Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill — But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?


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 Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill — But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?

May 14, 2019

          SUMMARY

Last evening the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading, complete with all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs added to the bill on May 2, 2019. This is an important step forward for this bill, and a helpful step for people with disabilities in Canada. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of the Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 that took place in the Senate last evening.

The first among the speeches on the bill was by Senator Jim Munson. Senator Munson is the Federal Government’s sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It is likely that some or all of his speech was written by the Federal Government.

Bill C-81 is not yet an enforceable law. It is still just a bill, a proposed law.

For Bill C-81 to become a law, it must go back to the House of Commons. The House must vote on the amendments that the Senate has added to the bill. If the House of Commons passes all those amendments, Bill C-81 becomes a law. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of those amendments, it remains a bill, a proposed law. The Senate would then have to vote again on the bill, but without the Senate’s amendments.

Thus, all attention must now focus on the House of Commons, and especially on the Trudeau Government which has a majority of seats in the House. The Federal Government has not yet said it will vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

As we announced days ago, we and many other people with disabilities and disability organizations are campaigning to get the House of Commons to pass ALL the amendments to the bill that the Senate has just passed. We are focusing special attention on the Senate’s commendable amendments that would set the time line of 2040 for Canada to reach full accessibility to people with disabilities, while making it clear that this time line may not delay progress before then on accessibility.

For tips on how to help with this time-sensitive blitz, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Please email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

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

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

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Our overall strategy regarding Bill C-81 is unfolding as we planned. The Senate’s amendments, for which we and others fought so hard, help improve this bill. The bill clearly needed improvements. Now the issue will come before the House of Commons just months before an impending federal election.

From a disability advocacy perspective, this timing is very helpful to our cause. What elected politician or party would want to vote against measures to strengthen the protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What elected politician or party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 from becoming a law?

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

Senate of Canada Hansard May 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/287db_2019-05-13-e

Accessible Canada Bill

Third Reading

Hon. Jim Munson moved third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, as amended.

He said: Honourable senators, what a journey we have been on. What a journey all of us have been on.

Senators, as the sponsor of this bill, I’m pleased to speak tonight at the third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, also known as the Accessible Canada Act. I am humbled and honoured to speak to a bill that will no doubt become a proud part of Canadian history.

Making history takes dedication, hard work and perseverance. So I want to acknowledge the work of many people who helped get this bill to this stage.

I want to thank the chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Senators Petitclerc and Seidman, and all members who attended the committee meetings. Questions were engaging and led to an enlightening input from witnesses and to constructive amendments. This committee works so well together; I am honoured to be a member.

Thank you also to our clerk and administrator, Dan Charbonneau and Ericka Dupont, for arranging sign language, ASL, and CART services, Communication Access Real-time Translation, and the special room set-up, which helped to make the Senate committee meetings the most accessible to date. The Senate should be proud in this regard. We have shown leadership by example.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough. She and her team have shown great leadership on accessibility, and I can confidently say that Bill C-81 enjoys widespread support due to their efforts.

Most importantly, I want to recognize persons with disabilities, stakeholders, and organizations who all play a crucial role in accessibility in Canada. They have all invested tremendous work and energy into this historic bill, ensuring that it reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. Their contributions have been instrumental in getting the bill in its amended form to this stage. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and stories with us. I know it takes courage. We could not have done any of this without your involvement and expertise. Some of those folks are here in the Senate tonight.

Senators Petitclerc and Seidman gave excellent speeches at the report stage of the bill last week, summarizing the amendments that were adopted at committee. I will not go over the amendments and details again. However, I do want to highlight some important testimony.

Over the course of our committee hearings we heard repeatedly that the time for an accessible Canada act is now. Canadians facing barriers to fully participating in their workplaces and society told us and are still telling us to pass this bill into law. Here is what Bill Adair from Spinal Cord Injury Canada and with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, or FALA, told us at committee:

What people are telling us across the country who are participating with FALA is: We want the bill. Give us something to work with. Yes, push for the changes, but at the end of the day, before the election, we want the bill. That gives us structure and the framework so that we can get to work on removing barriers and we want it now. We’ve been waiting far too long and this is our day.

Senators, everyone is eager to see this bill become law. We must continue our essential work in order to take it over the finish line. This community has waited long enough for this recognition and respect.

Another significant and positive change is that Bill C-81 will shift the responsibility on to the system and away from the individuals facing barriers in their daily lives. Diane Bergeron from CNIB said during her testimony:

Having a disability is exhausting, and I do not say that lightly. But when you have to deal with discrimination, rights violations, different pieces of legislation, criticisms, people not thinking that you have value, it makes it worse. The current system is unfair and unacceptable.

Colleagues, we know the history. It is one of institutionalization, sterilization and social isolation. Canada had a system that took children away from their families and power away from our citizens. Persons with disabilities were seen as burdens and treated as if they were broken. Our country simply cannot continue to place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. We can do better, and we must do better. In fact, with this bill we will do better.

In addition to this necessary shift in responsibility, the accessible Canada act, when passed, will set best practices and a framework that the provinces and the private sector can mirror. Most importantly, this bill will start to shift culture, perception and understanding of what inclusion in our society should really look like. I cannot come up with a better analogy that encompasses my hope for what this legislation will achieve than that of Minister Qualtrough. You have to be a sports fan to get this. I couldn’t agree more when she said at committee:

I think we will look back on this as a “TSN Turning Point” on disability rights and the way we talk about disability in this country.

The words of the minister.

Honourable senators, in 2017, approximately 6.2 million people, or about 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability. This percentage is expected to increase in the coming years due to Canada’s aging population, since the prevalence of disability increases with age. This is why the government consulted with over 6,000 individuals from across the country with lived experience over the course of this bill’s development. They have continued to be consulted and included as witnesses and experts at committee so that we can use their knowledge and their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow.

One of those witnesses was Steven Estey from Nova Scotia, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. This organization helped facilitate some of these consultations. Mr. Estey gave us a good summary of what that meant. He said:

. . . to talk to Canadians with disabilities about what they wanted in this legislation. We had a chance to talk to over a thousand people across the country. We had 22 separate consultations in towns and cities across the country. We had telephone consultations. We had Internet consultations. We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what people wanted to see in this legislation. It’s an important thing for us to be involved with. We have really appreciated the opportunity and the support that we have had to be able to do that.

This is what inclusion looks like, honourable senators. Consultation, collaboration, cooperation and real input from real life experience. I know that the finer points of the bill have been outlined to you many times, including by myself, but I do want to talk again about the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The landmark importance of the CASDO board membership aligning with the community’s mantra of “nothing about us without us.” Think about it. Because it’s the board membership who will be responsible, with their own lived experience, in making standards.

I’ve always said this, that you need to be in the room when it comes to communications. It is just as important in policy making; you need to be in the room to make a difference and to influence change. In this case, CASDO will set regulations that will lead to better results for people in this country. I hope it reoccurs in other areas of policy development. Applying a disability lens is crucial in moving forward.

Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada explained in her testimony at committee what that organization represents. Her list included people with or affected by cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down’s syndrome, learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive and intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, head and neck cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

(1910)

Senators, these are common conditions. It made me realize again that we will all face barriers to fully participating in society at some point in our lives. This is legislation that will affect us all in a positive way.

We learned at committee that many wheels are already in motion in anticipation of the bill coming into force. Job postings are already online for the chief accessibility officer and the CEO and board of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, or CASDO. In fact, CASDO is expected to open its doors this summer. We know that the organizations responsible for accessibility have taken advanced steps towards planning regulations. In fact, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, has already released the first draft of its accessibility regulations.

Committee members gave the bill and its adopted amendments a deserved thorough study and consideration despite time constraints. I know that many of these amendments came right from the community, witnesses and organizations; I think we should pass the bill with these changes and let the other place do its job and reflect on our amendments. This is the process of our democracy and of our Parliament. We all need to move swiftly.

I will say it again: An accessible Canada act is a long-overdue recognition for human rights equality for 6.2 million — or one in five — Canadians. The 2017 disability survey also indicated that of the approximately 1.5 million Canadians with a disability aged 15 to 64 who are unemployed, approximately 654,000 are potential candidates for work in an inclusive, discrimination-free and accommodating labour market.

Yes, senators, there is a business case for inclusion. There is a huge untapped talent pool that could help improve Canada’s shrinking labour market.

As I mentioned, the spirit of collaboration on this bill has been and continues to be exceptional. I’m always an optimist, so over the course of study and consultations it became obvious that the removal of barriers is universal in scope and understanding. Together, our society is ready to take this step, the first of many towards a fair and equal-opportunity society. The momentum is with us.

Colleagues, I am proud of Bill C-81. I am proud of the amendments made at committee. We need to send the amended bill to the other place this week so that we can receive it back in time to do what Canadians have been asking us to do through testimony, letters, emails and phone calls: Give Canada a framework toward being barrier-free and accessible for all.

This is the time, colleagues. This is their time. It’s our opportunity to help make this happen and to be on the right side of history.

I will close tonight with some words from the great Jean Vanier, the master of inclusion. As you know, he passed away last week at the age of 90. At a 1998 Massey Lecture entitled Becoming Human, he said:

As we become more conscious of the uniqueness of others, we become aware of our common humanity. We are all fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or handicaps may be.

Honourable senators, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are on a shared journey. What we have discovered on this journey is a new path of inclusion, a path where, as they say in the disability community:

Nothing About Us Without Us.

I recognize we haven’t satisfied everyone. That’s the way it is when you’re building something we have never had before: a Canada without barriers.

But we have done our job. We have discovered more about each other. We have captured the meaning of empathy. We have amended the bill. We recognize there will always be next steps. This is a step toward a more inclusive society.

Thank you very much.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading stage of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

For one last time, I want to express my full support for the bill and commend the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on its excellent work. I also want to acknowledge the work of the chair of the committee, Senator Petitclerc, as well as that of the deputy chair, Senator Seidman, on a decisive and historic bill for Canada.

I won’t get into the details of the thorough review undertaken by the committee, since Senators Petitclerc and Seidman already did so quite eloquently. However, I’d like to draw your attention to the remarkable work that the committee has done since March 21, 2019.

The committee studied the bill in depth over the course of four meetings, with the intention of widening its scope. After hearing testimony from 20 interest groups four organizations, the committee did indeed make changes that are favourable to the primary goal of the bill.

Although I’m not a member of that committee, it is clear that those long, well-informed deliberations led to the adoption of 11 amendments. Through those deliberations, the vast and unique needs of many groups of disabled persons were identified by the committee, which led to specific amendments that improve Bill C-81 without jeopardizing its long-awaited passing.

To sum up, the changes to the bill remain faithful to its principles while doing more to recognize, eliminate and prevent barriers in all areas of federal jurisdiction. This new version of the bill also takes into account the fact that seniors living with disabilities also experience multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination.

Another amendment recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada and an integral part of their accessibility. After all, the recognition of sign languages constitutes an essential part of their culture and a valuable tool that enables them to participate in society.

[English]

Honourable senators, these are some examples of the positive changes that were made to the bill in consultation with experts and in collaboration with the extensive work that was previously accomplished in the other place.

I feel this bill should also act as a signal and reminder to the government regarding the recent news of 34 developmentally disabled federal workers who hold segregated and redundant jobs in Ottawa. Their contract is set to end in March 2020. I hope that, once enacted, this law will eventually represent further actions for every Canadian with a disability in order to help them become full, equal members of society.

After all, a barrier-free Canada requires us to understand the norms, societal attitudes and stigma that prevents people with intellectual, cognitive and physical disabilities from fully participating in society.

I truly believe this bill, once enacted, will be a tool for many organizations that are ready and have been patiently preparing for the implementation in order to respond to these emergent challenges and obstacles.

Honourable senators, this historic law is a testament of the great work that was accomplished in the hallmarks of this great chamber in defence of the rights of minorities.

It marks a new beginning. We will transform and address accessibility by becoming proactive instead of reactive for Canadians who do not want to be treated as a burden but as full and equal members of society as we continue to grow and learn how to become more inclusive. Thank you.

(1920)

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues, as well as to the many witnesses we had at the Social Affairs Committee. I speak today to share with you my perspective, my story, based on a lifetime of learning and action in this very important area.

When I arrived in Senate 15 months ago, there was much to learn; there is still much to learn. For instance, when I arrived here, I had incorrectly assumed that accessibility had already been addressed as a national issue with a fulsome national strategy. Why? Because my own formal leadership on accessibility began in Ontario, 14 years ago. I thought — silly me — that the same regulations were being mandated nationally, given how much time had elapsed since this successful law in Ontario was implemented and began its implementation in 2005.

Honourable senators, 2019 is far too late in the game to be discussing and mandating accessibility for all at the federal level, and it’s why the bill before us is so important.

In my previous life, as an educator, every day I was faced with an issue by a student, their family, a teacher or a community member who challenged fair, equitable and inclusive access. One case — and sometimes it just takes one — in particular crystallized for me what would be become a lifetime commitment to universal accessibility.

Imagine now a single mother with six children, all under the age of 10. Three of them carry the positive gene for Duchenne’s disease, a severe type of muscular dystrophy that over time reduces muscular function. It eventually results in the young person being immobilized, weakened and in need of a wheelchair.

The family survives on a low income, and, frankly, the school and the community are their lifeline. As principal of the school, on a one-floor facility, my staff and I gave the family everything we had, from meals to fundraisers, to transportation, to tutoring, and finally to the purchase of a well-used wheelchair for her oldest son, Ricky.

This school goes up to Grade 6, and now it becomes time for Ricky to graduate from junior school and move on to middle school. We meet with a team of educators and medical support people to determine the best plan for Ricky. As a former secondary school administrator, new to elementary administration, I learn that due to Ricky’s physical needs he will not be able to attend the middle school just down the road. There are just too many accessibility issues. Eventually, I learn that he will have to take a 50-minute bus ride to the nearest school that will provide some sort of wheelchair access.

How do I tell his mother, with so much on her plate already, that her son will now spend over 100 minutes a day with strangers, with different untrained bus drivers, travelling on several highways, with no significant network of support, and that in two years, if Ricky is able to keep on attending school, his ride to high school will be even more challenging and disconnected with yet another group of young people, all at the same time his condition worsens and that in two years she will have to go through this all over again with her next child?

As it turned out, it was a hard lesson I needed to learn. This was in 2005, the same year that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law. As you know, the act was aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. It applied then to government, non-profit and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees.

My own school board needed an established leader to commit to this AODA work for at least three years. Somewhat fortuitously, I was invited to take on this role. It was going to be tough work, very political, but an opportunity to bring many internal and external stakeholders together to do the right thing. Most of the table I worked with was represented by those representing diverse accessibility needs in our community. My job would be to ensure that all aspects of the act were being addressed, that all staff and volunteers were trained, that we had an accessibility policy and procedures, and that we had a multi-year accessibility plan with annual public updates, timelines and monitoring in place. I continued this leadership for 10 years. The work was ongoing and a challenge politically, financially and ensuring equity while the voices of all were heard.

Senator Moncion highlighted her work related to the AODA at second reading. I will not repeat her message. However, I will indicate how the “visible” and “invisible” needs of those with a disability are far-reaching and diverse. We started with the built environment and spaces in 130 buildings and new builds. I learned more about architecture, facility design, ramps, lifts, nine styles of elevators, more than I dreamed possible. One basic washroom to upgrade for one child was $35,000; one elevator was half a million dollars. How do you prioritize? Every student matters.

These are the more visible physical needs we are familiar with. It’s the invisible needs that are often overlooked; that is, making sure every individual — just as we do in the Senate — feels they are part of their community.

As a result of deep consultation, we were determined that every decision had to result in our students being able to attend a school within their family of schools, which is a geographically smaller region. This would not be the closest to their home, perhaps, but still in their community — full stop. We had to find the way and we did. Every decision was and continues to be backward mapped with this in mind; that is, to find a way to keep our students and families in their community.

Honourable senators, imagine your son or daughter being told they could go on a bus for a class trip with their classmates on a bus all by themselves — not with their friends, not with their peers.

One of my proudest moments was meeting with 200 bus drivers, getting some buses retrofitted, modified and ensuring more of our students could travel and experience being with their classmates. The visible need was physically getting the student to their destination by ensuring the best barrier-free environment. The invisible need was ensuring the student would not be stigmatized on a separate bus and they could contribute and participate in this class trip to the same extent as their peers — something they deserve.

This is why this legislation is so important. It will aim to make federally regulated entities so much more accessible. However, it will also unlock the potential of a huge group of Canadians who have been held back in one way or another. It will allow them to participate and contribute to their community in ways that, quite frankly, they should have been able to do long ago. With this legislation, Canada could become a world leader in accessibly. This leadership is sorely needed.

In my role as an international coach and sports leader travelling internationally, I saw first-hand and continue to see first-hand the great disparity in the respect and understanding of what it means to try to embrace and provide support for those with a disability. I observed countries that “hid” those with disabilities, countries whose representatives said to my face, “We have no citizens with disabilities.” I watched first-hand a political leader of a G7 country, while on Canadian soil, say, “There is no place for athletes with a disability in a major sporting event.”

Thankfully, this culture is changing. I’m excited to say, after 12 years of advocacy, my sport will have its debut at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. To get to this point, again, we had to educate the countries that did not support their para-athletes and para-children, and did not demonstrate their beliefs in accessibility or inclusion. This has taken over a decade.

This past weekend, at Carleton University in Ottawa, I was able to speak with families and para-athletes from many countries about what sport means to them, what it means to be barrier-free and the work that must still continue around the world. The passage of Bill C-81 for Canada will set the kind of example needed to keep this momentum going.

Senators, I want to shift my thinking before I wrap up. I want to thank the steering committee of the Social Affairs Committee — Senator Munson, Senator Seidman and our chair, Senator Petitclerc, for guiding us through such a comprehensive and in-depth process. You have heard that said earlier this evening. It is so very true. It was a collective effort by all groups and caucuses represented at committee, and that showed in fulsome but respectful discussions that played out at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which led to some good amendments in the legislation.

To the large but important number of Canadians who will be directly affected by this legislation, I can say to you with confidence that every member of the Social Affairs Committee has listened to your concerns. I want to thank the many individuals who gave us such compelling evidence at committee, as well as the hundreds who took the time to write and meet with us. Colleagues, many of these stakeholders have been advocating for years. They are very tired, exhausted but hopeful for the immediate passage of this bill.

(1930)

While no piece of legislation is perfect, I am confident that the bill before us gives us a solid foundation and permission to rebuild our culture in the years to come. A senator last week reminded me that there is progress and there is perfection. This bill is no different. Bill C-81, the time for all is now. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today also to speak very briefly at third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Bill C-81 enacts the accessible Canada act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons living with disability, in our society. This bill will require federally regulated entities across the country to ensure accessibility to workplaces, public spaces, employment, programs, services and information.

Bill C-81, as others have stated, is an important step in the right direction to address the barriers that many Canadians face. The message that we have heard from advocates has been the same: Bill C-81 is a good bill and deserves to be enacted into law but no one can be certain of the full effect that this bill will eventually have. This will require further knowledge and learning from a practical perspective and a commitment to work in consultation with stakeholders across Canada.

I want to associate myself with some of the very important comments that have been made in this chamber and especially recognize our colleague Senator Munson, who has dedicated so much of his life to really be quite a voice and a champion for Canadians with disabilities and, of course, on issues like autism. He has been a cosponsor on a number of events, and we have done some meaningful work together. I know that one of the motions that we cosponsored that recognized June as Deafblind Awareness Month recognizes this important subgroup of Canadians who are living with some incredible challenges.

This motion was adopted unanimously in 2015, and it was sort of thanks to our retired former colleague Senator Vim Kochhar who many of us know to be a real champion and a strong voice for Canadians living with physical disabilities as well as other disabilities. Through his outstanding effort and inspiration, we have worked together to achieve certain outcomes through the Senate. Senator Kochhar also cofounded the Canadian Helen Keller Centre and Rotary Cheshire Home, which is said to be one of the only facilities in the world where those who live with deaf-blindness can live independently.

Some of the intervenors who have come to the Hill have spoken about their work to help Canadians living with deaf-blindness communicate. Their work is truly astonishing. It’s a real calling for them to serve in this capacity. They work in a unique space where they allow those who cannot communicate otherwise to communicate with the outside world.

I also know that the work of our former colleague Senator Asha Seth also led to a motion to designate May as National Vision Health Month. That, too, was unanimously adopted in the Senate.

I stand together with many of you who have spoken on this measure and also recognize the great work of our Social Affairs Committee, the chair, the deputy chair and committee members to ensure that important amendments were adopted that will help towards ensuring a barrier-free Canada as is envisioned in this bill.

I had the opportunity to meet with the Canadian Association of the Deaf and President Frank Folino, who was also a witness during committee hearings on this bill, as well as Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. They expressed their firm support of passage of Bill C-81 as a very important step, but they were also hopeful that there will be continued vigilance and effort towards proper implementation and, of course, that same intention beyond implementation. In some ways we have achieved this important milestone, but our work will begin to ensure that implementation and the work beyond implementation will be successful.

I recognize these men and others who have been the real heroes and champions who inspired this important legislation and once again thank our colleagues Senator Munson, Senator Ngo and members of the Social Affairs Committee for your leadership helping this chamber arrive at this significant moment in our legislative history.

Your Honour and honourable senators, I am definitely ready for the question.

Hon. Tony Dean: Thank you Senator Martin and others who have spoken. Thank you, Senator Munson, for your very fine sponsorship of this legislation.

I have some brief introductory remarks and then I want to speak specifically about the inclusion of communication in this bill as a category of challenge in the spectrum of disabilities.

I rise to add my voice to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. We all know now that the stated policy objective of this important and historic piece of legislation is to enhance the full and equal participation of all individuals, with a special emphasis for those living with disabilities. The bill is designed to achieve a barrier-free Canada through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Many groups, including various disability advocacy groups, support Bill C-81 and are urging us to pass this bill before our summer break. Senate leaders met on April 4 to sign an agreement to ensure several pieces of legislation are voted on prior to the break and the next federal election. This bill is one of them.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, the Leader of the independent Senate Liberals, the Government Representative in the Senate and the Senate Conservative Leader on this important modernizing step. You will know, I think, that I and others here believe that we could benefit greatly from more organized and effective business planning of this sort. Moreover, that’s what Canadians expect of us, and they expect and deserve timely votes on all bills, but particularly on bills that are inclusive of all members of our society and that aim to protect some of our most vulnerable people, bills like Bill C-81.

An act to ensure a barrier-free Canada is a direct response to a 2016 federal budget announcement that made a commitment to “eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities.”

Among other things, the bill aims to guide future interpretations of the accessible Canada act by setting out important principles and including a provision that states that all persons, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, must be treated with dignity, enjoy equality of opportunity, be able to fully and equally participate in society without barriers and have autonomy.

It also establishes the application of the accessible Canada act bringing greater clarification to which bodies and entities are bound by accessibility legislation and allows the Governor-in-Council to designate a minister to be responsible for this act.

Another important piece of this legislation is the proposed establishment of the Canadian accessible standards development office, CASDO, which Senator Munson has spoken about eloquently.

I emphasize that the CASDO would be overseen by a board of directors whose majority identify as persons with disabilities. The board would be responsible for setting the organization’s strategic direction and managing the activities and affairs in accordance with its mandate.

The inclusion of people with disabilities on the board would ensure fair representation for the many Canadians who don’t currently have a voice in accessibility standards.

Honourable senators, while no single area of accessibility is more important than any other, I would like to now focus some remarks on the issue of communication.

I am delighted that communication is recognized in key definitions in this bill, including in the definitions of barrier and disability. This legislation says that “barrier” means anything including physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or practice that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation.

(1940)

It also defines “disability” as a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation, whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature that an interaction with a barrier hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

This recognition of communication is critically important, as communication includes the half million Canadians who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by significant hearing loss and who do not require or use sign language. They may have lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, learning or cognitive disabilities. Other people may have acquired disabilities that affect communication, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, ALS, multiple sclerosis and much more.

Having a communication disability can affect one or more areas of a person’s ability to speak, to understand what others are saying, read or write. People with theses disabilities may communicate using unclear speech, writing, typing, pictures, symbols, speech-generating devices, sign language interpreting, captioning and communication assistive devices.

Recognizing the broad scope of communication is also consistent with the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, of which Canada is a signatory. This is obviously important for many reasons, but I’d like to highlight a tangible example for honourable senators to consider.

Similar to the need for sign language services for people who are deaf or translation services for people who don’t speak English or French, victims, witnesses and accused persons with speech and language disabilities may require appropriate communication supports in police, legal and justice services. Despite the fact that people with speech and language disabilities are at high risk for all types of abuses and crimes — and remember, for violators, the best victims are often the ones who are perceived not to be able to tell. Communication support services in police, legal and justice services are not routinely provided as an accessibility accommodation.

Communications intermediaries are qualified speech-language pathologists who have extra training from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, CDAC, to work in justice settings. CDAC maintains a database of trained intermediaries with limited funding from a small private foundation. These services are provided to people who require assistance, understanding questions posed to them or supporting them communicating what they want to say to police, legal and justice professionals.

In a case in Canada I recently learned about, an elderly woman indicated to her son, a police officer, that she had been sexually assaulted by a personal support worker in a retirement or long-term care facility. The woman had a stroke two years before the incident, which left her with aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage to the language centres of the brain. She had difficulty understanding spoken language and expressing her thoughts in words, as well as difficulties in reading and writing. She communicated what happened using gestures, some speech and pointing to pictures.

The Crown attorney recognized that she would require assistance to communicate in court and engaged a communication intermediary who conducted an assessment. The intermediary concluded that the woman could effectively communicate in court if provided with appropriate communication intermediary support to ensure that she rephrase questions posed to her in ways she could understand and to facilitate her responses using pictures. The judge denied the woman access to the communication supports that she required to testify.

This case illustrates the lack of understanding about accessibility accommodations required by a victim, witnesses or an accused person who has speech and language disability.

Having strong accessibility legislation in place makes it mandatory for all justice services to provide people with the communication accommodations and supports they need, including communication boards, speech-generating devices, sign language interpretation, captioning and communications assistance devices, and is an important move in ensuring that the policy objectives of this bill are realized. Access to appropriate supports for people living with disabilities that affect communications would go beyond our justice system and would also include access to health services, education and more.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you one other brief story, the story of a friend of mine of 30 years who in the past several months came to know all too well the challenges associated with difficulty in communications. Kim Clarke Champniss, as some of you will recall from his work in the heyday of MuchMusic as a veejay, TV producer and a challenging interviewer of the world’s top rock and roll artists, lost his voice permanently in the past months due to radical throat surgery that was used to address throat cancer.

I’ve watched Kim over the last weeks and months heroically take on this challenge, including the challenge of access to supports and technologies that would assist in his ability to continue engaging in the world with his upbeat energy and curiosity about the human condition. Kim will get through this. He would say, “I’m all right, Tone. I’m all right.” But Kim would also wish for better services for those who were alongside him and those who will undoubtedly follow him with communications challenges.

I would urge the government to ensure someone with a disability that affects their speech, language and communication be considered as a member of the board of the proposed Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, CASDO, which was mentioned earlier. Their contributions would greatly benefit the 500,000 people living with speech and language difficulties and ensure that no one is left behind.

I would also like to recognize that standards and regulations under Bill C-81 will need to be updated every five years, which allows for changes in innovation. They will also require public review before they are adopted.

I close by saying, senators, that Bill C-81 needs to pass now. We have an obligation as parliamentarians and senators to protect the needs of all Canadians, especially those who are among the most vulnerable in our society. I strongly believe that acknowledging this community is an essential part of meeting the objectives of this bill, which will ultimately aim to remove and prevent barriers for all people in this country.

I end by thanking Barbara Collier, who has been a tireless advocate for a communications amendment passed in the House of Commons. With these final words, I would ask my honourable colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Thank you, all.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.)



Source link

Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill


But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?

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

May 14, 2019

SUMMARY

Last evening the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading, complete with all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs added to the bill on May 2, 2019. This is an important step forward for this bill, and a helpful step for people with disabilities in Canada. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of the Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 that took place in the Senate last evening.

The first among the speeches on the bill was by Senator Jim Munson. Senator Munson is the Federal Government’s sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It is likely that some or all of his speech was written by the Federal Government.

Bill C-81 is not yet an enforceable law. It is still just a bill, a proposed law.

For Bill C-81 to become a law, it must go back to the House of Commons. The House must vote on the amendments that the Senate has added to the bill. If the House of Commons passes all those amendments, Bill C-81 becomes a law. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of those amendments, it remains a bill, a proposed law. The Senate would then have to vote again on the bill, but without the Senate’s amendments.

Thus, all attention must now focus on the House of Commons, and especially on the Trudeau Government which has a majority of seats in the House. The Federal Government has not yet said it will vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

As we announced days ago, we and many other people with disabilities and disability organizations are campaigning to get the House of Commons to pass ALL the amendments to the bill that the Senate has just passed. We are focusing special attention on the Senate’s commendable amendments that would set the time line of 2040 for Canada to reach full accessibility to people with disabilities, while making it clear that this may not delay progress before then on accessibility.

For tips on how to help with this time-sensitive blitz, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Please email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/ To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

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

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

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Our overall strategy regarding Bill C-81 is unfolding as we planned. The Senate’s amendments, for which we and others fought so hard, help improve this bill. The bill clearly needed improvements. Now the issue will come before the House of Commons just months before an impending federal election.

From a disability advocacy perspective, this timing is very helpful to our cause. What elected politician or party would want to vote against measures to strengthen the protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What elected politician or party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 from becoming a law?

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Senate of Canada Hansard May 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/287db_2019-05-13-e

Accessible Canada Bill

Third Reading

Hon. Jim Munson moved third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, as amended.

He said: Honourable senators, what a journey we have been on. What a journey all of us have been on.

Senators, as the sponsor of this bill, I’m pleased to speak tonight at the third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, also known as the Accessible Canada Act. I am humbled and honoured to speak to a bill that will no doubt become a proud part of Canadian history.

Making history takes dedication, hard work and perseverance. So I want to acknowledge the work of many people who helped get this bill to this stage.

I want to thank the chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Senators Petitclerc and Seidman, and all members who attended the committee meetings. Questions were engaging and led to an enlightening input from witnesses and to constructive amendments. This committee works so well together; I am honoured to be a member.

Thank you also to our clerk and administrator, Dan Charbonneau and Ericka Dupont, for arranging sign language, ASL, and CART services, Communication Access Real-time Translation, and the special room set-up, which helped to make the Senate committee meetings the most accessible to date. The Senate should be proud in this regard. We have shown leadership by example.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough. She and her team have shown great leadership on accessibility, and I can confidently say that Bill C-81 enjoys widespread support due to their efforts.

Most importantly, I want to recognize persons with disabilities, stakeholders, and organizations who all play a crucial role in accessibility in Canada. They have all invested tremendous work and energy into this historic bill, ensuring that it reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. Their contributions have been instrumental in getting the bill in its amended form to this stage. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and stories with us. I know it takes courage. We could not have done any of this without your involvement and expertise. Some of those folks are here in the Senate tonight.

Senators Petitclerc and Seidman gave excellent speeches at the report stage of the bill last week, summarizing the amendments that were adopted at committee. I will not go over the amendments and details again. However, I do want to highlight some important testimony.

Over the course of our committee hearings we heard repeatedly that the time for an accessible Canada act is now. Canadians facing barriers to fully participating in their workplaces and society told us and are still telling us to pass this bill into law. Here is what Bill Adair from Spinal Cord Injury Canada and with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, or FALA, told us at committee:

What people are telling us across the country who are participating with FALA is: We want the bill. Give us something to work with. Yes, push for the changes, but at the end of the day, before the election, we want the bill. That gives us structure and the framework so that we can get to work on removing barriers and we want it now. We’ve been waiting far too long and this is our day.

Senators, everyone is eager to see this bill become law. We must continue our essential work in order to take it over the finish line. This community has waited long enough for this recognition and respect.

Another significant and positive change is that Bill C-81 will shift the responsibility on to the system and away from the individuals facing barriers in their daily lives. Diane Bergeron from CNIB said during her testimony:

Having a disability is exhausting, and I do not say that lightly. But when you have to deal with discrimination, rights violations, different pieces of legislation, criticisms, people not thinking that you have value, it makes it worse. The current system is unfair and unacceptable.

Colleagues, we know the history. It is one of institutionalization, sterilization and social isolation. Canada had a system that took children away from their families and power away from our citizens. Persons with disabilities were seen as burdens and treated as if they were broken. Our country simply cannot continue to place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. We can do better, and we must do better. In fact, with this bill we will do better.

In addition to this necessary shift in responsibility, the accessible Canada act, when passed, will set best practices and a framework that the provinces and the private sector can mirror. Most importantly, this bill will start to shift culture, perception and understanding of what inclusion in our society should really look like. I cannot come up with a better analogy that encompasses my hope for what this legislation will achieve than that of Minister Qualtrough. You have to be a sports fan to get this. I couldn’t agree more when she said at committee:

I think we will look back on this as a “TSN Turning Point” on disability rights and the way we talk about disability in this country.

The words of the minister.

Honourable senators, in 2017, approximately 6.2 million people, or about 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability. This percentage is expected to increase in the coming years due to Canada’s aging population, since the prevalence of disability increases with age. This is why the government consulted with over 6,000 individuals from across the country with lived experience over the course of this bill’s development. They have continued to be consulted and included as witnesses and experts at committee so that we can use their knowledge and their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow.

One of those witnesses was Steven Estey from Nova Scotia, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. This organization helped facilitate some of these consultations. Mr. Estey gave us a good summary of what that meant. He said:

. . . to talk to Canadians with disabilities about what they wanted in this legislation. We had a chance to talk to over a thousand people across the country. We had 22 separate consultations in towns and cities across the country. We had telephone consultations. We had Internet consultations. We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what people wanted to see in this legislation. It’s an important thing for us to be involved with. We have really appreciated the opportunity and the support that we have had to be able to do that.

This is what inclusion looks like, honourable senators. Consultation, collaboration, cooperation and real input from real life experience. I know that the finer points of the bill have been outlined to you many times, including by myself, but I do want to talk again about the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The landmark importance of the CASDO board membership aligning with the community’s mantra of “nothing about us without us.” Think about it. Because it’s the board membership who will be responsible, with their own lived experience, in making standards.

I’ve always said this, that you need to be in the room when it comes to communications. It is just as important in policy making; you need to be in the room to make a difference and to influence change. In this case, CASDO will set regulations that will lead to better results for people in this country. I hope it reoccurs in other areas of policy development. Applying a disability lens is crucial in moving forward.

Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada explained in her testimony at committee what that organization represents. Her list included people with or affected by cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down’s syndrome, learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive and intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, head and neck cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

(1910)

Senators, these are common conditions. It made me realize again that we will all face barriers to fully participating in society at some point in our lives. This is legislation that will affect us all in a positive way.

We learned at committee that many wheels are already in motion in anticipation of the bill coming into force. Job postings are already online for the chief accessibility officer and the CEO and board of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, or CASDO. In fact, CASDO is expected to open its doors this summer. We know that the organizations responsible for accessibility have taken advanced steps towards planning regulations. In fact, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, has already released the first draft of its accessibility regulations.

Committee members gave the bill and its adopted amendments a deserved thorough study and consideration despite time constraints. I know that many of these amendments came right from the community, witnesses and organizations; I think we should pass the bill with these changes and let the other place do its job and reflect on our amendments. This is the process of our democracy and of our Parliament. We all need to move swiftly.

I will say it again: An accessible Canada act is a long-overdue recognition for human rights equality for 6.2 million or one in five Canadians. The 2017 disability survey also indicated that of the approximately 1.5 million Canadians with a disability aged 15 to 64 who are unemployed, approximately 654,000 are potential candidates for work in an inclusive, discrimination-free and accommodating labour market.

Yes, senators, there is a business case for inclusion. There is a huge untapped talent pool that could help improve Canada’s shrinking labour market.

As I mentioned, the spirit of collaboration on this bill has been and continues to be exceptional. I’m always an optimist, so over the course of study and consultations it became obvious that the removal of barriers is universal in scope and understanding. Together, our society is ready to take this step, the first of many towards a fair and equal-opportunity society. The momentum is with us.

Colleagues, I am proud of Bill C-81. I am proud of the amendments made at committee. We need to send the amended bill to the other place this week so that we can receive it back in time to do what Canadians have been asking us to do through testimony, letters, emails and phone calls: Give Canada a framework toward being barrier-free and accessible for all.

This is the time, colleagues. This is their time. It’s our opportunity to help make this happen and to be on the right side of history.

I will close tonight with some words from the great Jean Vanier, the master of inclusion. As you know, he passed away last week at the age of 90. At a 1998 Massey Lecture entitled Becoming Human, he said:

As we become more conscious of the uniqueness of others, we become aware of our common humanity. We are all fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or handicaps may be.

Honourable senators, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are on a shared journey. What we have discovered on this journey is a new path of inclusion, a path where, as they say in the disability community:

Nothing About Us Without Us.

I recognize we haven’t satisfied everyone. That’s the way it is when you’re building something we have never had before: a Canada without barriers.

But we have done our job. We have discovered more about each other. We have captured the meaning of empathy. We have amended the bill. We recognize there will always be next steps. This is a step toward a more inclusive society.

Thank you very much.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading stage of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

For one last time, I want to express my full support for the bill and commend the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on its excellent work. I also want to acknowledge the work of the chair of the committee, Senator Petitclerc, as well as that of the deputy chair, Senator Seidman, on a decisive and historic bill for Canada.

I won’t get into the details of the thorough review undertaken by the committee, since Senators Petitclerc and Seidman already did so quite eloquently. However, I’d like to draw your attention to the remarkable work that the committee has done since March 21, 2019.

The committee studied the bill in depth over the course of four meetings, with the intention of widening its scope. After hearing testimony from 20 interest groups four organizations, the committee did indeed make changes that are favourable to the primary goal of the bill.

Although I’m not a member of that committee, it is clear that those long, well-informed deliberations led to the adoption of 11 amendments. Through those deliberations, the vast and unique needs of many groups of disabled persons were identified by the committee, which led to specific amendments that improve Bill C-81 without jeopardizing its long-awaited passing.

To sum up, the changes to the bill remain faithful to its principles while doing more to recognize, eliminate and prevent barriers in all areas of federal jurisdiction. This new version of the bill also takes into account the fact that seniors living with disabilities also experience multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination.

Another amendment recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada and an integral part of their accessibility. After all, the recognition of sign languages constitutes an essential part of their culture and a valuable tool that enables them to participate in society.

[English]

Honourable senators, these are some examples of the positive changes that were made to the bill in consultation with experts and in collaboration with the extensive work that was previously accomplished in the other place.

I feel this bill should also act as a signal and reminder to the government regarding the recent news of 34 developmentally disabled federal workers who hold segregated and redundant jobs in Ottawa. Their contract is set to end in March 2020. I hope that, once enacted, this law will eventually represent further actions for every Canadian with a disability in order to help them become full, equal members of society.

After all, a barrier-free Canada requires us to understand the norms, societal attitudes and stigma that prevents people with intellectual, cognitive and physical disabilities from fully participating in society.

I truly believe this bill, once enacted, will be a tool for many organizations that are ready and have been patiently preparing for the implementation in order to respond to these emergent challenges and obstacles.

Honourable senators, this historic law is a testament of the great work that was accomplished in the hallmarks of this great chamber in defence of the rights of minorities.

It marks a new beginning. We will transform and address accessibility by becoming proactive instead of reactive for Canadians who do not want to be treated as a burden but as full and equal members of society as we continue to grow and learn how to become more inclusive. Thank you.

(1920)

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues, as well as to the many witnesses we had at the Social Affairs Committee. I speak today to share with you my perspective, my story, based on a lifetime of learning and action in this very important area.

When I arrived in Senate 15 months ago, there was much to learn; there is still much to learn. For instance, when I arrived here, I had incorrectly assumed that accessibility had already been addressed as a national issue with a fulsome national strategy. Why? Because my own formal leadership on accessibility began in Ontario, 14 years ago. I thought silly me that the same regulations were being mandated nationally, given how much time had elapsed since this successful law in Ontario was implemented and began its implementation in 2005.

Honourable senators, 2019 is far too late in the game to be discussing and mandating accessibility for all at the federal level, and it’s why the bill before us is so important.

In my previous life, as an educator, every day I was faced with an issue by a student, their family, a teacher or a community member who challenged fair, equitable and inclusive access. One case and sometimes it just takes one in particular crystallized for me what would be become a lifetime commitment to universal accessibility.

Imagine now a single mother with six children, all under the age of 10. Three of them carry the positive gene for Duchenne’s disease, a severe type of muscular dystrophy that over time reduces muscular function. It eventually results in the young person being immobilized, weakened and in need of a wheelchair.

The family survives on a low income, and, frankly, the school and the community are their lifeline. As principal of the school, on a one-floor facility, my staff and I gave the family everything we had, from meals to fundraisers, to transportation, to tutoring, and finally to the purchase of a well-used wheelchair for her oldest son, Ricky.

This school goes up to Grade 6, and now it becomes time for Ricky to graduate from junior school and move on to middle school. We meet with a team of educators and medical support people to determine the best plan for Ricky. As a former secondary school administrator, new to elementary administration, I learn that due to Ricky’s physical needs he will not be able to attend the middle school just down the road. There are just too many accessibility issues. Eventually, I learn that he will have to take a 50-minute bus ride to the nearest school that will provide some sort of wheelchair access.

How do I tell his mother, with so much on her plate already, that her son will now spend over 100 minutes a day with strangers, with different untrained bus drivers, travelling on several highways, with no significant network of support, and that in two years, if Ricky is able to keep on attending school, his ride to high school will be even more challenging and disconnected with yet another group of young people, all at the same time his condition worsens and that in two years she will have to go through this all over again with her next child?

As it turned out, it was a hard lesson I needed to learn. This was in 2005, the same year that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law. As you know, the act was aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. It applied then to government, non-profit and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees.

My own school board needed an established leader to commit to this AODA work for at least three years. Somewhat fortuitously, I was invited to take on this role. It was going to be tough work, very political, but an opportunity to bring many internal and external stakeholders together to do the right thing. Most of the table I worked with was represented by those representing diverse accessibility needs in our community. My job would be to ensure that all aspects of the act were being addressed, that all staff and volunteers were trained, that we had an accessibility policy and procedures, and that we had a multi-year accessibility plan with annual public updates, timelines and monitoring in place. I continued this leadership for 10 years. The work was ongoing and a challenge politically, financially and ensuring equity while the voices of all were heard.

Senator Moncion highlighted her work related to the AODA at second reading. I will not repeat her message. However, I will indicate how the “visible” and “invisible” needs of those with a disability are far-reaching and diverse. We started with the built environment and spaces in 130 buildings and new builds. I learned more about architecture, facility design, ramps, lifts, nine styles of elevators, more than I dreamed possible. One basic washroom to upgrade for one child was $35,000; one elevator was half a million dollars. How do you prioritize? Every student matters.

These are the more visible physical needs we are familiar with. It’s the invisible needs that are often overlooked; that is, making sure every individual just as we do in the Senate feels they are part of their community.

As a result of deep consultation, we were determined that every decision had to result in our students being able to attend a school within their family of schools, which is a geographically smaller region. This would not be the closest to their home, perhaps, but still in their community full stop. We had to find the way and we did. Every decision was and continues to be backward mapped with this in mind; that is, to find a way to keep our students and families in their community.

Honourable senators, imagine your son or daughter being told they could go on a bus for a class trip with their classmates on a bus all by themselves not with their friends, not with their peers.

One of my proudest moments was meeting with 200 bus drivers, getting some buses retrofitted, modified and ensuring more of our students could travel and experience being with their classmates. The visible need was physically getting the student to their destination by ensuring the best barrier-free environment. The invisible need was ensuring the student would not be stigmatized on a separate bus and they could contribute and participate in this class trip to the same extent as their peers something they deserve.

This is why this legislation is so important. It will aim to make federally regulated entities so much more accessible. However, it will also unlock the potential of a huge group of Canadians who have been held back in one way or another. It will allow them to participate and contribute to their community in ways that, quite frankly, they should have been able to do long ago. With this legislation, Canada could become a world leader in accessibly. This leadership is sorely needed.

In my role as an international coach and sports leader travelling internationally, I saw first-hand and continue to see first-hand the great disparity in the respect and understanding of what it means to try to embrace and provide support for those with a disability. I observed countries that “hid” those with disabilities, countries whose representatives said to my face, “We have no citizens with disabilities.” I watched first-hand a political leader of a G7 country, while on Canadian soil, say, “There is no place for athletes with a disability in a major sporting event.”

Thankfully, this culture is changing. I’m excited to say, after 12 years of advocacy, my sport will have its debut at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. To get to this point, again, we had to educate the countries that did not support their para-athletes and para-children, and did not demonstrate their beliefs in accessibility or inclusion. This has taken over a decade.

This past weekend, at Carleton University in Ottawa, I was able to speak with families and para-athletes from many countries about what sport means to them, what it means to be barrier-free and the work that must still continue around the world. The passage of Bill C-81 for Canada will set the kind of example needed to keep this momentum going.

Senators, I want to shift my thinking before I wrap up. I want to thank the steering committee of the Social Affairs Committee Senator Munson, Senator Seidman and our chair, Senator Petitclerc, for guiding us through such a comprehensive and in-depth process. You have heard that said earlier this evening. It is so very true. It was a collective effort by all groups and caucuses represented at committee, and that showed in fulsome but respectful discussions that played out at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which led to some good amendments in the legislation.

To the large but important number of Canadians who will be directly affected by this legislation, I can say to you with confidence that every member of the Social Affairs Committee has listened to your concerns. I want to thank the many individuals who gave us such compelling evidence at committee, as well as the hundreds who took the time to write and meet with us. Colleagues, many of these stakeholders have been advocating for years. They are very tired, exhausted but hopeful for the immediate passage of this bill.

(1930)

While no piece of legislation is perfect, I am confident that the bill before us gives us a solid foundation and permission to rebuild our culture in the years to come. A senator last week reminded me that there is progress and there is perfection. This bill is no different. Bill C-81, the time for all is now. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today also to speak very briefly at third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Bill C-81 enacts the accessible Canada act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons living with disability, in our society. This bill will require federally regulated entities across the country to ensure accessibility to workplaces, public spaces, employment, programs, services and information.

Bill C-81, as others have stated, is an important step in the right direction to address the barriers that many Canadians face. The message that we have heard from advocates has been the same: Bill C-81 is a good bill and deserves to be enacted into law but no one can be certain of the full effect that this bill will eventually have. This will require further knowledge and learning from a practical perspective and a commitment to work in consultation with stakeholders across Canada.

I want to associate myself with some of the very important comments that have been made in this chamber and especially recognize our colleague Senator Munson, who has dedicated so much of his life to really be quite a voice and a champion for Canadians with disabilities and, of course, on issues like autism. He has been a cosponsor on a number of events, and we have done some meaningful work together. I know that one of the motions that we cosponsored that recognized June as Deafblind Awareness Month recognizes this important subgroup of Canadians who are living with some incredible challenges.

This motion was adopted unanimously in 2015, and it was sort of thanks to our retired former colleague Senator Vim Kochhar who many of us know to be a real champion and a strong voice for Canadians living with physical disabilities as well as other disabilities. Through his outstanding effort and inspiration, we have worked together to achieve certain outcomes through the Senate. Senator Kochhar also cofounded the Canadian Helen Keller Centre and Rotary Cheshire Home, which is said to be one of the only facilities in the world where those who live with deaf-blindness can live independently.

Some of the intervenors who have come to the Hill have spoken about their work to help Canadians living with deaf-blindness communicate. Their work is truly astonishing. It’s a real calling for them to serve in this capacity. They work in a unique space where they allow those who cannot communicate otherwise to communicate with the outside world.

I also know that the work of our former colleague Senator Asha Seth also led to a motion to designate May as National Vision Health Month. That, too, was unanimously adopted in the Senate.

I stand together with many of you who have spoken on this measure and also recognize the great work of our Social Affairs Committee, the chair, the deputy chair and committee members to ensure that important amendments were adopted that will help towards ensuring a barrier-free Canada as is envisioned in this bill.

I had the opportunity to meet with the Canadian Association of the Deaf and President Frank Folino, who was also a witness during committee hearings on this bill, as well as Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. They expressed their firm support of passage of Bill C-81 as a very important step, but they were also hopeful that there will be continued vigilance and effort towards proper implementation and, of course, that same intention beyond implementation. In some ways we have achieved this important milestone, but our work will begin to ensure that implementation and the work beyond implementation will be successful.

I recognize these men and others who have been the real heroes and champions who inspired this important legislation and once again thank our colleagues Senator Munson, Senator Ngo and members of the Social Affairs Committee for your leadership helping this chamber arrive at this significant moment in our legislative history.

Your Honour and honourable senators, I am definitely ready for the question.

Hon. Tony Dean: Thank you Senator Martin and others who have spoken. Thank you, Senator Munson, for your very fine sponsorship of this legislation.

I have some brief introductory remarks and then I want to speak specifically about the inclusion of communication in this bill as a category of challenge in the spectrum of disabilities.

I rise to add my voice to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. We all know now that the stated policy objective of this important and historic piece of legislation is to enhance the full and equal participation of all individuals, with a special emphasis for those living with disabilities. The bill is designed to achieve a barrier-free Canada through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Many groups, including various disability advocacy groups, support Bill C-81 and are urging us to pass this bill before our summer break. Senate leaders met on April 4 to sign an agreement to ensure several pieces of legislation are voted on prior to the break and the next federal election. This bill is one of them.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, the Leader of the independent Senate Liberals, the Government Representative in the Senate and the Senate Conservative Leader on this important modernizing step. You will know, I think, that I and others here believe that we could benefit greatly from more organized and effective business planning of this sort. Moreover, that’s what Canadians expect of us, and they expect and deserve timely votes on all bills, but particularly on bills that are inclusive of all members of our society and that aim to protect some of our most vulnerable people, bills like Bill C-81.

An act to ensure a barrier-free Canada is a direct response to a 2016 federal budget announcement that made a commitment to “eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities.”

Among other things, the bill aims to guide future interpretations of the accessible Canada act by setting out important principles and including a provision that states that all persons, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, must be treated with dignity, enjoy equality of opportunity, be able to fully and equally participate in society without barriers and have autonomy.

It also establishes the application of the accessible Canada act bringing greater clarification to which bodies and entities are bound by accessibility legislation and allows the Governor-in-Council to designate a minister to be responsible for this act.

Another important piece of this legislation is the proposed establishment of the Canadian accessible standards development office, CASDO, which Senator Munson has spoken about eloquently.

I emphasize that the CASDO would be overseen by a board of directors whose majority identify as persons with disabilities. The board would be responsible for setting the organization’s strategic direction and managing the activities and affairs in accordance with its mandate.

The inclusion of people with disabilities on the board would ensure fair representation for the many Canadians who don’t currently have a voice in accessibility standards.

Honourable senators, while no single area of accessibility is more important than any other, I would like to now focus some remarks on the issue of communication.

I am delighted that communication is recognized in key definitions in this bill, including in the definitions of barrier and disability. This legislation says that “barrier” means anything including physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or practice that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation.

(1940)

It also defines “disability” as a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation, whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature that an interaction with a barrier hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

This recognition of communication is critically important, as communication includes the half million Canadians who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by significant hearing loss and who do not require or use sign language. They may have lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, learning or cognitive disabilities. Other people may have acquired disabilities that affect communication, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, ALS, multiple sclerosis and much more.

Having a communication disability can affect one or more areas of a person’s ability to speak, to understand what others are saying, read or write. People with theses disabilities may communicate using unclear speech, writing, typing, pictures, symbols, speech-generating devices, sign language interpreting, captioning and communication assistive devices.

Recognizing the broad scope of communication is also consistent with the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, of which Canada is a signatory. This is obviously important for many reasons, but I’d like to highlight a tangible example for honourable senators to consider.

Similar to the need for sign language services for people who are deaf or translation services for people who don’t speak English or French, victims, witnesses and accused persons with speech and language disabilities may require appropriate communication supports in police, legal and justice services. Despite the fact that people with speech and language disabilities are at high risk for all types of abuses and crimes and remember, for violators, the best victims are often the ones who are perceived not to be able to tell. Communication support services in police, legal and justice services are not routinely provided as an accessibility accommodation.

Communications intermediaries are qualified speech-language pathologists who have extra training from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, CDAC, to work in justice settings. CDAC maintains a database of trained intermediaries with limited funding from a small private foundation. These services are provided to people who require assistance, understanding questions posed to them or supporting them communicating what they want to say to police, legal and justice professionals.

In a case in Canada I recently learned about, an elderly woman indicated to her son, a police officer, that she had been sexually assaulted by a personal support worker in a retirement or long-term care facility. The woman had a stroke two years before the incident, which left her with aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage to the language centres of the brain. She had difficulty understanding spoken language and expressing her thoughts in words, as well as difficulties in reading and writing. She communicated what happened using gestures, some speech and pointing to pictures.

The Crown attorney recognized that she would require assistance to communicate in court and engaged a communication intermediary who conducted an assessment. The intermediary concluded that the woman could effectively communicate in court if provided with appropriate communication intermediary support to ensure that she rephrase questions posed to her in ways she could understand and to facilitate her responses using pictures. The judge denied the woman access to the communication supports that she required to testify.

This case illustrates the lack of understanding about accessibility accommodations required by a victim, witnesses or an accused person who has speech and language disability.

Having strong accessibility legislation in place makes it mandatory for all justice services to provide people with the communication accommodations and supports they need, including communication boards, speech-generating devices, sign language interpretation, captioning and communications assistance devices, and is an important move in ensuring that the policy objectives of this bill are realized. Access to appropriate supports for people living with disabilities that affect communications would go beyond our justice system and would also include access to health services, education and more.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you one other brief story, the story of a friend of mine of 30 years who in the past several months came to know all too well the challenges associated with difficulty in communications. Kim Clarke Champniss, as some of you will recall from his work in the heyday of MuchMusic as a veejay, TV producer and a challenging interviewer of the world’s top rock and roll artists, lost his voice permanently in the past months due to radical throat surgery that was used to address throat cancer.

I’ve watched Kim over the last weeks and months heroically take on this challenge, including the challenge of access to supports and technologies that would assist in his ability to continue engaging in the world with his upbeat energy and curiosity about the human condition. Kim will get through this. He would say, “I’m all right, Tone. I’m all right.” But Kim would also wish for better services for those who were alongside him and those who will undoubtedly follow him with communications challenges.

I would urge the government to ensure someone with a disability that affects their speech, language and communication be considered as a member of the board of the proposed Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, CASDO, which was mentioned earlier. Their contributions would greatly benefit the 500,000 people living with speech and language difficulties and ensure that no one is left behind.

I would also like to recognize that standards and regulations under Bill C-81 will need to be updated every five years, which allows for changes in innovation. They will also require public review before they are adopted.

I close by saying, senators, that Bill C-81 needs to pass now. We have an obligation as parliamentarians and senators to protect the needs of all Canadians, especially those who are among the most vulnerable in our society. I strongly believe that acknowledging this community is an essential part of meeting the objectives of this bill, which will ultimately aim to remove and prevent barriers for all people in this country.

I end by thanking Barbara Collier, who has been a tireless advocate for a communications amendment passed in the House of Commons. With these final words, I would ask my honourable colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Thank you, all.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.)



Source link

The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs’ Chair and Vice-Chair Make Strong Speeches in the Senate to Support the Committee’s Amendments to Improve Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


These Speeches Show Why the Federal Government Should Agree to Pass All Those Amendments

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

May 10, 2019

Summary

On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, the full Senate voted to formally accept the report of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Below we set out the two strong speeches made in the Senate at that time, by the Standing Committee’s chair and vice chair. Together these speeches show why the House of Commons should vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee adopted. These speeches make a compelling case for those amendments.

On May 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough. We asked the Federal Government to agree to pass all the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments. The Minister has not yet responded. To our knowledge, she has not yet made that commitment. If the Federal Government does not pass all those amendments in the House of Commons, that will both weaken Bill C-81 and risk Bill C-81 not being finally passed by Parliament before it rises for the fall election.

The Senate is moving the bill to Third Reading debates. We understand that those debates will occur next week, with a final vote on or before Thursday, May 16, 2019. The Senate’s acceptance of the Standing Committee’s report is a formality, needed to move the bill to Third Reading.

We are eager for you to email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/ To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

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

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

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Hansard Senate of Canada May 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/285db_2019-05-08-e

Thirty-fourth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology CommitteeDebate
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate on May 7, 2019.

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc moved the adoption of the report.
She said:

Honourable senators, I rise today in support of the thirty-fourth report of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee. The report deals with Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

[English]
Bill C-81 proposes to enact the accessible Canada act, with the objective of enhancing the full and equal participation of all persons living with disabilities in society through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers within areas under federal jurisdiction. It would also make related amendments to a number of other acts.

The proposed legislation adds to the rights and protections currently available to persons with disabilities, including those set out under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-81 was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on March 21, 2019.

[Translation]
Pursuant to the leaders agreement, the committee was supposed to report back by yesterday, May 7, 2019, and it did. I sincerely thank my committee colleagues who, despite the tight deadlines created by that agreement, were able to study the bill very efficiently. The committee wouldnt have been able to complete its report on time if it werent for our highly efficient clerk, Daniel Charbonneau, and Library of Parliament analysts Laura Munn-Rivard and Mayra Perez-Leclerc. I sincerely thank them.

A few groups wanted to take part in our study. We thank them for their interest and, above all, for their understanding since they were unable to appear in person.

[English]
In its study of the bill, the committee endeavoured to follow the principle, nothing about us without us, consulting with advocacy groups, accessibility experts and other relevant witnesses from the disability community across Canada. On behalf of the committee, thank you to the members of the disability community who offered their knowledge, expertise, ideas and insights on this important piece of legislation.

Over 4 meetings, the committee heard from 20 witnesses and received more than 70 emails from the public and more than a dozen briefs from experts and organizations. Based on the testimony we received, the committee made 11 amendments and 2 observations to Bill C-81 with the goal of strengthening the legislation.

With regard to a timeline, January 1, 2040 has been added to the legislation as a deadline by which Canada must become accessible to persons with disabilities. To address concerns that a deadline acts as a disincentive to quick implementation, Bill C-81 is also amended to state that nothing in the act authorizes any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as possible.

As well, the preamble section of the bill is amended to state that the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility must be done without delay.

The deadline of January 1, 2040 was suggested by multiple expert witnesses, including the Honourable David Onley, as a reasonable time frame. Witnesses said that identifying a date was necessary to measure progress, strengthen accountability and propel the implementation of Bill C-81.

[Translation]

Clause 6 of the bill, which sets out the principles of the proposed legislation, is amended by the committee to reflect the fact that people with a disability face many intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination. This issue was raised several times in committee and in the briefs we received. The purpose of this amendment is to recognize the unique challenges faced by people living with disabilities. For example, handicapped seniors regularly face ageism and may also live in poverty. This enhancement of Bill C-81s principles is important because the legislation provides that the organizations concerned take these principles into consideration when developing their accessibility plans.

[English]

Sign languages in Canada receive express recognition in the amended legislation in two ways.

First, clause 5.1, the clarification provision regarding the identification, removal and prevention of barriers under the area of communication other than information and communication technologies, is amended to include the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages.

Second, another amendment in the same clause recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada.

Many witnesses stated that for people in the Deaf community, sign language is their primary language and a critical part of their culture, enabling them to participate in society.

As well, witnesses pointed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that:

Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.

[Translation]

The bill is also amended by adding clause 121.1 to indicate that nothing in any provision of the new accessible Canada act or its potential accompanying regulations limits an otherwise regulated entitys duty to accommodate.

Several witnesses stated that it was important that Bill C-81 not lessen the federal governments existing human rights obligations. Experts from the community of people living with disabilities noted that experience with provincial accessibility legislation suggests that regulated entities could fail to provide accommodations because they mistakenly believe that compliance with accessibility regulations fulfils or eliminates their duty to accommodate.

[English]

(1500)
The legislation is amended to modify section 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, with the goal of removing the Canadian Transportation Agencys ability to dismiss a complaint about inaccessibility in the federal transportation system if the transportation provider has complied with regulations made by the agency.

Some witnesses expressed concern that the regulations made by the Canadian Transportation Agency may not meet the legal duty to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship and may not address individual requirements of people with disabilities.

[Translation]

Finally, two committee amendments, to clauses 94(4) and 143, bring Bill C-81 in line with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. With the adoption of the accessible Canada act, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be able to file complaints with the accessibility commissioner and receive compensation, just like other public servants.

Your committee also made two observations to the federal government, which are appended to the report. The committee encouraged the government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. Furthermore, the committee strongly encouraged the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all Canadians can expect the same level of access to all government services.

Honourable colleagues, the Senates legal counsel discovered a technical error in the French version of amendment 5(b) of the report that the committee tabled on May 7, 2019. The report states, remplacer les lignes 22 et 23. However, it should state, remplacer les lignes 22 à 26. The word et should be replaced by à, and the number 23 should be replaced by 26 in the French version. This is a human error that must be fixed so that we can immediately start building a barrier-free Canada for the 6.2 million Canadians living with a disability.

Motion in Amendment Adopted

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Therefore, honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, in amendment, I move:
That the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be not now adopted, but that it be amended in amendment 5b), in the French version, by replacing the instruction line with the following: b) remplacer les lignes 22 à 26 par ce qui suit :.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, since Senator Petitclerc moved the adoption of the report, she cannot amend it without leave. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc agreed to.) [English]

(Later that day in the Senate)

Thirty-fourth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee Adopted On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Verner, P.C., for the adoption of the thirty-fourth report, as amended, of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate on May 7, 2019.

Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technologys thirty-fourth report on Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Our committee studied this piece of legislation extensively and heard testimony from 20 advocacy groups and umbrella organizations. These included the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, a network comprised of 85 organizations; the Canadian Association of the Deaf; Barrier Free Canada, advocates for accessibility legislation; AGE-Well, Canadas technology and aging network; March of Dimes Canada, an organization that offers a wide range of programs and services to persons with disabilities; the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national human rights organization of people with disabilities; Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec; and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, all who bring representation of Canadas disability communities.

Although virtually all of the testimony we heard called on us to pass this bill with a degree of urgency, without exception witnesses expressed concerns about certain omissions they asked us to address. While the reflected desire for this legislation was strong, the desire to improve it was even stronger.

After much deliberation and discussion, our committee adopted 11 amendments. Today, I rise to speak to two of these amendments in particular that were raised with consistency throughout our committee hearings.

First, the amendment that addresses the issue of timelines. What we heard from many advocacy groups is that timelines are an essential accountability measure and are necessary if we are to achieve the purpose of this legislation. For example, Ms. Donna Jodhan, the President of Barrier-Free Canada, said during her testimony on May 1:

Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers and timelines with which accessibility standards are developed and enacted by law.

As another example, Ms. Zinnia Batliwalla, the National Manager, Government Relations and Advocacy for March of Dimes Canada, said during her testimony on April 11:
To enable organizations like ours to measure progress and urge change, timelines allow us to better work with our government partners to ensure we are actively moving toward an accessible and inclusive Canada.

Steven Estey, the Government and Community Relations Officer for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said during his testimony on April 10:

Bill C-81 is silent on those timelines. That concerns us, not because we feel there is a lack of good intention, not because we feel that officials dont want to move forward, but because five or ten years down the road, we can begin to have meetings. If there is no backstop or wall against which we can say the time has come, people can say, Were working very hard. Were doing good things. There is no way to say that were going to get there by a certain time. We are concerned about that.

The former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable David Onley, who has been long involved in developing Ontarios accessibility legislation, made an interesting point. He said that if we make only one amendment to this legislation, it must be around timelines. During his testimony on May 1, the Honourable Mr. Onley stated:

I was part of the discussions at the very beginning in 2005 and the first chair of the ministers advisory committee on the implementation of the act. I, along with most of the members of the first advisory committee, felt that moral suasion and goodwill would be sufficient to achieve the objectives . . . .

Having listened, as I mentioned, to hundreds of people from across the province and taken submissions via email and in person, my views changed. I now believe quite firmly that the only way were going to achieve true and full accessibility is for the various standards and objectives to have a definable date in place and a government that is willing to enforce the implementation of these measures.

(1510)
This is the type of consistent testimony that led the committee to support the date of January 1, 2040, for Canada to become barrier-free. This will give the federal government and the obliged federally regulated entities 21 years to take the necessary steps to reach their accessibility requirements, a time frame that is neither too far nor too near. It was said to be one that is realistic and will be seen in our lifetimes.

However, we also made an amendment to ensure that accessibility measures would not be delayed or postponed but enacted as soon as possible. In fact, we added a new clause to the bill, clause 5.2, which states:

Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal or implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.

The other amendment I would like to address is the recognition of sign languages as the language of the deaf community. Many organizations that represent Canadas deaf community spoke about the importance for Bill C-81 to recognize sign languages as a way to ensure that deaf persons have equal access to information, communication, employment, government services, transportation and other federally regulated sectors.

As an example, Bill Adair, the Executive Director of the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, said during his testimony on April 10:

. . . we want Bill C-81 to recognize ASL and LSQ as the languages of people who are deaf in Canada. We are not asking for official language status. We are asking that sign languages be included as an integral part of Bill C-81.

This is why. If it were not for the use of signing here today, any person in this room who is deaf would not be privy to my remarks and to the discussions that will follow. This is true of all public hearings. Indeed, the very name implies that these meetings are for those who can hear.

More importantly, if catastrophe were to suddenly strike us, a person who is deaf would not have access to potentially life-saving information. This was the case recently in Pearson Airport when a fire broke out.

Please ensure that ASL and LSQ are written right into Bill C-81 so that there is an expectation for federally regulated entities to provide resources and newsworthy information in sign languages.

Frank Folino, President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf, said during his testimony on May 1:

We commend the Government of Canada and the minister for introducing Bill C-81, which is an important and positive step toward becoming an accessible Canada. However, an integral part of Bill C-81 will achieve its purposes of a barrier-free Canada with legal recognition of ASL and LSQ as the languages of deaf people because this does make a tremendous difference for deaf Canadians, through accessibility, information, communications and services.

Our committee learned about the deaf culture, one which has its own defining characteristics and includes sign languages, cultural norms, historical traditions and heritage. For all of us, this new understanding was very significant and led us to amend the bill to recognize the important role that sign languages play in the lives of Canadas deaf community.

Honourable colleagues, I am extremely proud of the collaboration of our committee members. We have weighed and considered very carefully the passionate testimony we heard from the disability communities. Although the needs of the disability communities are broad and unique, we believe we were able to focus on a few clear amendments that will add value to Bill C-81 without endangering its passage. Through our work, we are convinced that we have both reaffirmed our committee to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and made a meaningful piece of legislation even better in response to overwhelmingly consistent requests from the disability communities to the benefit of all Canadians.

Honourable colleagues, I hope that you will support the report of our Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee on Bill C-81. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
It was moved by the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Verner that this report, as amended, be adopted now. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion? Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and report, as amended, adopted.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Munson, bill, as amended, placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)



Source link

The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs’ Chair and Vice-Chair Make Strong Speeches in the Senate to Support the Committee’s Amendments to Improve Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act -These Speeches Show Why the Federal Government Should Agree to Pass All Those Amendments


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

The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs’ Chair and Vice-Chair Make Strong Speeches in the Senate to Support the Committee’s Amendments to Improve Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act –These Speeches Show Why the Federal Government Should Agree to Pass All Those Amendments

May 10, 2019

            Summary

On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, the full Senate voted to formally accept the report of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Below we set out the two strong speeches made in the Senate at that time, by the Standing Committee’s chair and vice chair. Together these speeches show why the House of Commons should vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee adopted. These speeches make a compelling case for those amendments.

On May 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough. We asked the Federal Government to agree to pass all the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments. The Minister has not yet responded. To our knowledge, she has not yet made that commitment. If the Federal Government does not pass all those amendments in the House of Commons, that will both weaken Bill C-81 and risk Bill C-81 not being finally passed by Parliament before it rises for the fall election.

The Senate is moving the bill to Third Reading debates. We understand that those debates will occur next week, with a final vote on or before Thursday, May 16, 2019. The Senate’s acceptance of the Standing Committee’s report is a formality, needed to move the bill to Third Reading.

We are eager for you to email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

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

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

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

            MORE DETAILS

Hansard Senate of Canada May 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/285db_2019-05-08-e

Thirty-fourth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee—Debate

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate on May 7, 2019.

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc moved the adoption of the report.

She said:

Honourable senators, I rise today in support of the thirty-fourth report of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee. The report deals with Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

[English]

Bill C-81 proposes to enact the accessible Canada act, with the objective of enhancing the full and equal participation of all persons living with disabilities in society through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers within areas under federal jurisdiction. It would also make related amendments to a number of other acts.

The proposed legislation adds to the rights and protections currently available to persons with disabilities, including those set out under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-81 was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on March 21, 2019.

[Translation]

Pursuant to the leaders’ agreement, the committee was supposed to report back by yesterday, May 7, 2019, and it did. I sincerely thank my committee colleagues who, despite the tight deadlines created by that agreement, were able to study the bill very efficiently. The committee wouldn’t have been able to complete its report on time if it weren’t for our highly efficient clerk, Daniel Charbonneau, and Library of Parliament analysts Laura Munn-Rivard and Mayra Perez-Leclerc. I sincerely thank them.

A few groups wanted to take part in our study. We thank them for their interest and, above all, for their understanding since they were unable to appear in person.

[English]

In its study of the bill, the committee endeavoured to follow the principle, “nothing about us without us,” consulting with advocacy groups, accessibility experts and other relevant witnesses from the disability community across Canada. On behalf of the committee, thank you to the members of the disability community who offered their knowledge, expertise, ideas and insights on this important piece of legislation.

Over 4 meetings, the committee heard from 20 witnesses and received more than 70 emails from the public and more than a dozen briefs from experts and organizations. Based on the testimony we received, the committee made 11 amendments and 2 observations to Bill C-81 with the goal of strengthening the legislation.

With regard to a timeline, January 1, 2040 has been added to the legislation as a deadline by which Canada must become accessible to persons with disabilities. To address concerns that a deadline acts as a disincentive to quick implementation, Bill C-81 is also amended to state that nothing in the act authorizes any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as possible.

As well, the preamble section of the bill is amended to state that the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility must be done without delay.

The deadline of January 1, 2040 was suggested by multiple expert witnesses, including the Honourable David Onley, as a reasonable time frame. Witnesses said that identifying a date was necessary to measure progress, strengthen accountability and propel the implementation of Bill C-81.

[Translation]

Clause 6 of the bill, which sets out the principles of the proposed legislation, is amended by the committee to reflect the fact that people with a disability face many intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination. This issue was raised several times in committee and in the briefs we received. The purpose of this amendment is to recognize the unique challenges faced by people living with disabilities. For example, handicapped seniors regularly face ageism and may also live in poverty. This enhancement of Bill C-81’s principles is important because the legislation provides that the organizations concerned take these principles into consideration when developing their accessibility plans.

[English]

Sign languages in Canada receive express recognition in the amended legislation in two ways.

First, clause 5.1, the clarification provision regarding the identification, removal and prevention of barriers under the area of communication other than information and communication technologies, is amended to include the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages.

Second, another amendment in the same clause recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada.

Many witnesses stated that for people in the Deaf community, sign language is their primary language and a critical part of their culture, enabling them to participate in society.

As well, witnesses pointed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that:

Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.

[Translation]

The bill is also amended by adding clause 121.1 to indicate that nothing in any provision of the new accessible Canada act or its potential accompanying regulations limits an otherwise regulated entity’s duty to accommodate.

Several witnesses stated that it was important that Bill C-81 not lessen the federal government’s existing human rights obligations. Experts from the community of people living with disabilities noted that experience with provincial accessibility legislation suggests that regulated entities could fail to provide accommodations because they mistakenly believe that compliance with accessibility regulations fulfils or eliminates their duty to accommodate.

[English]

(1500)

The legislation is amended to modify section 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, with the goal of removing the Canadian Transportation Agency’s ability to dismiss a complaint about inaccessibility in the federal transportation system if the transportation provider has complied with regulations made by the agency.

Some witnesses expressed concern that the regulations made by the Canadian Transportation Agency may not meet the legal duty to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship and may not address individual requirements of people with disabilities.

[Translation]

Finally, two committee amendments, to clauses 94(4) and 143, bring Bill C-81 in line with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. With the adoption of the accessible Canada act, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be able to file complaints with the accessibility commissioner and receive compensation, just like other public servants.

Your committee also made two observations to the federal government, which are appended to the report. The committee encouraged the government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. Furthermore, the committee strongly encouraged the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all Canadians can expect the same level of access to all government services.

Honourable colleagues, the Senate’s legal counsel discovered a technical error in the French version of amendment 5(b) of the report that the committee tabled on May 7, 2019. The report states, “remplacer les lignes 22 et 23.” However, it should state, “remplacer les lignes 22 à 26.” The word “et” should be replaced by “à,” and the number “23” should be replaced by “26” in the French version. This is a human error that must be fixed so that we can immediately start building a barrier-free Canada for the 6.2 million Canadians living with a disability.

Motion in Amendment Adopted

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Therefore, honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, in amendment, I move:

That the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be not now adopted, but that it be amended in amendment 5b), in the French version, by replacing the instruction line with the following:

“b) remplacer les lignes 22 à 26 par ce qui suit :”.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, since Senator Petitclerc moved the adoption of the report, she cannot amend it without leave.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc agreed to.)

[English]

(Later that day in the Senate)

Thirty-fourth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Verner, P.C., for the adoption of the thirty-fourth report, as amended, of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate on May 7, 2019.

Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s thirty-fourth report on Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Our committee studied this piece of legislation extensively and heard testimony from 20 advocacy groups and umbrella organizations. These included the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, a network comprised of 85 organizations; the Canadian Association of the Deaf; Barrier Free Canada, advocates for accessibility legislation; AGE-Well, Canada’s technology and aging network; March of Dimes Canada, an organization that offers a wide range of programs and services to persons with disabilities; the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national human rights organization of people with disabilities; Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec; and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, all who bring representation of Canada’s disability communities.

Although virtually all of the testimony we heard called on us to pass this bill with a degree of urgency, without exception witnesses expressed concerns about certain omissions they asked us to address. While the reflected desire for this legislation was strong, the desire to improve it was even stronger.

After much deliberation and discussion, our committee adopted 11 amendments. Today, I rise to speak to two of these amendments in particular that were raised with consistency throughout our committee hearings.

First, the amendment that addresses the issue of timelines. What we heard from many advocacy groups is that timelines are an essential accountability measure and are necessary if we are to achieve the purpose of this legislation. For example, Ms. Donna Jodhan, the President of Barrier-Free Canada, said during her testimony on May 1:

Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers and timelines with which accessibility standards are developed and enacted by law.

As another example, Ms. Zinnia Batliwalla, the National Manager, Government Relations and Advocacy for March of Dimes Canada, said during her testimony on April 11:

To enable organizations like ours to measure progress and urge change, timelines allow us to better work with our government partners to ensure we are actively moving toward an accessible and inclusive Canada.

Steven Estey, the Government and Community Relations Officer for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said during his testimony on April 10:

Bill C-81 is silent on those timelines. That concerns us, not because we feel there is a lack of good intention, not because we feel that officials don’t want to move forward, but because five or ten years down the road, we can begin to have meetings. If there is no backstop or wall against which we can say the time has come, people can say, “We’re working very hard. We’re doing good things.” There is no way to say that we’re going to get there by a certain time. We are concerned about that.

The former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable David Onley, who has been long involved in developing Ontario’s accessibility legislation, made an interesting point. He said that if we make only one amendment to this legislation, it must be around timelines. During his testimony on May 1, the Honourable Mr. Onley stated:

I was part of the discussions at the very beginning in 2005 and the first chair of the minister’s advisory committee on the implementation of the act. I, along with most of the members of the first advisory committee, felt that moral suasion and goodwill would be sufficient to achieve the objectives . . . .

Having listened, as I mentioned, to hundreds of people from across the province and taken submissions via email and in person, my views changed. I now believe quite firmly that the only way we’re going to achieve true and full accessibility is for the various standards and objectives to have a definable date in place and a government that is willing to enforce the implementation of these measures.

(1510)

This is the type of consistent testimony that led the committee to support the date of January 1, 2040, for Canada to become barrier-free. This will give the federal government and the obliged federally regulated entities 21 years to take the necessary steps to reach their accessibility requirements, a time frame that is neither too far nor too near. It was said to be one that is realistic and will be seen in our lifetimes.

However, we also made an amendment to ensure that accessibility measures would not be delayed or postponed but enacted as soon as possible. In fact, we added a new clause to the bill, clause 5.2, which states:

Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal or implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.

The other amendment I would like to address is the recognition of sign languages as the language of the deaf community. Many organizations that represent Canada’s deaf community spoke about the importance for Bill C-81 to recognize sign languages as a way to ensure that deaf persons have equal access to information, communication, employment, government services, transportation and other federally regulated sectors.

As an example, Bill Adair, the Executive Director of the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, said during his testimony on April 10:

. . . we want Bill C-81 to recognize ASL and LSQ as the languages of people who are deaf in Canada. We are not asking for official language status. We are asking that sign languages be included as an integral part of Bill C-81.

This is why. If it were not for the use of signing here today, any person in this room who is deaf would not be privy to my remarks and to the discussions that will follow. This is true of all public hearings. Indeed, the very name implies that these meetings are for those who can hear.

More importantly, if catastrophe were to suddenly strike us, a person who is deaf would not have access to potentially life-saving information. This was the case recently in Pearson Airport when a fire broke out.

Please ensure that ASL and LSQ are written right into Bill C-81 so that there is an expectation for federally regulated entities to provide resources and newsworthy information in sign languages.

Frank Folino, President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf, said during his testimony on May 1:

We commend the Government of Canada and the minister for introducing Bill C-81, which is an important and positive step toward becoming an accessible Canada. However, an integral part of Bill C-81 will achieve its purposes of a barrier-free Canada with legal recognition of ASL and LSQ as the languages of deaf people because this does make a tremendous difference for deaf Canadians, through accessibility, information, communications and services.

Our committee learned about the deaf culture, one which has its own defining characteristics and includes sign languages, cultural norms, historical traditions and heritage. For all of us, this new understanding was very significant and led us to amend the bill to recognize the important role that sign languages play in the lives of Canada’s deaf community.

Honourable colleagues, I am extremely proud of the collaboration of our committee members. We have weighed and considered very carefully the passionate testimony we heard from the disability communities. Although the needs of the disability communities are broad and unique, we believe we were able to focus on a few clear amendments that will add value to Bill C-81 without endangering its passage. Through our work, we are convinced that we have both reaffirmed our committee to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and made a meaningful piece of legislation even better in response to overwhelmingly consistent requests from the disability communities to the benefit of all Canadians.

Honourable colleagues, I hope that you will support the report of our Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee on Bill C-81. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

It was moved by the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Verner that this report, as amended, be adopted now.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report, as amended, adopted.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

(On motion of Senator Munson, bill, as amended, placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)



Source link

More Specifics on the Amendments to Bill C-81 (the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee Passed and that We Want the House of Commons to Ratify


Still No Commitment by the Federal Government to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments

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

May 9, 2019

SUMMARY

Here’s the latest news regarding Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It has reached the final stage in its debates in Canada’s Senate, Third Reading debates. That is expected to wind up by May 16, which happens to Be Global Accessibility Awareness Day. the Federal Government has still not committed to pass all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee made to the bill at the disability community’s request to improve it.

1. We now have the exact wording of the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019. Below we set out the formal report of that Standing Committee to the Senate. That report lists the specific amendments.

These amendments improve the bill. However, they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, including the AODA Alliance.

The amendments include:
* Setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible;
* Ensuring that this 2040 timeline 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.

2. The ARCH Disability Law Centre has posted online a helpful explanation of these amendments. We set it out below.

3. When a Senate Standing Committee reports back to the whole Senate on a bill it has studied, it can include in its report “observations” about the bill. These set out the Committee’s advice to the Federal Government. They are not binding on the Government, but are meant to put real pressure on the Government to address them.

The Senate Standing Committee’s report, set out below, included two observations about Bill C-81. The first observation, under the heading “Federal Contracts,” commendably raises a concern that the AODA Alliance has raised for some time. It states:

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

The Committee’s second observation “strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.”

4. The Federal Government has still not publicly said whether it will pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough to ask her Government to commit to do so. She has not yet responded to us.

Of special importance are the Senate’s amendments that set 2040 as the end timeline for Canada to become fully accessible to people with disabilities. The minister has in the past spoken in opposition to amendments that would make this change to the bill.

Of interest, the minister yesterday was asked about this in the House of Commons. On May 8, 2019, she appeared before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources (the HUMA Committee). Conservative MP (and Committee vice-chair) John Barlow asked Minister Qualtrough whether she would support passage of all the amendments that the Senate made to Bill C-81. We express our thanks to MP Barlow for raising this with the minister.

In this request, MP Barlow specifically mentioned the amendments setting 2040 as the time line for reaching accessibility.

In her response, the Minister said:

“I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes.”

It is not news that the Minister is open to “many” of the Senate’s amendments. Of the 11 amendments passed, a majority of them were proposed in the Senate by the Government’s own sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson, or had been the subject of prior Government signals of support for them.

The only real open question is over setting the 2040 timeline. Four of the amendments speak to this.

The Minister did not say that she is open to all of the Senate’s amendments. That is why we need as many of you as possible to now email or tweet the Federal Government to press for the Government to support all the Senate’s amendments to the bill.

To get action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/ To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the Report to the Senate of Canada on Bill C-81 by the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/report/74724/42-1

May 7, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its THIRTY-FOURTH REPORT
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, has, in obedience to the order of reference of March 21, 2019, examined the said bill and now reports the same with the following amendments: 1.Preamble, page 1: Replace line 15 with the following:
bility without delay complements the rights of persons with disabil-. 2.Clause 5, page 3: Replace line 13 with the following:
ers, on or before January 1, 2040, particularly by the identification and removal of bar-. 3.Clause 5.1, page 4: Replace lines 1 to 5 with the following: 5.1 (1) The area of communication referred to in paragraph 5(c.1)
(a) includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages; and
(b) does not include broadcasting as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Broadcasting Act or telecommunications as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Telecommunications Act.
(2) American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages are recognized as the primary languages for communication by deaf persons in Canada.. 4.New clause 5.2, page 4: Add the following after line 5:
5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.. 5.Clause 6, page 4:
(a)Replace lines 12 to 14 with the following:
wish to have regardless of their disabilities;; and
(b)replace lines 22 to 26 with the following:
must take into account the disabilities of persons, the different ways that persons interact with their environments and the multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination faced by persons;
(f) persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures; and (g) the development and revision of accessibility stan-.
6.Clause 11, page 6: Replace line 6 with the following:
Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040..
7.Clause 18, page 7: Replace line 14 with the following:
tribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers, on or before January 1, 2040,. 8.Clause 94, page 54:
(a) Replace lines 9 to 17 with the following:
(4) An individual is not entitled to file a complaint in re-; and (b)replace line 22 with the following:
(5) The Accessibility Commissioner must cause a written.
9.New clause 121.1, page 67: Add the following after line 21 :
121.1 For greater certainty, nothing in any provision of this Act or the regulations limits a regulated entitys duty to accommodate under any other Act of Parliament.. 10.Clause 143, page 77: Replace line 10 with the following:
subsection 94(5), 96(1), 100(2), 101(2) or 103(3), the Ac-. 11.Clause 172, pages 88 to 91:
(a)On page 88, replace line 37 with the following:
172 Section 172 of the Act is replaced by;
(b)on page 89,
(i)replace lines 3 to 12 with the following:
(2) On determining that there is an undue barrier to the, and (ii)replace lines 34 and 35 with the following:
(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.; (c) on page 90, replace line 25 with the following:
172.2 (1) For the purpose of paragraphs 172(2)(d) and;
(d)on page 91, replace line 5 with the following:
graphs 172(2)(b) and (c) and 172.1(2)(b) and (c) may in-; and (e)renumber the remaining clauses and amend all references to them accordingly.
Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report. Respectfully submitted,
JUDITH G. SEIDMAN
Deputy Chair
Observations
to the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81) Federal Contracts:
Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. Training:
Your committee is concerned that while the goal of this legislation is to prevent, identify and remove disability-related barriers, this legislation does not sufficiently emphasize how important the education and training of front-line personnel is in accomplishing that end. Your committee strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.

ARCH Disability Law Centre Analysis of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/update-se

May 7, 2019

Update: Senate Committee Adopts Amendments which Strengthen Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act Introduction
Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, continues its journey through the legislative process. If it becomes law, this Act may lead to new requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, transportation, services, information and communications, and other areas.
On May 2, 2019 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made a number of amendments to Bill C-81. Many of these amendments were adopted in response to the written and oral submissions that the Senate received from disability groups and members of disability communities across Canada. ARCH supported disability communities in their advocacy, and made our own oral and written submissions to the Senate. A common theme among these submissions was the need for the Senate to make changes to strengthen Bill C-81 and ensure that it achieves its purpose of a barrier-free Canada. What Amendments Did the Senate Committee Adopt?
Including Timelines: SOCI adopted amendments which add a timeline of 2040 for realizing a barrier-free Canada. Amendments also clarify that this timeline does not authorize any delay in removing or preventing barriers to accessibility, and that action to advance accessibility should be taken as soon as reasonably possible. Including timelines is an important accountability mechanism, which many disability organizations advocated for, including the AODA Alliance, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and ARCH.
Taking Intersectionality Into Account: SOCI adopted an amendment which incorporates intersectionality into the principles of Bill C-81. Laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account disability and the multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities. This change means that organizations will have to take into account intersectionality when developing their accessibility plans. Throughout the legislative process, ARCH and other disability organizations have consistently advocated for incorporating barriers related to intersectionality into Bill C-81. Persons with disabilities and disability communities have been firm that laws, policies and programs about disability and accessibility must address the lived experiences of whole persons, not just their disabilities.
Protecting Existing Human Rights of People with Disabilities: SOCI adopted an amendment which clarifies that nothing in Bill C-81 or its regulations limits the legal obligations that organizations already have to accommodate persons with disabilities under the Canadian Human Rights Act and any other federal laws. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups highlighted to SOCI the importance of this amendment.
Protecting Existing Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities at the Canadian Transportation Agency: Under Bill C-81, we expect that most complaints by passengers with disabilities about barriers in air travel, train travel, and every other kind of transportation that the Federal Government regulates, will go to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The Bill gives the CTA power to make regulations to set enforceable standards on what barriers these transportation providers must remove and prevent.
However, subsection 172(2), a provision that is currently in the Canada Transportation Act, effectively means that once the CTA make these regulations and transportation providers, like airlines, comply with these regulations, they do not need to do anything more. This is problematic because the regulations that the CTA sets may not meet the duty to accommodate protections that people with disabilities have under human rights law. Under subsection 172(2), if a passenger with a disability complained to the CTA that an airline or other transportation provider should have accommodated their disability, their case would fail if the airline complied with the CTA regulations. A more detailed analysis of this issue is in ARCHs Final Report: Legal Analysis of Bill C-81, available by going to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/arch-reports-and-recommendations/ ARCH and the AODA Alliance highlighted to SOCI the importance of repealing the problematic section 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

SOCI did not repeal subsection 172(2), but adopted an amendment which changes it. The amendment allows the CTA to find that there is a barrier to accessibility, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. For passengers with disabilities, this means they could file a complaint with the CTA that they faced an undue barrier in the federal transportation system, and insist that the transportation provider do more than what the CTA regulation requires. The passenger with a disability could win their case, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. However, the CTA could only order the transportation provider to take corrective measures. The CTA could not order the transportation provider to pay the person damages or money compensation. This is different than for other complaints to the CTA about inaccessibility of the federal transportation system. Generally for these other complaints, the CTA can order the transportation provider to take corrective measures and to pay damages to the person who complained.
Recognizing Sign Languages: Communication is one of the areas in Bill C-81 for which new accessibility standards may be created. SOCI adopted an amendment that explains that communication includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages. Another amendment recognizes that sign languages are the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.
Legal recognition of sign languages is an issue that Deaf communities in Canada have long advocated for. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups supported the Canadian Association of the Deaf in calling for Bill C-81 to recognize sign languages as an important acknowledgement that sign languages are not just disability accommodations, but are important for cultural and linguistic reasons.
These are some of the amendments that the Senate Committee adopted. While the amendments made address many of the issues raised by ARCH and other disability groups, they do not deal with all of our concerns and recommendations. A number of weaknesses remain in Bill C-81. One such weakness is the use of permissive language may rather than directive language shall or must. This language gives government and other bodies power to make and enforce accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers. For example, the Bill allows the Government of Canada to make new accessibility regulations but does not require them to do so. Therefore, there is no assurance that such regulations, a cornerstone for advancing accessibility, will ever be made.
In addition to the amendments, the Senate Committee reported 2 observations to Bill C-81. The first addresses the concern expressed by many in the disability community that federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that perpetuate barriers. The observation encourages the federal government to ensure that any federal public money should not be used to create or perpetuate disability related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. The second observation emphasizes the importance of training in achieving a barrier-free Canada. It encourages the government to create standardized, effective training to ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services. What Happens Next?
In the coming weeks, the amended Bill C-81 will come before the Senate for Third Reading. At that time, Senators will vote on whether to pass the Bill with the amendments adopted by SOCI. If the Bill passes Third Reading, it will return back to the House of Commons for approval. If it gets approval from the House, the Bill will then enter the final stages of the process to become a law.
ARCH is pleased that in response to submissions by disability communities across Canada, the Senate made a number of important amendments to strengthen Bill C-81.
Now, the Senate and the House of Commons must both act quickly to allow enough time for the Bill to finish it journey through the legislative process, before the Fall federal election is called.
If you support Bill C-81 becoming law with the changes that the Senate Committee has made, write to or tweet Minister Carla Qualtrough and Members of Parliament. Let them know they should pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments. For practical tips and information on how to do this, go to the AODA Alliances website: www.bit.ly/2vKXmV2

More Information
Recorded video of the Senate Committees study of Bill C-81, with sign language interpretation, and the written submissions made by disability groups to the Senate can be found by going to: https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/soci/studiesandbills/42-1 and clicking on Bill C-81.
To read ARCHs analysis of Bill C-81, and submissions ARCH made to the House of Commons and Senate, go to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/ ARCH Disability Law Centre 55 University Avenue, 15th Floor, Toronto, ON, M5J 2H7
Phone: 416-482-8255 1-866-482-2724
TTY: 416-482-1254 1-866-482-2728
www.archdisabilitylaw.ca
@ARCHDisabilityLawCentre
@ARCHDisability

Excerpt from the Hansard of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources on May 8, 2019 Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My first question is to Minister Qualtrough. You were talking about the importance of barrier-free and we certainly heard from almost every single stakeholder as part of the discussion at committee on Bill C-81 on the concerns raised that the bill does not go far enough, that it does not have the metrics to ensure success or teeth to ensure that federally legislated businesses adhere to it.
Now there were dozens of amendments that we brought forward that every opposition party agreed with. None of them were supported by the government. However, many of those amendments have come forward and been accepted at the Senate. I’m just curious and I would like to know if you’re going to be supporting those amendments that have come forward from the Senate specifically adding a timeline of 2040 for Canada to be barrier-free? Are you going to support those amendments?
Hon. Carla Qualtrough: Thank you for the question. I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes. Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Minister. I appreciate that.



Source link

More Specifics on the Amendments to Bill C-81 (the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee Passed and that We Want the House of Commons to Ratify – Still No Commitment by the Federal Government to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments


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

More Specifics on the Amendments to Bill C-81 (the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee Passed and that We Want the House of Commons to Ratify – Still No Commitment by the Federal Government to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments

May 9, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here’s the latest news regarding Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It has reached the final stage in its debates in Canada’s Senate, Third Reading debates. That is expected to wind up by May 16, which happens to Be Global Accessibility Awareness Day. the Federal Government has still not committed to pass all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee made to the bill at the disability community’s request to improve it.

  1. We now have the exact wording of the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019. Below we set out the formal report of that Standing Committee to the Senate. That report lists the specific amendments.

These amendments improve the bill. However, they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, including the AODA Alliance.

The amendments include:

* Setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible;

* Ensuring that this 2040 timeline 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.

  1. The ARCH Disability Law Centre has posted online a helpful explanation of these amendments. We set it out below.
  1. When a Senate Standing Committee reports back to the whole Senate on a bill it has studied, it can include in its report “observations” about the bill. These set out the Committee’s advice to the Federal Government. They are not binding on the Government, but are meant to put real pressure on the Government to address them.

The Senate Standing Committee’s report, set out below, included two observations about Bill C-81. The first observation, under the heading “Federal Contracts,” commendably raises a concern that the AODA Alliance has raised for some time. It states:

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

The Committee’s second observation “…strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.”

  1. The Federal Government has still not publicly said whether it will pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough to ask her Government to commit to do so. She has not yet responded to us.

Of special importance are the Senate’s amendments that set 2040 as the end timeline for Canada to become fully accessible to people with disabilities. The minister has in the past spoken in opposition to amendments that would make this change to the bill.

Of interest, the minister yesterday was asked about this in the House of Commons. On May 8, 2019, she appeared before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources (the HUMA Committee). Conservative MP (and Committee vice-chair) John Barlow asked Minister Qualtrough whether she would support passage of all the amendments that the Senate made to Bill C-81. We express our thanks to MP  Barlow for raising this with the minister.

In this request, MP Barlow specifically mentioned the amendments setting 2040 as the time line for reaching accessibility.

In her response, the Minister said:

“I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes.”

It is not news that the Minister is open to “many” of the Senate’s amendments. Of the 11 amendments passed, a majority of them were proposed in the Senate by the Government’s own sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson, or had been the subject of prior Government signals of support for them.

The only real open question is over setting the 2040 timeline. Four of the amendments speak to this.

The Minister did not say that she is open to all of the Senate’s amendments. That is why we need as many of you as possible to now email or tweet the Federal Government to press for the Government to support all the Senate’s amendments to the bill.

To get action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the Report to the Senate of Canada on Bill C-81 by the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/report/74724/42-1

May 7, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its

THIRTY-FOURTH REPORT

Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, has, in obedience to the order of reference of March 21, 2019, examined the said bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:

  1. Preamble, page 1: Replace line 15 with the following:

“bility without delay complements the rights of persons with disabil-”.

  1. Clause 5, page 3: Replace line 13 with the following:

“ers, on or before January 1, 2040, particularly by the identification and removal of bar-”.

  1. Clause 5.1, page 4: Replace lines 1 to 5 with the following:

5.1 (1) The area of communication referred to in paragraph 5(c.1)

(a) includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages; and

(b) does not include broadcasting as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Broadcasting Act or telecommunications as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Telecommunications Act.

(2) American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages are recognized as the primary languages for communication by deaf persons in Canada.”.

  1. New clause 5.2, page 4: Add the following after line 5:

5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.”.

  1. Clause 6, page 4:

(a) Replace lines 12 to 14 with the following:

“wish to have regardless of their disabilities;”; and

(b) replace lines 22 to 26 with the following:

“must take into account the disabilities of persons, the different ways that persons interact with their environments and the multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination faced by persons;

(f) persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures; and

(g) the development and revision of accessibility stan-”.

  1. Clause 11, page 6: Replace line 6 with the following:

“Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040.”.

  1. Clause 18, page 7: Replace line 14 with the following:

“tribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers, on or before January 1, 2040,”.

  1. Clause 94, page 54:

(a)  Replace lines 9 to 17 with the following:

(4) An individual is not entitled to file a complaint in re-”; and

(b) replace line 22 with the following:

(5) The Accessibility Commissioner must cause a written”.

  1. New clause 121.1, page 67: Add the following after line 21 :

121.1 For greater certainty, nothing in any provision of this Act or the regulations limits a regulated entity’s duty to accommodate under any other Act of Parliament.”.

  1. Clause 143, page 77: Replace line 10 with the following:

“subsection 94(5), 96(1), 100(2), 101(2) or 103(3), the Ac-”.

  1. Clause 172, pages 88 to 91:

(a) On page 88, replace line 37 with the following:

172 Section 172 of the Act is replaced by”;

(b) on page 89,

(i) replace lines 3 to 12 with the following:

(2) On determining that there is an undue barrier to the”, and

(ii) replace lines 34 and 35 with the following:

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

(c)  on page 90, replace line 25 with the following:

172.2 (1) For the purpose of paragraphs 172(2)(d) and”;

(d) on page 91, replace line 5 with the following:

“graphs 172(2)(b) and (c) and 172.1(2)(b) and (c) may in-”; and

(e) renumber the remaining clauses and amend all references to them accordingly.

Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

JUDITH G. SEIDMAN

Deputy Chair

Observations

to the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81)

Federal Contracts:

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

Training:

Your committee is concerned that while the goal of this legislation is to prevent, identify and remove disability-related barriers, this legislation does not sufficiently emphasize how important the education and training of front-line personnel is in accomplishing that end. Your committee strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.

ARCH Disability Law Centre Analysis of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/update-se

May 7, 2019

Update: Senate Committee Adopts Amendments which Strengthen Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

Introduction

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, continues its journey through the legislative process. If it becomes law, this Act may lead to new requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, transportation, services, information and communications, and other areas.

On May 2, 2019 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made a number of amendments to Bill C-81. Many of these amendments were adopted in response to the written and oral submissions that the Senate received from disability groups and members of disability communities across Canada. ARCH supported disability communities in their advocacy, and made our own oral and written submissions to the Senate. A common theme among these submissions was the need for the Senate to make changes to strengthen Bill C-81 and ensure that it achieves its purpose of a barrier-free Canada.

What Amendments Did the Senate Committee Adopt?

Including Timelines: SOCI adopted amendments which add a timeline of 2040 for realizing a barrier-free Canada. Amendments also clarify that this timeline does not authorize any delay in removing or preventing barriers to accessibility, and that action to advance accessibility should be taken as soon as reasonably possible. Including timelines is an important accountability mechanism, which many disability organizations advocated for, including the AODA Alliance, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and ARCH.

Taking Intersectionality Into Account: SOCI adopted an amendment which incorporates intersectionality into the principles of Bill C-81. Laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account disability and the multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities. This change means that organizations will have to take into account intersectionality when developing their accessibility plans. Throughout the legislative process, ARCH and other disability organizations have consistently advocated for incorporating barriers related to intersectionality into Bill C-81. Persons with disabilities and disability communities have been firm that laws, policies and programs about disability and accessibility must address the lived experiences of whole persons, not just their disabilities.

Protecting Existing Human Rights of People with Disabilities: SOCI adopted an amendment which clarifies that nothing in Bill C-81 or its regulations limits the legal obligations that organizations already have to accommodate persons with disabilities under the Canadian Human Rights Act and any other federal laws. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups highlighted to SOCI the importance of this amendment.

Protecting Existing Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities at the Canadian Transportation Agency:  Under Bill C-81, we expect that most complaints by passengers with disabilities about barriers in air travel, train travel, and every other kind of transportation that the Federal Government regulates, will go to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The Bill gives the CTA power to make regulations to set enforceable standards on what barriers these transportation providers must remove and prevent.

However, subsection 172(2), a provision that is currently in the Canada Transportation Act, effectively means that once the CTA make these regulations and transportation providers, like airlines, comply with these regulations, they do not need to do anything more. This is problematic because the regulations that the CTA sets may not meet the duty to accommodate protections that people with disabilities have under human rights law. Under subsection 172(2), if a passenger with a disability complained to the CTA that an airline or other transportation provider should have accommodated their disability, their case would fail if the airline complied with the CTA regulations. A more detailed analysis of this issue is in ARCH’s Final Report: Legal Analysis of Bill C-81, available by going to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/arch-reports-and-recommendations/  ARCH and the AODA Alliance highlighted to SOCI the importance of repealing the problematic section 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

SOCI did not repeal subsection 172(2), but adopted an amendment which changes it. The amendment allows the CTA to find that there is a barrier to accessibility, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. For passengers with disabilities, this means they could file a complaint with the CTA that they faced an undue barrier in the federal transportation system, and insist that the transportation provider do more than what the CTA regulation requires. The passenger with a disability could win their case, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. However, the CTA could only order the transportation provider to take “corrective measures”. The CTA could not order the transportation provider to pay the person damages or money compensation. This is different than for other complaints to the CTA about inaccessibility of the federal transportation system. Generally for these other complaints, the CTA can order the transportation provider to take corrective measures and to pay damages to the person who complained.

Recognizing Sign Languages: Communication is one of the areas in Bill C-81 for which new accessibility standards may be created. SOCI adopted an amendment that explains that communication includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages. Another amendment recognizes that sign languages are the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

Legal recognition of sign languages is an issue that Deaf communities in Canada have long advocated for. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups supported the Canadian Association of the Deaf in calling for Bill C-81 to recognize sign languages as an important acknowledgement that sign languages are not just disability accommodations, but are important for cultural and linguistic reasons.

These are some of the amendments that the Senate Committee adopted. While the amendments made address many of the issues raised by ARCH and other disability groups, they do not deal with all of our concerns and recommendations. A number of weaknesses remain in Bill C-81. One such weakness is the use of permissive language “may” rather than directive language “shall” or “must”. This language gives government and other bodies power to make and enforce accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers. For example, the Bill allows the Government of Canada to make new accessibility regulations but does not require them to do so. Therefore, there is no assurance that such regulations, a cornerstone for advancing accessibility, will ever be made.

In addition to the amendments, the Senate Committee reported 2 observations to Bill C-81. The first addresses the concern expressed by many in the disability community that federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that perpetuate barriers. The observation encourages the federal government to ensure that any federal public money should not be used to create or perpetuate disability related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. The second observation emphasizes the importance of training in achieving a barrier-free Canada. It encourages the government to create standardized, effective training to ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.

What Happens Next?

In the coming weeks, the amended Bill C-81 will come before the Senate for Third Reading. At that time, Senators will vote on whether to pass the Bill with the amendments adopted by SOCI. If the Bill passes Third Reading, it will return back to the House of Commons for approval. If it gets approval from the House, the Bill will then enter the final stages of the process to become a law.

ARCH is pleased that in response to submissions by disability communities across Canada, the Senate made a number of important amendments to strengthen Bill C-81.

Now, the Senate and the House of Commons must both act quickly to allow enough time for the Bill to finish it journey through the legislative process, before the Fall federal election is called.

If you support Bill C-81 becoming law with the changes that the Senate Committee has made, write to or tweet Minister Carla Qualtrough and Members of Parliament. Let them know they should pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments. For practical tips and information on how to do this, go to the AODA Alliance’s website: www.bit.ly/2vKXmV2

More Information

Recorded video of the Senate Committee’s study of Bill C-81, with sign language interpretation, and the written submissions made by disability groups to the Senate can be found by going to: https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/soci/studiesandbills/42-1  and clicking on Bill C-81.

To read ARCH’s analysis of Bill C-81, and submissions ARCH made to the House of Commons and Senate, go to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/

ARCH Disability Law Centre

55 University Avenue, 15th Floor, Toronto, ON, M5J 2H7

Phone: 416-482-8255  1-866-482-2724

TTY: 416-482-1254  1-866-482-2728

www.archdisabilitylaw.ca

 @ARCHDisabilityLawCentre

@ARCHDisability

Excerpt from the Hansard of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources on May 8, 2019

Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My first question is to Minister Qualtrough. You were talking about the importance of barrier-free and we certainly heard from almost every single stakeholder as part of the discussion at committee on Bill C-81 on the concerns raised that the bill does not go far enough, that it does not have the metrics to ensure success or teeth to ensure that federally legislated businesses adhere to it.

Now there were dozens of amendments that we brought forward that every opposition party agreed with. None of them were supported by the government. However, many of those amendments have come forward and been accepted at the Senate. I’m just curious and I would like to know if you’re going to be supporting those amendments that have come forward from the Senate specifically adding a timeline of 2040 for Canada to be barrier-free? Are you going to support those amendments?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough: Thank you for the question. I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes.

Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Minister. I appreciate that.



Source link

Help Our New Blitz to Get the House of Commons to Swiftly Ratify All the Amendments to Bill C-81(the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate Standing Committee Has Passed


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

May 6, 2019

Summary

The AODA Alliance has just launched a new blitz to get Canada’s House of Commons to swiftly ratify all the amendments to Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019.

Please email, tweet, phone or send a note by carrier-pigeon to your Member of Parliament. Ask them to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee approved. To find out how to contact your MP, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en.

We’ll soon provide you with more details on the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed.

MORE DETAILS
What’s Happening and How You can Help

The Senate is expected to hold its final or “Third Reading” vote on Bill C-81 on or before May 16, 2019. It is widely expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by the Senate Standing Committee. We’re now focusing on what comes next after that.

Once the Senate as a whole passes the amended Bill C-81, the bill comes back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons then gets to vote on the Senate’s amendments. If the House of Commons passes all the Senate’s amendments, then Bill C-81 becomes a law, complete with these amendments. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of the Senate’s amendments, Bill C-81 does not become a law. It is sent once again back to the Senate, for a vote on the bill without any of those Senate amendments.

What does all this mean for you? After the Senate passes Bill C-81 with the Senate Committee’s package of amendments, we want the House of Commons to hold a swift vote on those amendments, and to pass all the Senate’s amendments. This would improve the bill, (though not as much as we had wanted). As noted above, it would also make Bill C-81 become a law.

For that reason, we’ve now unleashed a campaign to get all MPs in the House of Commons to commit to a swift vote on Bill C-81, and to also commit that during that vote, they will vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments.

We’ve done four things to get this blitz started.

1. We’ve already started a campaign on Twitter to tweet to as many MPs as possible. We’re asking them to commit to vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We invite you to retweet these tweets, or send your own. Include the hashtag #AccessibleCanada in your tweets. You may want to use this wording in your tweet, in which you should also include the MPs Twitter handle:

The Senate amended Bill C-81 (proposed #AccessibleCanada Act) to improve it. Please commit to vote in the House of Commons to swiftly pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/senates-standing-committee-passes-amendments-to-strengthen-the-weak-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-now-its-time-for-the-full-senate-and-house-of-commons-to-pass-all-those-amendmen/ #accessibility #CRPD #AODA #canpoli #a11y

For example, if you want to tweet to Minister Qualtrough, you start the tweet with her Twitter handle: @CQualtro.

To find your MP’s Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

2. We’ve given a media interview to the Canadian Press on the importance of the Senate’s amendments. CP’s Michelle McQuigge quoted the AODA Alliance in a great article, which has been run in City News Vancouver, and elsewhere in the media. We set that article out below. Please circulate it to others.

3. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister a short letter, set out below. It asks her to commit to a swift vote in the House of Commons on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and to vote to pass all those amendments. It also explains why the Federal Government should agree to these requests. We invite you to circulate that letter widely, and share it with your MP.

4. On May 3, 2019, we sent the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs a short submission, set out below. It recommends that the Senate Standing Committee attach three observations to the bill in its report to the Senate. A Standing Committees observations about improvements needed in connection with the bill are not the same as actual amendments to the bill. They are suggestions that are not binding on the Federal Government. However they can trigger further Senate oversight of the Governments implementation and enforcement of the bill.

Text of the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 Letter to Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough

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

May 6, 2019

To: The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Place du Portage, Phase III, Room 18A1
11 Laurier Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0S5
Via email: [email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Seeking the House of Commons’ Swift Ratification of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

We write to ask you to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed on May 2, 2019. We ask the Federal Government to commit to pass all these amendments as soon as possible after the Senate passes Bill C-81 on Third Reading, expected to be on or before May 16, 2019. We have every reason to expect that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended, and no reason to doubt this.

There are compelling reasons for you and your Government to pass all these amendments, and to commit now to do so. There are no good reasons for you not to do so.

The Senate only passed a short, limited package of amendments. A good number of them were presented and requested by the Federal Government’s official sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson. He clearly presented them on the Government’s behalf. The other amendments were all presented by Senators at the request of disability organizations and advocates who requested them both at the Senate’s public hearings, and last fall, during public hearings before the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee.

There is substantial disability community support for these amendments, as needed to improve the bill. To that end, it was very helpful that during your April 3, 2019 appearance at the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, you committed that you were open to the Senate making amendments to the bill, and that you wanted the bill to be “the best it possibly can be”. You also committed:

“I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations”.

The Senate’s amendments are all completely in tune with the bill’s overall structure and design, and your goals for the legislation. The Senate’s Standing Committee arrived at these amendments after careful non-partisan study and, in the classical Canadian sense, sober second thought.

This is a very modest amendments package. These amendments are far, far fewer and less than many of us sought at the House of Commons during its public hearings last fall. They are much less than the much narrower requests that we placed before the Senate during its hearings.

Within the short amendments package that the Senate Standing Committee passed, the only small group of three amendments that the Senate passed and that reflected a different approach than yours were those that specified the end date for achieving a barrier-free Canada as 2040. Both in the House of Commons and the Senate, you had expressed a reluctance to include this in the bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee was keenly aware of and alert to your perspective. It took your perspective very seriously. The Senate Standing Committee also carefully weighed the strong message from so many in the disability community, to the effect that that the lack of such time lines in the bill was a significant shortcoming that hampered the bill’s effectiveness.

The Senate Standing Committee was especially alert to your primary concern that if such an end date were included in the bill, this might lead some to delay efforts on accessibility. For our part, we too were alive to your expressed concerns. As you know, for that reason and to address your concern, the Committee passed a specific amendment which we had proposed, that was specifically designed to ensure that setting a time line for accessibility in the bill could not be used to delay progress on accessibility. According to the senate Standing Committee’s new section 5.2:

5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.”.

We are in the unique position of having worked at the front lines of Ontario’s advocacy efforts on accessibility for a quarter a century. From our actual hands-on experience, we know that the twenty-year deadline in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has played an important role in helping us make progress on accessibility in Ontario. It has not had the adverse impact that you had feared.

The widespread view that this time line is needed was eloquently articulated at the Senate Standing Committee’s public hearing on May 1, 2019 by Ontario’s former Lieutenant Governor david Onley (to whom you have turned for advice on this legislation). His input was based on his consultation with Ontarians with disabilities last fall while conducting the third mandatory Independent Review of the AODA. Mr. Onley and three other deputants before the Senate Standing Committee on its last day of hearings were asked to identify their top priority for a reform to Bill C-81, if only one change could be added. Mr. Onley, supported by the three other deputants at the hearings’ final panel, said that this priority would be to add to the bill the 2040 deadline which the Senate Standing Committee was later to adopt. The Senators saw that this was consistent with other feedback from the disability community that they had heard throughout this process.

When you spoke to the Senate Standing Committee on April 3, 2019, you said that a ten year period would not be long enough. The 2040 date which the Senate Standing Committee adopted is 21 years.

We hope and trust that the opposition parties in the House of Commons will support this amendment. During clause-by-clause debates in the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee, the opposition parties supported the inclusion of an end date. Both the Conservatives and NDP proposed a ten year period. We will be urging them to approve the 2040 deadline, and know that if they thought ten years was enough, they should surely accept 2040 as not being too short.

Minister, it is so commendable that you have many times said that at the core of your Government’s approach to this bill has been to honour the disability community’s message: “Nothing about us without us!” Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Chair of the Standing Committee, concluded the committees debates by noting that her Committee’s amendments are the very embodiment of that principle. This is because those amendments are the direct result of the strong feedback that the Standing Committee received from disability organizations and advocates. We therefore ask you and the Federal Government to honour the principle “Nothing about us without us,” by agreeing now to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee passed to Bill C-81.

We have made it clear to all political parties in the House of Commons that we want to ensure that a swift vote is held on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81. We are calling on all the political parties to reach an agreement among themselves to schedule that swift vote. We don’t want the scheduling of that vote to be impeded by any other issues that may be occupying Parliament’s attention.

Minister, for the Federal Government to oppose any of these amendments, and particularly the 2040 time line, would be to weaken this bill. We urge you and the Federal Government not to vote to weaken this bill. The Senate, like the House of Commons, heard about the importance of adding such time lines to this bill. We urge the Federal Government not to vote against such time lines.

As always, we welcome the opportunity to work with you and all parties in Parliament to achieve these important goals.

Sincerely,

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

CC: The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [email protected]

CITY News Vancouver May 3, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/05/02/senate-committee-votes-to-strengthen-federal-accessibility-law/ Senate committee votes to strengthen federal accessibility law

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

A Senate committee proposed changes to Canadas first federal accessibility law Thursday that members of the disability community said addressed some of the most pressing concerns about the legislation, though some worried the bill may still be too weak to be effective.

Nearly a hundred disability organizations and advocacy groups had been calling on the committee to introduce major changes to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act, arguing it lacked teeth.

Following a detailed hearing, the Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology voted to propose the government include a timeline in the bill that would require it to be fully implemented by 2040 rather than leaving the date open-ended.

We are dealing with a bill that is very important for Canada and is going to make our country a better country, said Sen. Donna Dasko. The issue of a timeline has come up many times this is an important thing, this gives accountability to the bill, this gives a goal to the actions being undertaken.

The committee also voted to recognize various forms of sign language as an official language of deaf Canadians and see it included among government services. That amendment also included Indigenous sign languages among those that should be acknowledged.

The committees proposed amendments will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

David Lepofsky, a long-time disability rights advocate, said the full impact of the committees proposed amendments wont be known until theyve been formally incorporated into the act. He noted that the House of Commons could vote to reject any steps the Senate may suggest to strengthen the law.

But he said the committees moves signal hope the existing bill, which he had previously described as inadequate, could be improved.

We do know that the amendments do, to some extent, strengthen this bill, Lepofsky said. Any improvement is welcomed.

Lepofsky said adopting a timeline would mark a significant step forward, adding that doing so would bring the federal government in line with the three Canadian provinces that have put accessibility legislation on their books.

Senators on the committee said during Thursdays meeting that the absence of a timeline was the unifying issue that emerged from hours of testimony from disability rights groups.

It was also one of the core issues activists raised in an open letter to the committee last year that detailed concerns about the power and scope of the proposed law. The October 2018 letter also said the bill should enshrine American and Quebec sign language as the official language of the deaf community.

While the committee tackled those concerns, it did not address others raised in the letter signed by 95 organizations including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March of Dimes Canada,

The letter had 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 dont 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. An amendment brought before the committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, who helped spearhead the letter, focused on what it viewed as positive developments from the committee vote.

These proposed reforms did not get much traction at the time (the bill was passed through the House of Commons), So today, we are very pleased to learn that the Senates Social Affairs Committee has been more responsive to our calls for reform, it said in a statement.

But Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, expressed disappointment at the committees unwillingness to change the bills language from may to must.

Not addressing the issue of federal funding, she added, risks allowing governments and those supported by them to continue treating disability rights and accessibility as a perk rather than a basic human right.

They keep using the word historic,’ Peters said of the government. Historic means you create legislation that will fundamentally shift the direction we continue to be on (The Accessible Canada Act) is not a historic document.

The office of Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough did not respond to request for comment.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

May 3 AODA Alliance Submission Asking the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach Three Key “Observations” to Bill C-81

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Proposed Observations for the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach to Bill C-81

May 3, 2019

We respectfully propose that the following observations be attached to Bill C-81:

1. Because the bill’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards as enforceable regulations but the bill does not require any of those regulations to ever be enacted, and because the bill gives the Federal Government a range of powers that it may use but does for the most part not provide that the Government must use those powers, the Committee recommends that

(a) the Federal Government should report back to the Senate in one year on its action to date, its plans and time lines for enacting accessibility standards regulations and for deploying its other discretionary powers under the bill, and

(b) within five years after the bill comes into effect, at least one regulation should be enacted that sets enforceable accessibility standards in each of the areas in section 5, namely employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, communication, procurement of goods, services and facilities, the design and delivery of programs and services, transportation and any other areas that are designated by regulations under the bill.

2. Because of concerns expressed by the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that:

(a) the Federal Government should report to the Senate in one year on the effectiveness and impact of splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among four federal agencies, for further study by the Senate, and

(b) within six months, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board should establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the bill.

3. Since the Federal Government spends billions of dollars of the public’s money on procurement of goods, services and facilities, on new infrastructure projects, and on business development loans and grants, the Federal Government should establish, implement, monitor and publicly report on policies to effectively ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers and should report to the Senate within one year on its actions in this regard and the results achieved.



Source link

Help Our New Blitz to Get the House of Commons to Swiftly Ratify All the Amendments to Bill C-81(the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate Standing Committee Has Passed


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

Help Our New Blitz to Get the House of Commons to Swiftly Ratify All the Amendments to Bill C-81(the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate Standing Committee Has Passed

May 6, 2019

Summary

The AODA Alliance has just launched a new blitz to get Canada’s House of Commons to swiftly ratify all the amendments to Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019.

Please email, tweet, phone or send a note by carrier-pigeon to your Member of Parliament. Ask them to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee approved. To find out how to contact your MP, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en.

We’ll soon provide you with more details on the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed.

MORE DETAILS

What’s Happening and How You can Help

The Senate is expected to hold its final or “Third Reading” vote on Bill C-81 on or before May 16, 2019. It is widely expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by the Senate Standing Committee. We’re now focusing on what comes next after that.

Once the Senate as a whole passes the amended Bill C-81, the bill comes back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons then gets to vote on the Senate’s amendments. If the House of Commons passes all the Senate’s amendments, then Bill C-81 becomes a law, complete with these amendments. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of the Senate’s amendments, Bill C-81 does not become a law. It is sent once again back to the Senate, for a vote on the bill without any of those Senate amendments.

What does all this mean for you? After the Senate passes Bill C-81 with the Senate Committee’s package of amendments, we want the House of Commons to hold a swift vote on those amendments, and to pass all the Senate’s amendments. This would improve the bill, (though not as much as we had wanted). As noted above, it would also make Bill C-81 become a law.

For that reason, we’ve now unleashed a campaign to get all MPs in the House of Commons to commit to a swift vote on Bill C-81, and to also commit that during that vote, they will vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments.

We’ve done four things to get this blitz started.

  1. We’ve already started a campaign on Twitter to tweet to as many MPs as possible. We’re asking them to commit to vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We invite you to retweet these tweets, or send your own. Include the hashtag #AccessibleCanada in your tweets. You may want to use this wording in your tweet, in which you should also include the MPs Twitter handle:

The Senate amended Bill C-81 (proposed #AccessibleCanada Act) to improve it. Please commit to vote in the House of Commons to swiftly pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/senates-standing-committee-passes-amendments-to-strengthen-the-weak-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-now-its-time-for-the-full-senate-and-house-of-commons-to-pass-all-those-amendmen/ #accessibility #CRPD #AODA #canpoli #a11y

For example, if you want to tweet to Minister Qualtrough, you start the tweet with her Twitter handle: @CQualtro.

To find your MP’s Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

  1. We’ve given a media interview to the Canadian Press on the importance of the Senate’s amendments. CP’s Michelle McQuigge quoted the AODA Alliance in a great article, which has been run in City News Vancouver, and elsewhere in the media. We set that article out below. Please circulate it to others.
  1. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister a short letter, set out below. It asks her to commit to a swift vote in the House of Commons on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and to vote to pass all those amendments. It also explains why the Federal Government should agree to these requests. We invite you to circulate that letter widely, and share it with your MP.
  1. On May 3, 2019, we sent the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs a short submission, set out below. It recommends that the Senate Standing Committee attach three “observations” to the bill in its report to the Senate. A Standing Committee’s “observations about improvements needed in connection with the bill are not the same as actual amendments to the bill. They are suggestions that are not binding on the Federal Government. However they can trigger further Senate oversight of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the bill.

Text of the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 Letter to Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

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

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

May 6, 2019

To: The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

Place du Portage, Phase III, Room 18A1

11 Laurier Street

Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0S5

Via email: [email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Seeking the House of Commons’ Swift Ratification of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

We write to ask you to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed on May 2, 2019. We ask the Federal Government to commit to pass all these amendments as soon as possible after the Senate passes Bill C-81 on Third Reading, expected to be on or before May 16, 2019. We have every reason to expect that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended, and no reason to doubt this.

There are compelling reasons for you and your Government to pass all these amendments, and to commit now to do so. There are no good reasons for you not to do so.

The Senate only passed a short, limited package of amendments. A good number of them were presented and requested by the Federal Government’s official sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson. He clearly presented them on the Government’s behalf. The other amendments were all presented by Senators at the request of disability organizations and advocates who requested them both at the Senate’s public hearings, and last fall, during public hearings before the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee.

There is substantial disability community support for these amendments, as needed to improve the bill. To that end, it was very helpful that during your April 3, 2019 appearance at the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, you committed that you were open to the Senate making amendments to the bill, and that you wanted the bill to be “the best it possibly can be”. You also committed:

“I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations”.

The Senate’s amendments are all completely in tune with the bill’s overall structure and design, and your goals for the legislation. The Senate’s Standing Committee arrived at these amendments after careful non-partisan study and, in the classical Canadian sense, sober second thought.

This is a very modest amendments package. These amendments are far, far fewer and less than many of us sought at the House of Commons during its public hearings last fall. They are much less than the much narrower requests that we placed before the Senate during its hearings.

Within the short amendments package that the Senate Standing Committee passed, the only small group of three amendments that the Senate passed and that reflected a different approach than yours were those that specified the end date for achieving a barrier-free Canada as 2040. Both in the House of Commons and the Senate, you had expressed a reluctance to include this in the bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee was keenly aware of and alert to your perspective. It took your perspective very seriously. The Senate Standing Committee also carefully weighed the strong message from so many in the disability community, to the effect that that the lack of such time lines in the bill was a significant shortcoming that hampered the bill’s effectiveness.

The Senate Standing Committee was especially alert to your primary concern that if such an end date were included in the bill, this might lead some to delay efforts on accessibility. For our part, we too were alive to your expressed concerns. As you know, for that reason and to address your concern, the Committee passed a specific amendment which we had proposed, that was specifically designed to ensure that setting a time line for accessibility in the bill could not be used to delay progress on accessibility. According to the senate Standing Committee’s new section 5.2:

5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.”.

We are in the unique position of having worked at the front lines of Ontario’s advocacy efforts on accessibility for a quarter a century. From our actual hands-on experience, we know that the twenty-year deadline in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has played an important role in helping us make progress on accessibility in Ontario. It has not had the adverse impact that you had feared.

The widespread view that this time line is needed was eloquently articulated at the Senate Standing Committee’s public hearing on May 1, 2019 by Ontario’s former Lieutenant Governor david Onley (to whom you have turned for advice on this legislation). His input was based on his consultation with Ontarians with disabilities last fall while conducting the third mandatory Independent Review of the AODA. Mr. Onley and three other deputants before the Senate Standing Committee on its last day of hearings were asked to identify their top priority for a reform to Bill C-81, if only one change could be added. Mr. Onley, supported by the three other deputants at the hearings’ final panel, said that this priority would be to add to the bill the 2040 deadline which the Senate Standing Committee was later to adopt. The Senators saw that this was consistent with other feedback from the disability community that they had heard throughout this process.

When you spoke to the Senate Standing Committee on April 3, 2019, you said that a ten year period would not be long enough. The 2040 date which the Senate Standing Committee adopted is 21 years.

We hope and trust that the opposition parties in the House of Commons will support this amendment. During clause-by-clause debates in the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee, the opposition parties supported the inclusion of an end date. Both the Conservatives and NDP proposed a ten year period. We will be urging them to approve the 2040 deadline, and know that if they thought ten years was enough, they should surely accept 2040 as not being too short.

Minister, it is so commendable that you have many times said that at the core of your Government’s approach to this bill has been to honour the disability community’s message: “Nothing about us without us!” Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Chair of the Standing Committee, concluded the committee’s debates by noting that her Committee’s amendments are the very embodiment of that principle. This is because those amendments are the direct result of the strong feedback that the Standing Committee received from disability organizations and advocates. We therefore ask you and the Federal Government to honour the principle “Nothing about us without us,” by agreeing now to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee passed to Bill C-81.

We have made it clear to all political parties in the House of Commons that we want to ensure that a swift vote is held on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81. We are calling on all the political parties to reach an agreement among themselves to schedule that swift vote. We don’t want the scheduling of that vote to be impeded by any other issues that may be occupying Parliament’s attention.

Minister, for the Federal Government to oppose any of these amendments, and particularly the 2040 time line, would be to weaken this bill. We urge you and the Federal Government not to vote to weaken this bill. The Senate, like the House of Commons, heard about the importance of adding such time lines to this bill. We urge the Federal Government not to vote against such time lines.

As always, we welcome the opportunity to work with you and all parties in Parliament to achieve these important goals.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [email protected]

CITY News Vancouver May 3, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/05/02/senate-committee-votes-to-strengthen-federal-accessibility-law/

Senate committee votes to strengthen federal accessibility law

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

A Senate committee proposed changes to Canada’s first federal accessibility law Thursday that members of the disability community said addressed some of the most pressing concerns about the legislation, though some worried the bill may still be too weak to be effective.

Nearly a hundred disability organizations and advocacy groups had been calling on the committee to introduce major changes to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act, arguing it lacked teeth.

Following a detailed hearing, the Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology voted to propose the government include a timeline in the bill that would require it to be fully implemented by 2040 rather than leaving the date open-ended.

“We are dealing with a bill that is very important for Canada and is going to make our country a better country,” said Sen. Donna Dasko. “The issue of a timeline has come up many times … this is an important thing, this gives accountability to the bill, this gives a goal to the actions being undertaken.”

The committee also voted to recognize various forms of sign language as an official language of deaf Canadians and see it included among government services. That amendment also included Indigenous sign languages among those that should be acknowledged.

The committee’s proposed amendments will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

David Lepofsky, a long-time disability rights advocate, said the full impact of the committee’s proposed amendments won’t be known until they’ve been formally incorporated into the act. He noted that the House of Commons could vote to reject any steps the Senate may suggest to strengthen the law.

But he said the committee’s moves signal hope the existing bill, which he had previously described as “inadequate,” could be improved.

“We do know that the amendments do, to some extent, strengthen this bill,” Lepofsky said. “Any improvement is welcomed.”

Lepofsky said adopting a timeline would mark a significant step forward, adding that doing so would bring the federal government in line with the three Canadian provinces that have put accessibility legislation on their books.

Senators on the committee said during Thursday’s meeting that the absence of a timeline was the unifying issue that emerged from hours of testimony from disability rights groups.

It was also one of the core issues activists raised in an open letter to the committee last year that detailed concerns about the power and scope of the proposed law. The October 2018 letter also said the bill should enshrine American and Quebec sign language as the official language of the deaf community.

While the committee tackled those concerns, it did not address others raised in the letter signed by 95 organizations including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March of Dimes Canada,

The letter had 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. An amendment brought before the committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, who helped spearhead the letter, focused on what it viewed as positive developments from the committee vote.

“These proposed reforms did not get much traction at the time (the bill was passed through the House of Commons), So today, we are very pleased to learn that the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee has been more responsive to our calls for reform,” it said in a statement.

But Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, expressed disappointment at the committee’s unwillingness to change the bill’s language from “may” to “must.”

Not addressing the issue of federal funding, she added, risks allowing governments and those supported by them to continue treating disability rights and accessibility as a perk rather than a basic human right.

“They keep using the word ‘historic,’” Peters said of the government. “Historic means you create legislation that will fundamentally shift the direction we continue to be on … (The Accessible Canada Act) is not … a historic document.”

The office of Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough did not respond to request for comment.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

May 3 AODA Alliance Submission Asking the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach Three Key “Observations” to Bill C-81

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Proposed Observations for the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach to Bill C-81

May 3, 2019

We respectfully propose that the following observations be attached to Bill C-81:

  1. Because the bill’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards as enforceable regulations but the bill does not require any of those regulations to ever be enacted, and because the bill gives the Federal Government a range of powers that it may use but does for the most part not provide that the Government must use those powers, the Committee recommends that

(a) the Federal Government should report back to the Senate in one year on its action to date, its plans and time lines for enacting accessibility standards regulations and for deploying its other discretionary powers under the bill, and

(b) within five years after the bill comes into effect, at least one regulation should be enacted that sets enforceable accessibility standards in each of the areas in section 5, namely employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, communication, procurement of goods, services and facilities, the design and delivery of programs and services, transportation and any other areas that are designated by regulations under the bill.

  1. Because of concerns expressed by the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that:

(a) the Federal Government should report to the Senate in one year on the effectiveness and impact of splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among four federal agencies, for further study by the Senate, and

(b) within six months, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board should establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the bill.

        1. Since the Federal Government spends billions of dollars of the public’s money on procurement of goods, services and facilities, on new infrastructure projects, and on business development loans and grants, the Federal Government should establish, implement, monitor and publicly report on policies to effectively ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers and should report to the Senate within one year on its actions in this regard and the results achieved.



Source link

Senate’s Standing Committee Passes Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Now It’s Time for the Full Senate and House of Commons to Pass All Those Amendments

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

May 2, 2019

SUMMARY

Today the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed a short list of amendments to Bill C-81, with the aim of strengthening it. The Senate must next vote to pass Bill C-81 on Third Reading, and then send the amended bill back to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons then gets to decide if it will approve these amendments. We call on the Senate to quickly pass the amended bill on Third Reading. We then call on the House of Commons to quickly schedule a vote and approve these amendments. We will comment more fully on the amendments after we get their exact wording and can study them. From what we observed during the web-streamed Committee discussion, the amendments are helpful improvements, but do not cover all the concerns with the bill that we raised with the Senate.

MORE DETAILS

During a 2.5-hour meeting on the morning of May 2, 2019 that was streamed live on the internet and that the AODA Alliance live-tweeted, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed a short list of amendments to the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The bill now goes back to the full Senate for Third Reading debate and vote. We understand the Senate is set to hold its final vote on the bill on or before May 16, 2019.

We don’t yet have the precise wording of the Standing Committee’s amendments to study. We therefore cannot comment fully on them. We have written the Clerk of the Standing Committee to ask for the text of the amendments. We know that the Committee passed only some of the short list of amendments that we requested.

From what we could glean from observing the Committee debates, the amendments have improved the bill to some extent by addressing some of the serious concerns that we and many others have raised. Any improvement is welcomed.

We know that the Senate passed a helpful series of amendments to the bill that sets a 2040 deadline for Canada to become accessible to five million people with disabilities, and that this deadline does not and cannot justify any delay in working on achieving this goal. This is an important and welcome improvement to the bill. Before these amendments, the bill set no end date or time line for achieving accessibility. Many witnesses before the Senate’s Standing Committee this spring, and before the House of Commons Standing Committee last fall, pointed out that a deadline like this is vital. The specific 2040 deadline was proposed by the AODA Alliance. It was strongly endorsed during the hearings last night by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. He invoked his experience conducting the most recent mandatory Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Speaking for the Federal Government, Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough earlier had strongly resisted setting any such deadline in this bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee heard her on this issue, carefully questioned her, explored this issue with many witnesses, and formed its own judgment. The Senate is the place where such issues are supposed to get “sober second thought.” That is exactly what happened here.

We also know that the Standing Committee passed an amendment that, at least to some extent, weakened the harmful and unjustified power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. We cannot fully assess that amendment until we get its exact wording. The Standing Committee amended the harmful s. 172 of the bill. We had wanted s. 172 to be completely repealed.

We were heartened that Senator Donna Dasko, among others, was set to propose an amendment that would have repealed s. 172. However, before she could, the Government’s sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson, brought forward an amendment that would retain but weaken s. 172. Clearly, the Federal Government had crafted the wording that he presented. Once we can study its wording, we can and will say more about it. When he advanced this amendment, he said he was doing so in response to concerns raised by the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

In addition to awaiting the text of all amendments that were passed, we also await the text of the “observations” that the Standing Committee will attach to the bill. A Senate Standing Committee can attach editorial comments or suggestions to a bill outside the text of the bill itself. These can, for example, call on the Federal Government to take certain actions or to report back to the Senate within a specific time line, on a matter that the Committee spells out.

It is important for the Senate to very quickly pass this bill as amended and to send it back to the House of Commons. We will now launch a strong campaign to get all parties in the House of Commons to quickly schedule a vote on these amendments and to pass them all. Our focus is especially on the federal Liberals, who had resisted amendments like these last fall. On the eve of a federal election, they won’t want to find themselves in the unpalatable position of voting against the rights of people with disabilities.

We also will now focus attention on the opposition parties in the House of Commons. It is good that they supported amendments to strengthen this bill last fall (at the request of the AODA Alliance and numerous other disability organizations), even when the Federal Government was not on side. We want those opposition parties to support the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments now. We also want the opposition parties to agree to an early debate and vote on Bill C-81 once it returns to the House. We know that with an election looming, the parties at times get into scheduling squabbles regarding bills. We don’t want Bill C-81 to get caught up in or impeded by that process.

The federal Disabilities Minister often said that this bill was meant to embody the principle: “Nothing about us without us.” Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Chair of the Standing Committee, concluded the committee’s debates by noting that these amendments are the embodiment of that principle, because they are the result of feedback that the Standing Committee received from disability organizations and advocates. We call on the Federal Government to adhere to the principle of “Nothing about us without us,” by agreeing now that it will pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee passed today.
Today’s events show that tenacity by people with disabilities and their advocates pays off. Anything that strengthens accessibility legislation helps us along that journey. For us, this is just one important step along our long journey. We’re ready for what lies ahead.

We are indebted to the Senators and their staff members who invested so much time in their review of this bill. This was our first experience with the Senate. Our Senators have to plow through bills on many complex topics, along short time lines, without the full policy resources that the Government and the political parties have at their disposal. We thank all the Senators who took time to take our phone calls, answer our emails, review our written submissions, listen to our April 11, 2019 evidence, and support amendments as a result.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at: [email protected]

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

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail
You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments, and our most recent (and even shorter) supplemental brief. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.



Source link

Senate’s Standing Committee Passes Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Now It’s Time for the Full Senate and House of Commons to Pass All Those Amendments


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Senate’s Standing Committee Passes Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Now It’s Time for the Full Senate and House of Commons to Pass All Those Amendments

May 2, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed a short list of amendments to Bill C-81, with the aim of strengthening it. The Senate must next vote to pass Bill C-81 on Third Reading, and then send the amended bill back to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons then gets to decide if it will approve these amendments. We call on the Senate to quickly pass the amended bill on Third Reading. We then call on the House of Commons to quickly schedule a vote and approve these amendments. We will comment more fully on the amendments after we get their exact wording and can study them. From what we observed during the web-streamed Committee discussion, the amendments are helpful improvements, but do not cover all the concerns with the bill that we raised with the Senate.

          MORE DETAILS

During a 2.5-hour meeting on the morning of May 2, 2019 that was streamed live on the internet and that the AODA Alliance live-tweeted, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed a short list of amendments to the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The bill now goes back to the full Senate for Third Reading debate and vote. We understand the Senate is set to hold its final vote on the bill on or before May 16, 2019.

We don’t yet have the precise wording of the Standing Committee’s amendments to study. We therefore cannot comment fully on them. We have written the Clerk of the Standing Committee to ask for the text of the amendments. We know that the Committee passed only some of the short list of amendments that we requested.

From what we could glean from observing the Committee debates, the amendments have improved the bill to some extent by addressing some of the serious concerns that we and many others have raised. Any improvement is welcomed.

We know that the Senate passed a helpful series of amendments to the bill that sets a 2040 deadline for Canada to become accessible to five million people with disabilities, and that this deadline does not and cannot justify any delay in working on achieving this goal. This is an important and welcome improvement to the bill. Before these amendments, the bill set no end date or time line for achieving accessibility. Many witnesses before the Senate’s Standing Committee this spring, and before the House of Commons Standing Committee last fall, pointed out that a deadline like this is vital. The specific 2040 deadline was proposed by the AODA Alliance. It was strongly endorsed during the hearings last night by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. He invoked his experience conducting the most recent mandatory Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Speaking for the Federal Government, Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough earlier had strongly resisted setting any such deadline in this bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee heard her on this issue, carefully questioned her, explored this issue with many witnesses, and formed its own judgment. The Senate is the place where such issues are supposed to get “sober second thought.” That is exactly what happened here.

We also know that the Standing Committee passed an amendment that, at least to some extent, weakened the harmful and unjustified power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. We cannot fully assess that amendment until we get its exact wording. The Standing Committee amended the harmful s. 172 of the bill. We had wanted s. 172 to be completely repealed.

We were heartened that Senator Donna Dasko, among others, was set to propose an amendment that would have repealed s. 172. However, before she could, the Government’s sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson, brought forward an amendment that would retain but weaken s. 172. Clearly, the Federal Government had crafted the wording that he presented. Once we can study its wording, we can and will say more about it. When he advanced this amendment, he said he was doing so in response to concerns raised by the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

In addition to awaiting the text of all amendments that were passed, we also await the text of the “observations” that the Standing Committee will attach to the bill. A Senate Standing Committee can attach editorial comments or suggestions to a bill outside the text of the bill itself. These can, for example, call on the Federal Government to take certain actions or to report back to the Senate within a specific time line, on a matter that the Committee spells out.

It is important for the Senate to very quickly pass this bill as amended and to send it back to the House of Commons. We will now launch a strong campaign to get all parties in the House of Commons to quickly schedule a vote on these amendments and to pass them all. Our focus is especially on the federal Liberals, who had resisted amendments like these last fall. On the eve of a federal election, they won’t want to find themselves in the unpalatable position of voting against the rights of people with disabilities.

We also will now focus attention on the opposition parties in the House of Commons. It is good that they supported amendments to strengthen this bill last fall (at the request of the AODA Alliance and numerous other disability organizations), even when the Federal Government was not on side. We want those opposition parties to support the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments now. We also want the opposition parties to agree to an early debate and vote on Bill C-81 once it returns to the House. We know that with an election looming, the parties at times get into scheduling squabbles regarding bills. We don’t want Bill C-81 to get caught up in or impeded by that process.

The federal Disabilities Minister often said that this bill was meant to embody the principle: “Nothing about us without us.” Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Chair of the Standing Committee, concluded the committee’s debates by noting that these amendments are the embodiment of that principle, because they are the result of feedback that the Standing Committee received from disability organizations and advocates. We call on the Federal Government to adhere to the principle of “Nothing about us without us,” by agreeing now that it will pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee passed today.

Today’s events show that tenacity by people with disabilities and their advocates pays off. Anything that strengthens accessibility legislation helps us along that journey. For us, this is just one important step along our long journey. We’re ready for what lies ahead.

We are indebted to the Senators and their staff members who invested so much time in their review of this bill. This was our first experience with the Senate. Our Senators have to plow through bills on many complex topics, along short time lines, without the full policy resources that the Government and the political parties have at their disposal. We thank all the Senators who took time to take our phone calls, answer our emails, review our written submissions, listen to our April 11, 2019 evidence, and support amendments as a result.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at: [email protected]

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

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

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



Source link