is translation that goes on and there is certain accommodation, but if you were to do that for everybody who came in, who is somehow involved, they may be in fact a relative or so who does not understand the language but they are not a witness, they are not the accused and such, it could have certain important ramifications for the adminis· tration of justice and I think that the position we take is that, yes, we are not opposed to that but we would let the provincial try to work that out rather than saying that they have to in fact do it.
We say the minimal, yes, it should be for the witness, it should be for the party, extended to the deaf, but that is as far as we are willing to go at this particular time. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much.
Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Just a question, Mr. Chairman, if I may, to the officials or to the Minister.
Is it my understanding that Clause 14 as the government is proposing now would not cover the right to an interpreter of a person who is, let us say, arrested or detained; if they are being questioned, that they would not be protected by this right to an interpreter, that is my reading at least of Clause 14. Whereas, under the proposed amendment, because of the insertion of the words or other authority in which the person is involved, they would be protected in those circumstances?
Mr. Ewaschuk: Well, I kind of doubt that. When you are talking about procedings before another authority, I doubt that you would get a court characterizing that as being police interrogating somebody.
You must keep in mind again, and we have gone over this before, that the Crown has to prove a statement as voluntary, so if you have two English policemen who were in fact interrogating somebody who did not understand English, it is very unlikely that the judge is going to find that that statement is voluntary. [Page 86]
So rather than say that the police have to have to bring in, anytime there is a question on whether or not somebody was being interrogated can understand English, they will do that as a matter of course if they want to get that statement in, but it would not be an absolute right in relation to proceedings because I just do not see that as being characterized as proceedings. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Just to conclude, I would remind the Minister through you, Mr. Chairman, of the recent case in Toronto in which this very point was canvassed and raised in connection with an East Indian who was questioned under circumstances in which it was alleged that he did not understand the language in which he was being questioned.
I would also suggest that the words other authority have been interpreted by our courts to include circumstances in which a person is being questioned by the police, that the person is an authority figure, when we are dealing, for example, with confessions, and that is the way Canadian jurisprudence has interpreted those words.
I think, Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the present deputy minister, that the advice which was given in 1978 was very sound advice and I would suggest that this Committee should accept that advice. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Amendment negatived.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like then to invite the motion identified as CP-7, Clause 14, page 5, the motion proposed by the Conservative Party to be moved and invite the Honourable James McGrath to so do.
Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, before I read the amendment there is a slight change. The amendment should read ed or who is deaf to make it conform technically with the page.
Mr. Chairman, the amendment is as follows, I move that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out line 43 on page 5 and substituting the following: ed or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an
I will ask my colleague, Senator Tremblay, if he will read it en français, s’il vous plait. [Translation]
Senator Tremblay: Just to please my colleague who could very well read it himself. [Text]
Il est proposé
Que le projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1981
j’imagine
[Page 87]
soit modifié par substitution
Il faut continuer à dire 1980, n’est-ce pas? Merci, monsieur le président, de cette indication. soit modifié par substitution, à l’article 14, de ce qui suit:
«14. La partie ou le témoin qui ne peuvent suivre les procédures, soit parce qu’ils ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue employée, soit parce qu’ils sont atteints de surdité, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète.» [Translation]
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Senator Tremblay. [Text]
Mr. McGrath, to propose the motion in the usual way?
Mr. McGrath: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I must be getting overtired or perhaps I must be developing a hearing impediment because I thought I hear the Minister say he was going to accept our amendment. Mr. Chrétien: Yes. Yes.
Mr. McGrath: Well, Mr. Chairman, now that that fact has been so dramatically verified I expect any minute to ask the Minister to give consent to have the amendment withdrawn to be moved on a subsequent amendment. It would be more in keeping with the experience we have had here.
However, Mr. Chairman, this is a serious amendment and I am very, very encouraged by the fact that the government has seen fit to accept it because there are a number of people in this country who have a serious hearing handicap. Indeed, I stand to be corrected on this, but there are over 200,000 Canadians who are deaf or have a hearing disability to the point where they are clinically or legally deaf, and it is a serious problem because their handicap is not apparent and it becomes compounded when they are party to legal proceedings. That is why this amendment is so important.
It is not without interest to note that we are moving in the direction of recognizing the rights of these people, for example in broadcasting they have mechanical devices now in the public broadcasting system in the United States for the hard of hearing or the deaf. I understand that we are moving in that direction in Canada as well.
Mr. Chairman, I am gratified that the government has accepted our amendment and, as a matter of fact, I am speechless. Mr. Crombie: Two good events on one motion. Two!
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will not speak on behalf of the government, of course, honourable James McGrath, but you might wonder why the government has changed its mind about that and I told you last week that some see the light because they found their hearts and some change their mind because they hear the voices, and that is probably what happened in the present case. An hon. Member: I am sure they heard footsteps.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I see that the honourable members are ready for the vote. Amendment agreed to.
[Page 88]
Clause 14 as amended agreed to.
On Clause 15Equality before the law and equal protection of the law.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite, then, honourable members to take the amendments in relation to Clause 15. There are a certain number of amendments dealing with Clause 15, especially taking into account that very clause of the proposed motion has two subclauses, Clause 15(1) and Clause 15(2), and in order to deal with the two subclauses in order I would like to invite honourable members to take the amendment identified G-20, Clause 15(1) page 6.
There are two subamendments, to that amendment. The first subamendment that the Chair will invite honourable members to take is the one identified N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6, revised, that is the one with the word revised on it, and the next subamendment in relation to the same main amendment is the one identified as CP8(1), Clause 15, page 6.
So it means that the first subamendment we will be dealing with is the last one that I have mentioned, CP-8(1), Clause 15, page 6, but before we deal with that second subamendment I would like to invite Mr. Irwin to move, or Monsieur Corbin, to move the one identified G-20, subclause 15(1), Page 6. Monsieur Corbin.
M. Corbin: Merci, monsieur le president.
Or, je propose
Que le paragraphe 15(1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, à la rubrique qui précède la ligne 1, et aux lignes 1 à 5, page 6, de ce qui suit: «Droits à l’égalité
15. (1) La Loi ne fait acception de person ne et s’applique également à tous et tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, indépendamment de toute discrimination, notamment des discriminations fondées sur la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion, le sexe ou l’âge.»
Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that the heading preceding Clause 15 and Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the heading immediately preceding line 1 and lines 1 to 5 on page 6 and substituting the following: Equality Rights
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age. [Translation]
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Le coprésident (M. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Corbin.
[Text]
I would like to invite Mr. Robinson on behalf of the New Democratic Party to introduce the subamendment revised N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Page 89]
I am very pleased to move the subamendment as follows
Mr. Epp: Just a point of order, Mr. Chairman.
I must have misunderstood you. I take it now that you are going to ask for the New Democratic subamendment first and then call for our subamendment to the subamendment?
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Yes. That is what I have already stated, Mr. Epp.
Mr. Epp: I did not understand it that way. I thought you asked for our subamendment to the amendment. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): No, that is not the way.
Go on, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The amendment is as follows, first of all in English, this is to the proposal of the government, I move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act 1980, be amended by (a) striking out everything immediately following the words Every individual is equal» and substituting the following:
in, before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, and to access to employment, accommodation and public services, without unreasonable distinction on grounds including sex, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or age.
And then, Mr. Chairman, there are six additional subsections. The first is: (b) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: physical or mental disability,; (c) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: marital status,; (d) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: sexual orientation,; (e) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: political belief,; (f) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: lack of means; and (g) moving the word or so that it appears immediately after the penultimate proscribed ground of discrimination.
Mr. Chairman, those are our proposed amendments to Clause 15(1) to recognize some very fundamental and important grounds of discrimination which are not recognized in the government’s proposal. In French, Mr. Chairman, if you would like me to read this in French. Il est proposé
Que le projet de modification du paragraphe 15 (1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par:
a) substitution, à ce qui suit le membre de phrase «La loi ne fait exception de personne», de ce qui suit:
«Tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, ainsi qu’à l’accès aux emplois, au logement et aux services publics, indépendamment de [Page 90]
toute distinction abusive fondee notamment sur le sexe, la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion ou l’âge.»
b) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les déficiences physiques ou mentales,» c) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «la situation familiale,» d) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’inclination sexuelle,» e) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les croyances politiques,» f) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’insuffisance de moyens.»
g) insertion de la conjonction «or» avant la dernière distinction discriminatoire énoncée au paragraphe 15 (1) tel que modifié. Monsieur le president, je crois que cela doit etre «ou» et non’ pas «or».
Mr. Chairman, again these are proposed additions and changes to Clause 15(1) and I am very pleased to note that the Conservative Party will also be proposing the addition of physical and mental disability, supporting our amendment on that particular subclause. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
I would like to invite the honourable James McCrath to move the amendment on behalf of the Conservative Party. Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, my colleague, Mr. Crombie will do so. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The honourable David Crombie. Mr. Crombie: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, dealing with Clause 15 and our amendment to it, which is numbered CP-8(1) on the sheet, I wish to move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the words or age in Clause 15(1) thereof and substituting therefor the following words: age or mental or physical disability.
En français, il est proposé
Que le projet de modification de I’article 15 du porjet de loi constitution ne! de 1980 soit modi fie par la substitution, a «ou l’âge», au paragraphe (1), de «l’âge ou les déficiences mentales ou physiques.»
Mr. Chairman, speaking to the motion, my understanding is that the government is willing to accept our amendment. Now, I am not sure we can continue to take this prosperity any longer!
However, on behalf of those groups, organizations and individuals who find themselves physically and mentally dis- [Page 91]
abled in this country, I would like, on their behalf, since I am the spokesman on their behalf at this point, to offer my thanks to the government for their acceptance of the amendment. Thank you very much.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, the honourable David Crombie.
Mr. Chrétien: But who told you that I have accepted the amendment. I have not yet spoken. I think it was a good put on. Mr. Crombie: I have already spoken to Bob Kaplan and he has said it is okay! Mr. Chrétien: If I can have five minutes I will call the Prime Minister.
It is with great pleasure that I accept the amendment on behalf of the Government.
I do not think we should debate it. There was a great deal of debate. I was very anxious that we should proceed tonight. They were preparing to have a big group tomorrow. You can have lots of beer on my health.
Thank you for your good representation.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): So the amendment is carried, I should say wholeheartedly with unanimous consent. Amendment agreed to.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like, then, to invite honourable members to come back to the first subamendment and to invite Mr. Robinson to introduce the amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister for listening to the concerns of both the physically and mentally disabled.
I know the Minister will recognize that this is in many ways unprecedented and a historic occasion, because it is a right which has not yet been recognized in many international covenants and charters; I think the Minister and the government deserves full credit for accepting the recommendations of the subcommittee and of many other Canadians.
Certainly, I want to join with my colleague and friend, Mr. Crombie, in thanking you, Mr. Minister, for accepting this very important amendment.
Mr. Chrétien: I forgot to mention, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, that I think we should thank all the members of the special committee, presided over by Mr. David Smith, who has worked very hard indeed.
I would like to thank Mr. Smith and all members of the Committee who have worked all summer very hard on the problem.
We are entering a new field, and quite properly breaking good ground. I think we should be careful that we should not take it to the extent of opening the door to a list that would be meaningless. It is on the list as an amendment which will be accepted. [Page 92]
Mr. Robinson: Once again, Mr. Chairman, I know that the Minister will listen carefully to the representations made on the amendment which we will be proposing, just as he has listened with care to the representations of the groups representing the physically and mentally disabled.
Mr. Chairman, I also cannot resist pointing out that this fundamental right to protection from discrimination on grounds of physical and mental disability is surely one which should be accorded to all Canadians right across Canada, in every province in Canada, and that no provincial government should be permitted to opt out of providing basic and fundamental rights and freedoms to the handicapped.
Mr. Chairman, perhaps my Conservative colleagues would pay particular attention to that point, that the effect of their proposed amending formula, would grant rights to the handicapped in some provinces and not to the handicapped in other provinces which chose to opt out.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson, I regret to interrupt, but as I have already expressed on other occasions, I think you should address yourself to the content of the proposed amendment.
The amending formula will come later on in our discussions; but at this point we are dealing on a clause which does not have any reference to the amending formula as such.
I would invite you to restrict your remarks to the contents of the proposed amendment.




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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities


A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 28, 2021 Toronto: Forty years ago today was the most important single event to protect the constitutional equality rights of millions of people with disabilities, in Canada’s first 114 years. Four decades ago today, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada (the Joint Committee) voted to add equality rights for people with disabilities to the proposed Charter of Rights, then being debated. (The disability amendment)

Weeks earlier, in October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament to add a new Charter of Rights to Canada’s Constitution. The proposed Charter of Rights included an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, courts could not interprete section 15 to protect disability equality.

Without the benefit of fax machines, email, the internet or social media (which were years away), people with disabilities campaigned for the disability amendment. Their blitz got little media coverage.

In fall 1980, three major disability organizations appeared before the Joint Committee to call for the disability amendment. In response, on January 12, 1981, Justice Minister Jean Chretien said no to the disability amendment.

Despite that, people with disabilities tenaciously kept up the pressure. Victory came on January 28, 1981, when the Trudeau Government withdrew its opposition to the disability amendment. That day, the Joint Committee voted to pass the disability amendment. Canada became the first western democracy to explicitly protect equality for people with disabilities in its constitution. (Hansard transcript below)

Over the forty years that followed, the disability amendment led to some important court victories for disability rights. It also helped drive the passage of several accessibility laws: Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, Manitoba’s Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act 2017, and the federal Accessible Canada Act2019.

Canada should be proud of what was achieved forty years ago today in the name of equality and full participation for people with disabilities, said David Lepofsky who was one of the disability advocates who appeared before Parliament to advocate for the disability amendment and who now chairs the non-partisan AODA Alliance that campaigns for disability accessibility. However, despite the disability amendment, over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face far too many unfair barriers in areas like employment, transportation, education, health care and access to buildings. Top of mind today is the serious danger that patients with disabilities will suffer unjustified disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, requiring the rationing or triage of critical care, dressed up as objective medical science. Those of us who fought for the disability amendment could not have imagined that forty years later, we’d need to use that victory to try to prevent disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care.

In months of public debate over the Charter of Rights four decades ago, the only new constitutional right that was added to the Charter, and which was not in the original draft, was equality for people with disabilities something the media has also rarely covered. Even lesser known was a second disability rights victory for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing at the Joint Committee four decades ago today. The Joint Committee also amended section 14 of the Charter, to guarantee the constitutional right to an interpreter for deaf persons when participating in legal proceedings. Previously, section 14’s wording did not guarantee the right to an interpreter to persons needing one due to hearing loss.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] For more background, check out:

1. Transcript of the three disability organizations’ presentations in the 1980 fall to the Joint Committee calling for the Charter disability amendment.

2. Captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation by David Lepofsky to the Joint Committee, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is now chair of the AODA Alliance.

3. Transcript of the initial refusal on January 12, 1981 by federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien to agree to the disability amendment, which he announced during his appearance before the Joint committee a decision the Federal Government reversed forty years ago today.

4. Online captioned lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the history of the campaign for the Charter disability amendment.

Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada on the Constitution of Canada Hansard Excerpts January 28, 1981

The following took place on Charter ss. 14 and 15 as it pertains to people with disabilities:

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would then move this amendment as follows, that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980 be amended by striking out lines 40 to 44 on page 5 and substituting the following:
14. Every person has the right to the assistance of an interpreter in any proceedings before a court, tribunal, commission, board or other authority in which the person is involved or is a party or a witness if the person does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted, or is subject to a hearing impairment. Et en français, it est proposé
Que l’article 14 du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, aux lignes 40 à 43, de ce qui suit:
«14. Les personnes qui ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue dans laquelle se déroulent des procédures devant une instance judiciaire, quasi-judiciaire, administrative ou autre, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète; les personnes atteintes de déficiences auditives ont également ce droit dans les mêmes circonstances.»
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Before I invite you to give an explanation, Mr. Robinson, the honourable James McGrath on a point of order.
Mr. McGrath: I am just wondering, Mr. Chairman, at first glance it would seem that our amendment, which is CP-7, Clause 14, page 5 should come first.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The only reason I have called the amendment proposed by the New Democratic Party, I refer to you the previous indication that the Chair would call in order the amendments, and so far as the New Democratic Party amendment deals with line 40 and your amendment deals with line 43, that is why I have to call according to the previous procedure, I have to call the New Democratic Party amendment first even though the Chair realizes that if the [Page 84]
New Democratic Party amendment is accepted by this Committee, the amendment identified CP-7 is already included in the previous amendment, but if the amendment by the New Democratic Party is not accepted that does not prevent you from moving the amendment identified as CP-7.
Mr. Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, for a matter of clarification, you gave the background of the discussion on Clause 14. We cannot accept the amendment of Mr. Robinson and I will explain why, but we can accept the amendment of the Conservative Parvty and so perhpas we should deal with the two and I can give the explanation to Mr. Robinson so that it will notthe intention is all the same but the way of drafting one is better than the drafting of the other, and the Robinson amendment, if I can use that term, the 150th amendment, it is too vague and could create all sorts of problems. I am informed, for example
Mr. Robinson: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the Minister, if I might have an opportunity to at least explain the amendment before it is shot down by the Minister. That is, I believe the normal procedure.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite Mr. Robinson to present his amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I know that the Minister still has an open mind on the subject and will be listening with great interest and will not be subject to any impairment involving hearing. it is one thing not to listen, Mr. Chairman, it is another thing to be subjected to a hearing impairment.
Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment is to expand the protection presently accorded in Clause 14 to an interpreter, and it is not something which is unusual or vague or difficult to apply, as the Minister suggested, because with respect, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, the wording is taken precisely from the terms of Bill C-60.
Now, once again, Mr. Minister, I would have assumed that the same people who advised you on Bill C-60 would be advising you today and I am sure that they would not have wished to advise you at that time to accept something which was vague or impossible to interpret.
Mr. Chairman, it is not a question of vagueness, it is a question of scope. In Clause 14, as the amendment would read, we would be going beyond proceedings in which a person was a party or witness, but we would be going to proceedings in which a person was involved, to use the words of the proposed amendment, and we would also be expanding the words to deal with other authorities.
As I say, this is the proposal in Bill C-60, it was accepted by the MacGuigan-Lamontagne Committee, it was not considered by the government two years ago to be vague or difficult to interpret. I suggest that the amendment was reasonable and that it should be accepted. I would hope that it would be accepted by the government.
I would also say that I am pleased to hear that the government is prepared to accept the amendment with respect to [Page 85]
deafness which is being proposed both by the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party but I would hope that the government would recognize the desirability of expanding this in terms which it was presented in Bill C-60. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Chrétien: I will ask my advisor to give the explanation but the fact that it was accepted in Bill C·60, the deputy minister is not the same, perhaps he is a judge now, so we have a different troop and to explain why we feel after reflection what is better.
Mr. Ewaschuk: Obviously in relation to the proceedings the administration of justice is conducted by a provincial authorities. The expression in which the person is involved means more than the party or the witness so you can have all kinds of interested parties come to court and this would in fact give them a constitutional right to have interpreters so they could understand the proceedings.
Now, oftentimes that is so. If it is a language problem, the interpreter is there, and there is translation that goes on and there is certain accommodation, but if you were to do that for everybody who came in, who is somehow involved, they may be in fact a relative or so who does not understand the language but they are not a witness, they are not the accused and such, it could have certain important ramifications for the adminis· tration of justice and I think that the position we take is that, yes, we are not opposed to that but we would let the provincial try to work that out rather than saying that they have to in fact do it.
We say the minimal, yes, it should be for the witness, it should be for the party, extended to the deaf, but that is as far as we are willing to go at this particular time. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much.
Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Just a question, Mr. Chairman, if I may, to the officials or to the Minister.
Is it my understanding that Clause 14 as the government is proposing now would not cover the right to an interpreter of a person who is, let us say, arrested or detained; if they are being questioned, that they would not be protected by this right to an interpreter, that is my reading at least of Clause 14. Whereas, under the proposed amendment, because of the insertion of the words or other authority in which the person is involved, they would be protected in those circumstances?
Mr. Ewaschuk: Well, I kind of doubt that. When you are talking about procedings before another authority, I doubt that you would get a court characterizing that as being police interrogating somebody.
You must keep in mind again, and we have gone over this before, that the Crown has to prove a statement as voluntary, so if you have two English policemen who were in fact interrogating somebody who did not understand English, it is very unlikely that the judge is going to find that that statement is voluntary. [Page 86]
So rather than say that the police have to have to bring in, anytime there is a question on whether or not somebody was being interrogated can understand English, they will do that as a matter of course if they want to get that statement in, but it would not be an absolute right in relation to proceedings because I just do not see that as being characterized as proceedings. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Just to conclude, I would remind the Minister through you, Mr. Chairman, of the recent case in Toronto in which this very point was canvassed and raised in connection with an East Indian who was questioned under circumstances in which it was alleged that he did not understand the language in which he was being questioned.
I would also suggest that the words other authority have been interpreted by our courts to include circumstances in which a person is being questioned by the police, that the person is an authority figure, when we are dealing, for example, with confessions, and that is the way Canadian jurisprudence has interpreted those words.
I think, Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the present deputy minister, that the advice which was given in 1978 was very sound advice and I would suggest that this Committee should accept that advice. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Amendment negatived.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like then to invite the motion identified as CP-7, Clause 14, page 5, the motion proposed by the Conservative Party to be moved and invite the Honourable James McGrath to so do.
Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, before I read the amendment there is a slight change. The amendment should read ed or who is deaf to make it conform technically with the page.
Mr. Chairman, the amendment is as follows, I move that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out line 43 on page 5 and substituting the following: ed or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an
I will ask my colleague, Senator Tremblay, if he will read it en français, s’il vous plait. [Translation]
Senator Tremblay: Just to please my colleague who could very well read it himself. [Text]
Il est proposé
Que le projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1981
j’imagine
[Page 87]
soit modifié par substitution
Il faut continuer à dire 1980, n’est-ce pas? Merci, monsieur le président, de cette indication. soit modifié par substitution, à l’article 14, de ce qui suit:
«14. La partie ou le témoin qui ne peuvent suivre les procédures, soit parce qu’ils ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue employée, soit parce qu’ils sont atteints de surdité, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète.» [Translation]
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Senator Tremblay. [Text]
Mr. McGrath, to propose the motion in the usual way?
Mr. McGrath: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I must be getting overtired or perhaps I must be developing a hearing impediment because I thought I hear the Minister say he was going to accept our amendment. Mr. Chrétien: Yes. Yes.
Mr. McGrath: Well, Mr. Chairman, now that that fact has been so dramatically verified I expect any minute to ask the Minister to give consent to have the amendment withdrawn to be moved on a subsequent amendment. It would be more in keeping with the experience we have had here.
However, Mr. Chairman, this is a serious amendment and I am very, very encouraged by the fact that the government has seen fit to accept it because there are a number of people in this country who have a serious hearing handicap. Indeed, I stand to be corrected on this, but there are over 200,000 Canadians who are deaf or have a hearing disability to the point where they are clinically or legally deaf, and it is a serious problem because their handicap is not apparent and it becomes compounded when they are party to legal proceedings. That is why this amendment is so important.
It is not without interest to note that we are moving in the direction of recognizing the rights of these people, for example in broadcasting they have mechanical devices now in the public broadcasting system in the United States for the hard of hearing or the deaf. I understand that we are moving in that direction in Canada as well.
Mr. Chairman, I am gratified that the government has accepted our amendment and, as a matter of fact, I am speechless. Mr. Crombie: Two good events on one motion. Two!
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will not speak on behalf of the government, of course, honourable James McGrath, but you might wonder why the government has changed its mind about that and I told you last week that some see the light because they found their hearts and some change their mind because they hear the voices, and that is probably what happened in the present case. An hon. Member: I am sure they heard footsteps.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I see that the honourable members are ready for the vote. Amendment agreed to.
[Page 88]
Clause 14 as amended agreed to.
On Clause 15Equality before the law and equal protection of the law.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite, then, honourable members to take the amendments in relation to Clause 15. There are a certain number of amendments dealing with Clause 15, especially taking into account that very clause of the proposed motion has two subclauses, Clause 15(1) and Clause 15(2), and in order to deal with the two subclauses in order I would like to invite honourable members to take the amendment identified G-20, Clause 15(1) page 6.
There are two subamendments, to that amendment. The first subamendment that the Chair will invite honourable members to take is the one identified N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6, revised, that is the one with the word revised on it, and the next subamendment in relation to the same main amendment is the one identified as CP8(1), Clause 15, page 6.
So it means that the first subamendment we will be dealing with is the last one that I have mentioned, CP-8(1), Clause 15, page 6, but before we deal with that second subamendment I would like to invite Mr. Irwin to move, or Monsieur Corbin, to move the one identified G-20, subclause 15(1), Page 6. Monsieur Corbin.
M. Corbin: Merci, monsieur le president.
Or, je propose
Que le paragraphe 15(1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, à la rubrique qui précède la ligne 1, et aux lignes 1 à 5, page 6, de ce qui suit: «Droits à l’égalité
15. (1) La Loi ne fait acception de person ne et s’applique également à tous et tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, indépendamment de toute discrimination, notamment des discriminations fondées sur la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion, le sexe ou l’âge.»
Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that the heading preceding Clause 15 and Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the heading immediately preceding line 1 and lines 1 to 5 on page 6 and substituting the following: Equality Rights
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age. [Translation]
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Le coprésident (M. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Corbin.
[Text]
I would like to invite Mr. Robinson on behalf of the New Democratic Party to introduce the subamendment revised N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Page 89]
I am very pleased to move the subamendment as follows
Mr. Epp: Just a point of order, Mr. Chairman.
I must have misunderstood you. I take it now that you are going to ask for the New Democratic subamendment first and then call for our subamendment to the subamendment?
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Yes. That is what I have already stated, Mr. Epp.
Mr. Epp: I did not understand it that way. I thought you asked for our subamendment to the amendment. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): No, that is not the way.
Go on, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The amendment is as follows, first of all in English, this is to the proposal of the government, I move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act 1980, be amended by (a) striking out everything immediately following the words Every individual is equal» and substituting the following:
in, before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, and to access to employment, accommodation and public services, without unreasonable distinction on grounds including sex, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or age.
And then, Mr. Chairman, there are six additional subsections. The first is: (b) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: physical or mental disability,; (c) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: marital status,; (d) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: sexual orientation,; (e) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: political belief,; (f) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: lack of means; and (g) moving the word or so that it appears immediately after the penultimate proscribed ground of discrimination.
Mr. Chairman, those are our proposed amendments to Clause 15(1) to recognize some very fundamental and important grounds of discrimination which are not recognized in the government’s proposal. In French, Mr. Chairman, if you would like me to read this in French. Il est proposé
Que le projet de modification du paragraphe 15 (1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par:
a) substitution, à ce qui suit le membre de phrase «La loi ne fait exception de personne», de ce qui suit:
«Tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, ainsi qu’à l’accès aux emplois, au logement et aux services publics, indépendamment de [Page 90]
toute distinction abusive fondee notamment sur le sexe, la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion ou l’âge.»
b) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les déficiences physiques ou mentales,» c) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «la situation familiale,» d) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’inclination sexuelle,» e) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les croyances politiques,» f) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’insuffisance de moyens.»
g) insertion de la conjonction «or» avant la dernière distinction discriminatoire énoncée au paragraphe 15 (1) tel que modifié. Monsieur le president, je crois que cela doit etre «ou» et non’ pas «or».
Mr. Chairman, again these are proposed additions and changes to Clause 15(1) and I am very pleased to note that the Conservative Party will also be proposing the addition of physical and mental disability, supporting our amendment on that particular subclause. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
I would like to invite the honourable James McCrath to move the amendment on behalf of the Conservative Party. Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, my colleague, Mr. Crombie will do so. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The honourable David Crombie. Mr. Crombie: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, dealing with Clause 15 and our amendment to it, which is numbered CP-8(1) on the sheet, I wish to move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the words or age in Clause 15(1) thereof and substituting therefor the following words: age or mental or physical disability.
En français, il est proposé
Que le projet de modification de I’article 15 du porjet de loi constitution ne! de 1980 soit modi fie par la substitution, a «ou l’âge», au paragraphe (1), de «l’âge ou les déficiences mentales ou physiques.»
Mr. Chairman, speaking to the motion, my understanding is that the government is willing to accept our amendment. Now, I am not sure we can continue to take this prosperity any longer!
However, on behalf of those groups, organizations and individuals who find themselves physically and mentally dis- [Page 91]
abled in this country, I would like, on their behalf, since I am the spokesman on their behalf at this point, to offer my thanks to the government for their acceptance of the amendment. Thank you very much.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, the honourable David Crombie.
Mr. Chrétien: But who told you that I have accepted the amendment. I have not yet spoken. I think it was a good put on. Mr. Crombie: I have already spoken to Bob Kaplan and he has said it is okay! Mr. Chrétien: If I can have five minutes I will call the Prime Minister.
It is with great pleasure that I accept the amendment on behalf of the Government.
I do not think we should debate it. There was a great deal of debate. I was very anxious that we should proceed tonight. They were preparing to have a big group tomorrow. You can have lots of beer on my health.
Thank you for your good representation.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): So the amendment is carried, I should say wholeheartedly with unanimous consent. Amendment agreed to.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like, then, to invite honourable members to come back to the first subamendment and to invite Mr. Robinson to introduce the amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister for listening to the concerns of both the physically and mentally disabled.
I know the Minister will recognize that this is in many ways unprecedented and a historic occasion, because it is a right which has not yet been recognized in many international covenants and charters; I think the Minister and the government deserves full credit for accepting the recommendations of the subcommittee and of many other Canadians.
Certainly, I want to join with my colleague and friend, Mr. Crombie, in thanking you, Mr. Minister, for accepting this very important amendment.
Mr. Chrétien: I forgot to mention, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, that I think we should thank all the members of the special committee, presided over by Mr. David Smith, who has worked very hard indeed.
I would like to thank Mr. Smith and all members of the Committee who have worked all summer very hard on the problem.
We are entering a new field, and quite properly breaking good ground. I think we should be careful that we should not take it to the extent of opening the door to a list that would be meaningless. It is on the list as an amendment which will be accepted. [Page 92]
Mr. Robinson: Once again, Mr. Chairman, I know that the Minister will listen carefully to the representations made on the amendment which we will be proposing, just as he has listened with care to the representations of the groups representing the physically and mentally disabled.
Mr. Chairman, I also cannot resist pointing out that this fundamental right to protection from discrimination on grounds of physical and mental disability is surely one which should be accorded to all Canadians right across Canada, in every province in Canada, and that no provincial government should be permitted to opt out of providing basic and fundamental rights and freedoms to the handicapped.
Mr. Chairman, perhaps my Conservative colleagues would pay particular attention to that point, that the effect of their proposed amending formula, would grant rights to the handicapped in some provinces and not to the handicapped in other provinces which chose to opt out.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson, I regret to interrupt, but as I have already expressed on other occasions, I think you should address yourself to the content of the proposed amendment.
The amending formula will come later on in our discussions; but at this point we are dealing on a clause which does not have any reference to the amending formula as such.
I would invite you to restrict your remarks to the contents of the proposed amendment.




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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities – A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care


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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities – A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care

January 28, 2021 Toronto: Forty years ago today was the most important single event to protect the constitutional equality rights of millions of people with disabilities, in Canada’s first 114 years. Four decades ago today, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada (“the Joint Committee”) voted to add equality rights for people with disabilities to the proposed Charter of Rights, then being debated. (“The disability amendment”)

Weeks earlier, in October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament to add a new Charter of Rights to Canada’s Constitution. The proposed Charter of Rights included an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, courts could not interprete section 15 to protect disability equality.

Without the benefit of fax machines, email, the internet or social media (which were years away), people with disabilities campaigned for the disability amendment. Their blitz got little media coverage.

In fall 1980, three major disability organizations appeared before the Joint Committee to call for the disability amendment. In response, on January 12, 1981, Justice Minister Jean Chretien said no to the disability amendment.

Despite that, people with disabilities tenaciously kept up the pressure. Victory came on January 28, 1981, when the Trudeau Government withdrew its opposition to the disability amendment. That day, the Joint Committee voted to pass the disability amendment. Canada became the first western democracy to explicitly protect equality for people with disabilities in its constitution. (Hansard transcript below)

Over the forty years that followed, the disability amendment led to some important court victories for disability rights. It also helped drive the passage of several accessibility laws: Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, Manitoba’s Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act 2017, and the federal Accessible Canada Act2019.

“Canada should be proud of what was achieved forty years ago today in the name of equality and full participation for people with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky who was one of the disability advocates who appeared before Parliament to advocate for the disability amendment and who now chairs the non-partisan AODA Alliance that campaigns for disability accessibility. “However, despite the disability amendment, over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face far too many unfair barriers in areas like employment, transportation, education, health care and access to buildings. Top of mind today is the serious danger that patients with disabilities will suffer unjustified disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, requiring the rationing or “triage” of critical care, dressed up as objective medical science. Those of us who fought for the disability amendment could not have imagined that forty years later, we’d need to use that victory to try to prevent disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care.”

In months of public debate over the Charter of Rights four decades ago, the only new constitutional right that was added to the Charter, and which was not in the original draft, was equality for people with disabilities – something the media has also rarely covered. Even lesser known was a second disability rights victory for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing at the Joint Committee four decades ago today. The Joint Committee also amended section 14 of the Charter, to guarantee the constitutional right to an interpreter for deaf persons when participating in legal proceedings. Previously, section 14’s wording did not guarantee the right to an interpreter to persons needing one due to hearing loss.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected]

For more background, check out:

  1. Transcript of the three disability organizations’ presentations in the 1980 fall to the Joint Committee calling for the Charter disability amendment.
  1. Captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation by David Lepofsky to the Joint Committee, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is now chair of the AODA Alliance.
  1. Transcript of the initial refusal on January 12, 1981 by federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien to agree to the disability amendment, which he announced during his appearance before the Joint committee – a decision the Federal Government reversed forty years ago today.
  1. Online captioned lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the history of the campaign for the Charter disability amendment.

Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada on the Constitution of Canada Hansard Excerpts January 28, 1981

The following took place on Charter ss. 14 and 15 as it pertains to people with disabilities:

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would then move this amendment as follows, that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980 be amended by striking out lines 40 to 44 on page 5 and substituting the following:

  1. Every person has the right to the assistance of an interpreter in any proceedings before a court, tribunal, commission, board or other authority in which the person is involved or is a party or a witness if the person does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted, or is subject to a hearing impairment.

Et en français, it est proposé

Que l’article 14 du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, aux lignes 40 à 43, de ce qui suit:

«14. Les personnes qui ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue dans laquelle se déroulent des procédures devant une instance judiciaire, quasi-judiciaire, administrative ou autre, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète; les personnes atteintes de déficiences auditives ont également ce droit dans les mêmes circonstances.»

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Before I invite you to give an explanation, Mr. Robinson, the honourable James McGrath on a point of order.

Mr. McGrath: I am just wondering, Mr. Chairman, at first glance it would seem that our amendment, which is CP-7, Clause 14, page 5 should come first.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The only reason I have called the amendment proposed by the New Democratic Party, I refer to you the previous indication that the Chair would call in order the amendments, and so far as the New Democratic Party amendment deals with line 40 and your amendment deals with line 43, that is why I have to call according to the previous procedure, I have to call the New Democratic Party amendment first even though the Chair realizes that if the

[Page 84]

New Democratic Party amendment is accepted by this Committee, the amendment identified CP-7 is already included in the previous amendment, but if the amendment by the New Democratic Party is not accepted that does not prevent you from moving the amendment identified as CP-7.

Mr. Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, for a matter of clarification, you gave the background of the discussion on Clause 14. We cannot accept the amendment of Mr. Robinson and I will explain why, but we can accept the amendment of the Conservative Parvty and so perhpas we should deal with the two and I can give the explanation to Mr. Robinson so that it will not—the intention is all the same but the way of drafting one is better than the drafting of the other, and the Robinson amendment, if I can use that term, the 150th amendment, it is too vague and could create all sorts of problems.

I am informed, for example …

Mr. Robinson: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the Minister, if I might have an opportunity to at least explain the amendment before it is shot down by the Minister. That is, I believe the normal procedure.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite Mr. Robinson to present his amendment in the usual way.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I know that the Minister still has an open mind on the subject and will be listening with great interest and will not be subject to any impairment involving hearing. it is one thing not to listen, Mr. Chairman, it is another thing to be subjected to a hearing impairment.

Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment is to expand the protection presently accorded in Clause 14 to an interpreter, and it is not something which is unusual or vague or difficult to apply, as the Minister suggested, because with respect, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, the wording is taken precisely from the terms of Bill C-60.

Now, once again, Mr. Minister, I would have assumed that the same people who advised you on Bill C-60 would be advising you today and I am sure that they would not have wished to advise you at that time to accept something which was vague or impossible to interpret.

Mr. Chairman, it is not a question of vagueness, it is a question of scope. In Clause 14, as the amendment would read, we would be going beyond proceedings in which a person was a party or witness, but we would be going to proceedings in which a person was involved, to use the words of the proposed amendment, and we would also be expanding the words to deal with other authorities.

As I say, this is the proposal in Bill C-60, it was accepted by the MacGuigan-Lamontagne Committee, it was not considered by the government two years ago to be vague or difficult to interpret. I suggest that the amendment was reasonable and that it should be accepted. I would hope that it would be accepted by the government.

I would also say that I am pleased to hear that the government is prepared to accept the amendment with respect to

[Page 85]

deafness which is being proposed both by the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party but I would hope that the government would recognize the desirability of expanding this in terms which it was presented in Bill C-60.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson.

Mr. Chrétien: I will ask my advisor to give the explanation but the fact that it was accepted in Bill C·60, the deputy minister is not the same, perhaps he is a judge now, so we have a different troop and to explain why we feel after reflection what is better.

Mr. Ewaschuk: Obviously in relation to the proceedings the administration of justice is conducted by a provincial authorities. The expression in which the person is involved means more than the party or the witness so you can have all kinds of interested parties come to court and this would in fact give them a constitutional right to have interpreters so they could understand the proceedings.

Now, oftentimes that is so. If it is a language problem, the interpreter is there, and there is translation that goes on and there is certain accommodation, but if you were to do that for everybody who came in, who is somehow involved, they may be in fact a relative or so who does not understand the language but they are not a witness, they are not the accused and such, it could have certain important ramifications for the adminis· tration of justice and I think that the position we take is that, yes, we are not opposed to that but we would let the provincial try to work that out rather than saying that they have to in fact do it.

We say the minimal, yes, it should be for the witness, it should be for the party, extended to the deaf, but that is as far as we are willing to go at this particular time.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much.

Mr. Robinson to conclude.

Mr. Robinson: Just a question, Mr. Chairman, if I may, to the officials or to the Minister.

Is it my understanding that Clause 14 as the government is proposing now would not cover the right to an interpreter of a person who is, let us say, arrested or detained; if they are being questioned, that they would not be protected by this right to an interpreter, that is my reading at least of Clause 14. Whereas, under the proposed amendment, because of the insertion of the words “or other authority” in which the person is involved, they would be protected in those circumstances?

Mr. Ewaschuk: Well, I kind of doubt that. When you are talking about procedings before another authority, I doubt that you would get a court characterizing that as being police interrogating somebody.

You must keep in mind again, and we have gone over this before, that the Crown has to prove a statement as voluntary, so if you have two English policemen who were in fact interrogating somebody who did not understand English, it is very unlikely that the judge is going to find that that statement is voluntary.

[Page 86]

So rather than say that the police have to have to bring in, anytime there is a question on whether or not somebody was being interrogated can understand English, they will do that as a matter of course if they want to get that statement in, but it would not be an absolute right in relation to proceedings because I just do not see that as being characterized as proceedings.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson to conclude.

Mr. Robinson: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

Just to conclude, I would remind the Minister through you, Mr. Chairman, of the recent case in Toronto in which this very point was canvassed and raised in connection with an East Indian who was questioned under circumstances in which it was alleged that he did not understand the language in which he was being questioned.

I would also suggest that the words “other authority” have been interpreted by our courts to include circumstances in which a person is being questioned by the police, that the person is an authority figure, when we are dealing, for example, with confessions, and that is the way Canadian jurisprudence has interpreted those words.

I think, Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the present deputy minister, that the advice which was given in 1978 was very sound advice and I would suggest that this Committee should accept that advice.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

Amendment negatived.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like then to invite the motion identified as CP-7, Clause 14, page 5, the motion proposed by the Conservative Party to be moved and invite the Honourable James McGrath to so do.

Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, before I read the amendment there is a slight change. The amendment should read “ed or who is deaf” to make it conform technically with the page.

Mr. Chairman, the amendment is as follows, I move that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out line 43 on page 5 and substituting the following:

ed or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an”

I will ask my colleague, Senator Tremblay, if he will read it en français, s’il vous plait.

[Translation]

Senator Tremblay: Just to please my colleague who could very well read it himself.

[Text]

Il est proposé

Que le projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1981 …

j’imagine

[Page 87]

soit modifié par substitution …

Il faut continuer à dire 1980, n’est-ce pas? Merci, monsieur le président, de cette indication.

… soit modifié par substitution, à l’article 14, de ce qui suit:

«14. La partie ou le témoin qui ne peuvent suivre les procédures, soit parce qu’ils ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue employée, soit parce qu’ils sont atteints de surdité, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète.»

[Translation]

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Senator Tremblay.

[Text]

Mr. McGrath, to propose the motion in the usual way?

Mr. McGrath: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I must be getting overtired or perhaps I must be developing a hearing impediment because I thought I hear the Minister say he was going to accept our amendment.

Mr. Chrétien: Yes. Yes.

Mr. McGrath: Well, Mr. Chairman, now that that fact has been so dramatically verified I expect any minute to ask the Minister to give consent to have the amendment withdrawn to be moved on a subsequent amendment. It would be more in keeping with the experience we have had here.

However, Mr. Chairman, this is a serious amendment and I am very, very encouraged by the fact that the government has seen fit to accept it because there are a number of people in this country who have a serious hearing handicap. Indeed, I stand to be corrected on this, but there are over 200,000 Canadians who are deaf or have a hearing disability to the point where they are clinically or legally deaf, and it is a serious problem because their handicap is not apparent and it becomes compounded when they are party to legal proceedings. That is why this amendment is so important.

It is not without interest to note that we are moving in the direction of recognizing the rights of these people, for example in broadcasting they have mechanical devices now in the public broadcasting system in the United States for the hard of hearing or the deaf. I understand that we are moving in that direction in Canada as well.

Mr. Chairman, I am gratified that the government has accepted our amendment and, as a matter of fact, I am speechless.

Mr. Crombie: Two good events on one motion. Two!

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will not speak on behalf of the government, of course, honourable James McGrath, but you might wonder why the government has changed its mind about that and I told you last week that some see the light because they found their hearts and some change their mind because they hear the voices, and that is probably what happened in the present case.

An hon. Member: I am sure they heard footsteps.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I see that the honourable members are ready for the vote.

Amendment agreed to.

[Page 88]

Clause 14 as amended agreed to.

On Clause 15—Equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite, then, honourable members to take the amendments in relation to Clause 15. There are a certain number of amendments dealing with Clause 15, especially taking into account that very clause of the proposed motion has two subclauses, Clause 15(1) and Clause 15(2), and in order to deal with the two subclauses in order I would like to invite honourable members to take the amendment identified G-20, Clause 15(1) page 6.

There are two subamendments, to that amendment. The first subamendment that the Chair will invite honourable members to take is the one identified N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6, revised, that is the one with the word “revised” on it, and the next subamendment in relation to the same main amendment is the one identified as CP—8(1), Clause 15, page 6.

So it means that the first subamendment we will be dealing with is the last one that I have mentioned, CP-8(1), Clause 15, page 6, but before we deal with that second subamendment I would like to invite Mr. Irwin to move, or Monsieur Corbin, to move the one identified G-20, subclause 15(1), Page 6.

Monsieur Corbin.

  1. Corbin: Merci, monsieur le president.

Or, je propose

Que le paragraphe 15(1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, à la rubrique qui précède la ligne 1, et aux lignes 1 à 5, page 6, de ce qui suit:

«Droits à l’égalité

  1. (1) La Loi ne fait acception de person ne et s’applique également à tous et tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, indépendamment de toute discrimination, notamment des discriminations fondées sur la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion, le sexe ou l’âge.»

Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that the heading preceding Clause 15 and Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the heading immediately preceding line 1 and lines 1 to 5 on page 6 and substituting the following:

“Equality Rights

  1. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age.”

[Translation]

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Le coprésident (M. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Corbin.

[Text]

I would like to invite Mr. Robinson on behalf of the New Democratic Party to introduce the subamendment revised N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[Page 89]

I am very pleased to move the subamendment as follows …

Mr. Epp: Just a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

I must have misunderstood you. I take it now that you are going to ask for the New Democratic subamendment first and then call for our subamendment to the subamendment?

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Yes. That is what I have already stated, Mr. Epp.

Mr. Epp: I did not understand it that way. I thought you asked for our subamendment to the amendment.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): No, that is not the way.

Go on, Mr. Robinson.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The amendment is as follows, first of all in English, this is to the proposal of the government, I move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act 1980, be amended by (a) striking out everything immediately following the words “Every individual is equal» and substituting the following:

in, before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, and to access to employment, accommodation and public services, without unreasonable distinction on grounds including sex, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or age.

And then, Mr. Chairman, there are six additional subsections. The first is: (b) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “physical or mental disability,”; (c) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “marital status,”; (d) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “sexual orientation,”; (e) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “political belief,”; (f) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “lack of means”; and (g) moving the word “or” so that it appears immediately after the penultimate proscribed ground of discrimination.

Mr. Chairman, those are our proposed amendments to Clause 15(1) to recognize some very fundamental and important grounds of discrimination which are not recognized in the government’s proposal.

In French, Mr. Chairman, if you would like me to read this in French.

Il est proposé

Que le projet de modification du paragraphe 15 (1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par:

  1. a) substitution, à ce qui suit le membre de phrase «La loi ne fait exception de personne», de ce qui suit:

«Tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, ainsi qu’à l’accès aux emplois, au logement et aux services publics, indépendamment de

[Page 90]

toute distinction abusive fondee notamment sur le sexe, la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion ou l’âge.»

  1. b) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les déficiences physiques ou mentales,»
  2. c) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «la situation familiale,»
  3. d) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’inclination sexuelle,»
  4. e) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les croyances politiques,»
  5. f) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’insuffisance de moyens.»
  6. g) insertion de la conjonction «or» avant la dernière distinction discriminatoire énoncée au paragraphe 15 (1) tel que modifié.

Monsieur le president, je crois que cela doit etre «ou» et non’ pas «or».

Mr. Chairman, again these are proposed additions and changes to Clause 15(1) and I am very pleased to note that the Conservative Party will also be proposing the addition of physical and mental disability, supporting our amendment on that particular subclause.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

I would like to invite the honourable James McCrath to move the amendment on behalf of the Conservative Party.

Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, my colleague, Mr. Crombie will do so.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The honourable David Crombie.

Mr. Crombie: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, dealing with Clause 15 and our amendment to it, which is numbered CP-8(1) on the sheet, I wish to move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the words “or age” in Clause 15(1) thereof and substituting therefor the following words:

age or mental or physical disability.

En français, il est proposé

Que le projet de modification de I’article 15 du porjet de loi constitution ne! de 1980 soit modi fie par la substitution, a «ou l’âge», au paragraphe (1), de «l’âge ou les déficiences mentales ou physiques.»

Mr. Chairman, speaking to the motion, my understanding is that the government is willing to accept our amendment.

Now, I am not sure we can continue to take this prosperity any longer!

However, on behalf of those groups, organizations and individuals who find themselves physically and mentally dis-

[Page 91]

abled in this country, I would like, on their behalf, since I am the spokesman on their behalf at this point, to offer my thanks to the government for their acceptance of the amendment.

Thank you very much.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, the honourable David Crombie.

Mr. Chrétien: But who told you that I have accepted the amendment. I have not yet spoken. I think it was a good put on.

Mr. Crombie: I have already spoken to Bob Kaplan and he has said it is okay!

Mr. Chrétien: If I can have five minutes I will call the Prime Minister.

It is with great pleasure that I accept the amendment on behalf of the Government.

I do not think we should debate it. There was a great deal of debate. I was very anxious that we should proceed tonight. They were preparing to have a big group tomorrow.

You can have lots of beer on my health.

Thank you for your good representation.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): So the amendment is carried, I should say wholeheartedly with unanimous consent.

Amendment agreed to.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like, then, to invite honourable members to come back to the first subamendment and to invite Mr. Robinson to introduce the amendment in the usual way.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I certainly would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister for listening to the concerns of both the physically and mentally disabled.

I know the Minister will recognize that this is in many ways unprecedented and a historic occasion, because it is a right which has not yet been recognized in many international covenants and charters; I think the Minister and the government deserves full credit for accepting the recommendations of the subcommittee and of many other Canadians.

Certainly, I want to join with my colleague and friend, Mr. Crombie, in thanking you, Mr. Minister, for accepting this very important amendment.

Mr. Chrétien: I forgot to mention, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, that I think we should thank all the members of the special committee, presided over by Mr. David Smith, who has worked very hard indeed.

I would like to thank Mr. Smith and all members of the Committee who have worked all summer very hard on the problem.

We are entering a new field, and quite properly breaking good ground. I think we should be careful that we should not take it to the extent of opening the door to a list that would be meaningless. It is on the list as an amendment which will be accepted.

[Page 92]

Mr. Robinson: Once again, Mr. Chairman, I know that the Minister will listen carefully to the representations made on the amendment which we will be proposing, just as he has listened with care to the representations of the groups representing the physically and mentally disabled.

Mr. Chairman, I also cannot resist pointing out that this fundamental right to protection from discrimination on grounds of physical and mental disability is surely one which should be accorded to all Canadians right across Canada, in every province in Canada, and that no provincial government should be permitted to opt out of providing basic and fundamental rights and freedoms to the handicapped.

Mr. Chairman, perhaps my Conservative colleagues would pay particular attention to that point, that the effect of their proposed amending formula, would grant rights to the handicapped in some provinces and not to the handicapped in other provinces which chose to opt out.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson, I regret to interrupt, but as I have already expressed on other occasions, I think you should address yourself to the content of the proposed amendment.

The amending formula will come later on in our discussions; but at this point we are dealing on a clause which does not have any reference to the amending formula as such.

I would invite you to restrict your remarks to the contents of the proposed amendment.



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What Did Disability Advocates Tell Canada’s Parliament 40 Years Ago This Fall to Help Win an Historic Amendment to the Charter of Rights to Protect Equality for People with Disabilities?


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/

What Did Disability Advocates Tell Canada’s Parliament 40 Years Ago This Fall to Help Win an Historic Amendment to the Charter of Rights to Protect Equality for People with Disabilities?

December 7, 2020

            SUMMARY

Let’s take a cool stroll down disability rights advocacy memory lane going back four decades! Today, we make public a real treasure from the history of the ongoing non-partisan campaign for full accessibility, full participation and full inclusion of people with disabilities in Canadian society! These events still resonate to this day.

In this Update, we reach back to the incredibly uphill but ultimately successful battle in the fall of 1980 to get equality rights for people with disabilities entrenched in the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Parliament was then considering for inclusion in Canada’s Constitution. In October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament that would bring Canada’s Constitution home from England, and add a new Charter of Rights to it. The proposed Charter of Rights was to include an equality rights provision, section 15. However, the wording of section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, it would have been impossible for courts to add disability protection to section 15 by judicial interpretation.

A number of organizations and individuals came forward in the fall of 1980 from the disability community to call for the Charter of Rights to be amended, before Parliament passed it, to add equality for people with disabilities to section 15. During public hearings in Parliament on Canada’s Constitution in the fall of 1980 (the first Committee hearings in Canada’s Parliament ever to be televised), only three disability organizations got the chance to make presentations.

This Update gives you the chance for the first time to now read those three presentations all in one place. Below we set out the official transcripts of the presentations that were made by the three disability organizations that were given the opportunity to address the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons that held hearings on the proposed patriation of Canada’s Constitution.

  1. On November 21, 1980, the Joint Committee heard from the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded. That organization was later re-named the Canadian Association for Community Living. More recently it has adopted the Name Inclusion Canada.
  1. On November 25, 1980, the Joint Committee heard from the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (COPOH). That organization is now known as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).
  1. On December 12, 1980, 40 years ago this upcoming Saturday, the Joint Committee heard from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Its lead presenter was David Lepofsky, then a law student, and now chair of the AODA Alliance.

Despite these presentations, the Federal Government initially resisted adding disability equality to the Charter. However, our community persisted. Eventually, the disability amendment was unanimously added to the Charter before Parliament passed it in 1981. The only right to be added to the proposed Charter of Rights during all those weeks of proceedings in Parliament was equality for people with disabilities.

There is much more to this story. The winning of the disability amendment was due to the efforts of many. If you want to learn more about this history, which underpins all our disability accessibility advocacy to this day, check out a captioned video of a talk by David Lepofsky, where he recounts the history of the successful campaign in 1980-81 by diverse disability organizations to get the disability amendment added to the Charter of Rights. A captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation to the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons by a much younger David Lepofsky, then a law student, on behalf of the CNIB is also available online.

“Our tenacious battle for accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities has come a long way over the forty years since then, on a journey we certainly could not have imagined in 1980,” Said AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky. “In the fall of 1980, we had little hope of success, but combined efforts from disability advocates did succeed. Since then, we have continued to face many similarly uphill battles, with it each time appearing that we have little chance of succeeding, but we keep up our unstoppable efforts and we keep blazing forward.”

We welcome your feedback on this trip down memory lane, or on anything else to do with the non-partisan campaign for equality for people with disabilities. Write us at [email protected]

            MORE DETAILS

Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and of the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada RESPECTING The document entitled “Proposed Resolution for a Joint Address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada” published by the Government on October 2, 1980

Joint Chairmen:

Senator Harry Hays, P.C.

Serge Joyal, M.P.

 1. November 21, 1980

 

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal):

It is my pleasure this morning to introduce [Translation] Mr. Paul Mercure, President of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded, and Mr. David Vickers, Vice-President.

I understand that the Association has submitted a brief to the clerk of the committee and that it has been distributed, I also understand that you have a short presentation to make before answering the members’ questions.

I see that you have another colleague with you at the table and I would ask the President, Mr. Mercure, to introduce him.

Mr. Mercure.

Mr. Paul Mercure (President of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded): I would first like to thank the members of the joint committee for having given the representatives of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded a few minutes of their precious time, despite the deadlines they are facing.

Our delegation includes, on my left, Mr. Dave Vickers, Vice-President of our association and a former deputy minister of Justice in British Columbia, whose young daughter is mentally retarded, and, on my right, Mr. David Lincoln, President of the People First group, which is based in Fort Erie, Ontario. This is a group of mentally retarded adults who are trying to get along on their own. Mr. Harvey Endicott, Co-ordinator of the Association’s legal services and resources, is also with us.

The purpose of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded is to defend the rights and promote the interests of some 500,000 mentally handicapped Canadians.

It is a voluntary movement that includes provincial associations and some 40,000 members belonging to almost 400 local associations. Our brief should thus be corrected. We have 40,000 members throughout Canada.

[Page 7]

The Association’s main goal is to ensure that the rights of physically and mentally handicapped persons are respected and we have joined forces with other groups representing the handicapped.

Our Association is deeply convinced that all mentally handicapped people should live in society. outside of institutions which tend to alienate them. The integration process has begin throughout Canada and should be pursued on a long-term basis, Because more and more handicapped people are living in society, their rights must be protected.

Thanks to the efforts of our movement, a number of provincial and federal laws have addressed these questions. Our remarks this morning are based on decisions made at our general meeting, held in Toronto last June, and on previous general meetings which took a stand on the rights of the handicapped. At the June meeting, the Association was asked to promote the enshrinement of these rights in the new Canadian constitution.

This resulted in a special brief being presented to the special committee of the House of Commons on the handicapped and the disabled.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that I am happy with what we were able to accomplish with respect to that committee. Most of what we want to say this morning is contained in the preamble to a document published in October by the Special Committee on the Handicapped and the Disabled.

I would like to quote the third paragraph of the preamble, which reads as follows:

If Parliament decides to enshrine human rights in the patriated constitution. the committee feels that complete and equal protection should be extended to persons suffering from physical and mental handicaps.

We are asking that the rights of handicapped persons be protected in the new constitution.

The Association has not taken up position on how to patriate the constitution. We, of course, have our personal opinions, but we would rather the matter be dealt with by persons more qualified than us.

We want the patriated constitution to deal with the rights of all Canadians and give added protection to handicapped persons. who need it to be able to exercise their rights.

We are not asking for special rights, any more than we are in favour of special or segregated services, which we would like to see replaced. throughout Canada. by integrated services.

[Page 8]

What we are asking for is a place in society and the legal protection that handicapped people need to be able to exercise the same rights as other Canadians.

Before asking Mr. Vickers to give a more detailed account of our demands, I would like Mr. David Lincoln, who, as I said, is President of a group of mentally retarded people based in Fort Erie, to provide specific examples of situations that the group members have to deal with every day.

[Text]

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. David Lincoln (President, People First): First of all. I would like to say that People. First is a self-advocacy group of mentally retarded persons helping each other.

l have a few examples here, like needing more funding for shelter workshops, more staff and better pay for handicapped people.

One incident that comes to mind is from Carleton Place where clients were getting 2 cents an hour for the work they were doing. We feel that we are accomplishing a lot by working and human rights should cover minimum wage for all handicapped, or humans, supposedly.

Another one is there should be more low-rental accommodation for handicapped persons and if they move into a place they should not be discriminated against because they are retarded. Most people would rather turn them down because they are mentally retarded, and they figure it would be a low cut in rent, but it is not happening.

The best part of all, we are Canadian citizens; we feel we should be a part of the Canadian citizens instead of feeling second class.

The reason we are called People First is it is very important for our rights to such opportunities to be protected in the Canadian constitution. Please do not ignore us. We are people who are Canadian citizens first and handicapped second.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Vickers?

Mr. David Vickers (Vice-President, Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded): Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, we are here this morning to discuss with you a question of values. We are speaking of the value that will be placed upon the lives of our sons and daughters.

We are speaking to you about the value that will be placed upon the lives of thousands of Canadian citizens; these Canadian citizens living with a handicap, whether real or perceived.

Our plea to you is not a plea for special rights. Our plea as advocates of people with a handicap is that they too will be afforded the full opportunity that attaches to their Canadian citizenship: in short, a plea that they will not be forgotten in

[Page 9]

the new Bill of Rights so that they may become, as David has just said, Canadians first and handicapped second.

We ask you to pause for a moment, if you will, to consider the needs of an average Canadian citizen. Think of your own needs and how they have been met throughout your life. Canadians who are handicapped are no different in that regard than you or I. To achieve the limits of their potential they require, first of all, the ability to live, and in particular adequate health care.

Second, they require an appropriate education in the least restrictive alternative.

Third, they need appropriate vocational training and thereafter appropriate vocational opportunities.

Fourth, they need appropriate residential accomodation, again in the least restrictive alternative.

Fifth, they need appropriate recreational and social opportunities.

Antidiscrimination clauses in charters and human rights codes contains statements of conduct that is prohibitive. In addition to such statements of prohibitive conduct, our association favours a statement of positive rights. We say that those values to which we all subscribe as Canadians can be and ought to be stated as basic conditions of social, economic and cultural rights in Canada.

Unfortunately time has not allowed us to conduct an exhaustive study in that regard. In the preparation of our brief we have strived to return to the basic question, what are those values to which we can subscribe and how can they be entrenched in a charter of rights within the Canadian constitution?

Therefore we had reference to the International Covenants Board on Human Rights. These United Nations Covenants have been subscribed to by Canada and the provinces.

We are told that the ratification of these convcnants. the appointment of a Canadian representative to the Human Rights Committee and the subsequent ratification of the optional propocol remain today as a shining example of federal-provincial co-operation.

Therefore, since August 19, 1976 when the document came into effect, we have had a set of international values to which we could refer when considering the very issues which are before us today.

The first of these covenants deals with economic, social and cultural rights. the second with civil and political rights. Our list which was taken from these covenants is found at page 2 of our brief.

From the second covenant, Article 6 and the first convenant, Article 12, we have extracted the right to life and the right to health care. The remainder are all taken from the first covenant and include Article 11, the right to adequate food, clothing and housing; Article 10, the right to protection and assistance of the family; Article 13, the right to an appropriate

[Page 10]

education; Article 7. the right to an opportunity to work, and just and favourable conditions of work; Article 8, the right to participate in trade unions and Article 9. the right to social security.

It is essential that we take just a moment to say a few words about the right to an appropriate education. Many Canadians who are handicapped are denied this basic right referred to in the International Covenant and subscribed to by Canada and the provinces. It is fundamental to the growth and development of all persons that they receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. It is more than interesting to note that Section 23 of the proposed constitution act 1980 provides and I quote:

the right to have their children receive their primary and secondary school instruction in that minority language if they reside in an area

And so on. Surely, there is a missing link in the logic of this section. There is indeed the need to entrench the right to an appropriate education and thereafter to deal with the equally important question of minority language educational rights. Without the entrenchment of that value, the right to an appropriate education, Canadians who live with a handicap condition are at the outset denied the means of access to many of the benefits of Canadian society.

We recognize that it is an imperfect world. Achieving a consensus on a host of positive rights may be difficult, but nevertheless worthy of the great past which is yours at this moment in our history.

There remains the need for an antidiscrimination clause such as Section 15; however, we wish to convey to your Committee the urgent necessity to add to the specific grounds, and I quote:

“handicapping condition”, whether physical or mental

The year 1981 will be International Year of the Disabled. It would be an appalling commentary on our Canadian values if we failed to entrench in that year, in our new constitution. protection for all Canadians who live with a handicap whether real or perceived. The usual objection raised to inclusion of handicapped as a prohibited ground of discrimination is that such a measure might obstruct programs designed to remedy the effects of the long history of negative discrimination. We believe that the usual exceptions to affirmative action programs can relieve this concern. And you have dealt with that in the subsection to Section 15.

There is a second objection from those who say that in order to benefit from antidiscrimination clauses a person would first have to identify himselfor herselfas handicapped. This objection can be overcome if the terminology used is defined broadly, such as we find in a definition of “handicapped person” which can be found in the US. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There “handicapped person” is defined as any person who has (a) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities; (b) has a record of such impairment. or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment.

[Page 11]

It is noteworthy that particularly under subsection (c) of this definition the focus is clearly on the act of discrimination rather than on whether the person discriminated against can be fitted into the protected category. That is the essential purpose of the statutory definition.

In summary, Mr, Chairman and members of the Committee, our Association urges this Committee to consider enlarging the statement of positive rights for all Canadians and to consider in particular those economic, social and cultural rights which today form the foundation of our Canadian society.

Finally, we join with many other Canadian organizations and ask that the words “handicapping condition, whether physical or mental”, be added to the list of prohibited grounds ofdiscrimination found in Section 15. Thank you.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Vickers.

The honourable Walter Dinsdale.

Mr. Dinsdale: I should like to welcome you three gentlemen who have so effectively represented the cause of the mentally handicapped community in Canada. I am sure you are aware that we have a Special Parliamentary Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped that has been in action now for almost six months; on the basis of our investigation, we quite soon came to the conclusion that one of the areas of rather tragic neglect so far as human rights are concerned, was that of the mentally handicapped citizens, including both the mentally ill and the mentally retarded.

We had an opportunity to see the people first in action in some of our hearings, and I think members of the Committee will be quite impressed when I tell you that one of the most effective presentations was done quite spontaneously without the benefit of notes by one of your representatives in Vancouver who tried to define mental retardation and this is Brian I am speaking of: he said, “I am mentally retarded”, and he tapped his forehead, and said “That means that I think a little slowly”, then he paused rather dramatically and said: “I know some politicians who suffer from the same disability”. It is obvious from your presentation here this morning that this is the case.

We were so much concerned that our Special Committee produced an Interim Report, I presume you gentlemen have seen that report. One of the statements was to the effect:

Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench human rights in a patriated constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicap.

There has been no protection at all, Mr. Chairman, other titan the United Nations Human Rights Charter to which we have subscribed; but there is no protection in terms of meeting the needs of the mentally handicapped.

Now, having said that. Mr. Chairman, I wonder ifwc could get down to specifics and ask the people who are representing the mentally retarded this morning, if they feel that Section

[Page 12]

1—and this has become a big issue during the course of the hearings of this Committee—abrogates the rights that are guaranteed in Section 15 of the bill. I presume the witnesses have the resolution before them. I think this is a fundamental point, because it is quite clear today, Mr. Chairman, that there is discrimination against the handicapped, particularly the mentally handicapped.

It is not an accepted body of thought that the mentally retarded, in particular, should have all the rights under a Human Rights Charter. Are the two in conflict?

Mr. Vickers: Mr. Chairman, my own personal view is that it is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. We have not addressed ourselves specifically to that question. feeling it was our mandate to address the issue of entrenching rights for handicapped people.

But, looking at Section 1, and speaking with my legal hat on for one moment, if I may, it appears to me to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

Having read, for example, Mr. Fairweather’s comments before the Committee. I am bound to say I subscribe to what he has had to say about appropriate amendments to that section. I feel it does need some work.

Mr. Dinsdale: Mr. Chairman, do I take it that Mr. Vickers is saying that there is a direct contradiction. He has not quite phrased it that way, but the two nullify one another in effect. is that correct?

Mr. Vickers: Yes, I agree with that. One seems to offset the other.

Mr. Dinsdale: We, in our Interim Report, recommended very strongly that the Charter of Human Rights or the Human Rights Act, in other words, should embrace all the rights that are in the Human Rights Act for the handicapped. Do you think this adequate human rights protection for the people you are representing here this morning? We have a human rights act which was passed in 1977. At that time public opinion was such that the only right that was enshrined in the human rights act—just three years ago, which goes to show how slowly we learn—was the right to employment.

There were numerous arguments put forward at that time to the effect that the human rights act could not go further. We do not propose to outline them here, even though this was the limitation of rights so far as the handicapped was concerned, it did not even embrace the mentally handicapped community, even so far as rights of employment are concerned.

Now, if we were to proceed on the basis of the recommendation of the Special Committee—and it is an action-oriented Committee, I can assure you gentlemen—and have the Canadian Human Rights Act amended so that the handicapped community were covered completely by that act, would it be sufficient so far as meeting the needs of the people you are representing this morning is concerned?

Mr. Vickers: Again, I come back to the basic value question. I am thinking in terms of vocational and residential opportunities, and in particular, educational opportunities, if

[Page 13]

they are, indeed, basic Canadian values, then I would argue that they ought to be entrenched with the Bill of Rights and not placed simply within the human rights legislation which can be amended by Parliament at Parliament’s will.

So that if you are talking about basic questions of value. speaking as a Canadian and as an advocate for handicapped people, I would argue that those basic values ought to be entrenched within the constitution and not placed necessarily within the Bill of Rights. A Bill of Rights is a second prize. We have never had any prizes for our handicapped friends, and if we are to take anything, obviously we would be prepared to accept amendments to the federal code.

On the other hand, it is still a second prize so far as we are concerned. The people for whom we advocate are now entitled to a few of the first prizes.

Mr. Dinsdale: You mentioned in your presentation—a vitally important point—access to education and training. We discovered, as we met with 600 people across Canada, that the area of learning disability is totally limited in its services in Canada, and this affects the area of the mentally retarded, in particular.

And the theme is that this has been a good year in Canada for the disabled. We have had the World Congress in Winnipeg and we are coming into the Year of Disabled 1981, and our report will be tabled to coincide with the Year of the Disabled. A theme of the report will be deinstitutionalization, getting the disabled out of what we call human warehouses where the care is merely custodial and where there is no provision for recreational, educational and transportation and all the other vital services that are needed to meet the needs of the disabled community. All this has to it an economic factor as well. lt is tremendously expensive—custodial care without any rehabilitation.

So if Parliament enshrines, as you are recommending, a Charter of Rights for the Disabled in specific terms, and if we got rid of the conflict between Sections 1 and 15, do you think it would be helpful in encouraging this process towards deinstitutionalization?

Mr. Mercure: Yes, we believe that type of protection would help our local association to make sure that the specific rights of individuals are protected. This would help us to create services within the community.

This is the reason why deinstitutionalization takes a very long time to accomplish, because most professionals, even most governments. address themselves to deinstitutionalization, but we cannot accept these people within the community without support services, which, in the long run, could be a lot more effective. and sometimes even less costly to the community as a whole.

More than that, we believe that any segregation for any group increases very rapidly the difference in behaviour and also it is a fundamental question of value in our society to accept the human person as he or she is, not to separate or segregate any group.

[Page 14]

The mental retardation people have not been segregated for a long period of time. It is only in the last 100 years that that problem has arisen from the industrial era. Mentally handicapped people used to live within the community before.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Dinsdale.

Mr. Young.

Mr. Young: Thank you very much. I also want to thank you for appearing before the Committee and presenting such an excellent brief. I am also a member of the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped, and over the summer months, we had over 400 witnesses who made presentations to that Committee and without exception, everyone argued that disability and handicap should be included in any new charter of rights and freedoms.

I want to center on one specific area, immediately, because, to me, it indicates not only society’s attitude towards the disabled and the handicapped, but it is certainly a crystal clear example of the court’s attitude towards the disabled and the handicapped, and particularly mentally retarded individuals.

I want to spend a few minutes, if I may, on Section 7 of the proposed charter, legal rights. and to try and tie it into the absence of any provisions for the disabled and the handicapped under Section 15.

Under Section 7 of the proposed charter it is stated:

  1. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof

We have, under the Criminal Code, provisions at the present time, to issue a Governor General’s Warrant under that particular code, and I am advised as of June 1980 there were 834 individuals who were confined to psychiatric institutions after having been charged with a crime of some sort, and after being assessed by a review board of psychiatrists and lawyers, were declared not to be fit to stand trial.

As I say, there are over 800 Canadians who are confined to institutions who have not been tried, and who, in the case of the mentally retarded individuals, in all probability, will never be fit to stand trial.

There is one case in particular I want to raise with you and that is the one concerning a man by the name of Emerson Bonnar who in 1964 was charged with attempting to steal a woman’s handbag.

He has been confined in an institution in New Brunswick— and it is a maximum security institution, as I understand it— since 1964, because the Review Board does not consider him to be fit to stand trial.

In your opinion, in the absence of any specific mention of the disabled and the handicapped under this proposal and the definition under legal rights, would this at this stage help a person like Emerson Bonnar?

Mr. Vickers: I am not sure that would. I am very familiar with the Bonnar case. That case is a classic example of somebody having been labelled early on and having that label

[Page 15]

remain on his back throughout his life. He has been labelled “mentally retarded” and “violent” and all the evidence which existed in 1964 and which exists today is contrary to that.

The evidence is that he is not violent. He is yet to be tried for the act of purse snatching. In my submission—and I have said this elsewhere—it is a classic example of the abuse of the criminal justice system. Whether the members of the community know it or not—and Mr. Dinsdale raise the question of the learning disabled—75 per cent to 80 per cent of the youngsters we have in the juvenile justice system are children with learning disabilities, to come back to the educational point. We know that. The jury have been inon that for ten or 15 years.

If the statistics below the border from the President’s Committee on Retardation were to carry through in this country— and I suspect they would-approximately ten per cent or better of the adults in the criminal justice system are mentally retarded people. I think it behooves us to recognize these statistics and to deal with the problem as a basic problem in terms of fundamental rights, rather than in terms of the criminal justice system.

Would it not be better, for example, to enshrine the positive rights of education in a bill of rights, and the right to vocational training so that these people can find their appropriate niche in life working in the community as substantial citizens rather than serving out their lives in a maximum security institution for, in the Emerson Bonnar’s case, the criminally insane?

There is no doubt that recommendations have been made for the amendement of Section 543 and onwards of the Criminal Code, both by the national Law Reform Commission and our oganization made recommendations some six years ago in terms of amendments to that provision, and the fundamental flaw lies in the provisions of the Criminal Code.

I do not deny that appropriate amendements in this bill of rights would be of some assistance. Undoubtedly Emmerson Bonnar has been deprived of his liberty for 14 years according to the principles of Canadian justice and the Canadian Criminal Code. Now, whether they are fundamental justice principles or not is perhaps a rhetorical question when you look at the result.

I would hope that Emmerson Bonnar, and our Association has become an advocate for Emmerson Bonnar and is taking today and continues to take steps to have his status corrected, but any help that we can get, whether that be through amendments to the criminal code or amendements by way of entrenching in a charter of rights would be most helpful.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you. Mr. Young, your last question.

Mr. Young: Out of those 834 individuals who are confined in those institutions without benefit of trial, have you any knowledge of the numbers of that 834 who are mentally retarded.

Mr. Vickers: No, I cannot speak to those numbers but we are presently doing a survey throughout Canada with the

[Page 16]

co-operation of the provincial authorities to try and determine that. I can tell you of my own experience when I was with government. The number in British Columbia in 1974 was 120 people.

We had at close look at what we thought were people who were inappropriately placed and by simply taking a close look at what we thought were inappropriate placements, within a short period of time we reduced the numbers from 120 down to 80, and that is with a very superficial, cursory look.

Now, I am not sure what the numbers are in British Columbia today, but i know for example there was a case in British Columbia of a young native Indian person who had been incarcerated there for three years without trial and his own only offence was that he had been public nuisance by throwing a brick through a store window. It is those cases of abuse which I think we could surface many hundreds if we were to look case by case at each individual situation across Canada, and it is that type of research we are trying to conduct right now. I suspect that it would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of perhaps 15 to 20 percent.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Young. Senator Lapointe.

[Translation]

Senator Lapointe: I would first like to congratulate Mr. Mercure and his colleagues, in French, on their excellent and enlightening brief.

I am very sorry that one of the most active members of the Special Committee on the Handicapped, Mrs. Thérèse Killens, is not here this morning with Mr. Dinsdale and her colleague from the New Democratic Party, but I will do my best to fill in for her, since I too am very interested in your cause.

You say, Mr. Mercure, that you fully support the Charter of Rights, basic rights, democratic rights, mobility rights and language rights. Do you not?

Mr. Mercure: Yes.

Senator Lapointe: One issue that seems to be of concern to you, and which my colleagues did not refer to, is the right to join a trade union.

Could you tell us whether the unions themselves are reluctant to let you join, or whether this is based on existing legislation.

Mr. Mercure: There are cases—and I will ask Mr. Vickers to provide details—where employers . . . In Quebec. the Bureau for the Handicapped is trying to increase the number of jobs available to the handicapped and the mentally retarded.

There have been several cases involving handicapped persons where an attempt has been made to have jobs considered as being suitable for the handicapped, but union rules, particularly with regards to seniority, have prevented this front being done.

There was, for example, darkroom work for the blind. We wanted photography companies to give blind people priority

[Page 17]

for darkroom work and the request was turned down by the unions. This is the type of thing that is related to the union membership issue.

Maybe Bill could complete my answer.

[Text]

Mr. Vickers: My experience with the trade union movement is no different than my experience with any community organizations, whether they be private or public organizations. It is largely a question of attitude, and given the opportunity and shown that the opportunity exists for handicapped people to work, I have found, certainly with the trade union people that I have spoken to, a willingness to venture into what is a new area.

I have no faults to lay with anyone. It really begins at an early age and that is why appropriate education is so important because if you and I had the opportunity to be educated side by side with a severely, profoundly handicapped person, our attitude today might not be to see that person as a handicap and to feel pity and remorse but to see that person as a whole person, as somebody that can contribute to our Canadian society. My experience with the trade union people, certainly on the west coast, is that when I have raised those kinds of issues they are no different than you and l and they begin to see what they can do.

Now, like employers and like public and private organizations, they are a long way away from actually accomodating the needs of our handicapped friends. That is why to entrench the value is simply to signal, if you will, to the trade union movement that all people, including handicapped people, have that as a basic Canadian right and that is why it is important. it is a beacon, if you will, and it affords our people the opportunity for vocational experiences which they heretofore have not had an opportunity to grasp.

Senator Lapointe: You said that you would like to see the minimum wage mentioned in the charter?

Mr. Vickers: I do not think one would deal with minimum wage per sc in the charter. i think what we are talking about in the charter is the opportunity for vocational training and vocational opportunities. David’s point was that there are people making two cents an hour in workshops, and I know of workshop situations on the west coast where people are making a dollar a week or things of that sort.

Now, it is time that those workshop opportunities be seen not as opportunities but as situations which keep handicapped people in a demeaning way of life. What we are talking about is not affording more workshop opportunities; we are talking about affording vocational opportunities where people can earn, not be given but earn a wage, and at the very minimum the minimum wage and we know of situations where those opportunities have occurred and people have gone off, if you will, on welfare and have become citizens supporting themselves and their family and community. So we are not asking for anything special, we are simply asking for the same opportunity as other Canadians, so i think that is the point.

[Page 18]

Senator Lapointe: I see that you say in the province of Quebec they have a clause to protect the handicapped and you seem quite satisfied with this clause. Would you like to add something to it or to have it as it is in the Quebec government’s human rights?

[Translation]

Mr. Mercure: Bill 9, of course, as well as the L’Office des Handicapés au Québec have been a major step forward for the protection of the rights of handicapped people in that province. I believe this legislation is considered as a very progressive one and that several other provinces are considering implementing something similar. As far as we are concerned, what we want is a greater protection than just a legal one. in other words, we would like this protection to be enshrined in the Constitution, because, even if Section 1 is modified, it would probably afford greater protection than the one offered through a regular legislation, because the government would not be able to change it very easily. It would have to meet the special requirements established for amending the Constitution. I would like to add that people in Quebec are beginning to live with these new rights and the work of our local associations is specifically to make sure that these rights are actually implemented in the daily life of handicapped people.

[Text]

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): The last question, Senator.

Senator Lapointe: Yes. Are you satisfied with the report of the Committee on the disabled when they say that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicaps? You are satisfied with the declaration and you think it is encouraging?

[Translation]

Mr. Mercure: Yes. We mentioned, at the beginning of our testimony, that we were very pleased to have obtained this statement. However, it is still a very general statement and it will have to be specified, later on. The third paragraph of the preamble of the report, which i read a while ago, seems to us to be very satisfactory.

[Text]

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Senator Lapointe. We have one more speaker, Mr. McGrath.

Mr. McGrath: I can be very brief, Mr. Chairman. I realize we have another witness; is that correct?

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Yes.

Mr. McGrath: I would not want to keep the Manitoba witnesses waiting any longer because they are going to have little enough time as it is so i will get very quickly to my question.

l was struck by the question of my colleague, Mr. Dinsdale, with respect to the deinstitutionalizing of mildly mentally retarded people. l know that this is something that is happening across the country and indeed it is happening in Ontario. I know of course you are familiar with the Welch Green Paper, Community Living for the Mentally Retarded. I know it is happening in my own province, but something else is happen-

[Page 19]

ing with that which disturbs me and I would like to hear how your association feels that this problem can be addressed by specifying handicapped rights within the charter, and that is what seems to be a propensity on the part of municipalities to legislate against group homes, in other words we take the mentally retarded out of the institutions and get away from the Bedlam psychology that still prevails in Canada in terms of our treatment of the mentally retarded. put them in homes so they can lead normal lives and we can treat them as human beings, and we come up against this roadblock of the municipalities trying to protect, I suppose, the best interests of their ratepayers and their neighbourhoods although I can not see how that would be any treat to neighbourhoods or ratepayers, but that is the situation I find developing and it has happened in my own area and I am sure it is happening across the country.

Mr. Vickers: Well, there is not doubt it is happening across the country and there is no doubt it is happening for a number of reasons.

The first reason it is happening, it comes back to the question of attitudes again and where do we begin to change attitudes, and my plea again is that we begin with our youngsters in school accepting the disabilities that our fellow Canadians have.

However, that does not take care of you or I who are aged and do not understand that people with disabilities are the same as us. One of the problems with respect, is the basic funding policies of provincial governments who will fund group homes of eight and ten people. and what we are talking about is a group home. a normal family environment and you know and I know that eight or ten people is hardly a normal family environment so there is a basic funding problem and if we could talk about funding homes of four or five or even six people. then our argument that we were in fact living in community as a family would be more viable. So that is the second problem.

The third problem is the problem of attitude and the problem of the inability to understand that these people have the right to live in community and live normal lives. There have been some recent encouraging decisions across Canada to assist us in this problem, the Bell Case in the Supreme Court of Canada, recently watered down slightly by a decision in the Ontario Supreme Court. We have had decisions made in British Columbia that take away the right of spot zoning in local municipalities, and where you deal with it I suppose is a structural question or an administrative question. It seems to me that if we are going to deal with it once and for all we have to come to grips with some more fundamental questions. attitudes, funding policies and things of that sort.

However, there is no doubt at all that what we are talking about as an association is community living for all Canadians. not just the mildly retarded. We are talking about community living for all Canadians.

The bill in British Columbia, for example. to keep somebody in an institution runs at $100 per day. We are talking about

[Page 20]

$36,000 per year to keep somebody in an institution without any program and without any opportunity for an adequate social life. We think that those kinds of people can be brought back into the community and be made a part of our community and be given opportunities to thrive within the community for far less money.

Now, there may be transitional funding problems but when the bottom line is looked at, and we look at people. the value question is so important. These are Canadians and surely they have a right to get out of those institutions and live like you and I to the limit oftheir ability within their community.

Mr. McGrath: But my question was: can we legislate against these kinds of attitudes in an entrenched bill of rights?

[Translation]

Mr. Mercure: The situation varies from one part of Canada to the other.

I would like to point out to the committee that in Quebec, under a provision of Law 9 that was lobbied for by our association, no legal action can be taken under zoning regulations to prevent a group home from opening in a community.

In Quebec, then—and I believe Manitoba has a similar regulation—no one can take legal action to prevent group homes for the handicapped from operating, no matter what the zoning regulations are.

It is a provincial law.

[Text]

Le coprésident (sénateur Hays): Thank you very much. Mr. McGrath.

We appreciate your being here this morning, Mr. Mercure along with Mr. Vickers and Mr. Lincoln.

We have your brief and we will consider it very, very carefully, I am sure the Committee will at the time we are reporting.

We appreciate you being here, thank you very much.

[Translation]

Mr. Mercure: Thank you for your attention and we hope that your efforts will produce results.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you. Mr. Mercure, Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Vickers.

 2. November 25, 1980

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mrs. Chabot.

I would now like to ask the representatives of the Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped to come to the table.

In particular, I would like to invite Mrs. Monique Couillard, Mrs. Yvonne Peters, Mr. Ron Kanary and Mr. Jim Derksen to take their place at the witnesses’ table.

[Text]

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): I wonder if the coalition of provincial organizations of the handicapped would please come forward. You may proceed, Mr. Kanary.

Mr. Ron Kanary (Vice-Chairman, Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On behalf of the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped, I would like to express our appreciation for this opportunity to participate in what we believe is one of the most important deliberations in Canadian constitutional history. Our National Council is pleased to be represented here today by this delegation representing all our members and associates across Canada, united in determination to see the rights of disabled Canadians recognized in the constitution.

The Coalition, as some of you may know, is a national alliance of nine independent provincial organizations of variously disabled persons functioning democratically so as to represent their views and concerns. At the local level, these nine provincial organizations encompass about 80 chapters representing some 15,000 to 20,000 disabled Canadians.

We gladly endorse the constitution of Canada and whole-heartedly welcome entrenchment in the constitution of a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, we believe there are several amendments which should be made to the proposed Charter. Of most importance to disabled people in Canada is that disability or handicap should be included as grounds protected from discrimination under Section 15(1) and we recommend this amendment to you.

We recognize and thank members of Parliament, Peter Lang, Therese Killens, David Smith, Stanley Knowles and Neil Young, who spoke for this amendment during the House of Commons debate prior to the striking of your Committee. The all-party House of Commons Special Committee on the

[Page 27]

Disabled and the Handicapped in its first report to Parliament in October of this year stated:

Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench Human Rights in a patriated constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical and mental handicaps.

Chief Commissioner Gordon Fairweather, in his presentation on behalf of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to your Committee, said any list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in Section 15(1) is incomplete and does not offer adequate protection if it does not include physical or mental handicap. The presentation of the Canadian Jewish Congress to your Committee last week also called for this amendment. The Royal Canadian Legion and the Canadian Labour Congress, we are pleased to know, also support our position; and most likely, many more who will come before you will.

This level of support for our inclusion in the non-discrimination rights section of the Charter demands that the objections to this amendment cannot be vaguely stated, drafting or definition concerns as at present; surely this level of support demands that objections to the amendment must be clearly demonstrable and justifiably sound ones.

The growing awareness and concern about this in society is based on a true understanding that disabled people are a minority who have suffered discrimination which has limited their participation in society and who therefore. require protection of the law. This social understanding calls on you to include disability or handicap as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Section 15(1) of the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

There are three kinds of advantages in amending the Charter to include protection for disabled people.

Firstly, constitutional protection of the rights of disabled people would give high symbolic profile to the social concern to recognize and protect these rights. It would set the tone for an improved future. When we are denied service in a restaurant simply because of our blindness, or employment because of deafness, or housing because of a spastic movement disability, we are often injured twice—once by the act of discrimination itself and again by the shocking realization that the state offers us no protection from such discrimination. This situation still pertains in three provinces of Canada; in the other seven provincial jurisdictions, the provinces have taken, to various degrees, a leadership role in providing human rights protection. It will be a profound joy in such circumstances to substitute, for the helpless feeling of being relegated to the refuse. as if with no value or right to expect better than the prejudice or discrimination offered to us in the past, the reassuring knowledge that we are protected from such prejudice and discrimination by the Canadian constitution.

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The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will articulate the most basic and cherished values of our society and place them in the basic legislation of the land. This alone will set a new tone which of itself will do much to redress the injuries of exclusion and prejudice that have been our inheritance.

Secondly. the inclusion of disability as a prohibited cause of discrimination. as it applies to the substance of the law, will do much to change existing laws at municipal. provincial and federal levels which do discriminate against disabled people. A good example of such a needed change is the legislation which denies disabled people the protection of minimum wage legislation in various provinces and in the federal labour code.

No longer will we remain the only category of adult Canadians whose labour and productivity cart be bought for twenty-five cents a day and less. Lest this example should be misunderstood, the constitutional change we recommend to you will not mean that all centres offering daytime activity for disabled people will be required to pay minimum wages. but it will mean a distinction will have to be made between daycare. activity centres where people do not work and which are therefore exempt from minimum wage standards. and settings where people work which will be subject to such standard protections from exploitation.

The amendments we are recommending to you would also help preclude any future legislation at municipal. provincial or federal levels which would discriminate against disabled people. Forty years ago Nazi Germany enacted legislation which called for compulsory sterilization of certain disabled people in the name of racial eugenics. Other disabled people were murdered although the word used was euthanasia. Even today in this country. compulsory sterilization is sometimes talked about for certain disabled people and the Ontario Association for the Mentally Retarded is required to have a public policy against any form of passive infant euthanasia.

The Canadian Jewish Congress, in its presentation to you a week ago today. speaking for the inclusion of handicap in Section 15(1) referred to a brief they submitted to the Special Parliamentary Committee on the Disabled and Handicapped wherein they made the same recommendation. They said, in that brief. that the ramifications of our failure to firmly establish equal legal rights for our handicapped and of our near automatic exclusion of them from the mainstream, resulted in events in the not-too-distant past which still cast shadows over us dark enough to send cold shivers running through our souls.

For those of us who still remember, or who have taken the trouble to learn about it, it was in Hitler Germany that the retarded, the gypsies, the physically and emotionally handicapped. so easily became early fodder for the destruction machine.

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It is interesting how little is said about this dimension of the holocast. This neglect to recall or analyze this particular dimension of the holocaust gives us a frightening insight as to the state of our present moral crisis in respect to what we describe as ‘the disposables of our society.

We value the dignity of the individual and his right to life and security of the person, and have already articulated these values in our draft constitution Section 7. However, in light of history and the ongoing association with disability, of concepts such as racial eugenics and passive euthanasia, disabled Canadians deserve the same reassurance of the amendment we recommend to ensure

the right . . . to the equal protection from the law without discrimination because of. . . disability or handicap,

So that forty years from now such atrocities could not so easily be perpetrated in Canada. Disabled Canadians need to know they are secure from such dangers and that their fellow Canadians hold values which embrace the right to life and security of the person for everyone. including disabled people. The amendment we recommend would articulate and help preserve these most important values which are held by the Canadian people today.

The third general advantage that the inclusion of disability or handicap as a prohibited ground of discrimination would produce, as applied to the administration of the law. is to reinforce human rights protection as an ordinary legislation level. We have struggled for and achieved this in seven of the ten provinces, and have it at the drafting stage in the remaining three. This ordinary legislation level protection, through setting up Human Rights Commissions as courts of first recourse in matters of discrimination, represents the major means by which non-discrimination rights are implemented for the individual who experiences discrimination.

We agree with Chief Canadian Human Rights Commissioner Gordon Fairweather that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should apply to both the substance and the administration of the law.

We believe that Section 15(1) of the proposed Charter will then make it possible for the decisions of human rights commissions to be appealed to higher courts on constitutional grounds. This will do much to improve the quality of protection on grounds which are listed in Section 15(1). The listing of disability or handicap in Section 15(1) then will be important to disabled Canadians as it will improve the protection already available at ordinary legislation levels.

The omission of disability as a listed category in Section 15 cl) would probably significantly damage the quality of protection already achieved at the ordinary legislative level for disabled Canadians. It seems obvious to us that once the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in place, together with Section 15(1), human rights commissions, when allocating their necessarily limited staff and legal resources will give

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higher priority to complaints of discrimination on grounds which are listed in the constitution because of their potential for appeal to higher courts on constitutional grounds.

Hence, if disability is not among the listing in Section 15(1), complaints of discrimination on grounds of disability will be dealt with using whatever resources the commissions have left over after dealing with complaints on grounds which are listed in Section 15(1). Inadvertently, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will create a first and second class of rights to protection from discrimination.

We believe we have a compelling case for the inclusion of disability or handicap as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Chrétien indicated in your Committee meeting of Wednesday, November 12, in response to a question from Mr. Bockstael that the difficulty in adding “handicap” to the list of prohibited grounds was one of draftig a precise legal definition for incorporation into the Charter.

In our view, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not an appropriate place for definitions. Neither is it necessary to define disability or handicap or degree of these in the proposed Charter. We note that it has not been necessary to define “religion” in the Charter, despite the plain fact that we will continue to discriminate against religions which practice human sacrifice. We have prepared a rather lengthy document refuting this definitional and other objections to the inclusion of disability or handicap in Section 15(1). This is attached as an appendix to this brief and includes eight quite similar definitions presently found in non-discrimination statutes at federal and provincial levels. We have decided to separate this lengthy section from our presentation, but will be happy to

answer questions in this area or read our document into the record if desired.

Mr. Chrétien suggested on November 12 to your Committee, as had the Prime Minister earlier in the House of Commons, that the inclusion of disability or handicap in Section 15(1) should wait until it could be done in Canada by amending the patriated constitution, We wish to note that, indeed. the inclusion of the entire Charter could wait until such a time-but in fact as Mr. Chrétien indicated on page 77 of Proceedings for the Committee meeting of November 13, there are some reasons why entrenching a Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians should be done now. We believe these reasons also apply for the inclusion of handicap in Section 15(1) now, and not after patriation.

Mr. Fairweather and others have spoken to your Committee about the advantages of fitting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the international context including the international covenants Canada is party to.

We call your attention to the fact that Canada was one of fifty co-movers at the United Nations at the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Disabled People in 1976. Canada was also one of two co-movers of the resolution in the United

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Nations which established l98l as the International Year of Disabled Persons with the themes of full participation and equality. Including handicap in Section 15(1) of the proposed Charter would be a good demonstration that our domestic actions are in line with the policies we are promoting in the world.

As you can see by our delegation, disabled Canadians are also men and women, Mennonite, French. Irish. and so on; indeed disabled Canadians are all colours, races, religions and ethnic origins. For this reason, our concerns about the proposed Charter naturally go far beyond the inclusion of “handicap” in Section 15(1).

We have studied the whole of the Charter and the various recommendations and concerns that have been brought to your Committee. We find the package of recommendations brought to you by the Canadian Human Rights Commission overall of most value, and therefore, generally endorse and comment it to you.

We do this with only one caveat, that we prefer the Commission’s second option for the wording of Section 15. as found on page 5A:4 of the record of your Committee meeting of November 14, 1980 and listed on that page as point 2.4. The relevant parts of this then read:

15.(1) Everyone has the right to equality under the law and to equal protection of the law without discrimination on grounds such as . . . physical . . . handicap . . .

While our concern and recommendation to you can be reduced to the idea that “handicap” be included as a ground protected from discrimination, we also commend generally the Canadian Human Rights recommendations to you because we feel they have much merit overall, and because we feel the time has come to reach for a consensus and wish to contribute to this consensus process.

A constitution is most basic and fundamental legislation. As such it deals with basic and fundamental issues. The issue as to whether Section 15(1) of the charter of rights and freedoms in the constitutional bill should be amended to include “disability” is also a basic and fundamental matter.

Some disabled people in Canada apply the label TAB to Canadians without disabilities. TAB is an acronym for temporarily able-bodied and is used to remind society that disability is a condition which can occur to anyone at any time. at any level of society. Transport Canada’s demographic study indicates that 34 percent of all persons who reach the age of 80 are disabled in relation to mobility. It may be useful to think of the amendment we propose as a kind of insurance or assurance. It is in fact an assurance that the society we live in will continue to progress toward a society which is supportive and open to the continuted participation of people who are or become disabled. It is an assurance that in the event of disability, one will not be relegated to inferior education, low income and the poverty of eitperience and life style symbolized by the institutional residence and attached historically to the condition of disability.

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We who are already disabled know better than to imagine any legislation, even a constitution, is an instant cure-all for our problems. However, we do believe that the basic and fundamental legislation of a constitution must point to a new standard, and in a direction of orderly change toward that standard whereby the whole of society will benefit.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Kanary. I shall ask the Honourable Walter Dinsdale to question the witnesses.

Mr. Dinsdale: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to begin by welcoming the COPO delegation here this morning, Ms Peters, Mr. Kanary and Mr. Derksen, who, as we have heard in the brief presented, are providing and have provided very creative leadership in the campaign for a charter of human rights for the disabled.

I have only one comment to make about the brief. I notice in the names that you presented on the first page you excluded any reference to one party in the House of Commons and, Mr. Chairman, I can only say that is because we were working under closure and we were in the speaking line-up to take part in the debate that set up this committee and we did not have an opportunity to make our representations but I would say, Mr. Chairman, that I think it is well known that there has been a campaign going on in the House of Commons for at least a decade to set up a special parliamentary committee, and one of the key areas of concern was human rights for the disabled. I might say, by way of introduction, that since this special committee was set up just about a year ago now, there has been a marvellous change in the attitude across the country, in Parliament. to the Bill of Rights for the disabled.

I think you are aware, and this has not been mentioned in the brief, that Canada hosted the Rehabilitation international Congress for the Disabled in Winnipeg last June. That was a congress that was planned over a period of four years by the Canadian Rehabilitation Council for the Disabled and I think everyone will agree that its theme of integration had a profound impact on the media, on the press and on the people of Canada. and I am sure COPO will agree. too, that the theme we are espousing in our special committee on the disabled of de-institutionalization, getting the disabled into the community, integrating the disabled into the community, came to a head at that congress in Winnipeg.

Also, of course, Canada has been sponsoring the International Year for the Disabled. It was just a year ago that I had an opportunity to speak at the United Nations and one of the points that l made there at the time as a response to the IDYP Resolution was that human rights should be at the fore, it always has been at the U.N. since 1975, at the 30th Session of the General Assembly when the human rights code was passed, when the provincial governments responded and we had hoped that the federal government might respond in 1977 when the Human Rights Act was passed but, as you know. there was a considerable degree of reluctance at that time to embrace the United Nations code that does include most of the recommendations that you have made in your excellent brief here this morning.

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Well now, you have before you, and it has been circulated. the first report of the Special Committee on the Disabled and we have felt so strongly about the human rights issue that we have made a primary concern the recommendation that the Human Rights Act be amended as quickly as possible to include human rights for the disabled.

Having said that, Mr. Chairman. I would like to ask the witnesses this morning if they are as concerned as Mr. Fairweather, who is the Commissioner for administration of the Human Rights Act, if you are concerned as he was about the conflict as it was outlined in Section I of the resolutions that we are considering, which defines the guarantees of rights and freedoms subject only to such reasonable limits as are generally accepted in a free and democratic society with a parliamentary system of government. The point at issue is that it is only recently that there has been wide acceptance that the disabled should be included in a charter of human rights. Do you share the same concern as Mr. Fairweather that you can drive a truck through art article of that kind with respect to human rights?

Mr. Jim Derksen (Coalition of Prineial Organizations for the Handicapped): Well, Mr. Dinsdale. I would like to say first of all that we are certainly aware of our efforts on our behalf over the years and the efforts of many other people from the Conservative Party on the many fronts that are facing disabled people today. We did, however, confine our remarks in our brief to the issue of entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Dinsdale: This is what always happens under closure, Mr. Derksen.

Mr. Derksen: However, regarding Section I and the other recommendations that were made by Chief Commissioner Gordon Fairweather, we did agree that his alternate wording seemed to us. and we are laymen, a better safeguard or a better series of safeguards for the rights of Canadians overall and so we decided to give a general endorsation to his package of recommendations.

Mr. Dinsdale: I take it from that reply. Mr. Chairman, that you are satisfied that your amendment proposed for Section 15(1) would overcome the deficiencies of Section 1, that there would be no loopholes created as it result of the rather vague wording. This is the first section of a most important document, a very profound revision of the constitution of Canada and there are several authorities in the field of human rights that have focussed in on the deficiencies and the loopholes of Section 1.

Mr. Derksen: It did seem to us that the wording of Section 1 was unncessarily broad and perhaps covered too much of the Charter itself and that non-discrimination rights, as Chief Commissioner Gordon Fairweather recommended, should be exempt from Section 1, but should, rather, have a separate caveat in the form of Section 15(3) as proposed by the Human Rights Commission, which would enable a reasonable application of non-discrimination rights and a narrower interpretation than was made available through Section 1.

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Mr. Dinsdale: I would take it, Mr. Chairman, that Mr. Derksen and the others are in tune with the recommendation of our Special Committee, notwithstanding what might happen to the resolutions before us, that we proceed immediately with amendments to the Human Rights Act of l977. They were brought into effect only three years ago, Mr. Chairman, and I do not know whether you were in the House of Commons at that time, but you will remember the strong resistance towards general acceptance of the principle of human rights.

I presume that our witnesses are strongly in favour of the recommendations of our Special Committee which we have given high priority to by the very fact that we have issued an interim report before coming down with our final report.

Mr. Derksen: We are very pleased by the urgency indicated in the submission of the preliminary report on this matter. This matter of amending the Canadian Human Rights Act is not at issue in this Committee, however, but l should say that having pressed for this ordinary legislation amendment for many years. having received promises of support from both present opposition parties and a commitment in the Throne Speech from this government, we feel that this amendment is far overdue and is not really open to debate any longer. We are really only waiting very anxiously to see it done.

We are now concerned about the constitution and the inclusion of disability in Section 15(1), which we believe is a very important matter before the nation today.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Dinsdale. Mr. Young.

Mr. Young: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I, too, am a member of the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped and as you know we spent most of the summer months going across the country hearing deputations and witnesses, and by the time we were finished going across the country we heard from over 400 deputations, and without exception each one of those witnesses argued very strongly for inclusion of the disabled and handicapped in any human rights legislation. That is not surprising, I think, when you consider there are something in excess of 800,000 Canadians who are disabled or handicapped in one form or another, which totals about 10 per cent of the workforce and is probably in excess of that. At the present time under human rights legislation there is some protection against discrimination in employment and yet the evidence shows that out of that 10 per cent of the population there is still a 70 to 80 per cent unemployment level amongst the disabled and handicapped community.

I remember when we were in the United States we were told by both government officials and people from the disabled community that there was never a real commitment on behalf of government or its agencies or the private sector towards employment programs for the disabled and handicapped until

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amendments were made to their human rights legislation down there. It was only after these amendments were made that any real commitment came forward. Is that what you hope for here if those amendments are made to this legislation, that it normally increases public awareness and it forces government to give leadership to the private sector, in particular to employ disabled and handicapped people?

Mr. Kanary: Well, again, the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, is that what you are referring to?

Mr. Young: Yes.

Mr. Kanary: Again, as Jim mentioned, as far we are concerned it is no longer up for debate, we are just waiting for it to come. However, the experience in the United States has indicated that constitutional protection is most essential to reduce; that 80 per cent unemployment rate to a reasonable figure.

Mr. Derksen: I would just like to add to that by saying that in America of course the Bill of Rights has been around for a long, long time, but it does not specify the number of minorities that have recently become discernible as needing protection. In America, in fact, it was the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, Section 504, which provided for non-discrimination of disabled Americans, and it was a very broadly-worded section, but the regulations that were subsequently written as to the implementation of Section 504 were very stringent and they resulted in dramatic kinds of changes, changes such that if I go camping in America I can count on an accessible washroom in every campground I get to; changes such that if I drive from Winnipeg, which is my home, the 80 miles to the border, I know there is not one deliberately accessible washroom on the way to the border, neither is there at Canadian customs, but as soon as l cross that invisible line there is a big sign, “Handicapped Parking”, and there is a ramp and there is an accessible washroom. I go to a small town of 500 people and I find that the town hall and the State building and what federal buildings exist in that small town are all accessible to me.

It is that kind of change that has occurred over six years that I think we hope for in Canada. This is not to say that it is going to happen immediately, but we hope there will be progress toward that goal and that in Canada the inclusion of disability in the constitution will set the kind of tone that will result in subsequent legislation and regulations which will give us that kind of access to opportunity.

Mr. Young: Well, we are not only talking about access to employment even though in all the preparations for 1981, including the work of this Special Committee, the evidence as I see it has certainly raised public awareness to the point, particularly in this year where there is an increasing number of cases coming before the Canadian Human Rights Commission from the disabled and handicapped community about discriminatory employment practices within government bodies and government agencies. We are also talking about equal access to services that we temporarily able-bodied people take for granted.

I used to think in this country that the rights to education were a principle, and yet we have experienced over the summer months, and in listening to people we have discovered that

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there are thousands of kids across this country who are disabled or handicapped in one form or another who are denied access to education, so we are not only talking about access to education, we are talking about accommodation, transportation and other goods and services that, as I say, we take for granted.

Would you like to comment on education in particular because it seems to me that that is a key area for the disabled and handicapped people. without having equal advantages in the field of education you are denied equal access to employment and a whole host of other services that there are in society.

Ms. Yvonne Peters (Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped): I will just comment on that question. I think that what you have said is very true, that disabled people need to have equal access to education. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. There are not only architectural barriers that can get in the way, there are needs for facilities such as sign language interpreters for deaf people and access to Braille material and so on for blind people.

If we go back to the constitution. what we look to from the constitution is a document that will set a tone for disabled persons in this country so that we can build legislation, or at least use it as a foundation to build legislation so that we can start improving things like educational opportunities and we can start providing equal access in necessary facilities and so on.

Mr. Young: The one last area I want to touch on in particular is the whole area of de-institutionalization because I think probably in terms of society’s attitudes towards the disabled or handicapped people, it is reflected most clearly I think in how society views disabled or handicapped people.

In the past there has been a tendency to view someone who is disabled or handicapped as a sick person. and of course society keeps sick people in institutions, when the facts of life are that because you are disabled or handicapped does not mean you are sick; you are disabled or handicapped. And the thrust of governments has to be in the direction of assisting the disabled community to come out of institutions and to live as normal a life as possible within the community.

The Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped have certainly developed that as a theme in our discussion.

Do you see that as playing an important role, not only in 1981 but beyond?

Mr. Kanary: Probably one of the basic reasons why young disabled people are institutionalized is that, first of all, are the attitudinal problem which has developed over so many years. Secondly, because of the lack of appropriate housing; that goes back to the accessibility problem.

As Yvonne has mentioned, we look to the constitution for a final recognition that disabled Canadians are in fact Canadians as well and that the constitution, hopefully, will set a mood so that we can become included in the planning and decision making process over the coming years; so that we could allow

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for adequate housing, and support services for individuals who require such services, and the many other services, accommodations and facilities which we are presently being denied.

We are looking for the constitution to set a tone so that changes may come about, not overnight but over a period of years, that we can become fully integrated and active and contributing as a force of people in society.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you, Mr. Young.

Mr. Derksen, did you want to say something?

Mr. Derksen: I want to follow that up by saying that presently disabled people and their problems are often viewed through a very biased cloud of emotional responses. This has resulted in a situation which has become clear to the Special Comittee on the Handicapped and Disabled wherein the people are institutionalized at 20, 30 or 40,000 dollars a year, where they could be integrated in the community if they had, say, five thousand dollars worth of support services.

Now, it is economically sound to de-institutionalize most disabled people who are presently in institutions.

There has also been a kind of emotional reaction to our call for human rights based upon fear that human rights for disabled Canadians will somehow have a disruptive effect on our society.

We have shown in the appendix to our brief that that fear is really not based upon any sound reasoning, and that it is an unnecessary fear generated out of the kind of bias and emotion that people feel within themselves when confronted by disabled people.

What we need is a clear-minded, objective approach to our problems; and that approach, I would suggest, starts with an articulation that disabled people are Canadians and should have the right to protection from discrimination as a matter of Canadian heritage or, if you like, of constitutional right.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Dr. Peter Lang.

Mr. Lang: Concerning the list of those protected from discrimination under Section 15(1), this Committee has had the importance of this issue stressed by Mr. Gordon Fairweather, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The first specific issue that Mr. Fairweather deals with concerning human rights if the disabled. I quote from you minutes of November 14. Mr. Fairweather states:

Now to get specific about Section 15, the non-discrimination rights section and the one that has most implications for us in the work you have given us, the list of grounds ‘ presented in that section is incomplete. in particular no promise of equality under the law is made to the disabled.

Mr. Fairweather goes on to state:

Costs are not relevant to the guaranteeing of the right to equal protection of the law.

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Mr. Chairman, all parties have supported in principle the inclusion of the disabled for protection in the constitution. ln its first report to Parliament. the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped stated—and I would like to pass this report out so that you could follow it on page 1, paragraph 3:

Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench Human Rights in a patriated Constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicaps.

There is public support, shown by Mr. Fairweather in his report of a survey of 2,000 Canadians as presented to the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped and found in their minutes at page 205. which minutes I would like to table later on.

Mr. Chairman, we know that discrimination against the disabled exists. The disabled have told us across the country. The Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has told us: the media tells us: Canada has already officially acknowledged discrimination against the disabled and signed at the United Nations on December 9th, 1979, the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons.

The disabled constitute approximately 10 percent of the population. It is in the Canadian spirit to have a constitution that clearly covers 100 percent of the population.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct my first question to Mr. Derksen.

The argument of cost has been used against the inclusion of the disabled in Section 15(1). Mr. Derksen, I wonder if you any comments on this?

Mr Derksen: This seems to be based on the idea that simply to place disability or handicap in Section 15(1) without any limiting clauses might result in the courts imposing disruptive change on our society: for example, that all buildings without elevators be equipped with elevators.

Now, we see that religion, sex and age are also included in that section without any limiting clauses. We see that Section 1 or Section 15(3) as proposed by the Human Rights Commission, would allow the courts to interpret the reasonableness or the justifiable necessity of limiting that protection from dis crimination for age, sex and religion.

Sections 1 and 15(3) would make possible an interpretation, in regard to protection from discrimination on the basis of age, by the courts that would uphold 18 as the minimum age for, say, the purchase of liquor, firearms. voting in federal elections. There seems to be a misunderstanding that there is no comparable limiting clauses in existing statutes. and no comparable precedents in existing case law to limit reasonably. where justifiably necessary, that right to protection from discrimination.

In our appendix, we point out the fact that seven provincial human rights commissions and the Acts that they administer

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include limiting kinds of clauses which take into account undue hardship for the vendor of a service; which take into account the need for the employer to require bona fide occupational requirements; which take into account and allow a mechanism whereby the commission or tribunal can determine reasonable qualification to the right.

Now, all of these things are in place. The courts will not have to. We will not desire that in a vacuum in interpreting the constitutional protection for disabled people from discrimination.

We believe that those mediating mechanisms which are already in place will enable an orderly process of change to a point where disabled people would not be discriminated against in the provision of goods, services and in their endeavour to achieve employment and so on.

We believe, in fact, and this has been shown by the strong economies of Northern Europe, that enabling disabled people to participate in society would be an extremely cost effective course of action for this country to take.

We know that in Sweden technical aids are made available to disabled people who require them for employment and for independent living within the community. The same is true in West Germany.

We believe the cost argument which underlies much of the resistance or objections to the inclusion of disability in the constitution is not a real one.

in our brief we call on those who object to the inclusion of handicapped in the constitution to come up with demonstrably clear and justifiable sound objections, not merely the kind of vague implications or references to drafting and definitional problems. The definitions exist; they are very similar from one jurisdiction to another, which tells us that they have been tested and that they work.

We believe that Chief Commissioner, Gordon Fairweather, has a good deal of experience in administering protection from discrimination for disabled people. We think that his opinion should carry a lot of weight here.

Thank you.

Mr. Lang: Mr. Chairman, my second question is also for Mr. Derksen.

-Are there any other governments which have provided protection from discrimination for the disabled, and as a second caveat to that. can you give us any information on the economic factors involved with these governments, and in particular whether they have presented any impediment?

Mr. Derksen: Well, I can say that Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, all give comprehensive protection from discrimination to the disabled through the ordinary legislation of human rights acts. Some of these have been in place since 1974; others are more recent.

There is no indication that these provinces are at the brink of bankruptcy because of that protection.

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Ms. Peters: I wonder if I can add to that. I am from Saskatchewan where we have had comprehensive protection in our Human Rights Code for disabled people for the past year.

As well as being a member of COPE, I am also an employee of the Human Rights Commission and I get to see different perspectives, I suppose.

In Saskatchewan for the past year we have had approximately 40 complaints based upon discrimination because of disability, 20 of which have been in relation to accommodation complaints. I might add that we have in our code a clause which exempts people or businesses or employers if making their place accessible would cause undue hardship and inconvenience.

I might say that, out of all those 20 complaints, we have not activated that mechanism, because once people have been informed that they are violating the law and how they can correct it, they are usually quite willing to do so.

If I may, I would like to refer to an example which occurred in Saskatchewan. We had five complaints laid against the University of Saskatchewan which contained a number of old buildings that disabled students were not able to have access to.

Technically. in the code, I suppose we could have—well. they were violating the code, and they could have been forced to make the building accessible immediately. This might have caused an economic hardship.

However. the agreement that was agreed upon and settled on between both the respondent and the complainant, established a timeframe in which over the next couple of years allotments from the various budgets would be ascribed to making the building accessible.

What I am trying to illustrate here is that disabled people are willing to be reasonable and that there are methods of overcoming access problems, and certainly Saskatchewan has not been brought to its knees with bankruptcy or anything like that.

We have to realize that this has to be done reasonably and with commonsense.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much. Ms. Peters. Dr. Lang, thank you.

There are two people here who would like to be heard. I wonder if we could confine it to a short question? We have Mr. Halliday and Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith: Thank you, Mr. Chairman,

I would like, first of all, to congratulate the committee on being here and presenting us with this brief. As a member of the Special Committee on the disabled and the Handicapped. I am aware of the real concerns that our witnesses have today in regard to discrimination.

I think I would be very remiss, as a member of the Official Opposition, if I did not support the comments which came from my colleague, the Honourable Walter Dinsdale, when he brought to the attention of people the serious ommission

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certainly of his name from the list of those who have been prominent in putting forward the needs of the handicapped over the years. Indeed, the formation of the antecedent of this committee a year ago was due entirely to the efforts of Mr. Dinsdale, his approach to the United Nations on behalf of Canada has obviously been ignored, and I am surprised that our witnesses forgot that closure did prevent many members from the House of Commons from all parties, indeed, from being involved in this very debate which you have some concern about. To me, that is a form of discrimination, and I am surprised that it is coming before this committee from our witnesses today.

I think, Mr. Chairman, all Canadians are concerned about the problems of discrimination and how we should deal with it. We want to ensure that Canadians, indeed, the handicapped, will not be discriminated against.

The difficulty, however, is to know whether that can best be achieved by entrenehment or otherwise.

So I would like to ask the committee whether in their study of this whole subject they have given consideration to the possibility of amending the Canadian Bill of Rights, and giving it primacy, as one alternative and have they given consideration to the fact that some countries, such as the United States of America and Russia, do have entrenched Bills of Rights: Canada does not. What are the benefits, vis-a-vis the two which are obvious to us all?

Thirdly, they have raised the matter of minimum wages on page 3 of their report. Have they studied the recently released document by the Economic Council of Canada which throws a lot of question and doubt as to the effectiveness, indeed, of whether or not minimum wages do what they are supposed to do?

Finally, have they given consideration to the difficulties which we have seen both in Canada and more particularly in the United States where they have an entrenched bill of rights, to the difficulty that some judges may be at the extreme end of the spectrum one way or the other and cause great difficulty in the interpretation of what people really want?

Mr. Derksen: I would like to start by saying that having worked very closely with the Special Committee on the Handicapped and the Disabled, and having known Mr. Dinsdale for many years and his efforts on behalf of our constituency, we wholeheartedly are aware of the Conservative Party’s efforts on our behalf, and Mr. Dinsdale’s in particular.

it was a listing of those members who had spoken specifically for the constitutional amendment that is the substance of our brief today that was given. That was the only the reason why there was no mention of members from the Conservative Party.

In fact, I would like to point out that Mr. Dinsdale last week on Standing Order 43 called for the long-awaited amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act and we are aware of that intervention and appreciative of it.

We are aware that there are many constitutions in the world today which are not honoured. We are also aware that there

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are constitutions which do find a good deal of honour in the courts of the countries where they are in place.

We have surveyed just this past week, our National Council which is representative of each of nine provinces and we find that our organizations are in favour of an entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that we do want inclusion in it. We can only hope. together with all around this table. that if and when this Charter is entrenched. it will be honoured by the courts. Some of us as individuals, although we have not discussed it as the larger organization that we are, are concerned about extreme judgments made by individual judges. Again. it is our hope that the judges will receive and accept clear direction from Parliament in the form of this constitution and the Charter that is intended to be entrenched in it, so that they will give good and reasonable consideration to the interpretation of the Charter.

We are not familiar with the minimum wage document which you referred to. However. I think it is safe to say to that in the area of minimum wage, as long as there is minimum wage legislation in Canada designed to protect Canadian workers from lower exploitation of wages. disabled Canadians should be protected by that legislation. At such a time that it may be the wisdom of our country to eliminate minimum wages, then we can reconsider the entire matter and perhaps need not be included at that point.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you Mr. Derksen. ‘

Mr. Smith?

Mr. Smith: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the pressures of time and I think I will forego questions, but there are a couple of brief comments that I would like to make.

The members of the Committee will be aware that I am the Chairman of the Special Committee for the Disabled and the Handicapped; and one point I would like to make is that we have had an opportunity of hearing over 600 witnesses right across Canada in t8 different cities and it is quite clear to us that COPO which is represented here today by four very articulate people. is in fact the voice of disabled people in this country. They are very legitimate spokespersons for the disabled community and their headquarters is in Winnipeg. They are well organized and have been most helpful to the work of the Committee.

I thought it might be useful to give just a brief background as to the position of the Committee on the constitution. The first report was really primarily released prior to our final report which will be coming out at the end of the year in order to make our position known on it. This is found in the third paragraph of the first page. It is one sentence. and there was considerable discussion about it. but that presents the unanimous position of the all-party committee. I believe it has already been read by Dr. Lang but it is only one sentence;

Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench human rights in a patriated constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicaps.

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I think it is important to point out that it would be unreasonable to conclude that if specific reference is not included that somehow the constitution will not cover disabled Canadians.

It is quite clear to me that it will cover everyone, but I think that our Committee was of the viewpoint that we wanted the clearest possible indication that disabled Canadians are in fact covered and all their rights are protected.

Now, I appreciate that there is some concern over the question of definition and what is reasonable. There has of course been legislative precedent in Canada in the Human Rights Act I am not aware of any difficulties that have been encountered in the interpretation the courts have given to the reference in the Human Rights Act concerning disabled Canadians.

I know that there is also the concern about, well. once specific reference is given to one minority group. does this open the Floodgates to all minority groups? I think it could be argued that the rationale that prompted the reference to disabled Canadians in the Human Rights Act would also exist in the case of the constitution.

Those are really the points that I wish to make. Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your definition problems but this is the position of the Committee and I wanted to reinforce the conclusions of the Committee.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much Mr. Smith. And as Chairman of the Committee you might go back and tell your members that we will include the first report in the Proceedings.

Mr. Smith: Thank you.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Yes, Mr. Derksen?

Mr. Derksen: I would just like to introduce Monique Couillard, the delegate to COPO from Quebec who arrived late on the plane and had a wheelchair breakdown at the airport. She has not been able to participate in the discussion and I wanted to make certain that she was introduced as the other three of us were.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Yes. Thank you very much, and we are very, very pleased to hear from you.

This concludes the evidence and we should like very much to thank the Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped and Mr. Peters, Mr. Kanary and Mr. Derksen. We appreciate your being here and Mrs. Couillard as well. Thank you very much.

Mr. Kanary: Thank you. Mr. Chairman.

[Translation]

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Of course, I would like to join-our joint chairman in thanking our witnesses from the Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped Although I had named you at the beginning of the hearing, Mrs. Couillard I have noted your accent, so I am very happy

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to be able to welcome you and to tell you that we are very receptive to the representations we have heard from your fellow members of the COPOH.

Thank you very much

 3. December 12, 1980

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): May I call the meeting to order.

We are honoured this morning to have with us the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, represented by Mr. Robert Mercer, Doctor Dayton Foreman, and Mr. David Lepofsky.

As you know, the procedure is that you would make an opening statement, then members should like to question you.

You may proceed.

Dr. Dayton Foreman (Vice-President, National Council. Canadian National Institute for the Blind): Mr. Chairman and members of the Senate, House of Commons Committee, as Vice-President of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s National Council, its volunteer Board of Directors, I am privileged to be, once again, a part of a group coming to assist in deliberations of this government and Parliament and also to field your questions.

Our group today consists of the fifth Managing Director of the Institute, Mr, Robert Mercer, who was appointed by National Council on September 1, 1980. He is the chief executive officer of this National Institute and will outline some concerns that he has.

Our third speaker is a fellow-volunteer, Mr. Lepofsky, who will speak on some points in our brief which have been submitted.

In advance, I would like to thank you for your time and hope we can answer some of the questions you will be asking.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Mr. Mercer.

Mr. Robert Mercer (Fifth Managing Director, Canadian National Institute for the Blind): Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind was incorporated federally in 1918 with the dual purpose of providing services in this country to people who were blind as well as to prevent blindness in Canada.

We are a service agency, and as such we would like to make the point this morning that we do not profess to represent the views in Canada of all people who are blind, particularly on a major issue which will be addressed by Mr. Lepofsky a little later.

However, we would like to indicate that, as a service agency, working with blind people in this country, we are the largest and have a long history of involvement with blind people and generally with the community.

We have taken a great deal of time on this matter of human rights to listen carefully to what blind people have been saying and to what other handicapped people have said as well, and in putting forward our position this morning, we say, with some assurance. that what we have to say represents in fact the view of many people who are handicapped in this country, and we trust that this Committee will take most seriously the concerns that handicapped people have in this Canada in your later deliberations.

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I would like to call on David Lepofsky, who is a member of the Ontario Division Board of Management of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to present the position of CNIB on the subject of human rights.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Mr. Lepofsky.

Mr. David Lepofsky (Member, Ontario Division Board of Management, Canadian National Institute for the Blind): -Mr. Chairman, i would like to begin with my thanking you both as a volunteer member of CNIB Ontario Board and as a blind individual for this opportunity to speak to you on what is a crucial issue in our view.

I would indicate at the outset two things, the first of which is I believe all the members of the committee have a letter from the Committee addressed to me from the Ontario Federation of the Physically Handicapped, a federation of some 37 organizations which deal with various kinds of disabilities, a letter endorsing the position articulated in our written brief. I would ask in pursuance of what Mr. Mercer has just said, that this is indicative of the kind of support for all of you which exists amongst all kinds of disabled persons and not merely persons with a visual handicap.

I would ask at this time, Mr. Chairman, that in the spirit of the equality which we are promoting here, the clerk to pass around to the various members—if they prefer not to read our brief in print, they have the choice of reading it on a cassette or in braile; I would ask the clerk to pass them around, and I apologize that there will not be enough for absolutely everyone, but we would be pleased to provide you with extras if they are needed in the future.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much; they are being passed around.

Mr. Lepofsky: As I say, it is demonstrative of our efforts towards equality and our concern about the equality of blind and other handicapped persons.

Mr. Chairman, to begin, I would like to mention a point which may come as a surprise to some. The biggest problem very often with being handicapped—and so far as CNIB are concerned—is not blindness or the handicap. Blindness, visual handicap or other kinds of disability, are frequently conditions which one can learn to adjust to through training, with which one can learn to cope and ultimately achieve some substantial, if not total, degree of independence, self sufficiency and self worth.

The biggest problem very often resulting from’ blindness or other handicap is the well intentioned cruelty which many members of the public unintentionally or unknowingly impose upon us. The pity the patronization, discriminatory attitudes and condescension which handicapped people know to be, unfortunately, almost nonstop components of their life, is in fact the biggest problem they face.

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A handicapped person, in the case we are discussing today, namely that of a blind person, can learn through specific training to overcome the limitations imposed by their blindness, so that blindness no longer functions in most cases as “a handicap”; in fact it can become at times merely a marginal aspect of one’s life, compelling one to read in Braille rather than from prim or to use a guide dog or cane to get from point A to B, rather than using one’s eyes, but nonetheless accomplishing substantially the same things as a sighted person would.

Once one has achieved this degree of independence, however, the problem that is confronted by the majority of handicapped persons is the fact that the public is not often ready to accept us as equals, not by reason of malevolence, but because of uniformed or misinformed attitudes, underestimating our capabilities by fear of the handicapped person—you might call it the “freak syndrome”, not perceiving a handicapped person as just a normal human being. This is manifested in several ways, many of which are frightening and harmful.

Job discrimination against the disabled is something which the public are only now becoming conscious of; the fact that once you have learned to do a job, the fact that you are ready to go out into the market and be competitive, you will find the only barrier you have is not your blindness or other handicap, but the employer who cannot believe you can function.

Housing and other facilities a landlord may not be permitted to rent because a blind person might be considered a health hazard and people do not want to look at someone who has cerebral palsy because it might be somehow unpalatable to look at in the opinion of some.

Educational systems are accessible primarily to nondisabled persons, but only to a limited degree to disabled persons, and, of course, as we all know, most buildings are not accessible.

These are functions of an attitude that the world simply does not contain handicapped people or that those handicapped people are not going to be out there trying to get job, trying to get into housing or buildings.

Our concern is generally with this attitude, and CNIB as well as other organizations have taken many steps, both with public education and also lobbying, to change this. Where this kind of problem with attitudes becomes perhaps most frightening and most requiring of action, is something which is addressed in the Charter of Rights which is before you.

Handicapped people in the struggle for equality and equality of opportunity find that not only do people discriminate in the access to jobs, buildings, facilities, services and housing, but that, in fact, legislators, persons passing laws have also experienced the same negative attitudes towards the handicapped and have passed laws which are in fact discriminatory.

Accordingly, the major thrust of our presentation is that it is necessary that they should be included in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights, the so called equality or nondiscrimination clause, and be referred to as a protected class, mentally or physically handicapped persons.

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We are not looking at this as a means of getting jobs or housing, because that is something which is done at the federal or provincial Human Rights Code level, and we are actually lobbying for that.

Here, we are concerned with not just human conduct which is discriminatory, but legislation which discriminates,

Why should we be included in Section 157 Why handicapped people entitled to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law?

To begin with, I am sure you have all come to the conclusion yourselves and you have heard from other groups, as the clause is presently drafted it is unarguable, unquestionable that handicapped persons are not entitled to equality before the law.

By this exclusion, it perpetuates in our constitution and attitude which, as I have mentioned, is prevelant in society, some notion of handicapped people as second class citizens, people who need to be taken care of, not given independence, protected, not given the opportunity of equality.

Inclusion in Section 15 for the handicapped would be consistent with what is the stated intention of the government with respect to the Charter of Rights. I refer to a statement made by the Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Mark MacCvuigan, in speaking at a public forum on the constitution some weeks ago in Toronto, when I asked him about the handicapped issue. I-Ie had said that the Charter of Rights was central to the government’s package of reforms and that equality for all minorities is central to the Charter of Rights.

If that is the intention, then that intention is thwarted by the present proposed Section 15 because equality for all minorities is not provided. Equality for some is the rubric or the essence of Section 15 as it stands, and it is a respectful submission of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind that, if the intention of the government is to, in fact, give equality to all minorities and is, given the fact that there are some hundreds of thousands or millions of handicapped persons in Canada all told, there is a minority that requires protection. That is not disputed. So the government’s intention must only be manifested, it is our view, if we are included.

Moreover, if the purpose of the equality clause is truly to grant equality, one must look at its wording. It provides equality for certain minorities: in other words, it involves equality for some; and equality for some, I submit really means equality for none. It means that there are two levels in society, one level of people who are entitled to equality and one level who are not. And when you have two distinct classes such as that the term “equality” has been stripped of its meaning and rendered more of an illusion.

Accordingly, if equality is the goal, then it must be equality for all and “all” must include, we submit, handicapped. Now, as I said previously, Mr. MacGuigan in his statement, in answer to certain questions I put to him about the handicapped issue, acknowledged that the handicapped are not

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included and raised the question whether handicapped people need protection in a bill of rights, whether they need egalitarian liberties. His statement was that what the handicapped need are jobs and access to buildings, and these are economic not political or egalitarian liberties, and are not the kinds of things that are required in a constitution.

Now, in a world that was not our own, where economic liberties were generally being entrenched, I would be prepared to address issues such as jobs and architectural access in the constitution; but we are not going to address that today because we recognize the constraints under which Canada and the Parliament are operating. However, I would like to address the statement that Mr. MacGuigan made, speaking at that time on behalf of the government on the constitution. He said that what handicapped people need is not constitutional protection for equality, and it is our submission that Mr. MacGuigan’s view is inaccurate. In fact, when I pointed out certain things that I am about to point out to you, he explained that he had never heard of them before and would probably need to rethink the whole issue.

Legislation, as I said, in many instances discriminates against the disabled. You have heard this before but I believe that we will be the first handicapped group that will in fact itemize examples. Many statutes across Canada, both federally and provincially, which provide that everyone is entitled to a minimum wage when they are in the employment situation provide exemptions for handicapped persons. That is discrimination under or in law with respect to a legal right to a certain minimum wage.

Certain statutes explain when that right is to be administered and when not; certain do not. They merely say that the government has or a Minister has the power to give a licence to allow an employer to pay less than minimum wage, without giving reasons. This is not equality, this is discrimination, in our view.

Many statutes across Canada dealing with eligibility to sit on juries exclude bling persons from the right to serve on juries. Now, there are times when vision may be needed to serve as a juror. It is not our view that every trial should always be open for a blind person to sit on a jury; however, there are, and as a law student and soon to be a lawyer, I can speak with some limited knowledge of this, there are many cases where vision is not necessary and probably the lack of vision may be of benefit to a juror. So, legislation which just blanketly excludes blind persons without reference to their ability or inability to function as a juror, is discriminatory. The marriage legislation in Ontario provides in Section 7 that a marriage licence cannot be granted to someone who is mentally defective. It does not refer to whether their mental limitation is so serious that it would impede their ability to understand or consent to a marriage agreement. It merely excludes someone who is mentally defective from the right to be married. Such, in our submission, is discriminatory.

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The Family Benefits Act in Ontario, a piece of welfare legislation, provides in one section that certain handicapped persons who are in institutions and entitled to certain welfare payments may, by executive order, have those payments paid to a civil servant, a director of the institution or whatever—I do not have the details here, unfortunately—rather than to the handicapped persons themselves. It does not ever require that a handicapped person’s right to receive welfare can be impeded only if that person is incapable of managing their own affairs. It merely says any handicapped person, so that if it is a person who is perfectly capable of handling that money capably, nonetheless their right can be taken away by executive action, perfectly legally under a statute of the province of Ontario. Such is legislation which discriminates.

The Education Act in Ontario, Mr. Chairman, provides that a handicapped person, whether physically or mentally handicapped, can be excluded from the right to go to their local elementary school if they are “incapable of profiting by instruction.” And then a separate school system is established to deal with those situations. Now education is a big and serious issue and I do not intend to address it in its totality here but I think it is fair to say that a provision that says that only where handicapped people cannot profit from instruction, only those people are excluded from the right to go to their local schools. If it is a nonhandicapped person who for some other reason is incapable of profiting from instruction, the statue does not exclude them from the right to go to their local shools. Such is unequalltreatment; such is discriminatory, at least prima facie, in our submission.

Other legislation, and I will only deal with other legislation briefly, British Columbia schools legislation, Section 107 (5) provides, Mr. Chairman, in certain circumstances that an employee of a board of education who is totally and permanently disabled—and I could not find a definition in the act of that term—cannot be hired by the board until they lose their disability. Now, certain disabled persons cannot function in a teaching environment but others can. So such a blanket exemption, if applied against any person with any disability, would be, in fact, discriminatory; and I bring to your attention that blind persons are functioning both in Canada and the United States in the teaching profession.

I am not sure if that act would include blind people within their definition of total and permanent disability, but there is the risk, and that is discriminatory legislation with which we are concerned.

The Immigration Act passed by the government some couple of years ago in Section 19(1) provides a higher burden on a handicapped person who proposes to immigrate to Canada. If that handicapped person can meet all the requirements required of a non-handicapped person, able to support themselves, finding a job, et cetera, et cetera, they still must prove to a medical officer that they will not be an excessive demand on health and social services. There is not requirement that other persons wanting to immigrate have to prove that they will not provide such a demand on health and social services. Such separate treatment not applied to all immigrants is discriminatory in our view.

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I would submit that there are other laws that do discriminate but I think that these are sufficiently ilustrative to respond to the suggestion that we need no constitutional protection, the legislatures can take care of it themselves. This is evidence of how the legislatures have taken care of handicapped rights to equality and moreover, Mr. Chairman, I think that it rebutts the suggestion made by Mr. MacGuigan a couple of weeks ago in response to my question, that handicapped people simply need rights to jobs; they can be provided by statues, they do not need constitutional rights.

Moving on, Mr. Chairman, I would say that there are other reasons why we need to be included in the clause providing for equality. We are a substantial minority. We are not talking about a very small number of people. We have 30,000 clients registered at CNIB and Dr. Foremen can provide you with information of how many other visually handicapped people, as well as other handicapped people, may well be out in the community. Some have suggested that there are one in ten persons in Canada handicapped in some way and therefore would benefit from the kind of constitutional protection we are talking about.

There are a couple of arguments that have been raised primarily by spokesmen for the government—in one instance, I think it is the Minister of Justice, Mr. Chrétien—against handicapped inclusion. One argument that he made is that we should not include it now because it is hard to define the term handicapped. We should wait until we can come up with a definition and put it in through an amending formula. Well, with respect to the Minister of Justice, I do not believe that position is tenable.

Firstly, if this Committee requires information on how to define handicapped, having looked over most Canadian statutes that contain the word and have various definitions over the past few days, I have found that some statutes do not even bother defining it but those that do have been able to effectively, and having done some research on this particular issue myself, I am more than happy to supply you with information to show that definition of handicapped would be no problem.

Secondly, leaving it to an amending formula is not a realistic proposition, because the process of amendment which requires a lot of lobbying, a lot of time, a lot of money, would not be in our view, probably manageable by handicapped persons being for the most part served by not altogether wealthy, non-profit organizations who live off of charity donations in many cases, and handicapped people themselves often living at or below the poverty line.

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So the amendment process will simply not be open to us as a practical matter, I submit. But more importantly, definitional arguments I do not think are persuasive in saying that handicapped persons not be included. Many terms are included, both in this Charter of Rights as proposed and in the British North America Act, 1867, which are much more vague than is the word handicapped, or mental or physical handicap. We note that in Section 15 they refer to discrimination on the grounds of religion. Mr. Chairman, I would invite anyone to define what religion means in a comprehensive manner. I think that that term, while we know that certain religions, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism are religions, there will be many borderline cases where we do not know if those groups are religions or not. But that has not precluded the drafters of this Charter form including religion.

You will note in the British North America Act that under Section 91, criminal law is given to the federal government. We have had 100 years of litigation over what criminal law means in the constitution but that never stopped the framers of the BNA Act from including the words “criminal law” within that constitutional document.

And finally, in Section I, of the proposed Charter, the words “reasonable limits” are used, which I would submit are incredibly harder to define, if ot impossible to define, than are the words “mental or physical handicap”. Accordingly, I do not think one can simply avoid the issue or duck the issue because of definitional problems.

The final reason that I would like to articulate for including handicapped in Section 15 concerns an argument that some have raised against it: namely, that the costs occasioned by including the handicapped would be excessive. I have several responses to that argument.

Number one, I would ask what those costs would be. I am not altogether clear and I would submit that there probably are not that many. Intuitively nothing really comes to mind as being excessively costly.

Secondly, I would submit that unless this Committee is going to go through the process of looking at every liberty enumerated in the Charter of Rights and say how much will this one cost, should we include it, is it too expensive?

Unless we are to do that with every single liberty then there is a certain inequality to simply looking at one group, namely the handicapped, and say that they will be excluded on the basis of a cost argument. And so, if that argument is presented before this Committee, I would ask that your bear that in mind. And finally, if that argument is presented before this Committee, that is that including handicapped would be too costly, I would ask you to bear the following argument in mind, or the following point in mind.

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To say that the cost is too excessive is to assume that handicap inclusion is the absolute lowest priority of every government in Canada, that we have spent every last dollar of revenue we have taxed and collected and that there is no money left. If you were to look at the priorities of the various governments, provincial and federal, of spending, you might find that there are others that are lower priority than handicapped equality and you might find that it might be worth including the handicapped in the constitution and perhaps let some more inconsequential programs go by the board.

I do not think it is fair to simply say it costs too much, therefore we cannot do it.

Moving very quickly through the other points of ours, because the other points we have made are ones which other groups have made as well, we recommend not only that handicapped be included in the Charter, Section 15, but we would prefer it if the Charter read something like equality before the law without unreasonable discrimination or without unreasonable distinction. Unreasonable discrimination meaning without restricting the generality of the foregoing, and then you can put a list of protected classes and include mental or physical handicap.

The reason we suggest this is because if an equality clause is truly to give us equality, it must give us equality with all others. And that is the way to do it.

It has been suggested before this Committee that perhaps it would be best to simply say equality before the law without discrimination, period, no reference to a list of protected classes. Now, that would be preferable to what is proposed in the present bill, but in our view, it is not desirable for the following reasons.

Firstly, it would mean the some thousands and thousands of dollars would be required going to court, appealing up to the Supreme Court of Canada, in order to get a precedent that decides whether handicapped is a class protected by the clause. To avoid that kind of cost, delay and uncertainty, it could be easily included now without any such costs.

And secondly, Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is, if we have to go to court and argue it, there is no guarantee that we will be included by the courts. The courts take a very restrictive view of civil liberties in general, and handicapped civil liberties is a new area in Canadian law and therefore the risk is that we may never get in, even after an appeal process. So the only way of guaranteeing our rights is by including us.

Briefly, Mr. Chairman, we recommend, as is mentioned in our brief, that the words “euality before the law” and “equal protection of the law” are far too weak a means of protecting egalitarian liberties. You have heard this from other groups and we endorse the views that have been presented namely that the courts under the present bill have interpreted those words to not provide egalitarian liberties, and they have done it in an unequivocal way. And these words, even though there is one word that is different, these words are far too close, far too close to the existing Bill of Rights to ensure anyone that the courts will use this as a strong lever to nullify discriminatory laws. It is our concern that, once again the same amendment argument goes, if we get bad precedent, we have to go through the amending process, and we have seen in the State with the ERA battle how many years and at what cost that fight is and that there is no certainty of success.

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More importantly, it is our view that the courts have a tradition of taking a very restrictive view of civil liberties. Now, that is not by way of criticism or by way of anything less than respect for the members of the judiciary, but it is something which is, nonetheless, true, I think that it will be necessary and it is our submission that it will be necessary for strong direction to be given to the courts through very specific wording directing them to invalidate discriminatory legislation.

Moving to the end of my presentation, Mr. Chairman, it is our submission, as you will see in our brief, that Section I should not govern either Section 14 or Section 15. It is our view that there should be no circumstances where the right to an interpreter, which a deaf, blind or just a deaf person may require in court, should ever be taken away. Why is it either in war or emergency that a deaf-blind person on trial should be denied an interpreter to know what the case is against them. It is too basic and a denial of natural justice.

Moreover when should unwarranted discrimination be permitted? At wartime? At peacetime? In the case of an emergency? It is hard to imagine a situation where it is justifiable, and therefore we have recommended, as have other groups, that Section 14 and Section 15 be absolute rights, rights not subject to Section 1.

Alternatively, if that point of view is not acceptable to the Committee, it is our submission that the wording in Section I is far, far too broad. You have heard all the arguments before, we can only reiterate them, that Section 1—labelled by some as the Mack truck provision—will in fact make the rest of the Charter of Rights a virtually worthless and impotent means of protecting civil liberties,

In particular, the generally accepted view of the public with respect to handicapped persons is that they are often not capable of taking care of themselves, not capable of maintaining a job, not capable of self-sufficiency, and therefore the kinds of laws that I have discussed previously that are discriminatory would be under Section I generally accepted in a free and democratic society, passed by these kinds of Parliaments. And accordingly, if Section 1 remains, and if Section 15 is still subject to it, it is our view that Section 1 must be very narrowly constrained to protect minority rights and in particular, handicapped rights.

Finally it is our submission that Section 29, (2) which provides that the equality clause will go into effect later than all other parts of the bill should be repealled, simply because there is no good reason in our view why egalitarian liberties should be delayed. If anything, they should be accelerated.

[Page 14]

In conclusion, I would like to make the following points. Our concern is that there is a danger of misleading people if the Charter does not include the handicapped. There is the danger that people will believe that in Canada under such a provision, egalitarian liberties are truly safeguarded, there is equality for all, Without handicapped inclusion such is not the case. And it is not only unfair to handicapped persons to deny them equality, but it is a risky venture for the public to be misled into believing that all minorities are protected when they are in fact not.

Our concern, as I said at the outset, is dealing with public attitudes. Public attitudes are something which we must battle at various levels. At the constitutional level we are battling public attitudes as they are manifested through legislation and this is a battle which is both serious and crucial.

Finally I would close by saying that there is an oft stated adage thatjustice is blind; in fact it is a cliché.

Our concern—and the underlying concern of this presentation—is that while justice may have had the opportunity to experience blindness, we are asking for blind persons, as well as for other handicapped persons, to be given at last an opportunity to experience justice.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays) Thank you very much, Mr. Lepofsky.

Inasmuch as Mr. Lepofsky and his group have given us a thorough understanding of their brief, we have a few minutes left.

We have another group scheduled to be here at l0.l5 this morning and the House sits at 11 o’clock, I am wondering if I could have some agreement that we have three questions on it and that we could probably terminate at 10:20 or 10:25 and have our time as five minutes rather than the 10-minute round?

Mr. Epp.

Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I was going to make the recommendation and Mr. Lepofsky has been excellent in the presentation and on this topic; and there are just two points: one, he kindly offered us to make information available re definition of the handicapped. I hope I have stated that correctly, But I would ask the Committee to request of Mr. Lepofsky that he make that information available to us, though it does not necessarily have to be appended to the minutes of this hearing, but that the information be circulated.

Secondly, I would recommend, Mr. Chairman, instead of the 10 minute-round for the witnesses this morning, that you reduce it to five minutes, and if there are any questions after that first round we will leave that with the Chair.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much. Is that agreed?

Some hon. Members: Agreed.

[Page 15]

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): I see that is agreed.

Senator Donahoe.

Senator Donahoe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, I am very happy that good fortune presented me this morning with the opportunity of sitting in on this Committee as a substiute for one of the regular members, because I am very pleased to have had the opportunity of hearing the very excellent presentation made by Mr. Lepofsky.

I was interested to hear the illustration that was given of discrimination possibly against an unsighted juror, because in my experience as an Attorney General for many years, I was once faced with the application for appointment as a Crown Prosecutor by a blind person.

He was an excellent lawyer, a good student and so on; but he was asking to be made a Crown prosecutor to conduct criminal prosecutions.

I would ask you to believe that it was a matter of real difficulty for me to determine whether or not that handicap, in fact, was of a nature which detracted from his ability to do the fullest and most complete job in that particular capacity.

I want to say that I did, in fact, appoint the gentlemen and that he conducted himself with great credit for a number of years.

But I wonder if the person who suffers the handicap can appreciate the difficulty that a person in the position in which I was at that time might have had in determining whether they are in fact discriminating against that person because of the handicap or whether they are in fact merely endeavouring to see that their obligations and responsibilities are discharged in the best possible manner.

However, I do not wish to say or to ask too much, because I think your presentation was, indeed, excellent and from the point of view of the organziation for which you are speaking and the people whom it represents, it has been exceedingly well put here this morning.

I would like to ask this simple question. Do you believe that the position of the handicapped will be substantially improved or enhanced if this procedure is followed? The procedure that is suggested is to entrench certain rights.

You have indicated that you find the suggestions inadequate, insufficient and in need of substantial amendment, and that those amendments should be specifically directed towards the class of person for whom you are speaking here this morning.

Do you feel that the position of the handicapped is going to be very much improved and very much enhanced if this procedure is followed with or without your suggested amendments?

Mr. Lepofsky: Mr. Chairman, to answer both your points, understanding the fact that an employer or service must go through a very difficult analysis and thought process to decide what one is capable of, is something which is only too well understood by any handicapped person, because before someone like myself decided to go into law school I had to make that same analysis.

[Page 16]

So it is something which not only I have thought about, but i would think about it before any of my potential employers have thought about it.

it is a very difficult process. The equality clause, if it included the disabled, would give us a right, in the instance where a legislature had gone through that thought process and in fact had made a wrong decision in the passage of laws which end up discriminating, would give us a right to appeal that to the court and to argue that it is an unreasonable distinction which is being drawn against handicapped persons.

My first point would be, Mr. Chairman, that this would provide a means or mechanism for handicapped persons and other interested groups, to challenge legislation which is discriminatory. If these provisions are not put in, then it would signal to the disabled that it is the prevailing view in Canada that handicapped people are not entitled to equality before the law and that the kinds of discrimination that are experienced by any handicapped person in their every day life are in fact representing a pervasive view which in fact has been articulated through the actions of the framers of the new constitution.

On the other hand, if this provision is included as we have proposed, several benefits would accrue, l would submit. The first is that next year being the International Year of the Disabled Person, it would show Canada as doing what could be the best possible move to ensure disabled persons equality, which is to pass a constitution enshrining their rights; secondly, it would be a signal to the Canadian people that as regards handicapped persons, who in the past have either been a forgotten minority or a lesser class of citizen—and I say this was not intentional or out of malevolence; but it has happened nonetheless—that a new era has dawned and that as deeply felt a concern is being presented to Canada as can be expressed through a Charter of fundamental rights as acknowledging this liberty.

As I say, some of the more odious legislation, some of which I have already enumerated, would be amenable to attack. I know that certain lobbying has succeeded in Ontario, and lobbying by certain groups have inspired the Ontario legislature, after I00 years of having similar legislation to finally change it, and it is now about to get the Royal Assent, but the process of getting the reform has taken a long time. Had we an equality clause we could have had it adjudicated upon and probably won the matter possibly much more quickly. It was only, frankly, out of luck, that in our view this amendment ever came through.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much.

We have Mr. Althouse followed by Senator Connolly.

Mr. Althouse.

Mr. Althouse: Thank you, Mr. Joint Chairman.

Other evidence seems to suggest that the disabled and handicapped people suffer an unemployment rate of between 70 per cent and 80 per cent. I note in your remarks this morning that you mentioned employers who do not believe you can function as one of the big handicaps you are facing.

[Page 17]

Is that the greatest difficulty faced by blind people, for instance, access to opportunity to function? Will the proposed amendment encourage this access to opportunity in your opinion?

Mr. Lepofsky: I would agree that the access to jobs and other facilities is perhaps the greatest problem. As I said, it is the attitude to the public that is the greatest problem and perhaps is the worst manifestation of it, aside from the other manifestation I have mentioned, namely the legislative discrimination.

Our proposals would not require employers to hire a handicapped person who can do the job. That is something which is dealt with by the Human Rights Code. I would say that we are involved in lobbying along with many other organizations for amendments to such laws. I am personally involved in that and could give you a lot of information on the subject if necessary.

It would, however, have two beneficial effects on the employment situation. The first is that, by entrenching this in a charter of rights, as I have said before, it would be a signal to the Canadian public that handicapped people are entitled to equality. That is an educational effect which would be of profound importance and help.

Secondly, there is the possibility and I did not mention this in my list of discriminatory legislation, because a good law student is told that you should use your weakest argument at the end or drop them altogether; but the federal Human Rights Code provides protection for the handicapped in the area of employment, but does not refer to them in the area of access to services or goods. I would say that is a form of discrimination. As you know, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has recommended amendments to cover that.

I would be interested to know if we could build a case that we are getting unequal treatment under the Human Rights Code, since in certain provinces we are not included at all in the code, and in other provinces we are only given partial protection.

But that is a case as to which, while I would like to argue it personally, I am not overwhelmed by the fact that it would be successful. But the most important point is the educational effect on the public and that laws which are a barrier to education, a barrier to equal opportunity, and signals second- class citizenship for the handicapped to the public, would be attackable by us.

Mr. Althouse: In this regard, the slow movement towards access to jobs and equal access to buildings and services, I note one of the supporting groups, the Federation of the Physically Handicapped for Ontario, has mentioned in supporting documents which were passed out along with your brief, that Section 29, they make the point—in the proposal before us places a restriction on the implementation of such rights; under Section 29 it is stated that there will be a three-year waiting period, and they would not come into effect any sooner than the amending formula.

[Page 18]

What is the reaction of your group to this waiting period? Your group of handicapped individuals seem to be the only group that have been singled out for this by subsection (2).

Mr. Lepofsky: I would say it is a concern of ours. The delay, if anything, is undesirable; and we would prefer to have seen an equality provision protecting us in effect ten years ago. However, I am bound to confess it is not our major concern. Our principle concern is getting into the bill in one form or another at all.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much.

Senator Connolly.

Senator Connolly: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, we are all very happy indeed to have the CNIB here, because over the years this organization has done a tremendous amount, and I think perhaps the witnesses might agree that the important feature of that work is the fact that they have helped so much to promote the integration particularly of blind people into the community, into society and all phases of Canadian life. This is a great achievement on the part of the CNIB and of the people who work with them.

But may I also, on a personal basis, congratulate Mr. Lepofsky for the very lucid, very comprehensive statement that he has made. I predict that he is going to be a very good lawyer. I would hope that he might become a member of Parliament, but I would tell him immediately that he will not be the first person who is without sight who has been in the House of Commons. I do not say that as a joke. There are lots there who perhaps physically see, but perhaps mentally do not. That does not, of course, apply to the Senate. We have had people without sight in Parliament: Trevor Morgan was here in the early 1970’s on the Conservative side.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Senator Connolly, I think Doctor Foreman would like to ask you a question.

Mr. Foreman: I was just going to thank the Senator for his kind remarks about the Institute and about Mr. Lepofsky. I would also like to thank the Committee from the point of view of letting my guide dog in.

Senator Connolly: Good, good. I think I can remember a man—I believe his name was Estey or something of that nature, but whatever his name was, I think he may have be the first in Parliament, this man whose name escapes me; and for this I apologize. There is a great story of an exchange between Mackenzie King, R. B. Bennett and this man at one time over the Doukhobors—one of the great stories on the record of Parliament.

But I would like to ask Mr. Lepofsky this. You have been talking, and the other groups which have represented the handicapped have also been talking, about the importance of integrating the handicapped community into the normal stream of public life.

I think great strides have been made as education has advanced, and as public education in this respect has improved. I do not ask you this as a trick question, but I wonder whether, by segregating the handicapped you are not, to use your own words, signalling to the disabled that they are forever a segregated group?

[Page 19]

Would your position not be stronger before the law, even before these provincial laws which you have criticized here, if a nondiscriminatory clause applied equally to you, whether you are handicapped, equally to me, whether I do not happen to be physically handicapped, maybe mentally and so on; but would it not be better in the long run not to have a special category set out in a constitution which, presumably, is to last for a very long time?

Mr. Lepofsky: I can answer that question, Mr. Chairman, briefly. First, I thank you for your compliments with respect to my potential future in Parliament; but my immediate concern, perhaps a little myopic, is that I have another four bar examinations to write and I will continue to be a law student for a lot longer.

On the question of integration generally, I must say, particularly under the leadership of the new management of the CNIB with Mr. Mercer, among other things, CNIB as well as other organizations are becoming much more active in adopting integration of handicapped people into society as a goal, phasing down and phasing out segregationist programming and lobbying for equal rights legislation; this is demonstrative of our kind of work.

While there has been segregation, in fact somewhat imposed by handicapped organizations over the years, this is something which is changing, and I would say that the three gentlemen in front of you representing the CNIB are hoping and striving to see that change continue and accelerate.

As to whether it is somewhat discriminatory or special treatment to mention us expressly in the equality clause, I have two answers or brief points to make to that. First, is that, as 1 have mentioned in my general remarks, if you do not put us in expressly, and merely say equality before the law without discrimination period; then, you are leaving it to us to have to litigate and go to court and spend thousands of dollars and try our luck.

First of all, I do not think we could afford it too readily, and secondly, we are at risk that we would lose. Frankly, having read a good deal of civil liberties case law, which is a particular area of law which interests me, in Canada our courts have a restrictive or very narrow approach to the treatment of civil liberties and only enforce them, as evidenced by the treatment of the 1960 Bill of Rights, when there is no way out: and even then they do not.

So that my concern is that we may well not win such a case, no matter what the intention is of the Senate, no matter what the intention is of the House of Commons in passing this bill. The only way we could be sure to be in, speaking from a legal point of view, is to put us in. Saves us money and improves our chances.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Lepofsky.

[Page 20]

At this time I would like to thank you on behalf of the Committee. Mr. Mercer, Dr. Foreman, I want you to know that your dog is most welcome in here. I was going to say something and I thought bketter of it after. I have great respect for dogs.

In your brief you have raised some problems that I am sure none of the Committee had heard before, at least I had not, and we appreciate your being here.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Mr. Mercer, did you have something you wished to say?

Mr. Mercer: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

I know that our president, Mr. Dick Smith from Winnipeg, would like me to express thanks and appreciation from CNIB for all of you today for taking the time to listen to our point of view, so thank you very much.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you.



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What Did Disability Advocates Tell Canada’s Parliament 40 Years Ago This Fall to Help Win an Historic Amendment to the Charter of Rights to Protect Equality for People with Disabilities?


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

December 7, 2020

SUMMARY

Let’s take a cool stroll down disability rights advocacy memory lane going back four decades! Today, we make public a real treasure from the history of the ongoing non-partisan campaign for full accessibility, full participation and full inclusion of people with disabilities in Canadian society! These events still resonate to this day.

In this Update, we reach back to the incredibly uphill but ultimately successful battle in the fall of 1980 to get equality rights for people with disabilities entrenched in the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Parliament was then considering for inclusion in Canada’s Constitution. In October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament that would bring Canada’s Constitution home from England, and add a new Charter of Rights to it. The proposed Charter of Rights was to include an equality rights provision, section 15. However, the wording of section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, it would have been impossible for courts to add disability protection to section 15 by judicial interpretation.

A number of organizations and individuals came forward in the fall of 1980 from the disability community to call for the Charter of Rights to be amended, before Parliament passed it, to add equality for people with disabilities to section 15. During public hearings in Parliament on Canada’s Constitution in the fall of 1980 (the first Committee hearings in Canada’s Parliament ever to be televised), only three disability organizations got the chance to make presentations.

This Update gives you the chance for the first time to now read those three presentations all in one place. Below we set out the official transcripts of the presentations that were made by the three disability organizations that were given the opportunity to address the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons that held hearings on the proposed patriation of Canada’s Constitution.

1. On November 21, 1980, the Joint Committee heard from the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded. That organization was later re-named the Canadian Association for Community Living. More recently it has adopted the Name Inclusion Canada.

2. On November 25, 1980, the Joint Committee heard from the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (COPOH). That organization is now known as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).

3. On December 12, 1980, 40 years ago this upcoming Saturday, the Joint Committee heard from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Its lead presenter was David Lepofsky, then a law student, and now chair of the AODA Alliance.

Despite these presentations, the Federal Government initially resisted adding disability equality to the Charter. However, our community persisted. Eventually, the disability amendment was unanimously added to the Charter before Parliament passed it in 1981. The only right to be added to the proposed Charter of Rights during all those weeks of proceedings in Parliament was equality for people with disabilities.

There is much more to this story. The winning of the disability amendment was due to the efforts of many. If you want to learn more about this history, which underpins all our disability accessibility advocacy to this day, check out a captioned video of a talk by David Lepofsky, where he recounts the history of the successful campaign in 1980-81 by diverse disability organizations to get the disability amendment added to the Charter of Rights. A captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation to the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons by a much younger David Lepofsky, then a law student, on behalf of the CNIB is also available online.

Our tenacious battle for accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities has come a long way over the forty years since then, on a journey we certainly could not have imagined in 1980, Said AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky. In the fall of 1980, we had little hope of success, but combined efforts from disability advocates did succeed. Since then, we have continued to face many similarly uphill battles, with it each time appearing that we have little chance of succeeding, but we keep up our unstoppable efforts and we keep blazing forward.

We welcome your feedback on this trip down memory lane, or on anything else to do with the non-partisan campaign for equality for people with disabilities. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and of the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada RESPECTING The document entitled “Proposed Resolution for a Joint Address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada” published by the Government on October 2, 1980

Joint Chairmen:
Senator Harry Hays, P.C.
Serge Joyal, M.P.

1. November 21, 1980

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal):
It is my pleasure this morning to introduce [Translation] Mr. Paul Mercure, President of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded, and Mr. David Vickers, Vice-President.
I understand that the Association has submitted a brief to the clerk of the committee and that it has been distributed, I also understand that you have a short presentation to make before answering the members’ questions.
I see that you have another colleague with you at the table and I would ask the President, Mr. Mercure, to introduce him. Mr. Mercure.
Mr. Paul Mercure (President of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded): I would first like to thank the members of the joint committee for having given the representatives of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded a few minutes of their precious time, despite the deadlines they are facing.
Our delegation includes, on my left, Mr. Dave Vickers, Vice-President of our association and a former deputy minister of Justice in British Columbia, whose young daughter is mentally retarded, and, on my right, Mr. David Lincoln, President of the People First group, which is based in Fort Erie, Ontario. This is a group of mentally retarded adults who are trying to get along on their own. Mr. Harvey Endicott, Co-ordinator of the Association’s legal services and resources, is also with us.
The purpose of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded is to defend the rights and promote the interests of some 500,000 mentally handicapped Canadians.
It is a voluntary movement that includes provincial associations and some 40,000 members belonging to almost 400 local associations. Our brief should thus be corrected. We have 40,000 members throughout Canada. [Page 7]
The Association’s main goal is to ensure that the rights of physically and mentally handicapped persons are respected and we have joined forces with other groups representing the handicapped.
Our Association is deeply convinced that all mentally handicapped people should live in society. outside of institutions which tend to alienate them. The integration process has begin throughout Canada and should be pursued on a long-term basis, Because more and more handicapped people are living in society, their rights must be protected.
Thanks to the efforts of our movement, a number of provincial and federal laws have addressed these questions. Our remarks this morning are based on decisions made at our general meeting, held in Toronto last June, and on previous general meetings which took a stand on the rights of the handicapped. At the June meeting, the Association was asked to promote the enshrinement of these rights in the new Canadian constitution.
This resulted in a special brief being presented to the special committee of the House of Commons on the handicapped and the disabled.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that I am happy with what we were able to accomplish with respect to that committee. Most of what we want to say this morning is contained in the preamble to a document published in October by the Special Committee on the Handicapped and the Disabled.
I would like to quote the third paragraph of the preamble, which reads as follows:
If Parliament decides to enshrine human rights in the patriated constitution. the committee feels that complete and equal protection should be extended to persons suffering from physical and mental handicaps.
We are asking that the rights of handicapped persons be protected in the new constitution.
The Association has not taken up position on how to patriate the constitution. We, of course, have our personal opinions, but we would rather the matter be dealt with by persons more qualified than us.
We want the patriated constitution to deal with the rights of all Canadians and give added protection to handicapped persons. who need it to be able to exercise their rights.
We are not asking for special rights, any more than we are in favour of special or segregated services, which we would like to see replaced. throughout Canada. by integrated services. [Page 8]
What we are asking for is a place in society and the legal protection that handicapped people need to be able to exercise the same rights as other Canadians.
Before asking Mr. Vickers to give a more detailed account of our demands, I would like Mr. David Lincoln, who, as I said, is President of a group of mentally retarded people based in Fort Erie, to provide specific examples of situations that the group members have to deal with every day. [Text]
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. David Lincoln (President, People First): First of all. I would like to say that People. First is a self-advocacy group of mentally retarded persons helping each other.
l have a few examples here, like needing more funding for shelter workshops, more staff and better pay for handicapped people.
One incident that comes to mind is from Carleton Place where clients were getting 2 cents an hour for the work they were doing. We feel that we are accomplishing a lot by working and human rights should cover minimum wage for all handicapped, or humans, supposedly.
Another one is there should be more low-rental accommodation for handicapped persons and if they move into a place they should not be discriminated against because they are retarded. Most people would rather turn them down because they are mentally retarded, and they figure it would be a low cut in rent, but it is not happening.
The best part of all, we are Canadian citizens; we feel we should be a part of the Canadian citizens instead of feeling second class.
The reason we are called People First is it is very important for our rights to such opportunities to be protected in the Canadian constitution. Please do not ignore us. We are people who are Canadian citizens first and handicapped second. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Vickers?
Mr. David Vickers (Vice-President, Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded): Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, we are here this morning to discuss with you a question of values. We are speaking of the value that will be placed upon the lives of our sons and daughters.
We are speaking to you about the value that will be placed upon the lives of thousands of Canadian citizens; these Canadian citizens living with a handicap, whether real or perceived.
Our plea to you is not a plea for special rights. Our plea as advocates of people with a handicap is that they too will be afforded the full opportunity that attaches to their Canadian citizenship: in short, a plea that they will not be forgotten in [Page 9]
the new Bill of Rights so that they may become, as David has just said, Canadians first and handicapped second.
We ask you to pause for a moment, if you will, to consider the needs of an average Canadian citizen. Think of your own needs and how they have been met throughout your life. Canadians who are handicapped are no different in that regard than you or I. To achieve the limits of their potential they require, first of all, the ability to live, and in particular adequate health care.
Second, they require an appropriate education in the least restrictive alternative.
Third, they need appropriate vocational training and thereafter appropriate vocational opportunities.
Fourth, they need appropriate residential accomodation, again in the least restrictive alternative. Fifth, they need appropriate recreational and social opportunities.
Antidiscrimination clauses in charters and human rights codes contains statements of conduct that is prohibitive. In addition to such statements of prohibitive conduct, our association favours a statement of positive rights. We say that those values to which we all subscribe as Canadians can be and ought to be stated as basic conditions of social, economic and cultural rights in Canada.
Unfortunately time has not allowed us to conduct an exhaustive study in that regard. In the preparation of our brief we have strived to return to the basic question, what are those values to which we can subscribe and how can they be entrenched in a charter of rights within the Canadian constitution?
Therefore we had reference to the International Covenants Board on Human Rights. These United Nations Covenants have been subscribed to by Canada and the provinces.
We are told that the ratification of these convcnants. the appointment of a Canadian representative to the Human Rights Committee and the subsequent ratification of the optional propocol remain today as a shining example of federal-provincial co-operation.
Therefore, since August 19, 1976 when the document came into effect, we have had a set of international values to which we could refer when considering the very issues which are before us today.
The first of these covenants deals with economic, social and cultural rights. the second with civil and political rights. Our list which was taken from these covenants is found at page 2 of our brief.
From the second covenant, Article 6 and the first convenant, Article 12, we have extracted the right to life and the right to health care. The remainder are all taken from the first covenant and include Article 11, the right to adequate food, clothing and housing; Article 10, the right to protection and assistance of the family; Article 13, the right to an appropriate [Page 10]
education; Article 7. the right to an opportunity to work, and just and favourable conditions of work; Article 8, the right to participate in trade unions and Article 9. the right to social security.
It is essential that we take just a moment to say a few words about the right to an appropriate education. Many Canadians who are handicapped are denied this basic right referred to in the International Covenant and subscribed to by Canada and the provinces. It is fundamental to the growth and development of all persons that they receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. It is more than interesting to note that Section 23 of the proposed constitution act 1980 provides and I quote:
the right to have their children receive their primary and secondary school instruction in that minority language if they reside in an area
And so on. Surely, there is a missing link in the logic of this section. There is indeed the need to entrench the right to an appropriate education and thereafter to deal with the equally important question of minority language educational rights. Without the entrenchment of that value, the right to an appropriate education, Canadians who live with a handicap condition are at the outset denied the means of access to many of the benefits of Canadian society.
We recognize that it is an imperfect world. Achieving a consensus on a host of positive rights may be difficult, but nevertheless worthy of the great past which is yours at this moment in our history.
There remains the need for an antidiscrimination clause such as Section 15; however, we wish to convey to your Committee the urgent necessity to add to the specific grounds, and I quote: handicapping condition, whether physical or mental
The year 1981 will be International Year of the Disabled. It would be an appalling commentary on our Canadian values if we failed to entrench in that year, in our new constitution. protection for all Canadians who live with a handicap whether real or perceived. The usual objection raised to inclusion of handicapped as a prohibited ground of discrimination is that such a measure might obstruct programs designed to remedy the effects of the long history of negative discrimination. We believe that the usual exceptions to affirmative action programs can relieve this concern. And you have dealt with that in the subsection to Section 15.
There is a second objection from those who say that in order to benefit from antidiscrimination clauses a person would first have to identify himselfor herselfas handicapped. This objection can be overcome if the terminology used is defined broadly, such as we find in a definition of handicapped person which can be found in the US. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There handicapped person is defined as any person who has (a) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities; (b) has a record of such impairment. or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment. [Page 11]
It is noteworthy that particularly under subsection (c) of this definition the focus is clearly on the act of discrimination rather than on whether the person discriminated against can be fitted into the protected category. That is the essential purpose of the statutory definition.
In summary, Mr, Chairman and members of the Committee, our Association urges this Committee to consider enlarging the statement of positive rights for all Canadians and to consider in particular those economic, social and cultural rights which today form the foundation of our Canadian society.
Finally, we join with many other Canadian organizations and ask that the words handicapping condition, whether physical or mental, be added to the list of prohibited grounds ofdiscrimination found in Section 15. Thank you. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Vickers. The honourable Walter Dinsdale.
Mr. Dinsdale: I should like to welcome you three gentlemen who have so effectively represented the cause of the mentally handicapped community in Canada. I am sure you are aware that we have a Special Parliamentary Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped that has been in action now for almost six months; on the basis of our investigation, we quite soon came to the conclusion that one of the areas of rather tragic neglect so far as human rights are concerned, was that of the mentally handicapped citizens, including both the mentally ill and the mentally retarded.
We had an opportunity to see the people first in action in some of our hearings, and I think members of the Committee will be quite impressed when I tell you that one of the most effective presentations was done quite spontaneously without the benefit of notes by one of your representatives in Vancouver who tried to define mental retardation and this is Brian I am speaking of: he said, I am mentally retarded, and he tapped his forehead, and said That means that I think a little slowly, then he paused rather dramatically and said: I know some politicians who suffer from the same disability. It is obvious from your presentation here this morning that this is the case.
We were so much concerned that our Special Committee produced an Interim Report, I presume you gentlemen have seen that report. One of the statements was to the effect:
Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench human rights in a patriated constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicap.
There has been no protection at all, Mr. Chairman, other titan the United Nations Human Rights Charter to which we have subscribed; but there is no protection in terms of meeting the needs of the mentally handicapped.
Now, having said that. Mr. Chairman, I wonder ifwc could get down to specifics and ask the people who are representing the mentally retarded this morning, if they feel that Section [Page 12]
1and this has become a big issue during the course of the hearings of this Committeeabrogates the rights that are guaranteed in Section 15 of the bill. I presume the witnesses have the resolution before them. I think this is a fundamental point, because it is quite clear today, Mr. Chairman, that there is discrimination against the handicapped, particularly the mentally handicapped.
It is not an accepted body of thought that the mentally retarded, in particular, should have all the rights under a Human Rights Charter. Are the two in conflict?
Mr. Vickers: Mr. Chairman, my own personal view is that it is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. We have not addressed ourselves specifically to that question. feeling it was our mandate to address the issue of entrenching rights for handicapped people.
But, looking at Section 1, and speaking with my legal hat on for one moment, if I may, it appears to me to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
Having read, for example, Mr. Fairweather’s comments before the Committee. I am bound to say I subscribe to what he has had to say about appropriate amendments to that section. I feel it does need some work.
Mr. Dinsdale: Mr. Chairman, do I take it that Mr. Vickers is saying that there is a direct contradiction. He has not quite phrased it that way, but the two nullify one another in effect. is that correct? Mr. Vickers: Yes, I agree with that. One seems to offset the other.
Mr. Dinsdale: We, in our Interim Report, recommended very strongly that the Charter of Human Rights or the Human Rights Act, in other words, should embrace all the rights that are in the Human Rights Act for the handicapped. Do you think this adequate human rights protection for the people you are representing here this morning? We have a human rights act which was passed in 1977. At that time public opinion was such that the only right that was enshrined in the human rights actjust three years ago, which goes to show how slowly we learnwas the right to employment.
There were numerous arguments put forward at that time to the effect that the human rights act could not go further. We do not propose to outline them here, even though this was the limitation of rights so far as the handicapped was concerned, it did not even embrace the mentally handicapped community, even so far as rights of employment are concerned.
Now, if we were to proceed on the basis of the recommendation of the Special Committeeand it is an action-oriented Committee, I can assure you gentlemenand have the Canadian Human Rights Act amended so that the handicapped community were covered completely by that act, would it be sufficient so far as meeting the needs of the people you are representing this morning is concerned?
Mr. Vickers: Again, I come back to the basic value question. I am thinking in terms of vocational and residential opportunities, and in particular, educational opportunities, if [Page 13]
they are, indeed, basic Canadian values, then I would argue that they ought to be entrenched with the Bill of Rights and not placed simply within the human rights legislation which can be amended by Parliament at Parliament’s will.
So that if you are talking about basic questions of value. speaking as a Canadian and as an advocate for handicapped people, I would argue that those basic values ought to be entrenched within the constitution and not placed necessarily within the Bill of Rights. A Bill of Rights is a second prize. We have never had any prizes for our handicapped friends, and if we are to take anything, obviously we would be prepared to accept amendments to the federal code.
On the other hand, it is still a second prize so far as we are concerned. The people for whom we advocate are now entitled to a few of the first prizes.
Mr. Dinsdale: You mentioned in your presentationa vitally important pointaccess to education and training. We discovered, as we met with 600 people across Canada, that the area of learning disability is totally limited in its services in Canada, and this affects the area of the mentally retarded, in particular.
And the theme is that this has been a good year in Canada for the disabled. We have had the World Congress in Winnipeg and we are coming into the Year of Disabled 1981, and our report will be tabled to coincide with the Year of the Disabled. A theme of the report will be deinstitutionalization, getting the disabled out of what we call human warehouses where the care is merely custodial and where there is no provision for recreational, educational and transportation and all the other vital services that are needed to meet the needs of the disabled community. All this has to it an economic factor as well. lt is tremendously expensivecustodial care without any rehabilitation.
So if Parliament enshrines, as you are recommending, a Charter of Rights for the Disabled in specific terms, and if we got rid of the conflict between Sections 1 and 15, do you think it would be helpful in encouraging this process towards deinstitutionalization?
Mr. Mercure: Yes, we believe that type of protection would help our local association to make sure that the specific rights of individuals are protected. This would help us to create services within the community.
This is the reason why deinstitutionalization takes a very long time to accomplish, because most professionals, even most governments. address themselves to deinstitutionalization, but we cannot accept these people within the community without support services, which, in the long run, could be a lot more effective. and sometimes even less costly to the community as a whole.
More than that, we believe that any segregation for any group increases very rapidly the difference in behaviour and also it is a fundamental question of value in our society to accept the human person as he or she is, not to separate or segregate any group. [Page 14]
The mental retardation people have not been segregated for a long period of time. It is only in the last 100 years that that problem has arisen from the industrial era. Mentally handicapped people used to live within the community before. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Dinsdale. Mr. Young.
Mr. Young: Thank you very much. I also want to thank you for appearing before the Committee and presenting such an excellent brief. I am also a member of the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped, and over the summer months, we had over 400 witnesses who made presentations to that Committee and without exception, everyone argued that disability and handicap should be included in any new charter of rights and freedoms.
I want to center on one specific area, immediately, because, to me, it indicates not only society’s attitude towards the disabled and the handicapped, but it is certainly a crystal clear example of the court’s attitude towards the disabled and the handicapped, and particularly mentally retarded individuals.
I want to spend a few minutes, if I may, on Section 7 of the proposed charter, legal rights. and to try and tie it into the absence of any provisions for the disabled and the handicapped under Section 15. Under Section 7 of the proposed charter it is stated:
7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof
We have, under the Criminal Code, provisions at the present time, to issue a Governor General’s Warrant under that particular code, and I am advised as of June 1980 there were 834 individuals who were confined to psychiatric institutions after having been charged with a crime of some sort, and after being assessed by a review board of psychiatrists and lawyers, were declared not to be fit to stand trial.
As I say, there are over 800 Canadians who are confined to institutions who have not been tried, and who, in the case of the mentally retarded individuals, in all probability, will never be fit to stand trial.
There is one case in particular I want to raise with you and that is the one concerning a man by the name of Emerson Bonnar who in 1964 was charged with attempting to steal a woman’s handbag.
He has been confined in an institution in New Brunswick and it is a maximum security institution, as I understand it since 1964, because the Review Board does not consider him to be fit to stand trial.
In your opinion, in the absence of any specific mention of the disabled and the handicapped under this proposal and the definition under legal rights, would this at this stage help a person like Emerson Bonnar?
Mr. Vickers: I am not sure that would. I am very familiar with the Bonnar case. That case is a classic example of somebody having been labelled early on and having that label [Page 15]
remain on his back throughout his life. He has been labelled mentally retarded and violent and all the evidence which existed in 1964 and which exists today is contrary to that.
The evidence is that he is not violent. He is yet to be tried for the act of purse snatching. In my submissionand I have said this elsewhereit is a classic example of the abuse of the criminal justice system. Whether the members of the community know it or notand Mr. Dinsdale raise the question of the learning disabled75 per cent to 80 per cent of the youngsters we have in the juvenile justice system are children with learning disabilities, to come back to the educational point. We know that. The jury have been inon that for ten or 15 years.
If the statistics below the border from the President’s Committee on Retardation were to carry through in this country and I suspect they would-approximately ten per cent or better of the adults in the criminal justice system are mentally retarded people. I think it behooves us to recognize these statistics and to deal with the problem as a basic problem in terms of fundamental rights, rather than in terms of the criminal justice system.
Would it not be better, for example, to enshrine the positive rights of education in a bill of rights, and the right to vocational training so that these people can find their appropriate niche in life working in the community as substantial citizens rather than serving out their lives in a maximum security institution for, in the Emerson Bonnar’s case, the criminally insane?
There is no doubt that recommendations have been made for the amendement of Section 543 and onwards of the Criminal Code, both by the national Law Reform Commission and our oganization made recommendations some six years ago in terms of amendments to that provision, and the fundamental flaw lies in the provisions of the Criminal Code.
I do not deny that appropriate amendements in this bill of rights would be of some assistance. Undoubtedly Emmerson Bonnar has been deprived of his liberty for 14 years according to the principles of Canadian justice and the Canadian Criminal Code. Now, whether they are fundamental justice principles or not is perhaps a rhetorical question when you look at the result.
I would hope that Emmerson Bonnar, and our Association has become an advocate for Emmerson Bonnar and is taking today and continues to take steps to have his status corrected, but any help that we can get, whether that be through amendments to the criminal code or amendements by way of entrenching in a charter of rights would be most helpful. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you. Mr. Young, your last question.
Mr. Young: Out of those 834 individuals who are confined in those institutions without benefit of trial, have you any knowledge of the numbers of that 834 who are mentally retarded.
Mr. Vickers: No, I cannot speak to those numbers but we are presently doing a survey throughout Canada with the [Page 16]
co-operation of the provincial authorities to try and determine that. I can tell you of my own experience when I was with government. The number in British Columbia in 1974 was 120 people.
We had at close look at what we thought were people who were inappropriately placed and by simply taking a close look at what we thought were inappropriate placements, within a short period of time we reduced the numbers from 120 down to 80, and that is with a very superficial, cursory look.
Now, I am not sure what the numbers are in British Columbia today, but i know for example there was a case in British Columbia of a young native Indian person who had been incarcerated there for three years without trial and his own only offence was that he had been public nuisance by throwing a brick through a store window. It is those cases of abuse which I think we could surface many hundreds if we were to look case by case at each individual situation across Canada, and it is that type of research we are trying to conduct right now. I suspect that it would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of perhaps 15 to 20 percent.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Young. Senator Lapointe. [Translation]
Senator Lapointe: I would first like to congratulate Mr. Mercure and his colleagues, in French, on their excellent and enlightening brief.
I am very sorry that one of the most active members of the Special Committee on the Handicapped, Mrs. Thérèse Killens, is not here this morning with Mr. Dinsdale and her colleague from the New Democratic Party, but I will do my best to fill in for her, since I too am very interested in your cause.
You say, Mr. Mercure, that you fully support the Charter of Rights, basic rights, democratic rights, mobility rights and language rights. Do you not? Mr. Mercure: Yes.
Senator Lapointe: One issue that seems to be of concern to you, and which my colleagues did not refer to, is the right to join a trade union.
Could you tell us whether the unions themselves are reluctant to let you join, or whether this is based on existing legislation.
Mr. Mercure: There are casesand I will ask Mr. Vickers to provide detailswhere employers . . . In Quebec. the Bureau for the Handicapped is trying to increase the number of jobs available to the handicapped and the mentally retarded.
There have been several cases involving handicapped persons where an attempt has been made to have jobs considered as being suitable for the handicapped, but union rules, particularly with regards to seniority, have prevented this front being done.
There was, for example, darkroom work for the blind. We wanted photography companies to give blind people priority [Page 17]
for darkroom work and the request was turned down by the unions. This is the type of thing that is related to the union membership issue. Maybe Bill could complete my answer.
[Text]
Mr. Vickers: My experience with the trade union movement is no different than my experience with any community organizations, whether they be private or public organizations. It is largely a question of attitude, and given the opportunity and shown that the opportunity exists for handicapped people to work, I have found, certainly with the trade union people that I have spoken to, a willingness to venture into what is a new area.
I have no faults to lay with anyone. It really begins at an early age and that is why appropriate education is so important because if you and I had the opportunity to be educated side by side with a severely, profoundly handicapped person, our attitude today might not be to see that person as a handicap and to feel pity and remorse but to see that person as a whole person, as somebody that can contribute to our Canadian society. My experience with the trade union people, certainly on the west coast, is that when I have raised those kinds of issues they are no different than you and l and they begin to see what they can do.
Now, like employers and like public and private organizations, they are a long way away from actually accomodating the needs of our handicapped friends. That is why to entrench the value is simply to signal, if you will, to the trade union movement that all people, including handicapped people, have that as a basic Canadian right and that is why it is important. it is a beacon, if you will, and it affords our people the opportunity for vocational experiences which they heretofore have not had an opportunity to grasp.
Senator Lapointe: You said that you would like to see the minimum wage mentioned in the charter?
Mr. Vickers: I do not think one would deal with minimum wage per sc in the charter. i think what we are talking about in the charter is the opportunity for vocational training and vocational opportunities. David’s point was that there are people making two cents an hour in workshops, and I know of workshop situations on the west coast where people are making a dollar a week or things of that sort.
Now, it is time that those workshop opportunities be seen not as opportunities but as situations which keep handicapped people in a demeaning way of life. What we are talking about is not affording more workshop opportunities; we are talking about affording vocational opportunities where people can earn, not be given but earn a wage, and at the very minimum the minimum wage and we know of situations where those opportunities have occurred and people have gone off, if you will, on welfare and have become citizens supporting themselves and their family and community. So we are not asking for anything special, we are simply asking for the same opportunity as other Canadians, so i think that is the point. [Page 18]
Senator Lapointe: I see that you say in the province of Quebec they have a clause to protect the handicapped and you seem quite satisfied with this clause. Would you like to add something to it or to have it as it is in the Quebec government’s human rights? [Translation]
Mr. Mercure: Bill 9, of course, as well as the L’Office des Handicapés au Québec have been a major step forward for the protection of the rights of handicapped people in that province. I believe this legislation is considered as a very progressive one and that several other provinces are considering implementing something similar. As far as we are concerned, what we want is a greater protection than just a legal one. in other words, we would like this protection to be enshrined in the Constitution, because, even if Section 1 is modified, it would probably afford greater protection than the one offered through a regular legislation, because the government would not be able to change it very easily. It would have to meet the special requirements established for amending the Constitution. I would like to add that people in Quebec are beginning to live with these new rights and the work of our local associations is specifically to make sure that these rights are actually implemented in the daily life of handicapped people. [Text]
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): The last question, Senator.
Senator Lapointe: Yes. Are you satisfied with the report of the Committee on the disabled when they say that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicaps? You are satisfied with the declaration and you think it is encouraging? [Translation]
Mr. Mercure: Yes. We mentioned, at the beginning of our testimony, that we were very pleased to have obtained this statement. However, it is still a very general statement and it will have to be specified, later on. The third paragraph of the preamble of the report, which i read a while ago, seems to us to be very satisfactory. [Text]
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Senator Lapointe. We have one more speaker, Mr. McGrath.
Mr. McGrath: I can be very brief, Mr. Chairman. I realize we have another witness; is that correct? The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Yes.
Mr. McGrath: I would not want to keep the Manitoba witnesses waiting any longer because they are going to have little enough time as it is so i will get very quickly to my question.
l was struck by the question of my colleague, Mr. Dinsdale, with respect to the deinstitutionalizing of mildly mentally retarded people. l know that this is something that is happening across the country and indeed it is happening in Ontario. I know of course you are familiar with the Welch Green Paper, Community Living for the Mentally Retarded. I know it is happening in my own province, but something else is happen- [Page 19]
ing with that which disturbs me and I would like to hear how your association feels that this problem can be addressed by specifying handicapped rights within the charter, and that is what seems to be a propensity on the part of municipalities to legislate against group homes, in other words we take the mentally retarded out of the institutions and get away from the Bedlam psychology that still prevails in Canada in terms of our treatment of the mentally retarded. put them in homes so they can lead normal lives and we can treat them as human beings, and we come up against this roadblock of the municipalities trying to protect, I suppose, the best interests of their ratepayers and their neighbourhoods although I can not see how that would be any treat to neighbourhoods or ratepayers, but that is the situation I find developing and it has happened in my own area and I am sure it is happening across the country.
Mr. Vickers: Well, there is not doubt it is happening across the country and there is no doubt it is happening for a number of reasons.
The first reason it is happening, it comes back to the question of attitudes again and where do we begin to change attitudes, and my plea again is that we begin with our youngsters in school accepting the disabilities that our fellow Canadians have.
However, that does not take care of you or I who are aged and do not understand that people with disabilities are the same as us. One of the problems with respect, is the basic funding policies of provincial governments who will fund group homes of eight and ten people. and what we are talking about is a group home. a normal family environment and you know and I know that eight or ten people is hardly a normal family environment so there is a basic funding problem and if we could talk about funding homes of four or five or even six people. then our argument that we were in fact living in community as a family would be more viable. So that is the second problem.
The third problem is the problem of attitude and the problem of the inability to understand that these people have the right to live in community and live normal lives. There have been some recent encouraging decisions across Canada to assist us in this problem, the Bell Case in the Supreme Court of Canada, recently watered down slightly by a decision in the Ontario Supreme Court. We have had decisions made in British Columbia that take away the right of spot zoning in local municipalities, and where you deal with it I suppose is a structural question or an administrative question. It seems to me that if we are going to deal with it once and for all we have to come to grips with some more fundamental questions. attitudes, funding policies and things of that sort.
However, there is no doubt at all that what we are talking about as an association is community living for all Canadians. not just the mildly retarded. We are talking about community living for all Canadians.
The bill in British Columbia, for example. to keep somebody in an institution runs at $100 per day. We are talking about [Page 20]
$36,000 per year to keep somebody in an institution without any program and without any opportunity for an adequate social life. We think that those kinds of people can be brought back into the community and be made a part of our community and be given opportunities to thrive within the community for far less money.
Now, there may be transitional funding problems but when the bottom line is looked at, and we look at people. the value question is so important. These are Canadians and surely they have a right to get out of those institutions and live like you and I to the limit oftheir ability within their community.
Mr. McGrath: But my question was: can we legislate against these kinds of attitudes in an entrenched bill of rights? [Translation]
Mr. Mercure: The situation varies from one part of Canada to the other.
I would like to point out to the committee that in Quebec, under a provision of Law 9 that was lobbied for by our association, no legal action can be taken under zoning regulations to prevent a group home from opening in a community.
In Quebec, thenand I believe Manitoba has a similar regulationno one can take legal action to prevent group homes for the handicapped from operating, no matter what the zoning regulations are. It is a provincial law.
[Text]
Le coprésident (sénateur Hays): Thank you very much. Mr. McGrath.
We appreciate your being here this morning, Mr. Mercure along with Mr. Vickers and Mr. Lincoln.
We have your brief and we will consider it very, very carefully, I am sure the Committee will at the time we are reporting. We appreciate you being here, thank you very much.
[Translation]
Mr. Mercure: Thank you for your attention and we hope that your efforts will produce results.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you. Mr. Mercure, Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Vickers. 2. November 25, 1980

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mrs. Chabot.
I would now like to ask the representatives of the Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped to come to the table.
In particular, I would like to invite Mrs. Monique Couillard, Mrs. Yvonne Peters, Mr. Ron Kanary and Mr. Jim Derksen to take their place at the witnesses’ table. [Text]
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): I wonder if the coalition of provincial organizations of the handicapped would please come forward. You may proceed, Mr. Kanary.
Mr. Ron Kanary (Vice-Chairman, Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On behalf of the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped, I would like to express our appreciation for this opportunity to participate in what we believe is one of the most important deliberations in Canadian constitutional history. Our National Council is pleased to be represented here today by this delegation representing all our members and associates across Canada, united in determination to see the rights of disabled Canadians recognized in the constitution.
The Coalition, as some of you may know, is a national alliance of nine independent provincial organizations of variously disabled persons functioning democratically so as to represent their views and concerns. At the local level, these nine provincial organizations encompass about 80 chapters representing some 15,000 to 20,000 disabled Canadians.
We gladly endorse the constitution of Canada and whole-heartedly welcome entrenchment in the constitution of a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, we believe there are several amendments which should be made to the proposed Charter. Of most importance to disabled people in Canada is that disability or handicap should be included as grounds protected from discrimination under Section 15(1) and we recommend this amendment to you.
We recognize and thank members of Parliament, Peter Lang, Therese Killens, David Smith, Stanley Knowles and Neil Young, who spoke for this amendment during the House of Commons debate prior to the striking of your Committee. The all-party House of Commons Special Committee on the [Page 27]
Disabled and the Handicapped in its first report to Parliament in October of this year stated:
Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench Human Rights in a patriated constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical and mental handicaps.
Chief Commissioner Gordon Fairweather, in his presentation on behalf of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to your Committee, said any list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in Section 15(1) is incomplete and does not offer adequate protection if it does not include physical or mental handicap. The presentation of the Canadian Jewish Congress to your Committee last week also called for this amendment. The Royal Canadian Legion and the Canadian Labour Congress, we are pleased to know, also support our position; and most likely, many more who will come before you will.
This level of support for our inclusion in the non-discrimination rights section of the Charter demands that the objections to this amendment cannot be vaguely stated, drafting or definition concerns as at present; surely this level of support demands that objections to the amendment must be clearly demonstrable and justifiably sound ones.
The growing awareness and concern about this in society is based on a true understanding that disabled people are a minority who have suffered discrimination which has limited their participation in society and who therefore. require protection of the law. This social understanding calls on you to include disability or handicap as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Section 15(1) of the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There are three kinds of advantages in amending the Charter to include protection for disabled people.
Firstly, constitutional protection of the rights of disabled people would give high symbolic profile to the social concern to recognize and protect these rights. It would set the tone for an improved future. When we are denied service in a restaurant simply because of our blindness, or employment because of deafness, or housing because of a spastic movement disability, we are often injured twiceonce by the act of discrimination itself and again by the shocking realization that the state offers us no protection from such discrimination. This situation still pertains in three provinces of Canada; in the other seven provincial jurisdictions, the provinces have taken, to various degrees, a leadership role in providing human rights protection. It will be a profound joy in such circumstances to substitute, for the helpless feeling of being relegated to the refuse. as if with no value or right to expect better than the prejudice or discrimination offered to us in the past, the reassuring knowledge that we are protected from such prejudice and discrimination by the Canadian constitution. [Page 28]
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will articulate the most basic and cherished values of our society and place them in the basic legislation of the land. This alone will set a new tone which of itself will do much to redress the injuries of exclusion and prejudice that have been our inheritance.
Secondly. the inclusion of disability as a prohibited cause of discrimination. as it applies to the substance of the law, will do much to change existing laws at municipal. provincial and federal levels which do discriminate against disabled people. A good example of such a needed change is the legislation which denies disabled people the protection of minimum wage legislation in various provinces and in the federal labour code.
No longer will we remain the only category of adult Canadians whose labour and productivity cart be bought for twenty-five cents a day and less. Lest this example should be misunderstood, the constitutional change we recommend to you will not mean that all centres offering daytime activity for disabled people will be required to pay minimum wages. but it will mean a distinction will have to be made between daycare. activity centres where people do not work and which are therefore exempt from minimum wage standards. and settings where people work which will be subject to such standard protections from exploitation.
The amendments we are recommending to you would also help preclude any future legislation at municipal. provincial or federal levels which would discriminate against disabled people. Forty years ago Nazi Germany enacted legislation which called for compulsory sterilization of certain disabled people in the name of racial eugenics. Other disabled people were murdered although the word used was euthanasia. Even today in this country. compulsory sterilization is sometimes talked about for certain disabled people and the Ontario Association for the Mentally Retarded is required to have a public policy against any form of passive infant euthanasia.
The Canadian Jewish Congress, in its presentation to you a week ago today. speaking for the inclusion of handicap in Section 15(1) referred to a brief they submitted to the Special Parliamentary Committee on the Disabled and Handicapped wherein they made the same recommendation. They said, in that brief. that the ramifications of our failure to firmly establish equal legal rights for our handicapped and of our near automatic exclusion of them from the mainstream, resulted in events in the not-too-distant past which still cast shadows over us dark enough to send cold shivers running through our souls.
For those of us who still remember, or who have taken the trouble to learn about it, it was in Hitler Germany that the retarded, the gypsies, the physically and emotionally handicapped. so easily became early fodder for the destruction machine. [Page 29]
It is interesting how little is said about this dimension of the holocast. This neglect to recall or analyze this particular dimension of the holocaust gives us a frightening insight as to the state of our present moral crisis in respect to what we describe as âthe disposables of our society.
We value the dignity of the individual and his right to life and security of the person, and have already articulated these values in our draft constitution Section 7. However, in light of history and the ongoing association with disability, of concepts such as racial eugenics and passive euthanasia, disabled Canadians deserve the same reassurance of the amendment we recommend to ensure
the right . . . to the equal protection from the law without discrimination because of. . . disability or handicap,
So that forty years from now such atrocities could not so easily be perpetrated in Canada. Disabled Canadians need to know they are secure from such dangers and that their fellow Canadians hold values which embrace the right to life and security of the person for everyone. including disabled people. The amendment we recommend would articulate and help preserve these most important values which are held by the Canadian people today.
The third general advantage that the inclusion of disability or handicap as a prohibited ground of discrimination would produce, as applied to the administration of the law. is to reinforce human rights protection as an ordinary legislation level. We have struggled for and achieved this in seven of the ten provinces, and have it at the drafting stage in the remaining three. This ordinary legislation level protection, through setting up Human Rights Commissions as courts of first recourse in matters of discrimination, represents the major means by which non-discrimination rights are implemented for the individual who experiences discrimination.
We agree with Chief Canadian Human Rights Commissioner Gordon Fairweather that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should apply to both the substance and the administration of the law.
We believe that Section 15(1) of the proposed Charter will then make it possible for the decisions of human rights commissions to be appealed to higher courts on constitutional grounds. This will do much to improve the quality of protection on grounds which are listed in Section 15(1). The listing of disability or handicap in Section 15(1) then will be important to disabled Canadians as it will improve the protection already available at ordinary legislation levels.
The omission of disability as a listed category in Section 15 cl) would probably significantly damage the quality of protection already achieved at the ordinary legislative level for disabled Canadians. It seems obvious to us that once the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in place, together with Section 15(1), human rights commissions, when allocating their necessarily limited staff and legal resources will give [Page 30]
higher priority to complaints of discrimination on grounds which are listed in the constitution because of their potential for appeal to higher courts on constitutional grounds.
Hence, if disability is not among the listing in Section 15(1), complaints of discrimination on grounds of disability will be dealt with using whatever resources the commissions have left over after dealing with complaints on grounds which are listed in Section 15(1). Inadvertently, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will create a first and second class of rights to protection from discrimination.
We believe we have a compelling case for the inclusion of disability or handicap as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mr. Chrétien indicated in your Committee meeting of Wednesday, November 12, in response to a question from Mr. Bockstael that the difficulty in adding handicap to the list of prohibited grounds was one of draftig a precise legal definition for incorporation into the Charter.
In our view, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not an appropriate place for definitions. Neither is it necessary to define disability or handicap or degree of these in the proposed Charter. We note that it has not been necessary to define religion in the Charter, despite the plain fact that we will continue to discriminate against religions which practice human sacrifice. We have prepared a rather lengthy document refuting this definitional and other objections to the inclusion of disability or handicap in Section 15(1). This is attached as an appendix to this brief and includes eight quite similar definitions presently found in non-discrimination statutes at federal and provincial levels. We have decided to separate this lengthy section from our presentation, but will be happy to answer questions in this area or read our document into the record if desired.
Mr. Chrétien suggested on November 12 to your Committee, as had the Prime Minister earlier in the House of Commons, that the inclusion of disability or handicap in Section 15(1) should wait until it could be done in Canada by amending the patriated constitution, We wish to note that, indeed. the inclusion of the entire Charter could wait until such a time-but in fact as Mr. Chrétien indicated on page 77 of Proceedings for the Committee meeting of November 13, there are some reasons why entrenching a Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians should be done now. We believe these reasons also apply for the inclusion of handicap in Section 15(1) now, and not after patriation.
Mr. Fairweather and others have spoken to your Committee about the advantages of fitting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the international context including the international covenants Canada is party to.
We call your attention to the fact that Canada was one of fifty co-movers at the United Nations at the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Disabled People in 1976. Canada was also one of two co-movers of the resolution in the United [Page 31]
Nations which established l98l as the International Year of Disabled Persons with the themes of full participation and equality. Including handicap in Section 15(1) of the proposed Charter would be a good demonstration that our domestic actions are in line with the policies we are promoting in the world.
As you can see by our delegation, disabled Canadians are also men and women, Mennonite, French. Irish. and so on; indeed disabled Canadians are all colours, races, religions and ethnic origins. For this reason, our concerns about the proposed Charter naturally go far beyond the inclusion of handicap in Section 15(1).
We have studied the whole of the Charter and the various recommendations and concerns that have been brought to your Committee. We find the package of recommendations brought to you by the Canadian Human Rights Commission overall of most value, and therefore, generally endorse and comment it to you.
We do this with only one caveat, that we prefer the Commission’s second option for the wording of Section 15. as found on page 5A:4 of the record of your Committee meeting of November 14, 1980 and listed on that page as point 2.4. The relevant parts of this then read:
15.(1) Everyone has the right to equality under the law and to equal protection of the law without discrimination on grounds such as . . . physical . . . handicap . . .
While our concern and recommendation to you can be reduced to the idea that handicap be included as a ground protected from discrimination, we also commend generally the Canadian Human Rights recommendations to you because we feel they have much merit overall, and because we feel the time has come to reach for a consensus and wish to contribute to this consensus process.
A constitution is most basic and fundamental legislation. As such it deals with basic and fundamental issues. The issue as to whether Section 15(1) of the charter of rights and freedoms in the constitutional bill should be amended to include disability is also a basic and fundamental matter.
Some disabled people in Canada apply the label TAB to Canadians without disabilities. TAB is an acronym for temporarily able-bodied and is used to remind society that disability is a condition which can occur to anyone at any time. at any level of society. Transport Canada’s demographic study indicates that 34 percent of all persons who reach the age of 80 are disabled in relation to mobility. It may be useful to think of the amendment we propose as a kind of insurance or assurance. It is in fact an assurance that the society we live in will continue to progress toward a society which is supportive and open to the continuted participation of people who are or become disabled. It is an assurance that in the event of disability, one will not be relegated to inferior education, low income and the poverty of eitperience and life style symbolized by the institutional residence and attached historically to the condition of disability. [Page 31]
We who are already disabled know better than to imagine any legislation, even a constitution, is an instant cure-all for our problems. However, we do believe that the basic and fundamental legislation of a constitution must point to a new standard, and in a direction of orderly change toward that standard whereby the whole of society will benefit. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Kanary. I shall ask the Honourable Walter Dinsdale to question the witnesses. Mr. Dinsdale: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to begin by welcoming the COPO delegation here this morning, Ms Peters, Mr. Kanary and Mr. Derksen, who, as we have heard in the brief presented, are providing and have provided very creative leadership in the campaign for a charter of human rights for the disabled.
I have only one comment to make about the brief. I notice in the names that you presented on the first page you excluded any reference to one party in the House of Commons and, Mr. Chairman, I can only say that is because we were working under closure and we were in the speaking line-up to take part in the debate that set up this committee and we did not have an opportunity to make our representations but I would say, Mr. Chairman, that I think it is well known that there has been a campaign going on in the House of Commons for at least a decade to set up a special parliamentary committee, and one of the key areas of concern was human rights for the disabled. I might say, by way of introduction, that since this special committee was set up just about a year ago now, there has been a marvellous change in the attitude across the country, in Parliament. to the Bill of Rights for the disabled.
I think you are aware, and this has not been mentioned in the brief, that Canada hosted the Rehabilitation international Congress for the Disabled in Winnipeg last June. That was a congress that was planned over a period of four years by the Canadian Rehabilitation Council for the Disabled and I think everyone will agree that its theme of integration had a profound impact on the media, on the press and on the people of Canada. and I am sure COPO will agree. too, that the theme we are espousing in our special committee on the disabled of de-institutionalization, getting the disabled into the community, integrating the disabled into the community, came to a head at that congress in Winnipeg.
Also, of course, Canada has been sponsoring the International Year for the Disabled. It was just a year ago that I had an opportunity to speak at the United Nations and one of the points that l made there at the time as a response to the IDYP Resolution was that human rights should be at the fore, it always has been at the U.N. since 1975, at the 30th Session of the General Assembly when the human rights code was passed, when the provincial governments responded and we had hoped that the federal government might respond in 1977 when the Human Rights Act was passed but, as you know. there was a considerable degree of reluctance at that time to embrace the United Nations code that does include most of the recommendations that you have made in your excellent brief here this morning. [Page 33]
Well now, you have before you, and it has been circulated. the first report of the Special Committee on the Disabled and we have felt so strongly about the human rights issue that we have made a primary concern the recommendation that the Human Rights Act be amended as quickly as possible to include human rights for the disabled.
Having said that, Mr. Chairman. I would like to ask the witnesses this morning if they are as concerned as Mr. Fairweather, who is the Commissioner for administration of the Human Rights Act, if you are concerned as he was about the conflict as it was outlined in Section I of the resolutions that we are considering, which defines the guarantees of rights and freedoms subject only to such reasonable limits as are generally accepted in a free and democratic society with a parliamentary system of government. The point at issue is that it is only recently that there has been wide acceptance that the disabled should be included in a charter of human rights. Do you share the same concern as Mr. Fairweather that you can drive a truck through art article of that kind with respect to human rights?
Mr. Jim Derksen (Coalition of Prineial Organizations for the Handicapped): Well, Mr. Dinsdale. I would like to say first of all that we are certainly aware of our efforts on our behalf over the years and the efforts of many other people from the Conservative Party on the many fronts that are facing disabled people today. We did, however, confine our remarks in our brief to the issue of entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Dinsdale: This is what always happens under closure, Mr. Derksen.
Mr. Derksen: However, regarding Section I and the other recommendations that were made by Chief Commissioner Gordon Fairweather, we did agree that his alternate wording seemed to us. and we are laymen, a better safeguard or a better series of safeguards for the rights of Canadians overall and so we decided to give a general endorsation to his package of recommendations.
Mr. Dinsdale: I take it from that reply. Mr. Chairman, that you are satisfied that your amendment proposed for Section 15(1) would overcome the deficiencies of Section 1, that there would be no loopholes created as it result of the rather vague wording. This is the first section of a most important document, a very profound revision of the constitution of Canada and there are several authorities in the field of human rights that have focussed in on the deficiencies and the loopholes of Section 1.
Mr. Derksen: It did seem to us that the wording of Section 1 was unncessarily broad and perhaps covered too much of the Charter itself and that non-discrimination rights, as Chief Commissioner Gordon Fairweather recommended, should be exempt from Section 1, but should, rather, have a separate caveat in the form of Section 15(3) as proposed by the Human Rights Commission, which would enable a reasonable application of non-discrimination rights and a narrower interpretation than was made available through Section 1. [Page 34]
Mr. Dinsdale: I would take it, Mr. Chairman, that Mr. Derksen and the others are in tune with the recommendation of our Special Committee, notwithstanding what might happen to the resolutions before us, that we proceed immediately with amendments to the Human Rights Act of l977. They were brought into effect only three years ago, Mr. Chairman, and I do not know whether you were in the House of Commons at that time, but you will remember the strong resistance towards general acceptance of the principle of human rights.
I presume that our witnesses are strongly in favour of the recommendations of our Special Committee which we have given high priority to by the very fact that we have issued an interim report before coming down with our final report.
Mr. Derksen: We are very pleased by the urgency indicated in the submission of the preliminary report on this matter. This matter of amending the Canadian Human Rights Act is not at issue in this Committee, however, but l should say that having pressed for this ordinary legislation amendment for many years. having received promises of support from both present opposition parties and a commitment in the Throne Speech from this government, we feel that this amendment is far overdue and is not really open to debate any longer. We are really only waiting very anxiously to see it done.
We are now concerned about the constitution and the inclusion of disability in Section 15(1), which we believe is a very important matter before the nation today. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Dinsdale. Mr. Young. Mr. Young: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I, too, am a member of the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped and as you know we spent most of the summer months going across the country hearing deputations and witnesses, and by the time we were finished going across the country we heard from over 400 deputations, and without exception each one of those witnesses argued very strongly for inclusion of the disabled and handicapped in any human rights legislation. That is not surprising, I think, when you consider there are something in excess of 800,000 Canadians who are disabled or handicapped in one form or another, which totals about 10 per cent of the workforce and is probably in excess of that. At the present time under human rights legislation there is some protection against discrimination in employment and yet the evidence shows that out of that 10 per cent of the population there is still a 70 to 80 per cent unemployment level amongst the disabled and handicapped community.
I remember when we were in the United States we were told by both government officials and people from the disabled community that there was never a real commitment on behalf of government or its agencies or the private sector towards employment programs for the disabled and handicapped until [Page 35]
amendments were made to their human rights legislation down there. It was only after these amendments were made that any real commitment came forward. Is that what you hope for here if those amendments are made to this legislation, that it normally increases public awareness and it forces government to give leadership to the private sector, in particular to employ disabled and handicapped people?
Mr. Kanary: Well, again, the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, is that what you are referring to? Mr. Young: Yes.
Mr. Kanary: Again, as Jim mentioned, as far we are concerned it is no longer up for debate, we are just waiting for it to come. However, the experience in the United States has indicated that constitutional protection is most essential to reduce; that 80 per cent unemployment rate to a reasonable figure.
Mr. Derksen: I would just like to add to that by saying that in America of course the Bill of Rights has been around for a long, long time, but it does not specify the number of minorities that have recently become discernible as needing protection. In America, in fact, it was the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, Section 504, which provided for non-discrimination of disabled Americans, and it was a very broadly-worded section, but the regulations that were subsequently written as to the implementation of Section 504 were very stringent and they resulted in dramatic kinds of changes, changes such that if I go camping in America I can count on an accessible washroom in every campground I get to; changes such that if I drive from Winnipeg, which is my home, the 80 miles to the border, I know there is not one deliberately accessible washroom on the way to the border, neither is there at Canadian customs, but as soon as l cross that invisible line there is a big sign, Handicapped Parking, and there is a ramp and there is an accessible washroom. I go to a small town of 500 people and I find that the town hall and the State building and what federal buildings exist in that small town are all accessible to me.
It is that kind of change that has occurred over six years that I think we hope for in Canada. This is not to say that it is going to happen immediately, but we hope there will be progress toward that goal and that in Canada the inclusion of disability in the constitution will set the kind of tone that will result in subsequent legislation and regulations which will give us that kind of access to opportunity.
Mr. Young: Well, we are not only talking about access to employment even though in all the preparations for 1981, including the work of this Special Committee, the evidence as I see it has certainly raised public awareness to the point, particularly in this year where there is an increasing number of cases coming before the Canadian Human Rights Commission from the disabled and handicapped community about discriminatory employment practices within government bodies and government agencies. We are also talking about equal access to services that we temporarily able-bodied people take for granted.
I used to think in this country that the rights to education were a principle, and yet we have experienced over the summer months, and in listening to people we have discovered that [Page 36]
there are thousands of kids across this country who are disabled or handicapped in one form or another who are denied access to education, so we are not only talking about access to education, we are talking about accommodation, transportation and other goods and services that, as I say, we take for granted.
Would you like to comment on education in particular because it seems to me that that is a key area for the disabled and handicapped people. without having equal advantages in the field of education you are denied equal access to employment and a whole host of other services that there are in society.
Ms. Yvonne Peters (Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped): I will just comment on that question. I think that what you have said is very true, that disabled people need to have equal access to education. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. There are not only architectural barriers that can get in the way, there are needs for facilities such as sign language interpreters for deaf people and access to Braille material and so on for blind people.
If we go back to the constitution. what we look to from the constitution is a document that will set a tone for disabled persons in this country so that we can build legislation, or at least use it as a foundation to build legislation so that we can start improving things like educational opportunities and we can start providing equal access in necessary facilities and so on.
Mr. Young: The one last area I want to touch on in particular is the whole area of de-institutionalization because I think probably in terms of society’s attitudes towards the disabled or handicapped people, it is reflected most clearly I think in how society views disabled or handicapped people.
In the past there has been a tendency to view someone who is disabled or handicapped as a sick person. and of course society keeps sick people in institutions, when the facts of life are that because you are disabled or handicapped does not mean you are sick; you are disabled or handicapped. And the thrust of governments has to be in the direction of assisting the disabled community to come out of institutions and to live as normal a life as possible within the community.
The Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped have certainly developed that as a theme in our discussion. Do you see that as playing an important role, not only in 1981 but beyond?
Mr. Kanary: Probably one of the basic reasons why young disabled people are institutionalized is that, first of all, are the attitudinal problem which has developed over so many years. Secondly, because of the lack of appropriate housing; that goes back to the accessibility problem.
As Yvonne has mentioned, we look to the constitution for a final recognition that disabled Canadians are in fact Canadians as well and that the constitution, hopefully, will set a mood so that we can become included in the planning and decision making process over the coming years; so that we could allow [Page 37]
for adequate housing, and support services for individuals who require such services, and the many other services, accommodations and facilities which we are presently being denied.
We are looking for the constitution to set a tone so that changes may come about, not overnight but over a period of years, that we can become fully integrated and active and contributing as a force of people in society. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you, Mr. Young.
Mr. Derksen, did you want to say something?
Mr. Derksen: I want to follow that up by saying that presently disabled people and their problems are often viewed through a very biased cloud of emotional responses. This has resulted in a situation which has become clear to the Special Comittee on the Handicapped and Disabled wherein the people are institutionalized at 20, 30 or 40,000 dollars a year, where they could be integrated in the community if they had, say, five thousand dollars worth of support services.
Now, it is economically sound to de-institutionalize most disabled people who are presently in institutions.
There has also been a kind of emotional reaction to our call for human rights based upon fear that human rights for disabled Canadians will somehow have a disruptive effect on our society.
We have shown in the appendix to our brief that that fear is really not based upon any sound reasoning, and that it is an unnecessary fear generated out of the kind of bias and emotion that people feel within themselves when confronted by disabled people.
What we need is a clear-minded, objective approach to our problems; and that approach, I would suggest, starts with an articulation that disabled people are Canadians and should have the right to protection from discrimination as a matter of Canadian heritage or, if you like, of constitutional right. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Dr. Peter Lang.
Mr. Lang: Concerning the list of those protected from discrimination under Section 15(1), this Committee has had the importance of this issue stressed by Mr. Gordon Fairweather, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
The first specific issue that Mr. Fairweather deals with concerning human rights if the disabled. I quote from you minutes of November 14. Mr. Fairweather states:
Now to get specific about Section 15, the non-discrimination rights section and the one that has most implications for us in the work you have given us, the list of grounds presented in that section is incomplete. in particular no promise of equality under the law is made to the disabled. Mr. Fairweather goes on to state:
Costs are not relevant to the guaranteeing of the right to equal protection of the law. [Page 38]
Mr. Chairman, all parties have supported in principle the inclusion of the disabled for protection in the constitution. ln its first report to Parliament. the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped statedand I would like to pass this report out so that you could follow it on page 1, paragraph 3:
Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench Human Rights in a patriated Constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicaps.
There is public support, shown by Mr. Fairweather in his report of a survey of 2,000 Canadians as presented to the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped and found in their minutes at page 205. which minutes I would like to table later on.
Mr. Chairman, we know that discrimination against the disabled exists. The disabled have told us across the country. The Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has told us: the media tells us: Canada has already officially acknowledged discrimination against the disabled and signed at the United Nations on December 9th, 1979, the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons.
The disabled constitute approximately 10 percent of the population. It is in the Canadian spirit to have a constitution that clearly covers 100 percent of the population. Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct my first question to Mr. Derksen.
The argument of cost has been used against the inclusion of the disabled in Section 15(1). Mr. Derksen, I wonder if you any comments on this?
Mr Derksen: This seems to be based on the idea that simply to place disability or handicap in Section 15(1) without any limiting clauses might result in the courts imposing disruptive change on our society: for example, that all buildings without elevators be equipped with elevators.
Now, we see that religion, sex and age are also included in that section without any limiting clauses. We see that Section 1 or Section 15(3) as proposed by the Human Rights Commission, would allow the courts to interpret the reasonableness or the justifiable necessity of limiting that protection from dis crimination for age, sex and religion.
Sections 1 and 15(3) would make possible an interpretation, in regard to protection from discrimination on the basis of age, by the courts that would uphold 18 as the minimum age for, say, the purchase of liquor, firearms. voting in federal elections. There seems to be a misunderstanding that there is no comparable limiting clauses in existing statutes. and no comparable precedents in existing case law to limit reasonably. where justifiably necessary, that right to protection from discrimination.
In our appendix, we point out the fact that seven provincial human rights commissions and the Acts that they administer [Page 39]
include limiting kinds of clauses which take into account undue hardship for the vendor of a service; which take into account the need for the employer to require bona fide occupational requirements; which take into account and allow a mechanism whereby the commission or tribunal can determine reasonable qualification to the right.
Now, all of these things are in place. The courts will not have to. We will not desire that in a vacuum in interpreting the constitutional protection for disabled people from discrimination.
We believe that those mediating mechanisms which are already in place will enable an orderly process of change to a point where disabled people would not be discriminated against in the provision of goods, services and in their endeavour to achieve employment and so on.
We believe, in fact, and this has been shown by the strong economies of Northern Europe, that enabling disabled people to participate in society would be an extremely cost effective course of action for this country to take.
We know that in Sweden technical aids are made available to disabled people who require them for employment and for independent living within the community. The same is true in West Germany.
We believe the cost argument which underlies much of the resistance or objections to the inclusion of disability in the constitution is not a real one.
in our brief we call on those who object to the inclusion of handicapped in the constitution to come up with demonstrably clear and justifiable sound objections, not merely the kind of vague implications or references to drafting and definitional problems. The definitions exist; they are very similar from one jurisdiction to another, which tells us that they have been tested and that they work.
We believe that Chief Commissioner, Gordon Fairweather, has a good deal of experience in administering protection from discrimination for disabled people. We think that his opinion should carry a lot of weight here. Thank you.
Mr. Lang: Mr. Chairman, my second question is also for Mr. Derksen.
-Are there any other governments which have provided protection from discrimination for the disabled, and as a second caveat to that. can you give us any information on the economic factors involved with these governments, and in particular whether they have presented any impediment?
Mr. Derksen: Well, I can say that Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, all give comprehensive protection from discrimination to the disabled through the ordinary legislation of human rights acts. Some of these have been in place since 1974; others are more recent.
There is no indication that these provinces are at the brink of bankruptcy because of that protection. [Page 40]
Ms. Peters: I wonder if I can add to that. I am from Saskatchewan where we have had comprehensive protection in our Human Rights Code for disabled people for the past year.
As well as being a member of COPE, I am also an employee of the Human Rights Commission and I get to see different perspectives, I suppose.
In Saskatchewan for the past year we have had approximately 40 complaints based upon discrimination because of disability, 20 of which have been in relation to accommodation complaints. I might add that we have in our code a clause which exempts people or businesses or employers if making their place accessible would cause undue hardship and inconvenience.
I might say that, out of all those 20 complaints, we have not activated that mechanism, because once people have been informed that they are violating the law and how they can correct it, they are usually quite willing to do so.
If I may, I would like to refer to an example which occurred in Saskatchewan. We had five complaints laid against the University of Saskatchewan which contained a number of old buildings that disabled students were not able to have access to.
Technically. in the code, I suppose we could havewell. they were violating the code, and they could have been forced to make the building accessible immediately. This might have caused an economic hardship.
However. the agreement that was agreed upon and settled on between both the respondent and the complainant, established a timeframe in which over the next couple of years allotments from the various budgets would be ascribed to making the building accessible.
What I am trying to illustrate here is that disabled people are willing to be reasonable and that there are methods of overcoming access problems, and certainly Saskatchewan has not been brought to its knees with bankruptcy or anything like that. We have to realize that this has to be done reasonably and with commonsense.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much. Ms. Peters. Dr. Lang, thank you.
There are two people here who would like to be heard. I wonder if we could confine it to a short question? We have Mr. Halliday and Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith: Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
I would like, first of all, to congratulate the committee on being here and presenting us with this brief. As a member of the Special Committee on the disabled and the Handicapped. I am aware of the real concerns that our witnesses have today in regard to discrimination.
I think I would be very remiss, as a member of the Official Opposition, if I did not support the comments which came from my colleague, the Honourable Walter Dinsdale, when he brought to the attention of people the serious ommission [Page 41]
certainly of his name from the list of those who have been prominent in putting forward the needs of the handicapped over the years. Indeed, the formation of the antecedent of this committee a year ago was due entirely to the efforts of Mr. Dinsdale, his approach to the United Nations on behalf of Canada has obviously been ignored, and I am surprised that our witnesses forgot that closure did prevent many members from the House of Commons from all parties, indeed, from being involved in this very debate which you have some concern about. To me, that is a form of discrimination, and I am surprised that it is coming before this committee from our witnesses today.
I think, Mr. Chairman, all Canadians are concerned about the problems of discrimination and how we should deal with it. We want to ensure that Canadians, indeed, the handicapped, will not be discriminated against.
The difficulty, however, is to know whether that can best be achieved by entrenehment or otherwise.
So I would like to ask the committee whether in their study of this whole subject they have given consideration to the possibility of amending the Canadian Bill of Rights, and giving it primacy, as one alternative and have they given consideration to the fact that some countries, such as the United States of America and Russia, do have entrenched Bills of Rights: Canada does not. What are the benefits, vis-a-vis the two which are obvious to us all?
Thirdly, they have raised the matter of minimum wages on page 3 of their report. Have they studied the recently released document by the Economic Council of Canada which throws a lot of question and doubt as to the effectiveness, indeed, of whether or not minimum wages do what they are supposed to do?
Finally, have they given consideration to the difficulties which we have seen both in Canada and more particularly in the United States where they have an entrenched bill of rights, to the difficulty that some judges may be at the extreme end of the spectrum one way or the other and cause great difficulty in the interpretation of what people really want?
Mr. Derksen: I would like to start by saying that having worked very closely with the Special Committee on the Handicapped and the Disabled, and having known Mr. Dinsdale for many years and his efforts on behalf of our constituency, we wholeheartedly are aware of the Conservative Party’s efforts on our behalf, and Mr. Dinsdale’s in particular.
it was a listing of those members who had spoken specifically for the constitutional amendment that is the substance of our brief today that was given. That was the only the reason why there was no mention of members from the Conservative Party.
In fact, I would like to point out that Mr. Dinsdale last week on Standing Order 43 called for the long-awaited amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act and we are aware of that intervention and appreciative of it.
We are aware that there are many constitutions in the world today which are not honoured. We are also aware that there [Page 42]
are constitutions which do find a good deal of honour in the courts of the countries where they are in place.
We have surveyed just this past week, our National Council which is representative of each of nine provinces and we find that our organizations are in favour of an entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that we do want inclusion in it. We can only hope. together with all around this table. that if and when this Charter is entrenched. it will be honoured by the courts. Some of us as individuals, although we have not discussed it as the larger organization that we are, are concerned about extreme judgments made by individual judges. Again. it is our hope that the judges will receive and accept clear direction from Parliament in the form of this constitution and the Charter that is intended to be entrenched in it, so that they will give good and reasonable consideration to the interpretation of the Charter.
We are not familiar with the minimum wage document which you referred to. However. I think it is safe to say to that in the area of minimum wage, as long as there is minimum wage legislation in Canada designed to protect Canadian workers from lower exploitation of wages. disabled Canadians should be protected by that legislation. At such a time that it may be the wisdom of our country to eliminate minimum wages, then we can reconsider the entire matter and perhaps need not be included at that point. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you Mr. Derksen.
Mr. Smith?
Mr. Smith: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the pressures of time and I think I will forego questions, but there are a couple of brief comments that I would like to make.
The members of the Committee will be aware that I am the Chairman of the Special Committee for the Disabled and the Handicapped; and one point I would like to make is that we have had an opportunity of hearing over 600 witnesses right across Canada in t8 different cities and it is quite clear to us that COPO which is represented here today by four very articulate people. is in fact the voice of disabled people in this country. They are very legitimate spokespersons for the disabled community and their headquarters is in Winnipeg. They are well organized and have been most helpful to the work of the Committee.
I thought it might be useful to give just a brief background as to the position of the Committee on the constitution. The first report was really primarily released prior to our final report which will be coming out at the end of the year in order to make our position known on it. This is found in the third paragraph of the first page. It is one sentence. and there was considerable discussion about it. but that presents the unanimous position of the all-party committee. I believe it has already been read by Dr. Lang but it is only one sentence;
Should it be the will of Parliament to entrench human rights in a patriated constitution, your Committee believes that full and equal protection should be provided for persons with physical or mental handicaps. [Page 43]
I think it is important to point out that it would be unreasonable to conclude that if specific reference is not included that somehow the constitution will not cover disabled Canadians.
It is quite clear to me that it will cover everyone, but I think that our Committee was of the viewpoint that we wanted the clearest possible indication that disabled Canadians are in fact covered and all their rights are protected.
Now, I appreciate that there is some concern over the question of definition and what is reasonable. There has of course been legislative precedent in Canada in the Human Rights Act I am not aware of any difficulties that have been encountered in the interpretation the courts have given to the reference in the Human Rights Act concerning disabled Canadians.
I know that there is also the concern about, well. once specific reference is given to one minority group. does this open the Floodgates to all minority groups? I think it could be argued that the rationale that prompted the reference to disabled Canadians in the Human Rights Act would also exist in the case of the constitution.
Those are really the points that I wish to make. Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your definition problems but this is the position of the Committee and I wanted to reinforce the conclusions of the Committee.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much Mr. Smith. And as Chairman of the Committee you might go back and tell your members that we will include the first report in the Proceedings. Mr. Smith: Thank you.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Yes, Mr. Derksen?
Mr. Derksen: I would just like to introduce Monique Couillard, the delegate to COPO from Quebec who arrived late on the plane and had a wheelchair breakdown at the airport. She has not been able to participate in the discussion and I wanted to make certain that she was introduced as the other three of us were.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Yes. Thank you very much, and we are very, very pleased to hear from you.
This concludes the evidence and we should like very much to thank the Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped and Mr. Peters, Mr. Kanary and Mr. Derksen. We appreciate your being here and Mrs. Couillard as well. Thank you very much. Mr. Kanary: Thank you. Mr. Chairman.
[Translation]
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Of course, I would like to join-our joint chairman in thanking our witnesses from the Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped Although I had named you at the beginning of the hearing, Mrs. Couillard I have noted your accent, so I am very happy [Page 44]
to be able to welcome you and to tell you that we are very receptive to the representations we have heard from your fellow members of the COPOH. Thank you very much

3. December 12, 1980

The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): May I call the meeting to order.
We are honoured this morning to have with us the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, represented by Mr. Robert Mercer, Doctor Dayton Foreman, and Mr. David Lepofsky.
As you know, the procedure is that you would make an opening statement, then members should like to question you. You may proceed.
Dr. Dayton Foreman (Vice-President, National Council. Canadian National Institute for the Blind): Mr. Chairman and members of the Senate, House of Commons Committee, as Vice-President of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s National Council, its volunteer Board of Directors, I am privileged to be, once again, a part of a group coming to assist in deliberations of this government and Parliament and also to field your questions.
Our group today consists of the fifth Managing Director of the Institute, Mr, Robert Mercer, who was appointed by National Council on September 1, 1980. He is the chief executive officer of this National Institute and will outline some concerns that he has.
Our third speaker is a fellow-volunteer, Mr. Lepofsky, who will speak on some points in our brief which have been submitted.
In advance, I would like to thank you for your time and hope we can answer some of the questions you will be asking. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Mr. Mercer.
Mr. Robert Mercer (Fifth Managing Director, Canadian National Institute for the Blind): Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind was incorporated federally in 1918 with the dual purpose of providing services in this country to people who were blind as well as to prevent blindness in Canada.
We are a service agency, and as such we would like to make the point this morning that we do not profess to represent the views in Canada of all people who are blind, particularly on a major issue which will be addressed by Mr. Lepofsky a little later.
However, we would like to indicate that, as a service agency, working with blind people in this country, we are the largest and have a long history of involvement with blind people and generally with the community.
We have taken a great deal of time on this matter of human rights to listen carefully to what blind people have been saying and to what other handicapped people have said as well, and in putting forward our position this morning, we say, with some assurance. that what we have to say represents in fact the view of many people who are handicapped in this country, and we trust that this Committee will take most seriously the concerns that handicapped people have in this Canada in your later deliberations. [Page 5]
I would like to call on David Lepofsky, who is a member of the Ontario Division Board of Management of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to present the position of CNIB on the subject of human rights. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Mr. Lepofsky.
Mr. David Lepofsky (Member, Ontario Division Board of Management, Canadian National Institute for the Blind): -Mr. Chairman, i would like to begin with my thanking you both as a volunteer member of CNIB Ontario Board and as a blind individual for this opportunity to speak to you on what is a crucial issue in our view.
I would indicate at the outset two things, the first of which is I believe all the members of the committee have a letter from the Committee addressed to me from the Ontario Federation of the Physically Handicapped, a federation of some 37 organizations which deal with various kinds of disabilities, a letter endorsing the position articulated in our written brief. I would ask in pursuance of what Mr. Mercer has just said, that this is indicative of the kind of support for all of you which exists amongst all kinds of disabled persons and not merely persons with a visual handicap.
I would ask at this time, Mr. Chairman, that in the spirit of the equality which we are promoting here, the clerk to pass around to the various membersif they prefer not to read our brief in print, they have the choice of reading it on a cassette or in braile; I would ask the clerk to pass them around, and I apologize that there will not be enough for absolutely everyone, but we would be pleased to provide you with extras if they are needed in the future.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much; they are being passed around.
Mr. Lepofsky: As I say, it is demonstrative of our efforts towards equality and our concern about the equality of blind and other handicapped persons.
Mr. Chairman, to begin, I would like to mention a point which may come as a surprise to some. The biggest problem very often with being handicappedand so far as CNIB are concernedis not blindness or the handicap. Blindness, visual handicap or other kinds of disability, are frequently conditions which one can learn to adjust to through training, with which one can learn to cope and ultimately achieve some substantial, if not total, degree of independence, self sufficiency and self worth.
The biggest problem very often resulting from’ blindness or other handicap is the well intentioned cruelty which many members of the public unintentionally or unknowingly impose upon us. The pity the patronization, discriminatory attitudes and condescension which handicapped people know to be, unfortunately, almost nonstop components of their life, is in fact the biggest problem they face. [Page 6]
A handicapped person, in the case we are discussing today, namely that of a blind person, can learn through specific training to overcome the limitations imposed by their blindness, so that blindness no longer functions in most cases as a handicap; in fact it can become at times merely a marginal aspect of one’s life, compelling one to read in Braille rather than from prim or to use a guide dog or cane to get from point A to B, rather than using one’s eyes, but nonetheless accomplishing substantially the same things as a sighted person would.
Once one has achieved this degree of independence, however, the problem that is confronted by the majority of handicapped persons is the fact that the public is not often ready to accept us as equals, not by reason of malevolence, but because of uniformed or misinformed attitudes, underestimating our capabilities by fear of the handicapped personyou might call it the freak syndrome, not perceiving a handicapped person as just a normal human being. This is manifested in several ways, many of which are frightening and harmful.
Job discrimination against the disabled is something which the public are only now becoming conscious of; the fact that once you have learned to do a job, the fact that you are ready to go out into the market and be competitive, you will find the only barrier you have is not your blindness or other handicap, but the employer who cannot believe you can function.
Housing and other facilities a landlord may not be permitted to rent because a blind person might be considered a health hazard and people do not want to look at someone who has cerebral palsy because it might be somehow unpalatable to look at in the opinion of some.
Educational systems are accessible primarily to nondisabled persons, but only to a limited degree to disabled persons, and, of course, as we all know, most buildings are not accessible.
These are functions of an attitude that the world simply does not contain handicapped people or that those handicapped people are not going to be out there trying to get job, trying to get into housing or buildings.
Our concern is generally with this attitude, and CNIB as well as other organizations have taken many steps, both with public education and also lobbying, to change this. Where this kind of problem with attitudes becomes perhaps most frightening and most requiring of action, is something which is addressed in the Charter of Rights which is before you.
Handicapped people in the struggle for equality and equality of opportunity find that not only do people discriminate in the access to jobs, buildings, facilities, services and housing, but that, in fact, legislators, persons passing laws have also experienced the same negative attitudes towards the handicapped and have passed laws which are in fact discriminatory.
Accordingly, the major thrust of our presentation is that it is necessary that they should be included in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights, the so called equality or nondiscrimination clause, and be referred to as a protected class, mentally or physically handicapped persons. [Page 7]
We are not looking at this as a means of getting jobs or housing, because that is something which is done at the federal or provincial Human Rights Code level, and we are actually lobbying for that.
Here, we are concerned with not just human conduct which is discriminatory, but legislation which discriminates,
Why should we be included in Section 157 Why handicapped people entitled to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law?
To begin with, I am sure you have all come to the conclusion yourselves and you have heard from other groups, as the clause is presently drafted it is unarguable, unquestionable that handicapped persons are not entitled to equality before the law.
By this exclusion, it perpetuates in our constitution and attitude which, as I have mentioned, is prevelant in society, some notion of handicapped people as second class citizens, people who need to be taken care of, not given independence, protected, not given the opportunity of equality.
Inclusion in Section 15 for the handicapped would be consistent with what is the stated intention of the government with respect to the Charter of Rights. I refer to a statement made by the Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Mark MacCvuigan, in speaking at a public forum on the constitution some weeks ago in Toronto, when I asked him about the handicapped issue. I-Ie had said that the Charter of Rights was central to the government’s package of reforms and that equality for all minorities is central to the Charter of Rights.
If that is the intention, then that intention is thwarted by the present proposed Section 15 because equality for all minorities is not provided. Equality for some is the rubric or the essence of Section 15 as it stands, and it is a respectful submission of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind that, if the intention of the government is to, in fact, give equality to all minorities and is, given the fact that there are some hundreds of thousands or millions of handicapped persons in Canada all told, there is a minority that requires protection. That is not disputed. So the government’s intention must only be manifested, it is our view, if we are included.
Moreover, if the purpose of the equality clause is truly to grant equality, one must look at its wording. It provides equality for certain minorities: in other words, it involves equality for some; and equality for some, I submit really means equality for none. It means that there are two levels in society, one level of people who are entitled to equality and one level who are not. And when you have two distinct classes such as that the term equality has been stripped of its meaning and rendered more of an illusion.
Accordingly, if equality is the goal, then it must be equality for all and all must include, we submit, handicapped. Now, as I said previously, Mr. MacGuigan in his statement, in answer to certain questions I put to him about the handicapped issue, acknowledged that the handicapped are not [Page 8]
included and raised the question whether handicapped people need protection in a bill of rights, whether they need egalitarian liberties. His statement was that what the handicapped need are jobs and access to buildings, and these are economic not political or egalitarian liberties, and are not the kinds of things that are required in a constitution.
Now, in a world that was not our own, where economic liberties were generally being entrenched, I would be prepared to address issues such as jobs and architectural access in the constitution; but we are not going to address that today because we recognize the constraints under which Canada and the Parliament are operating. However, I would like to address the statement that Mr. MacGuigan made, speaking at that time on behalf of the government on the constitution. He said that what handicapped people need is not constitutional protection for equality, and it is our submission that Mr. MacGuigan’s view is inaccurate. In fact, when I pointed out certain things that I am about to point out to you, he explained that he had never heard of them before and would probably need to rethink the whole issue.
Legislation, as I said, in many instances discriminates against the disabled. You have heard this before but I believe that we will be the first handicapped group that will in fact itemize examples. Many statutes across Canada, both federally and provincially, which provide that everyone is entitled to a minimum wage when they are in the employment situation provide exemptions for handicapped persons. That is discrimination under or in law with respect to a legal right to a certain minimum wage.
Certain statutes explain when that right is to be administered and when not; certain do not. They merely say that the government has or a Minister has the power to give a licence to allow an employer to pay less than minimum wage, without giving reasons. This is not equality, this is discrimination, in our view.
Many statutes across Canada dealing with eligibility to sit on juries exclude bling persons from the right to serve on juries. Now, there are times when vision may be needed to serve as a juror. It is not our view that every trial should always be open for a blind person to sit on a jury; however, there are, and as a law student and soon to be a lawyer, I can speak with some limited knowledge of this, there are many cases where vision is not necessary and probably the lack of vision may be of benefit to a juror. So, legislation which just blanketly excludes blind persons without reference to their ability or inability to function as a juror, is discriminatory. The marriage legislation in Ontario provides in Section 7 that a marriage licence cannot be granted to someone who is mentally defective. It does not refer to whether their mental limitation is so serious that it would impede their ability to understand or consent to a marriage agreement. It merely excludes someone who is mentally defective from the right to be married. Such, in our submission, is discriminatory. [Page 9]
The Family Benefits Act in Ontario, a piece of welfare legislation, provides in one section that certain handicapped persons who are in institutions and entitled to certain welfare payments may, by executive order, have those payments paid to a civil servant, a director of the institution or whateverI do not have the details here, unfortunatelyrather than to the handicapped persons themselves. It does not ever require that a handicapped person’s right to receive welfare can be impeded only if that person is incapable of managing their own affairs. It merely says any handicapped person, so that if it is a person who is perfectly capable of handling that money capably, nonetheless their right can be taken away by executive action, perfectly legally under a statute of the province of Ontario. Such is legislation which discriminates.
The Education Act in Ontario, Mr. Chairman, provides that a handicapped person, whether physically or mentally handicapped, can be excluded from the right to go to their local elementary school if they are incapable of profiting by instruction. And then a separate school system is established to deal with those situations. Now education is a big and serious issue and I do not intend to address it in its totality here but I think it is fair to say that a provision that says that only where handicapped people cannot profit from instruction, only those people are excluded from the right to go to their local schools. If it is a nonhandicapped person who for some other reason is incapable of profiting from instruction, the statue does not exclude them from the right to go to their local shools. Such is unequalltreatment; such is discriminatory, at least prima facie, in our submission.
Other legislation, and I will only deal with other legislation briefly, British Columbia schools legislation, Section 107 (5) provides, Mr. Chairman, in certain circumstances that an employee of a board of education who is totally and permanently disabledand I could not find a definition in the act of that termcannot be hired by the board until they lose their disability. Now, certain disabled persons cannot function in a teaching environment but others can. So such a blanket exemption, if applied against any person with any disability, would be, in fact, discriminatory; and I bring to your attention that blind persons are functioning both in Canada and the United States in the teaching profession.
I am not sure if that act would include blind people within their definition of total and permanent disability, but there is the risk, and that is discriminatory legislation with which we are concerned.
The Immigration Act passed by the government some couple of years ago in Section 19(1) provides a higher burden on a handicapped person who proposes to immigrate to Canada. If that handicapped person can meet all the requirements required of a non-handicapped person, able to support themselves, finding a job, et cetera, et cetera, they still must prove to a medical officer that they will not be an excessive demand on health and social services. There is not requirement that other persons wanting to immigrate have to prove that they will not provide such a demand on health and social services. Such separate treatment not applied to all immigrants is discriminatory in our view. [Page 10]
I would submit that there are other laws that do discriminate but I think that these are sufficiently ilustrative to respond to the suggestion that we need no constitutional protection, the legislatures can take care of it themselves. This is evidence of how the legislatures have taken care of handicapped rights to equality and moreover, Mr. Chairman, I think that it rebutts the suggestion made by Mr. MacGuigan a couple of weeks ago in response to my question, that handicapped people simply need rights to jobs; they can be provided by statues, they do not need constitutional rights.
Moving on, Mr. Chairman, I would say that there are other reasons why we need to be included in the clause providing for equality. We are a substantial minority. We are not talking about a very small number of people. We have 30,000 clients registered at CNIB and Dr. Foremen can provide you with information of how many other visually handicapped people, as well as other handicapped people, may well be out in the community. Some have suggested that there are one in ten persons in Canada handicapped in some way and therefore would benefit from the kind of constitutional protection we are talking about.
There are a couple of arguments that have been raised primarily by spokesmen for the governmentin one instance, I think it is the Minister of Justice, Mr. Chrétienagainst handicapped inclusion. One argument that he made is that we should not include it now because it is hard to define the term handicapped. We should wait until we can come up with a definition and put it in through an amending formula. Well, with respect to the Minister of Justice, I do not believe that position is tenable.
Firstly, if this Committee requires information on how to define handicapped, having looked over most Canadian statutes that contain the word and have various definitions over the past few days, I have found that some statutes do not even bother defining it but those that do have been able to effectively, and having done some research on this particular issue myself, I am more than happy to supply you with information to show that definition of handicapped would be no problem.
Secondly, leaving it to an amending formula is not a realistic proposition, because the process of amendment which requires a lot of lobbying, a lot of time, a lot of money, would not be in our view, probably manageable by handicapped persons being for the most part served by not altogether wealthy, non-profit organizations who live off of charity donations in many cases, and handicapped people themselves often living at or below the poverty line. [Page 11]
So the amendment process will simply not be open to us as a practical matter, I submit. But more importantly, definitional arguments I do not think are persuasive in saying that handicapped persons not be included. Many terms are included, both in this Charter of Rights as proposed and in the British North America Act, 1867, which are much more vague than is the word handicapped, or mental or physical handicap. We note that in Section 15 they refer to discrimination on the grounds of religion. Mr. Chairman, I would invite anyone to define what religion means in a comprehensive manner. I think that that term, while we know that certain religions, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism are religions, there will be many borderline cases where we do not know if those groups are religions or not. But that has not precluded the drafters of this Charter form including religion.
You will note in the British North America Act that under Section 91, criminal law is given to the federal government. We have had 100 years of litigation over what criminal law means in the constitution but that never stopped the framers of the BNA Act from including the words criminal law within that constitutional document.
And finally, in Section I, of the proposed Charter, the words reasonable limits are used, which I would submit are incredibly harder to define, if ot impossible to define, than are the words mental or physical handicap. Accordingly, I do not think one can simply avoid the issue or duck the issue because of definitional problems.
The final reason that I would like to articulate for including handicapped in Section 15 concerns an argument that some have raised against it: namely, that the costs occasioned by including the handicapped would be excessive. I have several responses to that argument.
Number one, I would ask what those costs would be. I am not altogether clear and I would submit that there probably are not that many. Intuitively nothing really comes to mind as being excessively costly.
Secondly, I would submit that unless this Committee is going to go through the process of looking at every liberty enumerated in the Charter of Rights and say how much will this one cost, should we include it, is it too expensive?
Unless we are to do that with every single liberty then there is a certain inequality to simply looking at one group, namely the handicapped, and say that they will be excluded on the basis of a cost argument. And so, if that argument is presented before this Committee, I would ask that your bear that in mind. And finally, if that argument is presented before this Committee, that is that including handicapped would be too costly, I would ask you to bear the following argument in mind, or the following point in mind. [Page 12]
To say that the cost is too excessive is to assume that handicap inclusion is the absolute lowest priority of every government in Canada, that we have spent every last dollar of revenue we have taxed and collected and that there is no money left. If you were to look at the priorities of the various governments, provincial and federal, of spending, you might find that there are others that are lower priority than handicapped equality and you might find that it might be worth including the handicapped in the constitution and perhaps let some more inconsequential programs go by the board.
I do not think it is fair to simply say it costs too much, therefore we cannot do it.
Moving very quickly through the other points of ours, because the other points we have made are ones which other groups have made as well, we recommend not only that handicapped be included in the Charter, Section 15, but we would prefer it if the Charter read something like equality before the law without unreasonable discrimination or without unreasonable distinction. Unreasonable discrimination meaning without restricting the generality of the foregoing, and then you can put a list of protected classes and include mental or physical handicap.
The reason we suggest this is because if an equality clause is truly to give us equality, it must give us equality with all others. And that is the way to do it.
It has been suggested before this Committee that perhaps it would be best to simply say equality before the law without discrimination, period, no reference to a list of protected classes. Now, that would be preferable to what is proposed in the present bill, but in our view, it is not desirable for the following reasons.
Firstly, it would mean the some thousands and thousands of dollars would be required going to court, appealing up to the Supreme Court of Canada, in order to get a precedent that decides whether handicapped is a class protected by the clause. To avoid that kind of cost, delay and uncertainty, it could be easily included now without any such costs.
And secondly, Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is, if we have to go to court and argue it, there is no guarantee that we will be included by the courts. The courts take a very restrictive view of civil liberties in general, and handicapped civil liberties is a new area in Canadian law and therefore the risk is that we may never get in, even after an appeal process. So the only way of guaranteeing our rights is by including us.
Briefly, Mr. Chairman, we recommend, as is mentioned in our brief, that the words euality before the law and equal protection of the law are far too weak a means of protecting egalitarian liberties. You have heard this from other groups and we endorse the views that have been presented namely that the courts under the present bill have interpreted those words to not provide egalitarian liberties, and they have done it in an unequivocal way. And these words, even though there is one word that is different, these words are far too close, far too close to the existing Bill of Rights to ensure anyone that the courts will use this as a strong lever to nullify discriminatory laws. It is our concern that, once again the same amendment argument goes, if we get bad precedent, we have to go through the amending process, and we have seen in the State with the ERA battle how many years and at what cost that fight is and that there is no certainty of success. [Page 13]
More importantly, it is our view that the courts have a tradition of taking a very restrictive view of civil liberties. Now, that is not by way of criticism or by way of anything less than respect for the members of the judiciary, but it is something which is, nonetheless, true, I think that it will be necessary and it is our submission that it will be necessary for strong direction to be given to the courts through very specific wording directing them to invalidate discriminatory legislation.
Moving to the end of my presentation, Mr. Chairman, it is our submission, as you will see in our brief, that Section I should not govern either Section 14 or Section 15. It is our view that there should be no circumstances where the right to an interpreter, which a deaf, blind or just a deaf person may require in court, should ever be taken away. Why is it either in war or emergency that a deaf-blind person on trial should be denied an interpreter to know what the case is against them. It is too basic and a denial of natural justice.
Moreover when should unwarranted discrimination be permitted? At wartime? At peacetime? In the case of an emergency? It is hard to imagine a situation where it is justifiable, and therefore we have recommended, as have other groups, that Section 14 and Section 15 be absolute rights, rights not subject to Section 1.
Alternatively, if that point of view is not acceptable to the Committee, it is our submission that the wording in Section I is far, far too broad. You have heard all the arguments before, we can only reiterate them, that Section 1labelled by some as the Mack truck provisionwill in fact make the rest of the Charter of Rights a virtually worthless and impotent means of protecting civil liberties,
In particular, the generally accepted view of the public with respect to handicapped persons is that they are often not capable of taking care of themselves, not capable of maintaining a job, not capable of self-sufficiency, and therefore the kinds of laws that I have discussed previously that are discriminatory would be under Section I generally accepted in a free and democratic society, passed by these kinds of Parliaments. And accordingly, if Section 1 remains, and if Section 15 is still subject to it, it is our view that Section 1 must be very narrowly constrained to protect minority rights and in particular, handicapped rights.
Finally it is our submission that Section 29, (2) which provides that the equality clause will go into effect later than all other parts of the bill should be repealled, simply because there is no good reason in our view why egalitarian liberties should be delayed. If anything, they should be accelerated. [Page 14]
In conclusion, I would like to make the following points. Our concern is that there is a danger of misleading people if the Charter does not include the handicapped. There is the danger that people will believe that in Canada under such a provision, egalitarian liberties are truly safeguarded, there is equality for all, Without handicapped inclusion such is not the case. And it is not only unfair to handicapped persons to deny them equality, but it is a risky venture for the public to be misled into believing that all minorities are protected when they are in fact not.
Our concern, as I said at the outset, is dealing with public attitudes. Public attitudes are something which we must battle at various levels. At the constitutional level we are battling public attitudes as they are manifested through legislation and this is a battle which is both serious and crucial.
Finally I would close by saying that there is an oft stated adage thatjustice is blind; in fact it is a cliché.
Our concernand the underlying concern of this presentationis that while justice may have had the opportunity to experience blindness, we are asking for blind persons, as well as for other handicapped persons, to be given at last an opportunity to experience justice. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays) Thank you very much, Mr. Lepofsky.
Inasmuch as Mr. Lepofsky and his group have given us a thorough understanding of their brief, we have a few minutes left.
We have another group scheduled to be here at l0.l5 this morning and the House sits at 11 o’clock, I am wondering if I could have some agreement that we have three questions on it and that we could probably terminate at 10:20 or 10:25 and have our time as five minutes rather than the 10-minute round? Mr. Epp.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I was going to make the recommendation and Mr. Lepofsky has been excellent in the presentation and on this topic; and there are just two points: one, he kindly offered us to make information available re definition of the handicapped. I hope I have stated that correctly, But I would ask the Committee to request of Mr. Lepofsky that he make that information available to us, though it does not necessarily have to be appended to the minutes of this hearing, but that the information be circulated.
Secondly, I would recommend, Mr. Chairman, instead of the 10 minute-round for the witnesses this morning, that you reduce it to five minutes, and if there are any questions after that first round we will leave that with the Chair. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much. Is that agreed? Some hon. Members: Agreed.
[Page 15]
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): I see that is agreed.
Senator Donahoe.
Senator Donahoe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, I am very happy that good fortune presented me this morning with the opportunity of sitting in on this Committee as a substiute for one of the regular members, because I am very pleased to have had the opportunity of hearing the very excellent presentation made by Mr. Lepofsky.
I was interested to hear the illustration that was given of discrimination possibly against an unsighted juror, because in my experience as an Attorney General for many years, I was once faced with the application for appointment as a Crown Prosecutor by a blind person.
He was an excellent lawyer, a good student and so on; but he was asking to be made a Crown prosecutor to conduct criminal prosecutions.
I would ask you to believe that it was a matter of real difficulty for me to determine whether or not that handicap, in fact, was of a nature which detracted from his ability to do the fullest and most complete job in that particular capacity.
I want to say that I did, in fact, appoint the gentlemen and that he conducted himself with great credit for a number of years.
But I wonder if the person who suffers the handicap can appreciate the difficulty that a person in the position in which I was at that time might have had in determining whether they are in fact discriminating against that person because of the handicap or whether they are in fact merely endeavouring to see that their obligations and responsibilities are discharged in the best possible manner.
However, I do not wish to say or to ask too much, because I think your presentation was, indeed, excellent and from the point of view of the organziation for which you are speaking and the people whom it represents, it has been exceedingly well put here this morning.
I would like to ask this simple question. Do you believe that the position of the handicapped will be substantially improved or enhanced if this procedure is followed? The procedure that is suggested is to entrench certain rights.
You have indicated that you find the suggestions inadequate, insufficient and in need of substantial amendment, and that those amendments should be specifically directed towards the class of person for whom you are speaking here this morning.
Do you feel that the position of the handicapped is going to be very much improved and very much enhanced if this procedure is followed with or without your suggested amendments?
Mr. Lepofsky: Mr. Chairman, to answer both your points, understanding the fact that an employer or service must go through a very difficult analysis and thought process to decide what one is capable of, is something which is only too well understood by any handicapped person, because before someone like myself decided to go into law school I had to make that same analysis. [Page 16]
So it is something which not only I have thought about, but i would think about it before any of my potential employers have thought about it.
it is a very difficult process. The equality clause, if it included the disabled, would give us a right, in the instance where a legislature had gone through that thought process and in fact had made a wrong decision in the passage of laws which end up discriminating, would give us a right to appeal that to the court and to argue that it is an unreasonable distinction which is being drawn against handicapped persons.
My first point would be, Mr. Chairman, that this would provide a means or mechanism for handicapped persons and other interested groups, to challenge legislation which is discriminatory. If these provisions are not put in, then it would signal to the disabled that it is the prevailing view in Canada that handicapped people are not entitled to equality before the law and that the kinds of discrimination that are experienced by any handicapped person in their every day life are in fact representing a pervasive view which in fact has been articulated through the actions of the framers of the new constitution.
On the other hand, if this provision is included as we have proposed, several benefits would accrue, l would submit. The first is that next year being the International Year of the Disabled Person, it would show Canada as doing what could be the best possible move to ensure disabled persons equality, which is to pass a constitution enshrining their rights; secondly, it would be a signal to the Canadian people that as regards handicapped persons, who in the past have either been a forgotten minority or a lesser class of citizenand I say this was not intentional or out of malevolence; but it has happened nonethelessthat a new era has dawned and that as deeply felt a concern is being presented to Canada as can be expressed through a Charter of fundamental rights as acknowledging this liberty.
As I say, some of the more odious legislation, some of which I have already enumerated, would be amenable to attack. I know that certain lobbying has succeeded in Ontario, and lobbying by certain groups have inspired the Ontario legislature, after I00 years of having similar legislation to finally change it, and it is now about to get the Royal Assent, but the process of getting the reform has taken a long time. Had we an equality clause we could have had it adjudicated upon and probably won the matter possibly much more quickly. It was only, frankly, out of luck, that in our view this amendment ever came through. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much.
We have Mr. Althouse followed by Senator Connolly.
Mr. Althouse.
Mr. Althouse: Thank you, Mr. Joint Chairman.
Other evidence seems to suggest that the disabled and handicapped people suffer an unemployment rate of between 70 per cent and 80 per cent. I note in your remarks this morning that you mentioned employers who do not believe you can function as one of the big handicaps you are facing. [Page 17]
Is that the greatest difficulty faced by blind people, for instance, access to opportunity to function? Will the proposed amendment encourage this access to opportunity in your opinion?
Mr. Lepofsky: I would agree that the access to jobs and other facilities is perhaps the greatest problem. As I said, it is the attitude to the public that is the greatest problem and perhaps is the worst manifestation of it, aside from the other manifestation I have mentioned, namely the legislative discrimination.
Our proposals would not require employers to hire a handicapped person who can do the job. That is something which is dealt with by the Human Rights Code. I would say that we are involved in lobbying along with many other organizations for amendments to such laws. I am personally involved in that and could give you a lot of information on the subject if necessary.
It would, however, have two beneficial effects on the employment situation. The first is that, by entrenching this in a charter of rights, as I have said before, it would be a signal to the Canadian public that handicapped people are entitled to equality. That is an educational effect which would be of profound importance and help.
Secondly, there is the possibility and I did not mention this in my list of discriminatory legislation, because a good law student is told that you should use your weakest argument at the end or drop them altogether; but the federal Human Rights Code provides protection for the handicapped in the area of employment, but does not refer to them in the area of access to services or goods. I would say that is a form of discrimination. As you know, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has recommended amendments to cover that.
I would be interested to know if we could build a case that we are getting unequal treatment under the Human Rights Code, since in certain provinces we are not included at all in the code, and in other provinces we are only given partial protection.
But that is a case as to which, while I would like to argue it personally, I am not overwhelmed by the fact that it would be successful. But the most important point is the educational effect on the public and that laws which are a barrier to education, a barrier to equal opportunity, and signals second- class citizenship for the handicapped to the public, would be attackable by us.
Mr. Althouse: In this regard, the slow movement towards access to jobs and equal access to buildings and services, I note one of the supporting groups, the Federation of the Physically Handicapped for Ontario, has mentioned in supporting documents which were passed out along with your brief, that Section 29, they make the pointin the proposal before us places a restriction on the implementation of such rights; under Section 29 it is stated that there will be a three-year waiting period, and they would not come into effect any sooner than the amending formula. [Page 18]
What is the reaction of your group to this waiting period? Your group of handicapped individuals seem to be the only group that have been singled out for this by subsection (2).
Mr. Lepofsky: I would say it is a concern of ours. The delay, if anything, is undesirable; and we would prefer to have seen an equality provision protecting us in effect ten years ago. However, I am bound to confess it is not our major concern. Our principle concern is getting into the bill in one form or another at all. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much.
Senator Connolly.
Senator Connolly: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, we are all very happy indeed to have the CNIB here, because over the years this organization has done a tremendous amount, and I think perhaps the witnesses might agree that the important feature of that work is the fact that they have helped so much to promote the integration particularly of blind people into the community, into society and all phases of Canadian life. This is a great achievement on the part of the CNIB and of the people who work with them.
But may I also, on a personal basis, congratulate Mr. Lepofsky for the very lucid, very comprehensive statement that he has made. I predict that he is going to be a very good lawyer. I would hope that he might become a member of Parliament, but I would tell him immediately that he will not be the first person who is without sight who has been in the House of Commons. I do not say that as a joke. There are lots there who perhaps physically see, but perhaps mentally do not. That does not, of course, apply to the Senate. We have had people without sight in Parliament: Trevor Morgan was here in the early 1970’s on the Conservative side.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Senator Connolly, I think Doctor Foreman would like to ask you a question.
Mr. Foreman: I was just going to thank the Senator for his kind remarks about the Institute and about Mr. Lepofsky. I would also like to thank the Committee from the point of view of letting my guide dog in.
Senator Connolly: Good, good. I think I can remember a manI believe his name was Estey or something of that nature, but whatever his name was, I think he may have be the first in Parliament, this man whose name escapes me; and for this I apologize. There is a great story of an exchange between Mackenzie King, R. B. Bennett and this man at one time over the Doukhoborsone of the great stories on the record of Parliament.
But I would like to ask Mr. Lepofsky this. You have been talking, and the other groups which have represented the handicapped have also been talking, about the importance of integrating the handicapped community into the normal stream of public life.
I think great strides have been made as education has advanced, and as public education in this respect has improved. I do not ask you this as a trick question, but I wonder whether, by segregating the handicapped you are not, to use your own words, signalling to the disabled that they are forever a segregated group? [Page 19]
Would your position not be stronger before the law, even before these provincial laws which you have criticized here, if a nondiscriminatory clause applied equally to you, whether you are handicapped, equally to me, whether I do not happen to be physically handicapped, maybe mentally and so on; but would it not be better in the long run not to have a special category set out in a constitution which, presumably, is to last for a very long time?
Mr. Lepofsky: I can answer that question, Mr. Chairman, briefly. First, I thank you for your compliments with respect to my potential future in Parliament; but my immediate concern, perhaps a little myopic, is that I have another four bar examinations to write and I will continue to be a law student for a lot longer.
On the question of integration generally, I must say, particularly under the leadership of the new management of the CNIB with Mr. Mercer, among other things, CNIB as well as other organizations are becoming much more active in adopting integration of handicapped people into society as a goal, phasing down and phasing out segregationist programming and lobbying for equal rights legislation; this is demonstrative of our kind of work.
While there has been segregation, in fact somewhat imposed by handicapped organizations over the years, this is something which is changing, and I would say that the three gentlemen in front of you representing the CNIB are hoping and striving to see that change continue and accelerate.
As to whether it is somewhat discriminatory or special treatment to mention us expressly in the equality clause, I have two answers or brief points to make to that. First, is that, as 1 have mentioned in my general remarks, if you do not put us in expressly, and merely say equality before the law without discrimination period; then, you are leaving it to us to have to litigate and go to court and spend thousands of dollars and try our luck.
First of all, I do not think we could afford it too readily, and secondly, we are at risk that we would lose. Frankly, having read a good deal of civil liberties case law, which is a particular area of law which interests me, in Canada our courts have a restrictive or very narrow approach to the treatment of civil liberties and only enforce them, as evidenced by the treatment of the 1960 Bill of Rights, when there is no way out: and even then they do not.
So that my concern is that we may well not win such a case, no matter what the intention is of the Senate, no matter what the intention is of the House of Commons in passing this bill. The only way we could be sure to be in, speaking from a legal point of view, is to put us in. Saves us money and improves our chances. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you very much, Mr. Lepofsky. [Page 20]
At this time I would like to thank you on behalf of the Committee. Mr. Mercer, Dr. Foreman, I want you to know that your dog is most welcome in here. I was going to say something and I thought bketter of it after. I have great respect for dogs.
In your brief you have raised some problems that I am sure none of the Committee had heard before, at least I had not, and we appreciate your being here. Thank you very much.
Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Mr. Mercer, did you have something you wished to say? Mr. Mercer: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
I know that our president, Mr. Dick Smith from Winnipeg, would like me to express thanks and appreciation from CNIB for all of you today for taking the time to listen to our point of view, so thank you very much. The Joint Chairman (Senator Hays): Thank you.




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Information commissioner slams RCMP for access-to-information failures, calls for ‘urgent’ action – National


Parliament’s information commissioner said Canada’s federal police force needs an “urgent … change of course” when it comes to handling requests made to it under the federal Access to Information Act.

In response, the minister in charge of the RCMP, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, issued a “ministerial directive” that the RCMP must respond to the information commissioner’s scathing indictment “in full” within three months.

Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard had launched a special investigation of the RCMP for repeated and systemic violations of the Access to Information Act.

Maynard tabled her report “Access at Issue: The Need for Leadership” in the House of Commons Tuesday. MPs on the House access to information and ethics standing committee will now consider her recommendations.

“The key findings in my special report lead me to conclude the obvious: a change of course in the area of access at the RCMP is urgently needed,” Maynard said in a statement. “If the Minister and senior RCMP leaders fail to act on my findings, the organization will continue to fail at upholding the right of access.”

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Trudeau responds to commissioner’s report on RCMP handling of information requests – Nov 17, 2020

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Maynard’s office found that when it tried to investigate individual complaints made by requesters about the RCMP’s failure to provide information, the RCMP failed to respond to her investigators’ queries.

“I want to stress that the situation in the RCMP is critical and may soon cross the point of no return, unless the organization’s senior leadership takes immediate action,” Maynard said in the report. “It is critically important that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Bill Blair), to whom the RCMP reports, ensure that the necessary resources, processes and tools are available so that the RCMP can begin to meet its obligations under the Act.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would consider Maynard’s recommendations though he did not commit his government to any particular course of action.

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“Canadians need to have confidence in their institutions. We need particularly to have confidence in institutions like police forces like the RCMP. One of the best ways to do that is to demonstrate transparency and accountability. We have seen in the past there have been challenges on that,” Trudeau said Tuesday. “We will certainly be looking at how we can ensure that Canadians have full confidence in their national police force.”

Read more:
RCMP ‘fesses up 817 days later: Planning for Trudeau’s Bahamas trip began months in advance

In her report, though, Maynard stressed over and over that previous commitments to do better have not been followed up with appropriate action.

“There is clear evidence that the RCMP’s inability to meet statutory timeframes under the Act is the norm, not the exception,” Maynard wrote. “The RCMP Commissioner [Brenda Lucki] and the Minister both appear to accept the status quo and are only prepared to commit to minimal improvements without a clear plan of action or timelines. In the current context, this is simply insufficient.”

For the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2020, the RCMP received 4,436 requests for information, the third highest number of any government department, and, according to Treasury Board data, had carried over 3,428 requests from 2018-2019.

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But by year’s end, the RCMP had only closed 53 per cent of those requests requests, easily the lowest closure rate of any major federal department dealing with more than 1,000 requests in the year. The goverment-wide closure rate by comparison was 83 per cent.

Moreover, another department within Blair’s portfolio, the Canada Border Services Agency, which also handles sensitive files often pertaining to national security, handled more requests — 9,399 — and closed 86 per cent during the year.

Maynard made several recommendations to improve the RCMP’s access-to-information performance and, before publishing her report, she submitted those recommendations to Blair’s office for comment.

But, time and again in her report, Maynard said Blair appeared not to be taking her six recommendations seriously, to wit:

  • “The Minister’s response is disappointing … “
  • “The Minister of Public Safety has not committed the RCMP to implementing or adopting more innovative digital approaches or investing in digital skills development for staff.”
  • “It appears that there is still no targeted plan to channel some of those new resources to its ATIP program.”
  • “The RCMP still lacks a comprehensive strategy to address the persistent problems identified by the [information commissioner].””
  • “The Minister’s response on tasking is not satisfactory,…”
  • “The Minister did not commit the RCMP to implementing an audit capacity to ensure that [standard operating procedures] are implemented consistently across the organization and over time.”

Challenged on those comments, Blair said he was only advised on Sunday of the recommendations that Maynard would make.

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“I take our transparency very seriously,” Blair told reporters. “I did not ignore her recommendations.”

Blair has also instructed the RCMP that the plans to change the force’s access-to-information (ATI) performance will have to be validated by Treasury Board officials. The Treasury Board is the central government agency responsible for overall administration of the Access to Information Act government wide even though ministers, like Blair, are responsible to Parliament for their department’s performance under the Act. It is an unusual and rare act for any minister to ask an external agency such as Treasury Board to essentially approve plans to boost performance.

For its part, the RCMP said it is already proceeding to implement some of the information commissioner’s recommendations.

“The RCMP agrees with the recommendation … into how we process requests, and we acknowledge our challenges in fulfilling our obligations under the Access to Information Act,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval said an e-mailed statement. “We remain committed to providing Canadians with information in a timely manner.”

Duval said that, among other things, the RCMP has created a new unit to triage request responses and is in the process of buying new software for the ATI unit.

Maynard’s findings come after an internal RCMP audit published earlier this year that found the force’s access to information understaffed and poorly managed. Moreover, the audit team was unable to properly document the force’s failures to fulfill its responsibilities under the Access to Information Act because the force simply was not collecting enough or appropriate information about its own performance.

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“The audit team was unable to assess the effectiveness of the initiatives given the lack of evidence-based performance information,” the audit said.

The RCMP said it is working to address some of the audit’s recommendations but that it could take two years to do so.




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



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



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Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, 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

June 3, 2019
SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Final passage of the amended Bill C-81 is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada.

2. We got some of the ingredients in the bill that we were seeking.

3. We found creative ways to constructively contribute to advocacy efforts on this legislation where there are so many disability organizations and groups spread over such a big country.

4. While helpful, Bill C-81 still falls well short of what people with disabilities need.

5. We’re ready for the next round in this non-partisan campaign.

6. Our advocacy principles served us well.

7. The media too often failed to cover this important issue a disservice to all Canadians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* We took part in behind-the-scenes briefings of several successive ministers that had responsibility for this file, several MPs from the various federal parties, and senior public servants involved with this issue.
* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky delivered a lecture on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include at the Osgoode Hall Law School where he is a part-time faculty member. This captioned lecture has remained available online, to assist others advocating in this area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Our Advocacy Principles Served Us Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CTV News Online May 30, 2019

First national accessibility legislation gets unanimous support in House

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

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

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advocates also criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies, and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

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

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

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

The Globe and Mail May 24, 2019

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

Accessibility bill will be amended to address concerns: minister

By MICHELLE MCQUIGGE
THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government will heed the calls of Canada’s disabled community and amend the country’s first piece of national accessibility legislation to
include some of the changes they sought, the minister spearheading the effort said Thursday.

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government will be adopting all the amendments the Senate introduced to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act, when it comes back before the House next week.

Earlier this month, the upper chamber’s committee on social affairs, science and technology amended the proposed act to include a handful of measures disability
advocacy organizations across the country said were necessary to make the bill more effective.

Ms. Qualtrough conceded that the government had initially resisted some of their most pressing calls, such as the demand to include a timeline that would require the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

But Ms. Qualtrough said the legislation, which was drafted after cross-country consultations with disabled individuals and advocacy groups, needed to reflect the will of the people it’s meant to serve.

“It’s just paying tribute to all the work and all the people that have been here in the past 40, 50 years really insisting that disability rights are human rights,” Ms. Qualtrough said in a telephone interview.

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

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

The act’s stated purpose is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes built
environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

Barrier, as defined by the act, includes anything “architectural, physical, technological or attitudinal” that “hinders the full participation in society
of a person with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment.”

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

Last year, an open letter signed by 95 organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March
of Dimes Canada, raised a number of measures they said the act must include to be effective.

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

The Senate’s social-affairs committee, citing community concerns, amended the bill to address those issues. Ms. Qualtrough said their proposed amendments
will now be incorporated into the bill, which will come before Parliament for final debate next week and could be officially passed into law by the end of June.

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

A chief accessibility officer will oversee the implementation of the legislation across all sectors, while a new Accessibility Commissioner will be responsible
for compliance. A new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, comprised largely of people with a broad spectrum of disabilities, will also be put in place.

“Canadians deserve this,” Ms. Qualtrough said.

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

“This is an important victory,” accessibility activist David Lepofsky said in a statement. “While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 … they are an important and helpful step forward.”

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

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

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

The Globe and Mail May 22, 2019

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

Activists urge Ottawa to pass accessibility law before summer

By MIKE HAGER
Globe and Mail, May 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouverbased writer who led a campaign that created a matted trail for wheelchair users to access one of the city’s most popular beaches last summer, said Bill C-81 needs to give Ottawa the teeth to limit the funding of any agencies not making the effort to improve life for disabled Canadians. Ms. Peters, who uses a wheelchair, said she is genuinely uncertain how the legislation would affect her own life and the lives of other disabled people if it passes. Text of the ARCH Disability Law Centre May 30, 2109 News Release

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-arch-disability-law-centre-welcomes-the-passage-of-the-accessible-canada-act/ Press Release ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more details contact:

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
416-482-8255 x. 2233

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer
416-482-8255 x. 2222

Open Letter to the House of Commons Updated

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

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament
Date: May 14, 2019
The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.
We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.
The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committees debates by stating that the committees amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: Nothing about us without us.
While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senates amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bills employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.
It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senates amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senates amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.
We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senates amendments to Bill C-81.
If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election. Signed:
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
PONDA
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation
Access 2 Accessibility
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC) Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
Community Living Ontario
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Hydrocephalus Canada
LArche Canada
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) NWT Disability Council
Realize
Tetra Society of North America Ontario Division
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Vibrant Healthcare Alliance
Vie Autonome Montréal
Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Deaf Literacy Initiative
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
National Network for Mental Health
OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada People First of Canada
reachAbility Association
Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Silent Voice Canada Inc.
The Canadian Council of the Blind
The Club Inclusion
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter) Family Network for Deaf Children
SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)
Disability Awareness Consultants
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Empowered Kids Ontario Enfants Avenir Ontario
Sound Times Support Services
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities
JRG Society for the Arts
A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland
Community Inclusion Society
Abilities Centre
Ontario Association of the Deaf
L’Arche Comox Valley
ALS Society of Canada
Saskatchewan ALS Society
Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité. À: Tous les membres du Parlement
Date: 14 mai 2019
Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de sengager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).
Nous félicitons lhonorable ministre Carla Qualtrough davoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel quexprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.
Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme dorganisations de personnes en situation de handicap et dintervenants marteler le besoin dune loi nationale sur laccessibilité et recommander lamélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt dobstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées Rien pour nous, sans nous.
Bien que nincluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt dobstacles dici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à lélimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que lAmerican Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant lapplication du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, lOffice des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière demploi et la loi régissant la GRC.
Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.
Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.
La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque dêtre stoppée avant lélection de cet automne. Lettre ouverte signée par:
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
PONDA
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation
Access 2 Accessibility
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC) Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
Community Living Ontario
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Hydrocephalus Canada
LArche Canada
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) NWT Disability Council
Realize
Tetra Society of North America Ontario Division
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Vibrant Healthcare Alliance
Vie Autonome Montréal
Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Deaf Literacy Initiative
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
National Network for Mental Health
OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada People First of Canada
reachAbility Association
Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Silent Voice Canada Inc.
The Canadian Council of the Blind
The Club Inclusion
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter) Family Network for Deaf Children
SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)
Disability Awareness Consultants
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Empowered Kids Ontario Enfants Avenir Ontario
Sound Times Support Services
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities
JRG Society for the Arts
A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland
Community Inclusion Society
Abilities Centre
Ontario Association of the Deaf
L’Arche Comox Valley
ALS Society of Canada
Saskatchewan ALS Society



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

June 3, 2019

          SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Our Advocacy Principles Served Us Well

Throughout this process we adhered to important principles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CTV News Online May 30, 2019

First national accessibility legislation gets unanimous support in House

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

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

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advocates also criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies, and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

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

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

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

The Globe and Mail May 24, 2019

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

Accessibility bill will be amended to address concerns: minister

By MICHELLE MCQUIGGE

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

require the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

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

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

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

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

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

their books.

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

over six years toward its implementation.

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

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

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

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

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

in their lives.

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

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

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

language as official languages of deaf Canadians.

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

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

of June.

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

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

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

also be put in place.

“Canadians deserve this,” Ms. Qualtrough said.

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

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

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

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

The open letter criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies,

and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures.

Advocates also raised concerns about the way the bill was written. The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives,

meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them, they argued.

The Globe and Mail May 22, 2019

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

Activists urge Ottawa to pass accessibility law before summer

By MIKE HAGER

Globe and Mail, May 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more details contact:

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director

416-482-8255 x. 2233

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer

416-482-8255 x. 2222

Open Letter to the House of Commons Updated

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

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament

Date: May 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signed:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

PONDA

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

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

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

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

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

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

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

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

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

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

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society

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

À: Tous les membres du Parlement

Date: 14 mai 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lettre ouverte signée par:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

PONDA

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

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

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

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

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

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

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

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

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

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

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society



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