An Important Victory – The Trudeau Government Announced Yesterday that It will Vote in the House of Commons to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


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

May 23, 2019

Yesterday, May 22, 2019, the Federal Government announced by email and Twitter that it will vote to approve all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate passed earlier this month. The debate in the House of Commons on these amendments is expected to begin next week according to the Federal Government. Next week also happens to be National accessibility Week in Canada.

“This is an important victory for those disability advocates who have devoted so much effort and energy over the past weeks and months to strengthen Bill C-81,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which has campaigned on accessibility for people with disabilities for many years, and which has been involved in the campaign for this legislation since at least 2014. “The Senate’s amendments set 2040 as the legal deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities, and cut back on the power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations that could weaken the accessibility rights of passengers with disabilities when travelling on airlines or other inter-provincial modes of transportation, among other things.”

While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 with which we have been concerned, they are an important and helpful step forward. The AODA Alliance and others have been hard at work over the past three weeks, mounting an all-out blitz on social media and elsewhere to press all MPs in the House of Commons to agree to vote to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. It was by no means a certainty that the Federal Government, which holds a majority in the House of Commons, would agree to do so. Opposition parties in the House of Commons have since last fall been supporting our call for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

We express our gratitude and appreciation to the Federal Government, including the minister responsible for this bill, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, for making its announcement yesterday in which it agreed to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We thank the opposition parties that have pressed for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

The House of Commons only needs to hold one vote to ratify these amendments. No further public hearings or Standing Committee study of the bill are needed. Once the amendments are passed during that vote, Bill C-81 will have completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament. It will be a law. It will come into force when the Federal Government gives Bill C-81 royal assent. The Federal Government decides when that will take place.

With the Federal Government’s announcement yesterday, there is no doubt that the vote in the House of Commons will be successful. The bill had been unanimously passed last fall on Third Reading in the House of Commons. That was the case even though opposition parties had agreed with us and other similarly-disposed disability advocates that Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. It is an important fact that up to now, all provincial accessibility legislation passed so far in Ontario in 2005, in Manitoba in 2013 and in Nova Scotia in 2017, has passed unanimously.

“This good news does not mean that our advocacy work is finished,” said Lepofsky. “Our attention now turns to the federal election this fall. We will be unleashing a non-partisan campaign to get election commitments from all the federal political parties regarding the future of Bill C-81 and its implementation and enforcement.”

We thank all those who have toiled tirelessly at the grassroots to help our campaign in the Senate and the House of Commons to get Bill C-81 strengthened. Every tweet or re-tweet, and every email or phone call to a Senator or MP, plays a crucial part in our efforts.

We thank all the disability organizations, numbering at least 71, that signed the open letter to the House of Commons sent earlier this month, that called for the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. The AODA Alliance is a co-signatory to that letter. We also thank all those other disability organizations with whom we have teamed up over the past weeks and months to work on our shared objective of getting Bill C-81 strengthened.

Today’s announcement again shows that we were right to not simply accept Bill C-81 as it was, when the House of Commons passed it last fall. It was right for us and so many others to agree that people with disabilities deserve better, and to keep working to get the Senate to strengthen the bill. The improvements that we and others have won are helpful and important.

Our tenacity has always been one of our strengths. We remain resolved to do what we can with Bill C-81 to make as much progress as we can for over five million people with disabilities in Canada, and to keep working to get the bill further improved in the future.

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



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An Important Victory – The Trudeau Government Announced Yesterday that It will Vote in the House of Commons to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


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

An Important Victory – The Trudeau Government Announced Yesterday that It will Vote in the House of Commons to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

May 23, 2019

Yesterday, May 22, 2019, the Federal Government announced by email and Twitter that it will vote to approve all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate passed earlier this month. The debate in the House of Commons on these amendments is expected to begin next week according to the Federal Government. Next week also happens to be National accessibility Week in Canada.

“This is an important victory for those disability advocates who have devoted so much effort and energy over the past weeks and months to strengthen Bill C-81,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which has campaigned on accessibility for people with disabilities for many years, and which has been involved in the campaign for this legislation since at least 2014. “The Senate’s amendments set 2040 as the legal deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities, and cut back on the power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations that could weaken the accessibility rights of passengers with disabilities when travelling on airlines or other inter-provincial modes of transportation, among other things.”

While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 with which we have been concerned, they are an important and helpful step forward. The AODA Alliance and others have been hard at work over the past three weeks, mounting an all-out blitz on social media and elsewhere to press all MPs in the House of Commons to agree to vote to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. It was by no means a certainty that the Federal Government, which holds a majority in the House of Commons, would agree to do so. Opposition parties in the House of Commons have since last fall been supporting our call for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

We express our gratitude and appreciation to the Federal Government, including the minister responsible for this bill, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, for making its announcement yesterday in which it agreed to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We thank the opposition parties that have pressed for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

The House of Commons only needs to hold one vote to ratify these amendments. No further public hearings or Standing Committee study of the bill are needed. Once the amendments are passed during that vote, Bill C-81 will have completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament. It will be a law. It will come into force when the Federal Government gives Bill C-81 royal assent. The Federal Government decides when that will take place.

With the Federal Government’s announcement yesterday, there is no doubt that the vote in the House of Commons will be successful. The bill had been unanimously passed last fall on Third Reading in the House of Commons. That was the case even though opposition parties had agreed with us and other similarly-disposed disability advocates that Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. It is an important fact that up to now, all provincial accessibility legislation passed so far in Ontario in 2005, in Manitoba in 2013 and in Nova Scotia in 2017, has passed unanimously.

“This good news does not mean that our advocacy work is finished,” said Lepofsky. “Our attention now turns to the federal election this fall. We will be unleashing a non-partisan campaign to get election commitments from all the federal political parties regarding the future of Bill C-81 and its implementation and enforcement.”

We thank all those who have toiled tirelessly at the grassroots to help our campaign in the Senate and the House of Commons to get Bill C-81 strengthened. Every tweet or re-tweet, and every email or phone call to a Senator or MP, plays a crucial part in our efforts.

We thank all the disability organizations, numbering at least 71, that signed the open letter to the House of Commons sent earlier this month, that called for the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. The AODA Alliance is a co-signatory to that letter. We also thank all those other disability organizations with whom we have teamed up over the past weeks and months to work on our shared objective of getting Bill C-81 strengthened.

Today’s announcement again shows that we were right to not simply accept Bill C-81 as it was, when the House of Commons passed it last fall. It was right for us and so many others to agree that people with disabilities deserve better, and to keep working to get the Senate to strengthen the bill. The improvements that we and others have won are helpful and important.

Our tenacity has always been one of our strengths. We remain resolved to do what we can with Bill C-81 to make as much progress as we can for over five million people with disabilities in Canada, and to keep working to get the bill further improved in the future.

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/

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



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On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons


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

December 3, 2018 Toronto: A tenacious Ontario-based disability rights coalition, the AODA Alliance, unveils its plans to take a campaign for Canada to enact a strong national accessibility law to Canada’s Senate! The proposed “Accessible Canada Act” which the House of Commons passed last week, is too weak to achieve its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over five million people in Canada with disabilities. Therefore the Senate needs to hold public hearings next year, and to make key amendments that the Trudeau Government blocked in the House of Commons, according to the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan Ontario disability coalition.

To mark December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities, the AODA Alliance calls on the Senate to hold public hearings and to substantially strengthen Bill C-81, to fix its major deficiencies. Key deficiencies in the bill are spelled out in a powerful October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Government, signed by 91 disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. (set out below)

“People with disabilities still face too many accessibility barriers in areas that the Federal Government regulates, like air or train travel, cable and internet TV service, and dealing with the Federal Government,” said David Lepofsky, who led the decade-long grassroots campaign for Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, and now chairs the AODA Alliance which campaigns to get that Ontario law effectively implemented. “It’s good that the Trudeau Government said it wants to become a leader on accessibility by enacting a great law that will make Canada barrier-free, putting the disability community in a central role and relieving individuals with disabilities from having to battle each barrier they face, one at a time. However Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. It’s strong on symbolism, but weak on substance.”

In October many disability organizations, of which the AODA Alliance is but one, each repeatedly pressed for substantial amendments during House of Commons Standing Committee hearings. Despite this, the Trudeau Government only allowed limited improvements to the bill, while systematically voting down opposition amendments that would have made this a strong law. Key problems with the bill include, e.g.

* It’s good the bill sets the goal of a barrier-free Canada, but it doesn’t set a deadline for achieving this, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law. People with disabilities must indefinitely wait for accessibility, possibly forever.

* It’s good the bill aims to be enforced, but it creates a confusing and complicated enforcement maze for people with disabilities to navigate. Many asked the Federal Government to simplify the bill, by designating one federal agency, the proposed new Accessibility Commissioner, to lead the bill’s enforcement. Instead, over strong objections from many, the bill splinters the bill’s enforcement among fully four federal agencies. Of these, the Canada Transportation Agency and the CRTC have poor track records and no expertise on accessibility. They and their procedures are feared to lean in favour of the industries they regulate.

* It’s good that the bill lets the Government enact enforceable regulations to set accessibility standards. However, the bill doesn’t require that any accessibility standard regulations ever be enacted, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law.

“We wouldn’t want the Canada Transportation Agency to ever enact an accessibility regulation under this legislation, as is,” said Lepofsky for the AODA Alliance. “That’s because the bill preserves the CTA’s harmful power to set rules on accessibility that could weaken our access rights, and that would take away our right to seek greater accessibility at a hearing under the CTA’s legislation.”

During House of Commons Third Reading Debates, the Trudeau Government CLAIMED that people with disabilities are “very happy” with this bill. Yet in a showing of a powerful consensus, 91 disability community organizations wrote the Federal Government the Open Letter, set out below, that details major problems with the bill that need to be fixed. The Trudeau Government’s limited amendments to the bill didn’t solve these concerns.

“The AODA Alliance chose the powerfully symbolic and internationally-celebrated International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, to call on the Senate to hold public hearings early in 2019 on this bill, to listen to the disability community, and to pass amendments needed to make this bill live up to the Federal Government’s stated intentions,” said Lepofsky. “If the Senate does so, the amended bill can return to the House of Commons for a final vote, with the 2019 federal election looming.”

At least five million people in Canada now have a physical, sensory, mental, intellectual, communication, learning or other disability. All others in Canada are bound to get a disability as they age. Especially on the eve of a federal election, no politician can disregard the needs of people with disabilities, the minority of everyone.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected]
Twitter: @aodaalliance
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Twitter hashtags: #AccessibleCanada #accessibility #IDPD #AODA

Key Background Links

For an updated list of the disability organizations that have signed the Open Letter (which is updated as more organizations sign on), visit http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/Open-Letter-30October2018

To read the AODA Alliance’s detailed September 27, 2018 brief to the House of Common’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, showing the full spectrum of amendments that the AODA Alliance itself requested, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/please-tell-the-federal-government-if-you-support-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-that-requests-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act/ For further background on the campaign for a strong national accessibility law in Canada, and to see all the debates on Bill C-81 gathered in one place, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Open Letter Regarding the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81 Accessible Canada Act forwarded to the Federal Government by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities October 30, 2018

Dear Minister Qualtrough and HUMA Committee Members:
We the undersigned commend the Federal Government for committing to enact national accessibility legislation. As provincial and national disability rights organizations, we write to express significant concerns regarding Bill C-81. The following highlights our key concerns and reflects the concerns raised by our communities before the HUMA Committee. Amendments are essential to effectively remedy these concerns.

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 by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law. Timelines are also needed for establishing the infrastructure necessary to implement the Bill.

2. Bill C-81 imposes no duty on Government to use the powers available in the Bill. We support recommendations to change the word may to shall to ensure that the Government implements key steps for achieving accessibility.

3. Bill C-81 requires federally-regulated organizations to establish accessibility plans. However, the Bill does not require these to be good plans. It does not require an organization to implement its accessibility plan.

4. Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the power to make accessibility standards (regulations) and the power to enforce the Bill across numerous Federal agencies. This splintering will make the Bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated, more costly, and will increase delay.

5. Bill C-81 wrongly gives the Federal Government and various federal agencies the sweeping, unjustified and unaccountable power to exempt organizations from a number of important accessibility obligations. The Government can even exempt itself.

6. The Bill does not require the Federal Government to use its readily-available power to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate barriers. The Bill must be amended to leverage the federal spending power, in order to promote accessibility.

7. The Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation. Therefore, the key federal agencies that will develop accessibility standards, oversee and enforce this legislation must be independent of the Federal Government. Under the Bill, they are not. They all report to the Federal Government. We support recommendations for amendments to ensure that CASDO, the Accessibility Commissioner and other key agencies are sufficiently independent.

8. Bill C-81 does not sufficiently address barriers created by poverty and intersectional discrimination. Nor does it address the unique barriers experienced by Indigenous and First Nations persons with disabilities.

9. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/lsq as the official languages of people who are Deaf.
We believe that if these priority changes are made, among the amendments to Bill C-81, this Bill has the potential to truly advance accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. We ask that the Bill be amended to address the concerns and objectives outlined above. These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.

In Solidarity,

Council of Canadians with Disabilities – Conseil des Canadians avec déficiences (CCD) Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
In addition to the concerns outlined in this open letter, CDAC recommends that Bill C-81 address communication as a domain across all federal jurisdictions and includes the needs of people with speech and language disabilities.ARCH, CCD and other disability organizations support CDACs recommendations. DAWN-RAFH Canada
Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)
National Network for Mental Health (NNMH)
Independent Living Canada (ILC)
March of Dimes Canada
Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
People First of Canada
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance/ LAlliance canadienne delépilepsie (CEA/ACE) National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Association (CASDA)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada LArche Canada
Hydrocephalus Canada
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Québec Accessible
Views for the Visually Impaired
Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Community Living Ontario (CLO)
Barrier-Free Manitoba
Regroupement des associations de personnes Handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
DeafBlind Ontario Services
Community Living Toronto (CLT)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Confédération desorganismes depersonneshandicapées du Québec (COPHAN) Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre, Inc. (CMDCI)
Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)
Northwest Territories Council for Disability
Voice of Albertans with Disabilities
Ontario Disability Coalition
SPH Planning and Consulting Ltd.
The Law, Disability & Social Change Project
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Nova Scotia Association for Community Living
Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunity
Disability Alliance of British Columbia
Disability Positive
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (NL)
Realize / Réalise
Calgary Ability Network Human Rights
Down Syndrome Association of Ontario
Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association
Gateway Association (Edmonton)
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Toronto Chapter (AEBC Toronto Chapter) The Keremeos Measuring Up Team
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Altergo
Aphasie Québec Le réseau
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées DéPhyMontréal
Ex aequo
Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées du Centre-du-Québec
Regroupement des Usagers du Transport Adapté et accessible de lîle de Montréal (RUTA Mtl) Réseau international sur le Processus de production du handicap (RIPPH) Société logique
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Older Women’s Network
Association dinformations en logements et immeubles adaptés (AILIA) Association du syndrome de Usher du Québec (ASUQ)
Réseau québécois pour linclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (ReQIS) Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec (RAAQ)
Saskatoon Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (C.I.L.T.) Inc
The League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada – Ligue des driots de la personne de B’nai Brith Canada Barrier-Free New Brunswick
Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities
The BC Disability Caucus
The Independent Living Centre London and Area
Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD)
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)
Alberta Disability Workers Association
reachAbility Association
Champions Career Centre
The Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Action des femmes handicapées – Montréal



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On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons

December 3, 2018 Toronto: A tenacious Ontario-based disability rights coalition, the AODA Alliance, unveils its plans to take a campaign for Canada to enact a strong national accessibility law to Canada’s Senate! The proposed “Accessible Canada Act” which the House of Commons passed last week, is too weak to achieve its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over five million people in Canada with disabilities. Therefore the Senate needs to hold public hearings next year, and to make key amendments that the Trudeau Government blocked in the House of Commons, according to the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan Ontario disability coalition.

To mark December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities, the AODA Alliance calls on the Senate to hold public hearings and to substantially strengthen Bill C-81, to fix its major deficiencies. Key deficiencies in the bill are spelled out in a powerful October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Government, signed by 91 disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. (set out below)

“People with disabilities still face too many accessibility barriers in areas that the Federal Government regulates, like air or train travel, cable and internet TV service, and dealing with the Federal Government,” said David Lepofsky, who led the decade-long grassroots campaign for Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, and now chairs the AODA Alliance which campaigns to get that Ontario law effectively implemented. “It’s good that the Trudeau Government said it wants to become a leader on accessibility by enacting a great law that will make Canada barrier-free, putting the disability community in a central role and relieving individuals with disabilities from having to battle each barrier they face, one at a time. However Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. It’s strong on symbolism, but weak on substance.”

In October many disability organizations, of which the AODA Alliance is but one, each repeatedly pressed for substantial amendments during House of Commons Standing Committee hearings. Despite this, the Trudeau Government only allowed limited improvements to the bill, while systematically voting down opposition amendments that would have made this a strong law. Key problems with the bill include, e.g.

* It’s good the bill sets the goal of a barrier-free Canada, but it doesn’t set a deadline for achieving this, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law. People with disabilities must indefinitely wait for accessibility, possibly forever.

* It’s good the bill aims to be enforced, but it creates a confusing and complicated enforcement maze for people with disabilities to navigate. Many asked the Federal Government to simplify the bill, by designating one federal agency, the proposed new Accessibility Commissioner, to lead the bill’s enforcement. Instead, over strong objections from many, the bill splinters the bill’s enforcement among fully four federal agencies. Of these, the Canada Transportation Agency and the CRTC have poor track records and no expertise on accessibility. They and their procedures are feared to lean in favour of the industries they regulate.

* It’s good that the bill lets the Government enact enforceable regulations to set accessibility standards. However, the bill doesn’t require that any accessibility standard regulations ever be enacted, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law.

“We wouldn’t want the Canada Transportation Agency to ever enact an accessibility regulation under this legislation, as is,” said Lepofsky for the AODA Alliance. “That’s because the bill  preserves the CTA’s harmful power to set rules on accessibility that could weaken our access rights, and that would take away our right to seek greater accessibility at a hearing under the CTA’s legislation.”

During House of Commons Third Reading Debates, the Trudeau Government claimed that people with disabilities are “very happy” with this bill. Yet in a showing of a powerful consensus, 91 disability community organizations wrote the Federal Government the Open Letter, set out below, that details major problems with the bill that need to be fixed. The Trudeau Government’s limited amendments to the bill didn’t solve these concerns.

“The AODA Alliance chose the powerfully symbolic and internationally-celebrated International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, to call on the Senate to hold public hearings early in 2019 on this bill, to listen to the disability community, and to pass amendments needed to make this bill live up to the Federal Government’s stated intentions,” said Lepofsky. “If the Senate does so, the amended bill can return to the House of Commons for a final vote, with the 2019 federal election looming.”

At least five million people in Canada now have a physical, sensory, mental, intellectual, communication, learning or other disability. All others in Canada are bound to get a disability as they age. Especially on the eve of a federal election, no politician can disregard the needs of people with disabilities, the minority of everyone.

Contact:  David Lepofsky, [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Twitter hashtags: #AccessibleCanada #accessibility #IDPD #AODA

Key Background Links

For an updated list of the disability organizations that have signed the Open Letter (which is updated as more organizations sign on), visit http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/Open-Letter-30October2018

To read the AODA Alliance’s detailed September 27, 2018 brief to the House of Common’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, showing the full spectrum of amendments that the AODA Alliance itself requested, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/please-tell-the-federal-government-if-you-support-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-that-requests-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act/

For further background on the campaign for a strong national accessibility law in Canada, and to see all the debates on Bill C-81  gathered in one place, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Open Letter Regarding the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act forwarded to the Federal Government by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities

October 30, 2018

Dear Minister Qualtrough and HUMA Committee Members:

We the undersigned commend the Federal Government for committing to enact national accessibility legislation.  As provincial and national disability rights organizations, we write to express significant concerns regarding Bill C-81. The following highlights our key concerns and reflects the concerns raised by our communities before the HUMA Committee. Amendments are essential to effectively remedy these concerns.

  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 by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law. Timelines are also needed for establishing the infrastructure necessary to implement the Bill.
  1. Bill C-81 imposes no duty on Government to use the powers available in the Bill. We support recommendations to change the word may to shall to ensure that the Government implements key steps for achieving accessibility.
  1. Bill C-81 requires federally-regulated organizations to establish accessibility plans. However, the Bill does not require these to be good plans. It does not require an organization to implement its accessibility plan.
  1. Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the power to make accessibility standards (regulations) and the power to enforce the Bill across numerous Federal agencies. This splintering will make the Bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated, more costly, and will increase delay.
  1. Bill C-81 wrongly gives the Federal Government and various federal agencies the sweeping, unjustified and unaccountable power to exempt organizations from a number of important accessibility obligations. The Government can even exempt itself.
  1. The Bill does not require the Federal Government to use its readily-available power to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate barriers. The Bill must be amended to leverage the federal spending power, in order to promote accessibility.
  1. The Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation. Therefore, the key federal agencies that will develop accessibility standards, oversee and enforce this legislation must be independent of the Federal Government. Under the Bill, they are not. They all report to the Federal Government. We support recommendations for amendments to ensure that CASDO, the Accessibility Commissioner and other key agencies are sufficiently independent.
  1. Bill C-81 does not sufficiently address barriers created by poverty and intersectional discrimination. Nor does it address the unique barriers experienced by Indigenous and First Nations persons with disabilities.
  1. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/lsq as the official languages of people who are Deaf.

We believe that if these priority changes are made, among the amendments to Bill C-81, this Bill has the potential to truly advance accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. We ask that the Bill be amended to address the concerns and objectives outlined above. These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.

In Solidarity,

Council of Canadians with Disabilities – Conseil des Canadians avec déficiences (CCD)

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

In addition to the concerns outlined in this open letter, CDAC recommends that Bill C-81 address communication as a domain across all federal jurisdictions and includes the needs of people with speech and language disabilities. ARCH, CCD and other disability organizations support CDAC’s recommendations.

DAWN-RAFH Canada

Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)

National Network for Mental Health (NNMH)

Independent Living Canada (ILC)

March of Dimes Canada

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)

People First of Canada

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance/ L’Alliance canadienne de l’épilepsie  (CEA/ACE)

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Association (CASDA)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada

L’Arche Canada

Hydrocephalus Canada        

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Québec Accessible

Views for the Visually Impaired

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Community Living Ontario (CLO)

Barrier-Free Manitoba

Regroupement des associations de personnes Handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

DeafBlind Ontario Services

Community Living Toronto (CLT)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN)

Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre, Inc. (CMDCI)

Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)

Northwest Territories Council for Disability

Voice of Albertans with Disabilities

Ontario Disability Coalition

SPH Planning and Consulting Ltd.

The Law, Disability & Social Change Project

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Nova Scotia Association for Community Living

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunity

Disability Alliance of British Columbia 

Disability Positive 

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (NL)

Realize / Réalise

Calgary Ability Network Human Rights

Down Syndrome Association of Ontario

Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association

Gateway Association (Edmonton)

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Toronto Chapter (AEBC Toronto Chapter)

The Keremeos Measuring Up Team

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Altergo

Aphasie Québec – Le réseau

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées

DéPhy Montréal

Ex aequo

Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées du Centre-du-Québec

Regroupement des Usagers du Transport Adapté et accessible de l’île de Montréal (RUTA Mtl)

Réseau international sur le Processus de production du handicap (RIPPH)

Société logique

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Older Women’s Network

Association d’informations en logements et immeubles adaptés (AILIA)

Association du syndrome de Usher du Québec (ASUQ)

Réseau québécois pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (ReQIS)

Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec (RAAQ)

Saskatoon Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (C.I.L.T.) Inc

The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada – Ligue des driots de la personne de B’nai Brith Canada

Barrier-Free New Brunswick

Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities

The BC Disability Caucus

The Independent Living Centre London and Area

Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD)

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)

Alberta Disability Workers Association

reachAbility Association 

Champions Career Centre

The Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Action des femmes handicapées – Montréal



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Trudeau Government’s Proposed Federal Law on Accessibility for People with Disabilities Falls Far Short and Must be Substantially Beefed Up, Disability Advocates to Tell Parliamentary Committee Today


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Trudeau Government’s Proposed Federal Law on Accessibility for People with Disabilities Falls Far Short and Must be Substantially Beefed Up, Disability Advocates to Tell Parliamentary Committee Today

 

October 25, 2018 Ottawa: Bill C-81, a bill now before Parliament, which aims  to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to over 5 million people with disabilities, must be amended to make it strong and effective, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities will be told from 8 to 10 a.m. today at the Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street, Ottawa. Among the presenters from 8 to 9 a.m. will be AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who led the campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get Ontario’s 2005 accessibility law passed, and now leads the campaign to get it effectively implemented.

“It’s good the Federal Government agrees that Canada needs a new federal law because people with disabilities face too many barriers when travelling by air or train, when trying to use banks, cell phone or cable TV services, or when dealing with the Federal Government itself,” said David Lepofsky. However, he cautioned: “This bill is great on intentions but palpably weak on implementation and enforcement.”

The AODA Alliance is one of many groups presenting similar strong concerns with Bill C-81, although they heartily commend the Federal Government for agreeing to bring forward a bill and for consulting widely on it. For its part, the AODA Alliance submitted a 114-page brief, tabling 97 specific amendments, backed by detailed analysis. Seven key amendments are summarized in an easy-to-read 4-page summary sent to MPs.

“With a federal election coming next year, MPs from all parties will want to be sure this bill is amended to make it a historic law,” said Lepofsky. “We’ll remind MPs at the hearings today that people with disabilities are the minority of everyone, since everyone either has a disability now or is bound to get one later. No politician or party can afford to disregard the needs of the minority of everyone!”

“For me, this day has a real feel of history,” said Lepofsky. Thirty-eight years ago, Lepofsky, now a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, appeared before a Standing Committee of Parliament on CNIB’s behalf, to urge the Pierre Trudeau Government to amend the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms so it would guarantee equal rights for people with disabilities in Canada. (That December 12, 1980 presentation to Parliament is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBdYFUtAslc “Today’s presentation aims to get the proposed new Accessible Canada Act amended so that it will make the Charter’s guarantee of disability equality at last become a reality in the lives of over 5 million people with disabilities in Canada and all others, who are bound to get a disability later in life,” Lepofsky explained.

The AODA Alliance is tweeting MPs one at a time, to urge them to support these amendments. Follow @aodaalliance

The AODA Alliance’s proposed amendments draw on front-line experience with accessibility legislation in Ontario since 2005, in Manitoba since 2013, in Nova Scotia since 2017, in the US since 1990 and in Israel since 1998. The hearings are open to the public, and streamed live at www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/HUMA Presenters will be available to media after the Committee adjourns at 10am.

Presenters at the hearing will include:

8-9 a.m. AODA Alliance, CNIB and the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association

9-10 a.m. Canadian Association of the Deaf and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission

Contact:  David Lepofsky, [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for strong national accessibility legislation is available at www.aodaalliance.org/Canada

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org



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